Saturday, July 22, 2006

Buckhalter Running Back In The Eagles Picture

BETHLEHEM, PA -- With all the false alarms, the Eagles are obviously reluctant to proclaim that running back Correll Buckhalter is ready to return. Still, Buckhalter has been running after practice under the watchful eye of coach Andy Reid.
For somebody who has missed the last two years with a right knee injury and the 2002 season with a torn left ACL, this represents progress.
Buckhalter is still on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, but it wouldn't be surprising if he gets cleared to practice in the not too distant future.
The Eagles have to see if he warrants taking up a spot on the 53-man roster. The team has applauded his dedication, the decision on Buckhalter will be made with the head and not the heart.
While he has missed three of five seasons for the Eagles, Buckhalter has been impressive in the two that he played, with a 4.4 average, 1,128 yards and 10 TDs.
If he is healthy, Buckhalter could be an excellent backup option to Brian Westbrook. At 6-foot and 207-pounds, he is bigger than the other Eagles backs and would be a nice change of pace to Brian Westbrook.
Buckhalter still has many hurdles to clear, but the fact that he is back on the field running is a good sign for somebody who has shown great resolve. A lesser player would have already quit, so Buckhalter deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Yet the only way to evaluate him is to see how he can take a hit. And by the looks of things, that could be coming fairly soon.

Sheppard's Progression On Schedule

BETHLEHEM, PA -- Each day it's apparent that Lito Sheppard is more comfortable on the football field. Sheppard's return from a severe high ankle sprain that cost him the final six games of last season, will be a key for the Eagles.
In 2004 he earned a Pro Bowl berth and if healthy, Sheppard and Sheldon Brown will form one of the top cornerback tandems in the NFL.
Sheppard didn't have as good a season in 2005, even before the injury, but part of the problem was that the Eagles defensive line often left the corners on an island with such a weak pass rush. The rush should be improved this year, and so should Sheppard.
On the second day that selected veterans and rookies worked out at Lehigh, Sheppard was burned for a long TD reception by Justin Jenkins in a 7-on-7 drill. A few plays later, Sheppard came back to make an off-balanced interception.
Sheppard will gladly accept being burned deep in a drill and with his gambling style, he knows it won't be the last time. He said he isn't 100 percent but hopes to be by the regular season. At Lehigh, he was happy to see that receivers such as Jenkins weren't shying away from the challenge.
"I encourage him to keep coming at me and I need that," Sheppard said. "They aren’t going to shy away from me when the season starts, so I need all the work I can get."
And now is the time to get the work and also get burned because nobody keeps score in training camp.