Since Andy Reid announced his decision to start Michael Vick on Tuesday evening, several different theories have been offered up, trying to explain his rationale.
One of them is that the offensive line is so shaky right now that Michael Vick and his mobility give the Eagles a much better chance to win than Kevin Kolb. In other words, Kolb has no chance to grow as a QB because of the protection issues.
Sorry, but I'm not buying that one.
Has the offensive line been good this season in pass protection? No. But one reason I like re-watching the games is because I'm able to see things I missed the first time around. Such as Mike Bell and LeSean McCoy failing to pick up opposing blitzers. Such as Vick pump-faking twice and holding the ball too long. Such as the Eagles going with an empty backfield, thus facing more defenders than they can account for.
Those are isolated examples, but the point is that the pressure Vick faced on Sunday was not all the offensive line's fault.
If the Eagles believed in Kolb over Vick, they could do things to make sure he was protected better. They could call more screen passes or three-step drops. They could keep Brent Celek in to block. They could go with two tight ends.
The play of the offensive line is not why Reid decided to go with Vick. He was blown away with Vick's play through six quarters, and maybe, just maybe, for the first time in his career as the Eagles' head coach, he's feeling pressure to stray from his plan and win right away.
Keeping all that in mind, here is the player-by-player evaluation of the Eagles' offensive players against the Lions. Given the news of the day, I am spinning it forward this week, with an eye on how things change with Vick running the show.
Michael Vick- Not much more to say here, since I provided a complete breakdown of his performance yesterday. The abbreviated version is this. He was accurate with the football and could have had a completion percentage over 75 if not for some dropped balls. Vick was very good in the pocket and even better outside the pocket. He spread the ball around and got it downfield. And he hasn't thrown an interception in 58 attempts this season. What needs to get better? He needs to develop a better familiarity with the offensive line so that he can move around in the pocket better, rather than just escape when facing pressure. He needs to avoid taking big hits if he wants to stay healthy the rest of the season. And while he has not turned it over, Vick fumbled twice (both recovered, one on the snap) and threw a ball that very easily could have been picked.
LeSean McCoy- He very easily might have been the Eagles' most impressive player Sunday. A career-high 120 yards on 16 rushes, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. On the 14-yard touchdown run in the second, he took a hit at the 4, but still charged into the end zone. His vision and decisiveness were very impressive. Great job of making the safety miss on the 46-yard touchdown run. As a blocker, McCoy didn't pick anyone up when the Lions sent seven after Vick on a play in the second. It looked like he was expecting someone to break through up the middle, but the cornerback ended up coming untouched from the slot. However, on the very next play, McCoy did a good job as a blocker. Still a work-in-progress there. Only four catches for 8 yards. It's only been two games, but McCoy looks like he's made a big leap from his rookie season.
Mike Bell- He played some fullback and some halfback, and was equally unimpressive in both roles. Four carries for zero yards. And he did a bad job on a third down in the first, failing to pick up a blitzer. It will be interesting to see how limited his role is now that athe Eagles signed another running back. He was on the field for 18 of 63 offensive plays.
Owen Schmitt- He looked OK in his first action. Schmitt also played 18 of 63 snaps and got in the game on the Eagles' first offensive possession. Schimtt had a pair of catches for 21 yards and did a good job picking up a blitzer on the touchdown throw to Jeremy Maclin.
Winston Justice- He'll be the man in charge of protecting Vick's blind side. Justice struggled at times against Detroit in pass protection, which is usually his strength. Turk McBride beat him for a sack and forced fumble in the first, but in all fairness, Vick ran play-action and pump-faked twice on the play. McBride beat him again on the Maclin TD throw, but Vick got rid of the ball quickly. Justice had some good moments as a run blocker. He did a nice job on a McCoy 4-yard run in the first. And he blocked Ndamukong Suh on the 14-yard McCoy TD run in the second. Justice took a linebacker out on McCoy's other touchdown run. He was called for holding, bringing back a 35-yard McCoy gain in the second half.
Nick Cole- He struggled quite a bit with Suh. Wonder if he called him a "juicehead" at any point? Suh went right around Cole, forcing Vick to scramble on a 3rd-and-23. He was beat by Corey Williams on the play where Vick had to slide to his left before finding DeSean Jackson for 53 yards. Cole did a bad job trying to block a linebacker on a screen to McCoy in the third. Suh beat him for a sack in the third, although, again, Vick held onto the ball for awhile. Cole did a good job on Suh on the 46-yard McCoy TD run.
Mike McGlynn- As a blocker, I thought McGlynn did a lot of good things. He did a good job on the McCoy 14-yard touchdown run and the other score in the third. McGlynn also made a good block on an 8-yard screen to McCoy. There was a fumbled snap in the third, although I'm not sure whose fault it was. And Suh went right around McGlynn, dropping Bell for a 3-yard loss in the third. It's pretty much impossible to evaluate McGlynn in terms of making protection calls, but I'll try to ask him about that today at Novacare.
Todd Herremans- Ups and downs for Herremans. Overall, it seemed like the left side of the line did a good job in protection though. Herremans did a poor job on a 2nd-and-1 carry where Williams went right around him to stuff McCoy. He was also beat on the TD throw to Maclin. Herremans made a good block on the 46-yard McCoy touchdown run.
Jason Peters- He had a good battle with Vanden Bosch, winning some snaps and losing some others. Peters left the game twice, but returned both times. Peters did a good job on Vanden Bosch on the first-quarter touchdown throw to Jackson. He delivered a powerful block on an 11-yard McCoy run in the second and a decent job on a 7-yard McCoy run in the third. Vanden Bosch was credited with 1.5 sacks, but in fairness to Peters, Vick held the ball for awhile on one of them, and the other was a screen play where the timing was completely off and Vick had three defenders in his face before he could get the ball to McCoy.
King Dunlap- I guess the Eagles trust him this year. When Peters went out, Dunlap entered the game at left tackle as the coaches opted against sliding Herremans over. Dunlap was (smartly) given some help with Celek staying in to block on the left side.
Brent Celek- The receiving numbers weren't significantly different than Week 1, but I thought Celek had a better game. He provided much-needed help, chipping and blocking in the passing game. As a receiver, Celek was targeted five times and had three catches for 27 yards. Two of those catches gave the Eagles first downs, although he did have a drop. I still think big numbers are coming for Celek in the passing game. Tight end Alge Crumpler had some strong years with Vick in Atlanta.
Garrett Mills- The Eagles went with two tight ends on nine of 63 plays. Mills was given the nod over Clay Harbor as the second tight end. He got in the game on the first possession and lined up both on the line of scrimmage and in the slot, catching the only ball that was thrown his way for 14 yards.
DeSean Jackson- I've written quite a bit about Jackson since Sunday. Three catches of over 25 yards, and it really could have been five. Jackson had a chance on the 35-yard gain in the first that was initially ruled a catch, but was overturned. And Vick underthrew him on what could have been a big gain at the end of the first. Getting the ball to Jackson down the field early in games is crucial and should open things up for everyone else.
Jeremy Maclin- The Eagles have converted five of six red-zone chances into touchdowns in the last six quarters. Three of those have been McCoy runs. The other two have been Vick-to-Maclin TDs. He was Vick's second-most targeted receiver, catching three balls for 26 yards. Maclin had a drop in the third and got away with a hold on Jackson's TD, grabbing a handful of the defensive back's jersey downfield.
Jason Avant- He should have a weekly show called The Little Things With Jason Avant. If you go back and watch McCoy's TD run in the third, take a look at who cuts down 278-pound defensive end Turk McBride. It's Avant, and it was a critical block that helped McCoy get in the end zone. As a receiver, Avant had three catches for 33 yards, although we saw a rare drop on a third down in the second.
Riley Cooper- Cooper was on the field for 12 plays and picked up his first career catch, a 20-yarder on 3rd-and-9. He also had a drop. Oh, and about that onsides kick...
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