Any time we write about Michael Vick in this space, we generally attract polarizing opinions – those who say the Eagles’ offensive struggles are everyone else’s fault, and those who believe Vick is the primary problem. As with most arguments of this nature, the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Given the poor play of the offensive line, there have been many instances where Vick’s had no shot. The most common argument in Vick’s favor is that he’s been set up to fail. In some ways, that’s true. No one, however, would argue that he’s playing at a high level. After dedicating himself in the offseason, the results just haven’t been there. He’s completing 58.3 percent of his passes, averaging just 6.8 yards per attempt and has thrown 10 touchdowns to go along with nine interceptions (and 10 fumbles). He’s paid to make up for deficiencies around him and be a difference-maker. That hasn’t happened this year.
The problems on offense have not all been his fault, but Vick has been inconsistent and left too many plays on the field. The reason I don’t have a lower grade on him is because he’s led three fourth-quarter comebacks, and his toughness is second to none. I’m not sure how many quarterbacks could stand back there, take the beating he does every week and still get back up.
Running Backs: B-
For much of the season, LeSean McCoy’s had nowhere to go. He’s tied for second in the league in stuffs (runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage), per STATS, Inc. But McCoy has still done a lot of what he does best – make people miss. He’s 10th in the league in rushing (623 yards) and still is somehow averaging a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. I really don’t think there are many backs in the league who would be producing better numbers given the circumstances, so even though the run game has been a disappointment, I’m not blaming McCoy. The one area where he definitely needs to get better is as a receiver. McCoy’s averaging just 4.9 yards per catch, and the screen game has given the Eagles very little this season.
Bryce Brown is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, although that number got a huge boost with his 40-yard scamper last week. And Stanley Havili has been a pleasant surprise at fullback.
Wide Receivers: B-
This one’s aided by the All-22. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are getting open pretty consistently every week. Going into the year, it seemed unlikely that Jackson would rebound from a disappointing 2011 campaign just because he had a new contract. But that’s exactly what’s happened. He’s on pace to set career-highs in receptions and yards. Jackson is one of six receivers to average at least 75 yards per game and at least 16 yards per reception. Among the 29 wide receivers with at least 500 yards, Jackson is the only one who has yet to drop a pass, per Pro Football Focus.
Maclin’s season is a little bit trickier to assess. His numbers are pedestrian (28 catches, 356 yards), but again, we see with the All-22 that he’s getting open quite a bit. With better performances from Vick and the offensive line, his numbers would be better. Having said that, Maclin has not really done anything special with the ball in his hands this season.
Tight Ends: D
This one is difficult because Brent Celek is one of the guys in the Eagles’ locker room who always takes responsibility for his mistakes, and he clearly takes losses hard. But the bottom line is he hasn’t played up to his potential. Through eight games, Celek has a team-high six drops. He had a chance to be a real weapon for this offense, but he’s come up short on multiple occasions. Against the Lions, Celek dropped a potential touchdown and was called for offensive pass interference, negating another. And against the Saints, he fumbled in the red zone in the fourth quarter.
Clay Harbor, meanwhile, is actually playing slightly less (30.6 percent of the snaps, per PFF) than last year (33.6 percent). He’s been a non-factor with 11 catches for 79 yards.
Offensive Line: F
I don’t think I’ll find many arguments here. Evan Mathis is the only starter left standing as we go into Week 10. Demetress Bell has been perhaps the biggest disappointment on the team. In the offseason, I applauded the Eagles for moving quickly to sign Bell after Jason Peters went down. The knock on him was that he couldn’t stay healthy. I don’t remember anyone saying that he couldn’t play. But the entire season, from training camp on, has been a struggle. He failed to win the left tackle job and performed poorly when called on to fill in for King Dunlap. Last week at right tackle was a complete disaster.
Before his injury, Todd Herremans had not been playing as well as he did in 2011. And Danny Watkins continues to show little or no consistency on a weekly basis. Dallas Reynolds has been an inadequate replacement for Jason Kelce. Mathis, who’s certainly had some issues, has been the only reliable option in the group.
Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have tried different things to mask the deficiencies on the offensive line, but nothing’s worked. The bottom line is the skill position players are built for a high-octane offense, and that style is not possible with this group. Because of so many issues in the run game, the methodical approach has not worked either.
The result is a team that’s averaging 16.6 points per game, which ranks tied for 30th in the NFL.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Vick took over all the pre-snap calls prior to the Saints game. Great job by T-Mac on this piece.
In his weekly mailbag, Tim discusses Nnamdi Asomugha’s contract and Reid’s excuses.
It sounds like Todd Bowles thinks he did a fine job putting the players in position to succeed Monday night.
An All-22 look at why the Eagles failed in the red zone last week.
When it comes to the QB situation, Jeffrey Lurie might have to assert his power. Tim explains why.
And finally, an injury update, including details on McCoy’s status for Sunday.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had some interesting things to say when asked what players around the league think about the Eagles’ defense:
“Everybody looks at us as a pretty defense,” Rodgers-Cromartie said, per the Inquirer’s Zach Berman. “They’re just big guys with big talent that don’t really want to hit nobody.”
“Teams are going to line up and probably run the ball my way and throw the ball over there at Nnamdi in some dink-and-dunk type of stuff,” Rodgers-Cromartie said.
ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano details several reasons why the Cowboys are in better shape than the Eagles right now:
Romo still has more of a track record as a top NFL quarterback than the Eagles’ Michael Vick does, and the Cowboys are trying to sign him to a long-term contract. Management and the players believe in Romo and are prepared to move into the future with him as their quarterback. The Eagles, assuming they don’t make a miracle recovery, are likely to opt out of Vick’s contract at the end of this season and rebuild with rookie Nick Foles or look for someone else. The Cowboys have far greater stability at the most important position.
Another day of preparation for the Cowboys at Novacare. We’ll have it all covered right here.