All-22: Why the Eagles’ Offense Is a Mess

Before we get started, it’s important to keep in mind that much of what the Eagles did last week was an attempt to mask deficiencies on their offensive line, where they started three backups.

I provided details in an earlier post, but there was balance, a lot of quick throws and a game-plan that required great efficiency. The Eagles’ three scoring drives went 13, 9 and 16 plays, respectively. While the formula had its merits, it doesn’t work so well when you get down early and can’t get a stop on defense. When the Eagles needed to score quickly, they couldn’t convert.

Keeping that in mind, here’s what we saw from the All-22.

Play 1: Like I said, the game-plan was to get the ball out of Michael Vick’s hands quickly and give the offensive line a chance. In the second quarter, the Eagles ran a nice WR screen to Jeremy Maclin. It ended up being a 12-yard gain, but very easily could have been a 40-yard touchdown.

Look at who’s out front blocking – King Dunlap. He’s no Jason Peters, but there’s a certain degree of athleticism on display here. The guy on the ground near Maclin’s feet is Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann. He hustled from the right defensive end spot and got just enough of Maclin to trip him up. The Eagles ended up scoring on the drive, but they missed a chance at a big play here.

Play 2: Running the kind of offense the Eagles tried out on Sunday requires a high level of execution. They weren’t counting on big plays that can sometimes make up for the minor errors. And when you get down two touchdowns early, the margin for error becomes slim. Here, they faced a 3rd-and-2 from the Atlanta 49 in the second quarter. Check out the pre-snap look.

The Eagles go with four wide receivers and LeSean McCoy in the backfield. The Falcons crowd the line of scrimmage and don’t have any safeties deep. You can see how much space the receivers to the top of the screen have. When the ball is snapped, Biermann sprints back as the lone safety. We pointed this look out last week in the cheat sheets. The Falcons blitz five on the play.

Vick gets rid of the ball quickly, but he targets Avant (blue circle), who is blanketed by the cornerback. And that’s the area of the field where Biermann dropped back too. Jackson and Maclin both appear to be open at the top of the screen. Keep in mind, the Eagles only needed 2 yards to extend this drive. The defensive back on Avant made a nice play to force an incompletion, and the Eagles punted. Atlanta got the ball back, kicked a field goal and went up, 24-7, before halftime.

I understand Vick’s making a split-second decision, and I’m getting time to rewind multiple times, but this could have been a difference-making play.

Play 3: If there’s one stretch that had to make Andy Reid seriously consider benching Vick this week, it had to be the one I’m about to show you. The next time someone tells you defenses are taking away the Eagles’ big plays or points out that DeSean Jackson doesn’t score enough touchdowns, go ahead and show them the photos below.

The Eagles line up in the I-Formation and get the Falcons linebackers to bite with run-action. The safety moves up – either because of the fake or because Brent Celek starts to run across the field.

Jackson runs a terrific route right past Dunta Robinson. Here, Vick is looking right at him and is under no pressure.

Jackson makes his way to the corner of the end zone. NFL wide receivers (particularly Jackson) don’t often get this wide open.

But Vick doesn’t pull the trigger, instead tucking the ball and running for 4 yards. Peria Jerry eventually pressured him, but Vick had plenty of time to throw the ball, and at the very least could have stepped up and then made the pass. Jackson was visibly frustrated after the play, jumping up and down and waving his hand in the end zone.

The call was good. The execution, for the most part, was good. But Vick didn’t throw the ball. The Eagles ended up settling for a field goal on the drive.

Play 4: Two plays later, on the same series, the Eagles faced a 3rd-and-6. Vick motioned Jackson to the left, setting up a bunch look.

The Falcons blitzed, and Sean Weatherspoon came unblocked. Watching live, my initial reaction was to blame the offensive line, and surely some of that is warranted. But on the All-22, you can see that the Eagles had a play called designed to help Vick get rid of the ball right away.

Maclin is wide open in the middle of the field. The Eagles needed just 6 yards for a first down. Vick doesn’t pull the trigger, takes a hit and sails one incomplete to Jackson.

Play 5: On the first play of the very next drive, Maclin runs a slant. But a problem we’ve seen all year surfaces: Vick completely fails to recognize that there’s a linebacker dropping into his passing lane.

He drops back, looks right at Maclin, and Stephen Nicholas reads it perfectly. The only problem is the linebacker fails to hang on to the ball.

I’ve heard some use the fact that Vick didn’t turn the ball over as a positive. But had Nicholas hung on here, it’s a touchdown the other way.

Play 6: As I wrote about earlier this week, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg decided during the bye week that they had to find some way to help the offensive line. In past weeks, we’ve shown Jackson and Maclin getting open even when they’re outnumbered in coverage. But that’s difficult to do when the defense knows you have to pass.

For example, on this 3rd-and-10 play, Atlanta drops eight into coverage against two Eagles receivers.

Falcons defenders are in red. Eagles receivers are in yellow. Not much of a chance to get open here. Vick tucks it and runs, but comes up just short of a first down, and they punt. Another effect of having little confidence in your offensive line.

Play 7: In the fourth quarter, the Eagles had to get a little greedy, and it became clear that they just don’t have quick-score capabilities anymore – mostly because of protection issues. Here, Weatherspoon comes on a delayed blitz, and nobody picks him up.

Vick spins away initially, and then is sacked. Jackson and Maclin are running deep downfield. By the time they turn around to look for the ball, the play is over.

Again, this was the exception. For most of the game, it was short, quick passes. But obviously, in the fourth, the Eagles were looking for ways to pick up big chunks of yardage, and they couldn’t get it done.

Play 8: And finally, there’s just poor execution. Here, the Eagles run another WR screen to Maclin. With Avant on that side, and Celek coming off the line of scrimmage, it should pick up at least some positive yardage. The problem? They both go to block the same guy.

While Celek and Avant chase the slot corner, Robinson drops Maclin for a 3-yard loss.

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  • Pomo

    While Celek and Avant* chase the slot corner, Robinson drops Maclin for a 3-yard loss.

    • sdk152

      Whoops. Thanks, Pomo. Fixed. -SK

      • Pomo

        No problem! Glad I could help!

  • theycallmerob

    In short, the team is full of “playmakers” who can’t execute plays.

    2012 Eagles are a fine example of the term oxymoron

  • LostInChiTown

    Wow. This All-22 feature has been amazing. I just can’t believe how many plays Vick is missing week after week. It has to drive Andy Reid insane. Missing all these open receivers almost bothers me more than the turnovers because it’s shows a serious deficiency in his ability to play the QB position. Some of those plays went exactly as designed. Does Vick not see it, or is he too scared to throw? If Foles sees it and has the confidence, could he substantially improve this offense, even with rookie mistakes?

    • airgreen7

      I think that Vick feels the pressure even when it is not there, therefore he makes poor decisions and bad throws. Most of the time, he’s running for his life back there. I’m not using this as an excuse, but just as a cause.

      • saunhi

        Vick has been directed to play conservative and thats what hes doing. He was also the leading rusher last two games, but the Philly bloggers seem oblivious to the DEAD running game. Ditka ob Espn noticed it.

    • morgan c

      Short answer, yes. I just don’t see how people are against benching Vick and playing Foles. Unless you think we are winning the SB this year, I just don’t see a downside for seeing what we have with Foles. If we continue to stick with Vick, we go into next year not knowing if we need a QB or not (as we will not know what Foles is since we will not have played him this year).

      Deep down, I honestly believe a rookie would be an upgrade. Even Foles could see that the throw is to Jackson (not Maclin, the one covered guy), in the footage above.

      • BlindChow

        Foles would at least be tall enough to see that far…

    • southy

      It’s a valid point. My theory is that Vick has been so coached to protect himself and the ball, make conservative decisions, on top of worrying about our deficient pass pro, that that’s all that’s going through his head as he scans the field. Vick has, unfortunately, demonstrated that he can’t play that way. If you’re going to stick with him you have to let him play fast and loose, stick with the west-coast game plan, and live with the results.

      If you can’t do that, you’re wasting his talent, and you might as well go with someone else.

      • saunhi

        Vick has been almost the leading rusher these last two games. Ditka on Espn said this team must develop a RUNNING GAME.

  • phillyCLT

    seems like the wrong decision to keep Vick as starter if he’s missing open receivers. Yes, he’s running for his life but sometimes that comes from holding the ball too long

  • Pete

    What about the play right before “Play 4” where McCoy was uncovered wide right? The crowd was screaming for Vick to snap and fire…

  • UncleCarm

    It kind of makes all the people saying Foles will get killed back there because of the offensive line look silly. The point is, when any team blitzes, there is an open spot. The trick is to find it. Despite some improvement by Vick, it doesn’t seem like he can consistently beat the blitze.

  • Hmm…seems like VIck has some confidence issues. You can’t argue that he’s not seeing folk wide open, but he seems to be second guessing his decisions. And that second guessing is leaving points on the field. Dude just needs to relax, play loose…even a few games ago he makes those throws. Clearly something has changed.

  • Honestly I think the hits have gotten to him. There was a telling moment on a play in the fourth…he flinched right before he threw the ball…he hadn’t been hit yet…he was being blitzed but he got rid of the ball before the blitz reached him…but he noticeably flinched. Dude is shell shocked whether he admits it or not.

  • Even though I will say…even if makes some of those plays Eagles still lose this game. The defense was so bad +4 points here and a touchdown there wouldn’t have made a difference. Just a closer losing score.

  • T-Falc

    hello eagles fans, falcons fan here and I stumbled onto this article which I think is very well written. props to the writer. having followed vick so closely while he was a falcon, I think that he still has trouble making pre-snap reads on the defense, so when the ball is snapped he is in more of a reactionary state of mind, versus other QBs who can read the defense before the snap and then make a quicker decision on where to go with the ball. that coupled with his current state of low confidence resulting from all the turnovers limits him from pulling the trigger, in my opinion

    I think there could be hope for Vick and this offense if they can put together a game plan that is more heavily weighted on feeding McCoy on both running and short passing plays. When Vick was a Falcon and we had Warrick Dunn running the ball, we had great success with a zone blocking scheme to open up big cutback lanes for Dunn, and Vick working the middle of the field with our TE Alge Crumpler.

    good luck the rest of the way, especially versus the Taints this weekend. Vick still owes the Falcons a big debt and he can repay it by destroying the taints and sending their fans into their paper bags

    • xlGmanlx

      Can’t argue with those points, but the bottom line is Vick isn’t innocent in this, but how much of it is a reaction to poor line play and shoddy game plans?

  • Mac

    Way off topic…

    I am assuming there isn’t a stat for this, but you never know. Has anyone ever tracked opposing player injuries that are related to a skill position players movements? The fact that McCoy has put Weatherspoon and I can’t remember the guys name from the Giants game out with knee and ankle injuries is just insane. The fact that it’s 2 guys in less than half a season is even crazier. I realize that injuries are not cool and certainly don’t wish them on anyone, but it feels like we may be seeing something very unusual with McCoy’s cutback skills.

    • Myke Lowery

      He also got Kelce injured. Ed Reed dove to tackle McCoy and due the to cut he made…Reed missed and hit Kelce squarely on the knee.

  • David J Daniels

    Great post Sheil… you have shown over and over, today is the best day to let Foles show the NFL that the Eagles are still an explosive and viable offense. Vick is done; the effort to change him into a pocket passer who reads defenses effectively, while great, has failed. I hate that our team will have to lose to the ‘Aints’ before Andy feels comfortable enough to pull the trigger.

  • saunhi

    The cherry picking tactic has become news media SOP- you have to weigh everything. All QBs have multiple mis-reads every game, and thats when theyre Not distracted by UNBLOCKED rushers. Both Ditka and McNabb said Vick FREQUENTLY doesnt have time to make reads and this team must DEVELOP THE RUN.

    The article is quite analytical, now improve on balance.

    • morgan c

      right but i think the point is vick misses more than most. sheil sees all the footage, and chooses both sides. i.e. he shows positive plays too. i’m sure there are more examples of bad vick reads that we don’t even see here.

      i get your point, but again, i think this stuff reflects the real thing. he makes MANY bad reads a game, more than are just reflected here.

  • brownshadow17

    Really great work. The second play doesn’t bother me much. As you said he was making a split decision and trying to get a quick 2 yards. The potential pick also doesn’t upset me much. I was listening to tommy lawlor point out how many QBs make that same mistake. In fact, I saw Eli do it last week against the Skins. What really gets me is plays 3 and 4. You can’t be a QB in this league and not throw those passes. I am a huge Vick fan, but seeing this does make me consider a QB change.

  • brownshadow17

    For those who say we need more balance and to put the ball in Shady’s hands, I heard a very interesting stat from the espn football today podcast. In the last two games Shady has been contacted behind the line of scrimmage on 40% of his carries. That’s absurd! This being the case, I can see why we are not running as much as fans may want.

  • Wilbert M.

    It seems that the interception problem has made Vick overthink everything. Whatever QB instincts he had are gone. You see some of the missed plays on TV and then even more on ALL-22. I almost want him to play badly against the Saints to get the Vick era over with and see what Foles has to offer.

  • Boogie

    Good pics .. Show how Vick hit Maclin on two plays one the in the 4th quarter and he dropped both passes, the first drawing a unnecessary roughness penalty because Mac was hit late on the play and the 2nd just a pure drop to avoid the hit .. and show the 4th down desperation heave Vick threw under pressure that Jackson never turned around to even see and it dropped right behind him in open field .. It’s easy to analyze a game when you have time to look and dissect every play .. Try taking 15-20 hits a game and then come back and tell us how easy play execution is .. He should be respected for his heart for even playing wit this offense that has no unpredictability, or heart or character better yet but he gets criticized for taking too many hits and his “bad” decisions .. Try gettin an offensive line who can actually block long enough for him to execute and then if he makes the same mistakes and bad decisions, then bench him .. The Vick Analysis is always unfair ..