- The Washington Times - Friday, October 23, 2009

PHILADELPHIA | Sherm Lewis will begin his playcalling stint in Washington with at least one obvious target Monday night.

Just six days after being acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Rams, Will Witherspoon is expected to start at middle linebacker for the Eagles (3-2) in their prime-time matchup with the Redskins at FedEx Field on Monday.

“He just came from St. Louis, so he’s been running this defense,” Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said of Witherspoon, an eighth-year veteran who had started 70 consecutive games for the Rams and Panthers preceding the trade. “Are there some new things? Yeah, most of it is the pressure package that we have is a little bit different that what [former Philadelphia assistant Steve Spagnuolo] is running. But the basic terminology is the same.”

The Eagles were forced to make a move when starting linebacker Omar Gaither was lost for the season to a foot injury Sunday at Oakland. The blow was the latest for a unit that already had lost expected starter Stewart Bradley for the season with an ACL injury in camp.

The Eagles recently signed Jeremiah Trotter in hopes the former standout could provide a solution. But Trotter was beaten badly on several plays in the team’s 13-9 loss to the Raiders, prompting the team to send rookie wide receiver Brandon Gibson and a fifth-round pick in next year’s draft to the Rams for Witherspoon.

Selected by Carolina out of Georgia in the third round of the 2002 draft, the 6-foot-1, 239-pound Witherspoon led the team in tackles in both 2006 (113) and 2007 (110). But the middle linebacker makes the defensive calls in Philadelphia’s scheme, forcing Witherspoon to adjust to a new system and new teammates on short notice.

“He’s able to [make the defensive calls],” Reid said. “He’ll have all the game plan down by the time we get there. He’s a sharp guy and, again, familiar with the defense.”

O-line healthier

The beleaguered Philadelphia offensive line got good news this week when both left tackle Jason Peters and left guard Todd Herremans returned to practice. Herremans will make his season debut after successfully rehabbing a left foot injury he suffered in camp. And Peters is expected to return to the starting lineup after exiting in the first quarter of Sunday’s loss with a knee contusion and ankle sprain. That sends guard Max Jean-Gilles and tackle King Dunlap back to the bench after the pair accounted for half of the six sacks allowed against the Raiders.

“I don’t think anyone on this team is losing confidence in those guys. It was just one game,” McNabb said. “I’m not the only one who felt the way I did after that game. I felt embarrassed. When that happens, you do whatever it takes to erase that and turn a negative into a positive.”

Westbrook frustrated

Veteran running back Brian Westbrook (DeMatha) remains frustrated by Philadelphia’s 46-14 pass-run ratio last week. Though Reid is trying to return the eight-year standout to a full workload slowly following the ankle sprain he suffered in Week 2, Westbrook felt overlooked after rushing for 50 yards on just six attempts (8.3 yards a carry) against the Raiders.

“It’s pretty hard to show people what you can do when you don’t have the opportunities,” Westbrook said. “I think as the season goes on, I will get those opportunities. And when I do, I think I’ll show people that I can still play.”

Westbrook ripped off runs of 25 yards and 9 yards on the Eagles’ first possession of the second half against Oakland but was given just two carries in the team’s last six possessions.

Extra points

With Gibson gone to St. Louis and Kevin Curtis (knee) likely lost for the season, the Eagles are down to just four wide receivers: Jason Avant, Reggie Brown, DeSean Jackson and rookie Jeremy Maclin. That quartet has combined for 336 receptions and 4,717 receiving yards in their careers - considerably less as a group than Washington’s Santana Moss on his own (452 catches for 6,920 yards). …

Philadelphia is 35-15-1 in games following a loss under Reid since 2000.



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