Once the NFL conversation shifts to what's happening on the field, my guess is you're going to hear two numbers closely associated with the Eagles: 49 and 34.
The first is the number of sacks the Eagles gave up in 2010, and only three teams (Chicago, Arizona and Carolina) allowed more.
The second is the number of times Michael Vick was sacked, and only four quarterbacks were taken down more. That ranking is even more troubleseome when you consider Vick only played 10 full games and parts of two more.
Digging a little deeper, Football Outsiders ranked the Eagles 28th overall in adjusted sack rate, which takes into account how often teams pass the ball.
These numbers undoubtedly figured into the moves the Eagles made earlier this offseason. Andy Reid admitted he would not have decided to move Juan Castillo to the defensive side of the ball had he not been able to lure Howard Mudd out of retirement to coach the offensive line.
And despite gaping holes on defense, the Birds used their first-round pick on offense, selecting Danny Watkins to step in at right guard.
So as we continue to look back on 2010 with an eye ahead on 2011, I decided to re-watch the 34 plays where Vick was sacked.
I'll provide most of the findings today, but will have a secondary post on Wednesday that takes a closer look at Vick's tendencies and how he performed against the blitz at various points in the season.
SENDING EXTRA RUSHERS AT VICK
Late in the season, specifically after the Eagles' loss to the Vikings, Vick's struggles against the blitz came into focus. But how many of the 34 sacks occurred when defenses sent extra rushers? Here's the breakdown:
|No. of rushers
Now before you tell me my math is off, I realize that the numbers in the right column only add up to 30. That's because not all sacks are created equal.
There were four plays that I did not include. One was a botched snap; another was a sack caused by Vick simply slipping; and the other two were botched screen attempts.
Eighteen of the remaining 30 sacks came when defenses sent at least one extra rusher at Vick. But 23 of the 30 sacks came when defenses rushed five guys or fewer.
In other words, the "zero blitz" that was discussed at various times in 2010 didn't get to Vick as much as I originally thought.
Another interesting revelation was how teams used the zone blitz. By my count, Vick had not been sacked on a zone blitz until Week 13 against the Texans.
But in the final four regular-season games, opposing defenses sacked him six times on zone blitzes. As everyone remembers, the Vikings were most effective, sacking Vick four times on zone blitzes. It'll be interesting to see if opponents try to confuse him by dropping linemen back into coverage early in 2011.
EXTRA PROTECTION FOR VICK
The other factor at play is the Eagles' protection, and specifically how often they had tight ends and running backs stay in to help protect Vick.
Here's a breakdown of how many blockers the Eagles had on the 30 sacks:
|No. of blockers
On 14 of the 30 sacks, the Eagles had base protection (five linemen) with five players going out into pass routes. Note that if a running back or tight end chipped and then went out into a route, I did not count them as a blocker.
On 11 of the 30 sacks, the Eagles kept one extra blocker (a running back or tight end) in to block for the entire play.
On five of the 30 sacks, the Eagles had two or three extra blockers.
I remember hearing coaches and players say last year that on certain plays, the sacks were caused by the defense simply sending more players at Vick than the offense had blockers.
By my count, that happened three times. The Jaguars once sent six rushers, while the Eagles had five players blocking. In the first Giants game, New York got to Vick with seven rushers, compared to six players blocking. And in the second game, the Giants rushed six when the Eagles blocked with only five.
From a scheme standpoint, the Eagles had at least as many blockers as pass rushers on all but three of the sacks.
And finally, on four of the sacks, the Eagles began the play with an empty backfield.
MISSED BLOCKS, SACK ERRORS
On each sack, I made a note when someone either missed a block, was beat by a defensive player or clearly failed to pick up a blitzer.
Obviously, this is all subjective so in cases where I couldn't tell who (if anyone) was at fault, I didn't guess. For that reason, not all sacks are accounted for.
But below is a table with how many times each blocker (again, in my view) made an error that contributed to a sack.
I must emphasize that this is not a table of which players were the best overall in pass protection. Keep in mind that I am looking at 34 isolated plays over the course of an entire season.
Several other players had one: Mike McGlynn, Reggie Wells, Owen Schmitt, King Dunlap, LeSean McCoy, Max Jean-Gilles.
Justice led the way, but keep in mind he started 13 games. Cole started only seven.
There's one glaring omission here: Vick's role. Marty Mornhinweg talked about that aspect in a Daily News article by Marcus Hayes last week. In the second part of the post on Wednesday, I'll take a closer look and also break down how Vick performed against the blitz at various points of last season.
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