All-22: What We Learned About the Eagles’ Offense

Here are observations on the Eagles’ offense after having looked at the All-22 coaches’ tape.

If you missed the take on the defense, click here.

Play 1: Let’s start with the good for a change, shall we? Michael Vick’s best throw of the game was the 46-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin down the left sideline near the end of the first quarter. Perhaps what was most encouraging was that Maclin wasn’t really open when Vick threw the ball.

Philadelphia Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin

As you can see, when Vick decides to target Maclin, the cornerback has a step on him. But Maclin and DeSean Jackson are talented receivers, capable of winning one-on-one against most of the league’s defensive backs. The great quarterbacks trust their receivers and let them make plays. That’s what Vick did here.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.

We sometimes take for granted the skill level, speed and timing of these players. Look at where Maclin is when he finally ends up catching the ball. He’s more than 25 yards away from where he was when Vick first let go of the ball. But the pass landed right in his hands, even though the cornerback was just a step behind and the safety was closing. Just a great pass and great execution from quarterback and receiver.

Play 2: Ok, now we get to the interceptions. Bad things happen when Vick throws across his body. But on the first pick, he probably could have completed the pass had he looked for McCoy.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

As you can see, McCoy had no defenders around him. Even if Vick is off-target, it’s just an incompletion. But he thought he could get the ball to Brent Celek, who was at the 39-yard-line. The result, of course, was an interception. The discouraging thing here is that Vick made pretty much the same play two more times later in the game, even though neither of those throws resulted in a turnover.

Play 3: A lot of people made the point that on Vick’s third-quarter interception, he was late with the football. The All-22 would seem to back that up.

Philadelphia Eagles TE Clay Harbor.

Harbor makes his break at the Browns’ 46. It looks like there’s a window there for Vick to get him the ball. The circled player at the Eagles’ 49 is Browns linebacker L.J. Fort. As you can see, he’s in no position to pick the pass off when Harbor first makes his cut. But Vick held onto the ball, Fort made his read, closed and came away with the interception.

Play 4: LeSean McCoy fumbled just once all of last season. But he was stripped on his first carry of 2012. McCoy makes highlight-reel plays all the time by reversing field and never giving up on plays. But it sure looked like he had a big running lane had he followed fullback Stanley Havili on this one.

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.

Jason Kelce did a good job on the defensive tackle, and King Dunlap had the defensive end blocked. Havili was in position to help Dunlap if necessary. There was no one else to block. It looked like McCoy had a lot of running room through the initial hole.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is of course easy for me to say, watching the game in slow motion four days later. Players are expected to make split-second reads and decisions. McCoy went on to have a great game, carrying 20 times for 110 yards.

Plays 5: When the Eagles gave Jackson a contract extension this offseason, there was a lot of talk about his production, and specifically, whether he did things that don’t show up in the box score. A couple plays from Week 1 would suggest that’s absolutely the case.

The first is a 3rd-and-15 play. Jackson lines up in the slot, which he did 10.4 percent of the time last year, according to Pro Football Focus. He made a subtle move outside after going about 10 yards in his route, and then continued downfield. Jackson never got open, but look at all the attention he attracts from Browns defenders.

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson

When Vick finally decides to take off (the line of scrimmage was the Eagles’ 21), the middle of the field is wide open. Jeremy Maclin (bottom of the screen) ran a deep out. And so did Jason Avant (top of the screen). The arrow points to Jackson, who has two defenders in front of him. The Browns also have two defensive backs behind him. There’s not a single defender inside the numbers within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Of course, NFL players can make up ground quickly, and Vick ended up just picking up the first down with a 16-yard run.

Play 6: One more where Jackson didn’t have a catch, but had an impact. It was the 18-yard touchdown to Maclin at the end of the first half.

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson.

Interesting concept here. The Eagles kept eight players in to block. Maclin lined up out wide to the right of the formation, and Jackson was in the slot. Vick delivered a little pump fake in Jackson’s direction (middle of the field, at the 15-yard-line). That got the safety (circled) to bite, and you can see all the attention Jackson attracted, with three defenders around him. Maclin made his move, and Vick delivered a bullet to him in the back of the end zone for the score. Consider this: The Eagles had two receivers going up against seven Browns defenders in coverage, and they were still able to make a play.

EXTRA POINTS

* There seems to be a debate about who’s to blame for all the hits Vick takes: The quarterback? The offensive line? Or the coaches? I’m not sure why we have to pick just one. Vick played a bad game. He was late with throws. He left the pocket at times when he didn’t have to. And he made bad decisions. We’ve already discussed how the coaching staff and the game-planning had something to do with that.

But let’s not allow the offensive line to get off the hook. There were specific plays where Vick stood in the pocket, delivered the ball on time and took big hits because of poor protection.

One was an 18-yard strike to Jackson. The throw had to be perfect, and it was. Browns cornerback Joe Haden was all over the wide receiver. Vick took a hit on the play, but he did not hold onto the ball too long. He delivered on time. The problem? Bryce Brown missed his block, and Todd Herremans left his man to help the running back.

Later, Vick hit Jackson for a 35-yard completion. Again, Vick was on time with his throw. He let go of the ball as soon as Jackson was coming out of his break. The Eagles even kept seven guys in to block, and the Browns only rushed five. Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins initially double-teamed defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, but Watkins left to help Brent Celek. Kelce left too. Rubin, arguably the Browns’ best defensive lineman, literally had no one blocking him as he rushed up the middle and nailed Vick. That’s not on the quarterback.

* Havili looked good as a lead blocker when given the opportunity.

* In some eyes, this will count for nothing, but others will appreciate it. Vick’s effort to chase down Haden and make the tackle after the interception that bounced off Maclin’s hand was unbelievable. Had Vick not hustled and made the play, Haden would have had just one man to beat and could have very easily scored. The Browns ended up settling for a field goal on the drive. Again, tackling opposing cornerbacks after interceptions is not high on the list of things you look for out of your quarterback. But there’s a reason Vick’s teammates like playing with him.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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