OL Review: Eagles Try Something New On Offense

During the bye week, Andy Reid said multiple times that he was evaluating everything.

On defense, that meant changing coordinators. But considering Marty Mornhinweg kept play-calling duties and Michael Vick remained the starting quarterback, what would it mean offensively?

That was one of the questions going into Sunday’s game. And while the offense only produced 17 points, Reid and Mornhinweg actually made some drastic changes.

Ok, perhaps “drastic” isn’t the right word, because this has been a gradual process. It started after the Cardinals game. That’s when the coaching staff realized running a big-play offense with this line was unrealistic. We saw more balance, shorter routes, and more options against the blitz when the Eagles faced the Giants, Steelers and Lions. But there were still plenty of “shot” plays downfield – sometimes at inopportune times.

After all, this team still has weapons who can get downfield in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Coaches have continuously said defenses are taking away the deep ball. That’s true sometimes. But the Eagles have had plenty of opportunities through seven games to hit on those plays. The main issues? Protection hasn’t held up, and Vick hasn’t taken advantage – either by not pulling the trigger or simply missing with his throws.

Against the Falcons, there were no deep attempts. As in zero. Not a single pass thrown more than 15 yards from the line of scrimmage. The game-plan focused on short and intermediate throws. Get the ball out of Vick’s hands quickly. Give the offensive line a chance to succeed. Provide options against the blitz. Achieve balance with the run and the pass.

In many ways, it was the exact game-plan fans had been asking for. But there was a problem. The Eagles got down early, and they just don’t execute at a high-enough level for this kind of offense to succeed. The issues were particularly glaring in a couple instances. After the Falcons strung together a 16-play, 80-yard drive, the Eagles went three-and-out. But it wasn’t just that, they failed to gain a single yard on those three plays: incompletion, LeSean McCoy run for -1 yards and sack for a loss of 2.

Late in the game, after many had fled the Linc, and many more had changed the channel, the Eagles took over at their own 35. They were down, 30-17, and there was 5:24 left in the game. In the NFL, 13 points is not an insurmountable deficit. Just a couple weeks ago, the Lions were down two scores with 5:18 left and beat the Eagles. In this one, the Birds even had two timeouts.

But the pieces on offense just don’t fit. The line can’t protect long enough to hit on big plays, and the skill-position players can’t execute well enough to consistently sustain drives. The Eagles got the ball back with 5:24 left, and again with 3:42 left. They ran a total of nine plays for 5 yards on those two drives. Let me repeat that: NINE PLAYS FOR 5 YARDS.

When they needed to score quickly – something that was a hallmark of this team in the past – the offense couldn’t get it done. What’s unclear is how many times the Eagles actually had chances to hit on big plays and didn’t execute. We’ll chime in on that once the All-22 is released.

We can discuss at length what kind of offense the Eagles should be running, but the truth is, given the personnel, there probably is no right solution. That’s just the reality after seven games.

Having said all that, here’s the player-by-player game review of the offensive line:

King Dunlap – Given what I detailed above, the offensive line was put in a pretty good position to be successful in this game. And I actually thought Howard Mudd’s guys were OK. This was far from their worst performance of the season. Dunlap performed at a much higher level than Demetress Bell. I didn’t notice him giving up a hit on Vick all game. He showed good athleticism getting out in front and blocking the safety on the 12-yard screen to Maclin in the second. And he did a good job picking up a blitzer on Vick’s 12-yard completion to Jackson in the third. Overall, solid job in protection.

Evan Mathis – Let’s start with the good. Nice job getting to the safety on the 12-yard screen to Maclin in the second. Good block on LeSean McCoy’s 7-yard run in the second. Good block on the linebacker on another 7-yard McCoy run. And really nice job on Jonathan Babineaux on McCoy’s 10-yard run in the fourth. The issues? Linebacker Stephen Nicholas blitzed between him and Dallas Reynolds on a third down in the second. The Falcons showed seven at the line of scrimmage, and no one picked up Nicholas, who hit Vick right after he released the ball. Not sure whose fault it was, but there was clearly a breakdown somewhere. Later, the Falcons sent a delayed blitz through the A-Gap, and Sean Weatherspoon rushed untouched, leading to a sack. It looked like Mathis could have picked him up, although perhaps he thought McCoy was back there in protection. Overall, though, I thought Mathis played a good game.

Dallas Reynolds – There are times when Reynolds looks like he can be a competent center. And other times when his miscues lead to negative plays. For example, Babineaux beat him badly on the early McCoy run that lost a yard. He couldn’t quite get to the linebacker on McCoy’s 4-yard run in the fourth. He pulled, but couldn’t block the linebacker on McCoy’s fourth-quarter run that lost a yard. And Reynolds was beaten badly by Peria Jerry, who jumped in the backfield on McCoy’s fourth-quarter run that picked up 3. He had trouble with Corey Peters on McCoy’s run that lost 3 yards in the fourth. But again, there were good moments. Reynolds did a nice job pulling and getting to the linebacker on a 7-yard McCoy run in the second. He got to the linebacker again on another 7-yard McCoy run. Nice job on the Vick QB draw that picked up a first. And good hustle to take out Babineaux on the 11-yard screen to McCoy in the fourth. Reynolds delivered a good block on McCoy’s 10-yard run in the fourth. And again on the 7-yard touchdown to McCoy.

Dennis Kelly – He had a couple issues, but overall, I thought the rookie played well. He did a decent job handling a stunt and picking up John Abraham on a 7-yard Vick run in the second. Kelly did a nice job of switching off the DT and on to the blitzing linebacker in the fourth. And he did well in pass protection on the 10-yard completion to Maclin in the fourth. The issues? He failed to pick up a blitzer on a third-down play in the red zone in the third, and Weatherspoon hit Vick, helping to force an incompletion. The Eagles gambled on the play, though, going with an empty backfield and five receivers in pass routes, so that one might have been on the quarterback partially too. Later, it looked like Kelly missed his block on the linebacker as McCoy lost 3 yards. I don’t want to get carried away and say he’s definitely a better option than Watkins because, again, the linemen were not asked to hold their blocks very long in this game. There was a lot of dink-and-dunk that called on receivers to pick up yards after the catch. But Kelly looked comfortable, and other than a few issues, seemed to know what he was doing out there.

Todd Herremans – An up-and-down game for Herremans. There have been too many of those this year for the veteran. Good block on McCoy’s 7-yard run in the second. And again on McCoy’s 4-yard run in the fourth. Nice trap block on McCoy’s 10-yard run. And good job in protection, one-on-one, on Vick’s 16-yard completion to Celek. Jerry got past him on the play-action pass in the third, forcing Vick to run (although it looked like he could have stepped up). Herremans had some trouble with Kroy Biermann on Vick’s third-down incompletion in the red zone in the third. Abraham beat him on McCoy’s fourth-quarter run that picked up 3. He got beaten off the edge by Biermann for a sack in the fourth. And Herremans was called for a holding penalty against Abraham. Like I said, inconsistent performance in this one.

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

  • Kimbafuzz

    On the Dennis Kelly play in the third quarter while in the redzone, was Vick supposed to get rid of the ball within a second or two? Cause if this is the play were the ball was snapped at 11:28 on the game clock, Vick was getting hit at 11:27 on the clock, and he released the ball at 11:26. I only know because this came up in the chat where someone thought Vick had held onto the ball for 4 seconds before the incompletion.

    Unless the game clock is really slow, I don’t think that’s accurate. So on that specific play, with 5 receivers, was Vick supposed to release the ball immediately?

    • Devilock

      Only one question there…who’s call was it to put 5 receivers in on a goal line play?
      The O-Line played fine this game…some blitzers go through, but it wasn’t a common issue whatsoever. Vick had time to throw plenty of times.
      The reason the McCoy has 2.6 yards per carry is definitly related to a bad o-line, but it’s also related to the fact that nobody is scared of Vick. Also, what happened to the I-Formation used against the Giants?

  • http://twitter.com/ErikHilliard Erik Hilliard

    I’m curious if the skill players can’t execute a shorter passing game or if Vick can’t get the ball out of his hand in what is most likely much smaller windows for the offensive players, presuming a skill player isn’t actually the QB. I’d love to see that looked at in the All-22. I think the OLine play is a tad over blown, there are QBs in this league playing at a high level with leaky lines (Big Ben, Rodgers as two…)

    • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

      There is a diff between a leaky oline – its okay but not great and a Bad oline – they cant’ block for sh*t – which is what we have and Arizona has. Unless Shady is the most overrated RB ever his 2.6 ypc is indicative of the latter.

  • AA215

    Lets be Honest here.. Herremans was the weak link yesterday.. #79 FLAT OUT STUNK UP THR FIELD!!!!

  • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

    Our strengths in the passing game in 2010 and 11 were:

    1. The o-line’s ability to give Vick time to find the open man.

    2. Vick’s ability to create time on broken plays by scrambling.

    3. Receivers with speed who, when given time from either 1 or 2, could create space for the big play.

    For whatever reason you want to cough it up to, injuries or poor coaching or both, our offense cannot do this anymore. If we’re going to run a dink and dunk offense and take out Vick’s only strength as a passer (the deep ball) then there is no reason to keep him in there.

    The Vick experiment has come to an end and sadly a lot people are going to lose their jobs because of it. But I think it’s time for a major shake up in this organizations philosophy.

    Personally, I’m somewhat excited. I’d love to see someone come in and shape this team like the 49ers, Texans or Ravens. Stout defense, power running game to compliment the pass.

    We’ve got a lot of great pieces that will carry over from the last regime and lots of old baggage that will be cut. I look forward to a new vision for this team!

    • 1972

      hey adam, please take that pic of brent celek down immediately!!! this guy sucks. he drops a pass every week and celebrates evertime he catches a pass like he just won the superbowl. i need i bigger blocking tight end on my team. all this small fast s*it is getting old

      • Wilbert M.

        Absolutely correct. Celek drops at least one catchable ball every week.

  • djack10

    foles ran a short offense in preseason. it can be done with the right qb. thats not vicks game at all.

  • Wilbert M.

    Herremans isn’t playing up to his contract. He’s playing more like the backup he used to be.

  • TXEaglesFan

    Shiel, i could not agree with your assessment any more. The receivers are too small to run dink and dunk. Jackson will get nicked every game if he has to catch screens and short passes over the middle. Ever notice that our WRs never break tackles, but our opponents WRs are always breaking them? The stretch running plays are NOT working anymore. They have to try using quick hitters up the middle and settle for 3/4 yard gains. It’s better than the two yard losses that McCoy seems to gmhave every other play. I could go on

  • Eagles#1fan

    Kelly seemed more competent than Watkins. Disappointing game for Herremans who made Corey Biermann look like Charles Haley comming around the tackle.

  • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

    The Phila Reporters should stop making excused for Herremen’s and Celek, they are not good enough and it’s as simple as that. Ever think that the Eagles Rookie linemen aren’t the problem, I knew this last year watching Herremen’s and Celek is garbage compared to Gonzales a real tight end.

    Jenkins the D Tackle from the Packers is what we are accustomed to receiving when it comes to free agents in the Reid era, a tired and banged up player who comes to philly with his own cold tub and xray machine.

    Time to play Vinny Curry and allow him to develop there’s nothing to loose, you are getting nothing from Babin and Cole, unleash Graham and let him find his legs.

    The marginal cut rate deal talent at some of the skill positions isn’t enough to get the job done,