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For Defense, 'X' Marks Westbrook

Troy Vincent calls him the "X Factor." Mostly he's a running back, but sometimes he lines up at wide receiver. Occasionally he'll return punts. In Philadelphia's 27-24 victory over Carolina last Monday night, he even lined up at quarterback.

Obviously, the Redskins' defense will keep a close eye on Brian Westbrook in Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField.

Westbrook was certainly a big reason why the Redskins lost to the Eagles 27-3 at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 10. He rushed for 113 yards on 22 carries and caught three passes for 37 yards.

Then, quarterback Donovan McNabb was the focal point of the Eagles' offense. Now, with veteran QB Jeff Garcia taking over for the injured McNabb, Westbrook has emerged as the primary weaon.

"Really, if you look at the Eagles, [Westbrook] has been that way for the last few years," said Vincent, the veteran safety and former Eagle. "Terrell Owens was their big play guy the last two years, but when you sit down and you watch the tape, No. 36 always shows up in the passing game as well as the run.

"When he rolls, they roll."

Westbrook is on the verge of his first 1,000-yard season as a rusher--he has compiled 907 yards and 177 carries, an impressive 5.1 yards-per-carry average, and five touchdowns. He also leads the team with 66 receptions for 586 yards.

"He is what makes their offense click," assistant head coach-offense Gregg Williams said. "I really do believe that. He's a special guy in the passing game and the running game."

How to stop him? In the run game, defensive coaches will focus on stopping him at the line of scrimmage, obviously. In the passing game, Westbrook often has a linebacker covering him, a matchup that he uses to his advantage. When Westbrook lines up at receiver, though, safety Sean Taylor could be a favorable matchup for the Redskins.

Said Williams: "He's very similar to some of the things we saw with Michael Vick, in that when he gets in the open field, he can break you down. You can have two guys surrounding him, but he still makes a play. That's what we have to minimize when he does get the ball out in the open field. And since McNabb has been out, he's been featured even more."

Of course, the Eagles have been running a version of the so-called West Coast offensive system since the mid-1990s. Their offense is fine-tuned with head coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg running it.

That's one reason why Garcia, who played in the West Coast offense in San Francisco from 1998-2003, has been able to step right in, leading the Eagles to a win over the Panthers that kept their postseason hopes alive.

"[Garcia] does some very good things in the passing game for them that frustrate defenses by buying extra time outside the pocket," Williams said. "We have to do a good job in the contain feature there. He has made a very good living on improvising and creating big plays with his feet. We will have to make sure we are on top of that."

Added cornerback Shawn Springs: "Coach Reid keeps that train moving. The system they run works. Even with Donovan out, they're still winning. They still have Westbrook and Garcia is a proven veteran.

"I've seen [Garcia] a number of times when I played in the NFC West [with Seattle] and I remember him as a Pro Bowl player. So he's capable of doing it. They're still fighting for the playoffs and they're going to come after us."

The Eagles have a pair of emerging wide receivers in Donte Stallworth and Reggie Brown, but when Garcia gets rid of the ball, he is usually targeting Westbrook. Since Garcia has taken over for McNabb, he has completed 22 passes to Westbrook for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Westbrook resides in Fort Washington, Md., and grew up in the Washington, D.C., area. He starred at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, Md., before moving on to Villanova and then the Eagles as a third-round draft pick in 2002.

Westbrook said earlier this week that he always looks forward to playing the Redskins at FedExField.

"It means a lot to go back," he said. "A lot of my friends go and watch the games. It's always fun to go down there and play at the Redskins stadium. They always have a very good team down there and they play well in Washington. It's always a challenge. We have to come out and play our best game.

"For me, there is always more incentive to play my best game because I grew up down in that area."

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