The Eagles and Evan Mathis agreed Saturday to a five-year deal, meaning the offensive line will have all five of its starters back next season.
From 2010 to 2011, only one Eagles lineman, Jason Peters, returned to play the same position. Todd Herremans was also a carryover, but he of course moved from left guard to right tackle.
Peters was an All-Pro. Mathis put together a solid, consistent season after starting only 22 games in his first six years in the league. And Herremans was a nice fit at right tackle.
The jury is still out on the two rookies. Jason Kelce improved as the season went on, but there's still plenty of work to do. And Danny Watkins had more issues in pass protection than any other lineman. He faces an important offseason working with Howard Mudd.
But this unit has a chance to be a real strength next season. Mudd had to implement his system during a shortened offseason. Herremans spent most of training camp practicing at left guard. And Watkins got a late start, spending the first four weeks on the sideline. It's reasonable to expect this group to be much improved in 2012.
Barring injuries, Michael Vick will be protected. He'll also have a running back in LeSean McCoy, who piled up 1,309 yards, averaged 4.8 yards per carry and led the league with 14 runs of 20+ yards. At wide receiver, Vick will have a happy DeSean Jackson and a healthy Jeremy Maclin. That was not the case last year when Jackson was being paid $600,000, and Maclin was dealing with a virus that took months to diagnose.
He'll also have a tight end in Brent Celek, who averaged nearly 70 yards per game in the final 10.
There's no lockout to worry about. Only some new limitations on how closely coaches are allowed to work with players prior to May 1. Vick will get his first full offseason as a starting quarterback since 2006.
All those factors mean there are no excuses for him not to deliver the best season of his NFL career. The pieces are in place around him. Vick got a new contract in 2011, and he turns 32 in June. His completion percentage went from 62.6 in 2010 to 59.8 in 2011, and his yards per attempt fell from 8.1 to 7.8. Not huge dips in production, but dips nonetheless.
The interception issues have been well-documented. In 2010, he was picked off once every 62 attempts. In 2011, it was once every 30.2 attempts.
Football Outsiders did a great job of digging deeper into those numbers, using a metric called adjusted interception rate. They took into account interceptions that were dropped by defensive players, interceptions that were the result of drops or tips by wide receivers and interceptions on Hail Marys or desperation throws late in the fourth quarter.
They found that defensive players dropped six potential interceptions against Vick. He had one Hail Mary pick and another ball that was the receiver's fault. That brought Vick's adjusted interception total up to 18 and his adjusted interception rate (interceptions divided by pass attempts) up to 4.3 percent.
Here's how Vick's rate compared to some of the league's top quarterbacks:
Of the 34 quarterback who attempted at least 200 passes, Vick finished 26th in adjusted interception rate.
Is it all on Vick? Of course not. Jackson, Celek and McCoy combined for 19 drops last season, according to STATS.com. Four of Jackson's drops came on balls that traveled 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage, per Pro Football Focus. Catches would have significantly impacted Vick's yards per attempt number.
We all know the defense has question marks. And on special teams, the Eagles got nothing from their return game.
The offense, meanwhile, ranked eighth, according to Football Outsiders' numbers. And the Birds averaged 24.8 points per game, which also ranked eighth.
But with the moves the Eagles have made in re-signing Mathis and extending Jackson, the pressure is on Vick to take the next step in his development and help carry this offense into one of the league's elite.
If it doesn't happen for him in 2012, chances are it's never going to happen.
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