Paul Domowitch: Vick says he believes in o-line, but can we believe him?

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Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and offensive lineman Demetress Bell. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

IF MICHAEL VICK had been hooked up to a lie detector Wednesday during his 10-minute locker-room session with reporters, the thing would've been going crazy.

The subject was his banged-up offensive line, which heads into Sunday's game at the Linc against the Cowboys ranked 27th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play. Vick has been sacked 27 times already, four more times than all of last season.

"I just gotta believe in the guys in front of me," Vick said. "Do whatever it takes to get the ball out. Slide. Move. Break contain. Continue to maintain trust in them. That's part of my job as a quarterback. Stay optimistic. Keep playing the game and try to block out everything else.

"We've got to find a way to come up with some big plays. I think the coaches will do that. We just have to do it out on the field. We've got to be able to block up front. If we can do that, that'll give Jeremy [Maclin] and DeSean [Jackson] time to make some moves downfield and get open.

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"But I believe in those guys [up front], man. The thing I gotta do is continue to believe."

It was a nice, little sound bite, but anybody who has watched Vick play this year or any other year since he came into the NFL in 2001 knows it's a crock.

Vick never has had much faith in the people who block for him. Not during his 6 years with the Falcons, not in 2010, when he replaced Kevin Kolb as the Eagles' starter, not last year, and certainly not this year, now that he's being protected by Evan Mathis and the Pips.

The only person Vick ever really has trusted to keep himself safe from pass-rushers is himself, which is why he has more rushing yards than any quarterback in history and why he never has properly developed as an NFL passer.

"I've never played behind a line that's had so many guys in and out," Vick said of a unit that lost yet another starter for the season Wednesday when right tackle Todd Herremans was placed on injured reserve with a broken foot.

"It's part of the game," Vick said. "It's one of those seasons where you get guys nicked up and [other] guys have to step up. They've got to step up and play. We watch the film. We prepare. The coaches can only do so much. We've got to go out there and put it all together."

That goes for Vick as well as his linemen. Despite protection problems, Vick has held on to the ball an average of 3.12 seconds per pass play, according to Pro Football Focus. Only one quarterback has held on to it longer - Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson.

Vick was sacked a season-high seven times in Monday night's 28-13 loss to the Saints, including three times on blitzes. He was blitzed on 15 pass plays in the game and completed only four of 12 passes for 96 yards, one touchdown and one interception when the Saints sent extra rushers.

In the last two games, he's only 10-for-27 against the blitz.

"If it's a blitz, [we need to make sure] we get the ball out quickly and make sure we protect it when needed," coach Andy Reid said. "We're seeing some overload blitzes down there and some zero blitzes down in the red zone. It seems like a pretty common look for most defenses down there.

"You either see 'Cover 4' or you see zero blitz. Against zero blitz, you have to know that one man can't be taken care of. The ball has to come out and the receivers need to be aware of that and the quarterback needs to be aware of that."

Vick had shown improvement against the blitz earlier this season. In a three-game period against the Giants, Steelers and Lions, he had an impressive 129.1 passer rating against the blitz. But the last 2 weeks, he's reverted to form.

His blitz struggles against the Falcons and Saints almost guarantee that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will blitz the hell out of him Sunday. He sent more than four rushers after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan only seven times last week. Blitzed the Giants' Eli Manning only once the week before. But those are two quarterbacks with a history of beating the blitz.

Unless Vick and the Eagles manage to prove early on that they can beat the Cowboys' blitzes, they can expect a lot of them.

"The other night, they just didn't do a very good job of picking up the blitz," said center Jason Kelce, who is on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. "The offensive line didn't play very well at all.

"Three weeks ago against Detroit, [the line] didn't play very well, but Mike, for some reason, still managed to do a good job against the blitz [9-for-15, 152 yards, one touchdown, no sacks]. Then against Atlanta, the offensive line did a good job against the blitz, but we didn't do as good a job when they weren't [blitzing].

"Each game, maybe it's been the line screwing something up, maybe it's been Mike. It's been very inconsistent all around in picking up the blitz."

Mathis, the only 2011 starter who isn't on IR or rehabbing an injury, said you can't point to one thing or one person for the Eagles' problems against the blitz the last couple of games.

"Sometimes you see stuff you weren't prepared for," he said.

"Sometimes they bring a blitz and we lose a one-on-one matchup somewhere, and that's the reason for the failure. Sometimes there's an unblocked guy and you look at it schematically and see there was a 'hot' throw we should've made. Should Mike have gotten the ball out quicker? Should we have redirected the protection to pick up that certain blitz? That's what we work on every day."

Three-and-five with eight games to go. Herremans is gone for the season and Kelce is gone for the season, and, in 3 weeks, Peters will officially be gone for the season, as well. Their three best blockers gone.

"You've got to keep pressing forward," said Vick, who already has 14 turnovers in the first eight games. "Keep fighting. Preparation is very important. Don't let up. We're going to catch a break here sooner or later. This week has to be the week.

"It's not the funnest thing in the world to get hit over and over and over again. But I keep getting up. And I thank God that he blessed me with the ability to keep getting up, keep fighting, keep battling for this football team.

"That's why I continue to go as hard as I can and continue to make each and every play that I can. Even though I sometimes find myself doing too much and overcompensating."

 


Contact Paul Domowitch at pdomo@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @PDomo. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog at www.eagletarian.com.