OL Review: What To Make Of Scott’s Debut

Here’s a player-by-player look at what we saw from the Eagles’ offensive line in Sunday’s loss to the Redskins:

King Dunlap – Not as bad as last week, but Dunlap was up and down. He was called for a pair of holding penalties – one on a LeSean McCoy run in the first and another in pass protection in the third. Dunlap just got flat-out beat one-on-one on a Rob Jackson sack in the fourth. And he was unable to get to linebacker Lorenzo Alexander on a screen to Brent Celek that lost 3 yards in the fourth. Initially, it looked like Dunlap gave up a sack in the third, but the replay showed Ryan Kerrigan blatantly grabbing his jersey, not allowing him to get over to Perry Riley, who was blitzing off the edge. Dunlap got beat by Alexander on an inside move late in the game. He had some good moments in pass protection, specifically on Nick Foles’ 21-yard completion to Damaris Johnson.

Evan Mathis – The lone starter from the beginning of the season was solid for the most part. Mathis held up well in pass protection. He did a good job on McCoy’s 5-yard run in the third. And Mathis did a great job blocking London Fletcher downfield on McCoy’s 13-yard catch and run in the fourth. In the first, Kedric Golston went past him and dropped Bryce Brown for a 1-yard loss.

Dallas Reynolds –  He had quite a few issues with Barry Cofield, the Redskins’ veteran nose tackle. Cofield gave him trouble in the third, but Foles stepped up and completed a pass to Celek. Really bad moment in the third. The Eagles had a 1st-and-10 at the Redskins’ 20, and Reynolds got abused by Cofield as McCoy was dropped for a 6-yard loss. Later, Cofield went right around him and crushed Foles on an incomplete throw in the fourth. And Reynolds did a poor job on Riley, who blitzed on Foles’ second interception.

Jake Scott – Let’s get the penalties out of the way first. Scott was called for two false starts in the first and holding in the fourth. Can some of that be explained by the fact that he just got signed last week? Probably. Scott had three penalties in 16 games last season, although he had 11 in 2010, per Pro Football Focus. Overall, though, I thought he did some positive things for someone who was just thrown into the mix. Scott showed good athleticism and got his hands on a defensive back on the 8-yard screen to DeSean Jackson. He did a nice job switching off to Kerrigan on a stunt as Foles found Stanley Havili for 9 yards on 3rd-and-2 in the first. Scott delivered a good block on the shovel pass to McCoy that picked up 5. Good job of getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 4-yard run in the first. He got just enough of the linebacker out in space on the McCoy screen that picked up 25 in the second. And Scott drove Cofield to the ground on McCoy’s 9-yard run around the right side in the second. On Foles’ second interception, it’s tough to say whether he should have picked up the blitzer. Scott ended up not blocking anyone, and McCoy got bowled over. The Redskins rushed five on the play, and the Eagles had six in to block. In the second, Scott had some trouble in protection, but Foles stepped up and hit Riley Cooper. So the penalties were bad, but at 31, he looks like someone who still belongs on a roster.

Dennis Kelly – I actually thought he held his own against Kerrigan, who is a former first-round pick and a pretty good pass rusher. Kelly certainly looks more comfortable at tackle than guard. He did a good job of picking up the defensive tackle on a stunt as Foles found Havili for 9 yards in the first. On the shovel pass to McCoy, Kelly initially executed a double-team with Scott and then got his hands on a linebacker at the second level. He had trouble with Kerrigan and was called for holding, negating a 13-yard completion to Brown in the first. Good block on Golston, creating space for Brown’s 13-yard run in the second. Good job pinning Kerrigan inside on McCoy’s 9-yard run in the second. Nice job one-on-one in pass protection against Kerrigan on Foles’ 21-yard completion to Johnson on 3rd-and-17 in the second.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

OL Review: King Dunlap’s Rough Day

Here’s a review of the Eagles’ offensive line performance after having re-watched Sunday’s game against the Cowboys:

Demetress Bell – Had his usual array of issues. The Eagles moved Bell from the right side to the left side and gave him help against DeMarcus Ware with extra blockers and quick throws. Bell was asked to block Ware one-on-one in the second and had trouble, but the Cowboys jumped offsides. Ware went right around him and hit Nick Foles in the second. Bell was called for holding on the very next play. He had trouble with Ware on the LeSean McCoy run that was stopped for no gain in the second and was beaten badly by Ware around the edge on Foles’ deep ball to Riley Cooper in the third. Bell let Ernie Sims get around him on McCoy’s 2-yard run in the fourth. Anthony Spencer got past him, forcing Foles out of the pocket on third down in the fourth. Bell was beaten around the edge by Victor Butler for a sack in the fourth. With 53 seconds left and the Eagles needing to go 89 yards for a chance to tie the game, he was called for a false start on first down. Tough to imagine this signing having gone any worse.

Evan Mathis – Up-and-down game for Mathis. He failed to pick up Ware on the twist in the first, leading to a hit on Michael Vick. McCoy ran right into him on a first-quarter carry for no gain. He and McCoy were slow to pick up Spencer in the first, as the linebacker got a hand in Vick’s face on the incompletion to Jeremy Maclin. Mathis whiffed on his block attempt on the screen to McCoy that picked up 8 on 3rd-and-13 in the second. There were positives too. Nice job on the 12-yard screen to McCoy. And good block on McCoy’s 13-yard run.

Dallas Reynolds – He was actually OK through three quarters, and then, like the rest of the line, fell apart in the fourth. Reynolds’ best moments came in the run game. Good double-team with Mathis on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the first. Really nice job creating a hole for McCoy on his 23-yard run in the third. Good job again on McCoy’s 13-yard run in the third. And excellent job of getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the third. It’s tough to say whether he or Bell was supposed to block Bruce Carter on Bryce Brown’s 3rd-and-15 run that picked up 2, but the linebacker went right past both linemen. Reynolds failed to pick up Jason Hatcher on a twist on third down in the third. He tripped on his way to the linebacker on McCoy’s 3-yard run in the fourth. And he didn’t make much of a block on Brown’s run that was stopped for no gain in the fourth.

Dennis Kelly – Another rough go for the rookie. Kelly did a poor job of picking up Sims on the blitz where Vick may have sustained the concussion. The Cowboys rushed six on the play, and the Eagles had six in to block, but Kelly failed to pick up Sims. Poor job on Kenyon Coleman on McCoy’s 3rd-and-2 carry near the end of the first half. Kelly couldn’t finish his block on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the third. And he was beaten badly by Jay Ratliff on the Foles interception that was called back because of a Cowboys penalty. Ratliff beat Kelly again and forced Foles out of the pocket and into an incompletion in the fourth. Hatcher got past him on 3rd-and-24 in the fourth, forcing Foles to dump it off to Clay Harbor. Kelly failed to pick up Spencer on the twist as he sacked Foles and forced the fumble late in the game. A couple good moments: He got to the second level on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the first. And again on McCoy’s 13-yard run in the third. Overall, though, very shaky the past two weeks.

King Dunlap – Simply a terrible, game-changing stretch in the third quarter. Dunlap pretty much tackled Maclin on the WR screen that lost a yard. On the next play, he was called for illegal hands to the face, negating a 12-yard gain and third-down conversion from Foles to Damaris Johnson. And he didn’t get much of a block on Ware on Brown’s 2-yard run on 3rd-and-15. Dunlap then went to the sideline on the field-goal try, forcing Andy Reid to use a timeout. Later, he was called for illegal hands to the face in the fourth, negating a Cooper catch. Dunlap actually did some good things earlier. He was effective on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the first and delivered a nice backside block on McCoy’s 23-yard run in the third. Good job on McCoy’s 13-yard run in the third also. But overall, a disastrous performance.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Cowboys’ Defense

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Cowboys’ defense. For the first cheat sheet, click here.

1. The Cowboys rank 18th in scoring defense, allowing 22.6 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 13th – ninth against the run, 16th against the pass. The Eagles, meanwhile, are playing like one of the worst offenses in the league. There’s no sugar-coating that fact anymore. They’re tied for 30th in scoring (16.6 points per game), and Football Outsiders has them ranked 26th. The Eagles have 19 giveaways (tied for second-most with the Cowboys) and are 30th in red-zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns just 37 percent of the time. The Saints entered last week’s game allowing over 30 points per game. No opponent had scored fewer than 24. But the Eagles managed just 13.

2. The key cog in the Cowboys’ defense is pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, who enters the game with nine sacks, tied for second-most in the league. The Eagles will go with four backups on the offensive line, Evan Mathis being the lone remaining healthy starter. Demetress Bell, who was a disaster against the Saints, will see a lot of Ware. Some have made the argument that the reason Bell struggled so much last week was because the coaches put him at right tackle, where he had never played before. But don’t forget that he had plenty of issues at left tackle earlier in the season. It would be a mistake for Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid to even consider letting Bell try to block Ware without help. The plan has to be to park Brent Celek or Clay Harbor next to Bell for pretty much the entire game. Ware will line up on the other side too. In those cases, the tight end can line up next to King Dunlap, who will play right tackle and is coming off his worst outing of the year.

3. Other than Ware, a few other defenders the Eagles will have to keep an eye on are nose tackle Jay Ratliff (probable), defensive lineman Jason Hatcher and outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. Spencer has three sacks on the season. Ratliff could give Dallas Reynolds and Dennis Kelly fits. Hatcher is second on the team in hurries and QB hits, according to Pro Football Focus. Michael Vick has been sacked 27 times, third-most in the league. He was sacked 23 times all of last season.

4. The Cowboys were dealt a blow when they lost Sean Lee, one of the league’s top inside linebackers, for the season to an injury. Dallas signed former Eagle Ernie Sims. Bruce Carter, a second-round pick in 2011, has been playing well. He’s second on the team with 46 tackles, including a team-high six for loss. Opponents are averaging 4.1 yards per carry against the Cowboys. LeSean McCoy is coming off one of his best games of the season, a 19-carry, 119-yard performance against New Orleans. He was limited in practice this week because of an illness, but is listed as probable. Michael Turner carried 20 times for 102 yards against the Cowboys last week.

5. Dallas is 24th in the league at covering opposing tight ends, per Football Outsiders. But like I mentioned above, the Eagles are going to need Celek and Harbor to block quite a bit in this one. Per PFF, on passing plays, Celek is being used as a blocker 28 percent of the time. Last year, that number was 25.3 percent.

6. Dallas’ offseason focus on defense was improving its secondary. The Cowboys signed cornerback Brandon Carr from the Chiefs and traded up in the first round to snag LSU’s Morris Claiborne. Dallas’ pass defense has produced mixed results. The Cowboys are 13th in opponents’ completion percentage (61.3) and 23rd in yards per attempt (7.6). They’ve allowed just seven passing touchdowns, tied for third-fewest, and have the fewest interceptions (three) in the league. Teams have targeted Carr (37 times) and Claiborne (34 times) pretty equally. The safeties are veteran Gerald Sensabaugh and Danny McCray, who had never started a game before this season.

7. As for Michael Vick, this season came with the promise that he’d show great improvement from 2011. But Vick’s numbers are down across the board, as he’s completed just 58.3 percent of his passes and is averaging just 6.8 yards per attempt. The offensive line has been terrible, but Vick has left too many plays on the field. Tbe Cowboys blitzed Ryan six times and Eli Manning the week before just once. The guess is Rob Ryan feels like he can get to Vick without having to send extra pressure.

8. As we showed with the All-22, Vick missed multiple opportunities to get Jeremy Maclin the football last week. The fourth-year receiver is averaging just 50.9 yards per game. DeSean Jackson, meanwhile, is quietly having a really good year. According to Pro Football Focus, among the 31 wide receivers who have totaled at least 500 yards, Jackson is the only one without a drop. He’s on pace to set career-highs with 74 catches and 1,248 yards.

9. Want to see the difference between a good offense and the Eagles right now? Check out this play from last week. The Cowboys bring a six-man pressure. The Falcons have no tight ends in to block – just one running back and the offensive line.

But check out the pocket Ryan has.

He doesn’t get sacked. He doesn’t get hit. No one even lays a finger on him. Ryan’s decisive, identifies Julio Jones against Claiborne down the left sideline, and the Falcons burn Ryan’s blitz with a 38-yard gain. The Eagles will have opportunities downfield, but it seems unlikely that they’ll be able to execute at this level.

10. Leftovers: The Cowboys are 10th in red-zone defense, allowing touchdowns 48.3 percent of the time. …The Eagles’ offense ranks 13th on third down, converting 41.4 percent of the time. The Cowboys rank 10th, allowing opponents to convert 36.3 percent of the time. …The Cowboys are 2-point favorites, according to Bovada. Per SportsInsights.com, 78 percent of the action is on Dallas to cover.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Michael Vick Takes Back Pre-Snap Duties

Michael Vick has seized control back at the line of scrimmage.

Entering the year, he and Jason Kelce planned to share responsibilities pre-snap so Vick could focus on the other tasks at hand. While Vick had final say, it was the center that was calling out the bulk of the protections. Even when Kelce went down and the unproven Dallas Reynolds stepped in, the set-up stayed in place.

The intended results never came. In fact, instead of Vick feeling more focused in, he actually felt somewhat disengaged.

“Mike, when he’s forced to fix the protections like he was last year, I think he is more in tune to everything,” said Kelce. “That’s one of the things that we ran into problems with at camp was sometimes when you have the center doing a lot of that, the quarterback kind of goes on autopilot. I think that’s why Mike wanted to move back to that. He feels more mentally engaged and he feels like he’s more part of it, he has to focus on each and every play.”

Vick actually went to the coaching staff and told him he wanted to make the switch. Against the Saints on Monday night, the responsibilities were all his for the first time this season.

“I did it because I think when a quarterback is able to make the calls, it’s actually easier for you to know when you’re hot and when you’re not, who’s the most dangerous guy,” said Vick. “And I think it allows the center to just hear the calls and focus on the guys in front of him. When the center has to make calls, it’s a lot for him.”

Kelce’s ability to diagnose defenses was a critical element to the plan heading into the season. He would identify the MIKE and adjust protections as necessary, and Vick would override him where he saw fit. Reynolds is just not as far along, and has plenty on his plate to begin with.

Of course, the offensive line did not exactly have a banner night with Vick at the controls Monday. It was their worst performance of the year, in fact, as Vick was sacked seven times and endured 12 QB hits. According to Kelce, the breakdowns do not fall on the quarterback.

“There have been games where the hits have been on Mike, and there have been games where the hits have been on everybody else. This past Monday, that was the offensive line,” said Kelce. “The offensive line really didn’t do a very good job.  Mike has had games where he could identify better, but I don’t think that game in particular was one of those. I think the offensive line just did a poor job of blocking, even just regular four-man rushes at times.”

Interestingly enough, Vick was showing real progress against the blitz in recent weeks. In the three games prior to the bye, he was 29-for-42 for 405 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against extra pressure. That’s a 69 percent completion percentage and 9.6 yards-per-attempt.

The numbers slipped against Atlanta. On Monday things got worse, as Vick was 4-for-12 (33%) for 96 yards with a touchdown and an interception against the blitz and was sacked three times, per Pro Football Focus.

But the offensive front is largely responsible for that. And Vick walked away still feeling that he and the team will be better off for the alteration.

“It feels a lot better. It makes me feel like I’m more in control,” said Vick. “I’m thankful. I enjoy it.”

Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

OL Review: Bell Signing a Disaster

Here’s a player-by-player look at how the Eagles’ offensive line performed on Monday night against the Saints.

And before we get started, I broke down the seven sacks (with images!) in an earlier post, so click here for that.

King Dunlap – This had to be his worst performance of the season. Dunlap struggled throughout, often times with veteran defensive end Will Smith. He did a really poor job against Smith on a play-action sack in the first. Dunlap got beaten by Smith again and allowed a hit on Michael Vick on third down late in the first half. He did a poor job on LeSean McCoy’s 4-yard run in the fourth. And he got beaten by Smith again in the fourth, although Vick walked right into the sack. Smith got past Dunlap and forced Vick to scramble on another play. A couple bright spots: He did a good job on the linebacker on Bryce Brown’s 40-yard run in the first. And Dunlap was effective on the 13-yard McCoy run in the first.

Evan Mathis – To be honest, I pretty much had nothing written down for Mathis. I guess I was focused on watching for glaring errors, and he didn’t have many (although I didn’t notice any exceptional plays either). Mathis was the only true starter left standing on this offensive line Monday night.

Dallas Reynolds – It’s tough to tell how many errors are being made pre-snap and whether Reynolds or Vick are responsible. Reynolds was OK in this one and didn’t have as many issues as his teammates. He missed his block at the second level on McCoy’s 2-yard run in the first. And he failed to pick up Jonathan Vilma, allowing a sack/forced fumble in the first. Reynolds gave up a hit on Vick on third down in the red zone in the third. On the flip side, he did a good job on McCoy’s 25-yard run. And again on Brown’s 8-yard run. He’s actually done some good things in the run game this season.

Dennis Kelly – Last week, I thought he played relatively well, especially considering it was Kelly’s first career start. This week? As Jon Gruden pointed out on several occasions, not so good. Kelly whiffed on his block at the second level on McCoy’s 4-yard run in the first. And he got beaten by Cameron Jordan on the same drive, allowing a hit on Vick. Kelly did not get much of a block on Jordan on McCoy’s 2-yard run in the first. Later, he was gearing up for Curtis Lofton to blitz, but Lofton didn’t rush the passer. Meanwhile, Martez Wilson ran right past Kelly and crushed Vick for a sack. He whiffed on his block on the shovel pass inside the 5, although the play probably would have been stopped anyway. Kelly got tossed aside by Tom Johnson, who then dropped McCoy for no gain. He and Bell allowed a delayed blitzer to get through untouched between them, forcing Vick to scramble in the fourth. If Bell hadn’t gotten beaten so badly on another play, Kelly would have given up the sack, as Akiem Hicks got past him. A couple bright spots (but not many): Kelly and Reynolds created a running lane for McCoy’s 25-yard gain in the first. And he did a decent job on McCoy’s 5-yard run in the second.

Todd Herremans – He played an inconsistent quarter before leaving the game with an ankle injury. Good job by Herremans of pulling on McCoy’s 4-yard run. And he led the way on McCoy’s 8-yard scamper. But Herremans had trouble with Jordan’s speed rush around the edge on Vick’s incompletion to Brent Celek on the first possession. He was beaten badly by Jordan on the sack/forced fumble in the first. And Herremans missed his block against Vilma on the McCoy run that lost 1 yard (right before the red-zone interception). We should find out soon how serious his injury is.

Demetress Bell – The Bell signing looks like a complete disaster. When Jason Peters went down, the Eagles signed Bell to take over at left tackle. The hope was that he would be adequate with a high ceiling. Instead, he has been a complete liability nearly every time he’s stepped onto the field. In this one, Bell entered the game for Herremans in the first. He didn’t get a hand on Vilma as the linebacker dropped McCoy for a loss of 1 in the first. Bell allowed pressure around the edge, forcing Vick to step up and throw short to Stanley Havili in the second. It’s tough to say whether he was expecting help or just got beat as Jordan went right past him and Kelly in the red zone in the third. Bell was beaten by Jordan and gave up a hit on Vick with the Eagles backed up near their own end zone in the third. He did a poor job on McCoy’s 4-yard run in the fourth. Bell was called for a false start in the fourth, and on the very next play, was beaten badly by Jordan for a sack. He and McCoy let Wilson get around the edge, forcing Vick to scramble on the final drive.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Tape Breakdown: Eagles Allow Seven Sacks

We don’t have the All-22 images yet, but ESPN did a good job of providing clear shots of the seven sacks the Eagles allowed in Monday night’s game against the Saints. So here’s one man’s attempt to figure out what in the world was going on with the Birds’ protection schemes.

Sack 1: This one started with the pre-snap look, and specifically Dennis Kelly. The Eagles’ right guard expects linebacker Curtis Lofton to blitz, so he moves off of his man to pick him up.

Lofton instead picks up LeSean McCoy in coverage. Martez Wilson, meanwhile, runs right past Kelly and has a free path to the quarterback.

Kelly tries to recover, but is too late.

Keep in mind that this sack took place in 2.1 seconds (all times unofficial, of course). The Eagles were not outnumbered. They had six blockers to handle four pass-rushers, but they had a breakdown in protection, and Vick got crushed.

Sack 2: The Eagles run slow-developing play-action. By the time Vick turns around, Will Smith has already beaten King Dunlap badly and is in the quarterback’s face. He scrambles and is eventually sacked by Brodrick Bunkley. The Eagles had six in to block five.

Sack 3: The Saints blitzed Jonathan Vilma right through the A-Gap. New Orleans crowded the line of scrimmage, and Dallas Reynolds let Vilma go right by him, instead choosing to block Lofton.

This shot is right after the ball is snapped. Could Vilma have an easier path to the quarterback? Vick spun away, but Cameron Jordan beat Todd Herremans badly, and the two defenders sandwiched Vick, sacking him and forcing a fumble.

This is one of those where the Eagles had six blockers against seven defenders so someone was going to be free. But Vick was sacked in 1.9 seconds. If Herremans doesn’t get beat, perhaps he’s able to improvise. It also looks like a play where Reynolds and/or Vick didn’t get the job done pre-snap.

Sack 4: The Eagles are in the red zone, and the first thing you’ll notice is they’re going empty backfield with no in-line tight end. Keep in mind that this is in the third quarter after the offensive line already had several issues. Why not give them at least a little help here? The Saints crowd the line of scrimmage.

Protection slides to the right. The Saints rush five, and the Eagles have five to block, but Smith has a free path to Vick. Not only that, but the Eagles can’t even block the other four guys, even though they have a one-man advantage. Jordan breaks through between Kelly and Demetress Bell.

Vick is hit within 1.9 seconds of when the ball is snapped.

Sack 5: This is one where Vick held on to the ball for awhile. Without the All-22, we don’t know if he had a receiver open or not, but he did have 3.6 seconds to get rid of the ball. It should be noted that the Eagles had six blockers to take on four pass-rushers, yet Brent Celek was asked to handle Jordan one-on-one.

Sack 6: This one’s probably on Vick. He could have stepped up, but instead danced right into the sack, as Dunlap had trouble with Smith off the edge.

You see the rest of the line has provided a clean pocket. Vick has plenty of space to move forward or to his right. Then again, this was in the fourth quarter. Can we really blame Vick for being a bit antsy after all those hits? The sack took place at 3.0 seconds.

Sack 7: And finally, a culmination of all the Eagles’ errors. It was a basic four-man pressure, but Bell got abused by Jordan, who sacked Vick in 2.3 seconds. Of course, it didn’t help that the Eagles again went with an empty backfield. And as you can see, if Jordan didn’t get Vick, Kelly and Dunlap got beaten also.

Perhaps at some point today, you’ll have a conversation with friends about who’s to blame: the offensive line, Vick or the coaching staff. The truth is, they were all responsible in one way or another. When you’re a 3-5 team and you score 13 points against a team that is allowing over 30 a game, there is plenty of blame to go around. So feel free to not be too picky.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

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.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Falcons’ Defense

Here are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Falcons’ defense. If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

1. In many ways, these two units have shared a similar theme through six games: Turnovers have been the story. The Eagles are tied for the second-most giveaways in the league with 17, and they are averaging just 17.2 points per game (30th). Football Outsiders ranks them 27th in overall offense – 27th in passing and 31st in rushing. The Falcons, meanwhile, are 11th in overall defense – fifth against the pass and 27th against the run. Atlanta is second in the league, averaging 2.8 takeaways per game. The Falcons are also winning the field-position game on a weekly basis. Opponents are starting drives, on average, at their own 23.14-yard-line; that’s the top mark in the league. The Eagles, meanwhile, are losing the field-position battle each week, starting drives at their own 23.47-yard-line, second-worst in the league.

2. When they’re not creating turnovers, the Falcons’ defense has been middle-of-the-pack. Against the run, they’re giving up 143.8 yards per game, 28th in the league. And opponents are averaging 5.2 yards per carry against Atlanta, the second-highest mark in the NFL. We should be able to gauge the level of concern with the Eagles’ running game after this week. Against the Steelers and Lions, LeSean McCoy had trouble finding room and managed just 100 yards on 29 carries (3.4 YPC). You’d think he’d be able to have more success in this one. Meanwhile, the Falcons are 18th in opponents’ completion percentage (62.6) and 24th in yards per attempt (7.6). In other words, if the Eagles take care of the football (yes, this is a giant IF every week), they should be able to put drives together.

3. The Falcons will likely play six defensive linemen: Ends Ray Edwards, John Abraham and Kroy Biermann, along with tackles Jonathan Babineaux, Peria Jerry and Vance Walker. Abraham is the best pass-rusher of the group. He had a team-high 9.5 sacks and 35 hurries last year, per Football Outsiders. In 2012, he’s got six sacks, tied for ninth in the league. Abraham will line up at both defensive end spots. King Dunlap is back at left tackle and should provide an upgrade to Demetress Bell in pass protection. Dunlap actually faced Abraham and the Falcons back in 2010 and held his own. Todd Herremans will see plenty of Abraham too. Abraham dropped back into coverage more often than any other defensive lineman in the league last year, per Football Outsiders. But this year, he’s done so just eight times in six games, per Pro Football Focus. It’s not just sacks either with Abraham. He’s forced three fumbles, including one against Carson Palmer a couple weeks ago. As a team, the Falcons have forced nine fumbles in six games. Edwards got a nice contract after notching 16.5 sacks in 2009 and 2010 with the Vikings. But he has just 3.5 sacks in 22 games with Atlanta.

4. At tackle, Babineaux was a one-man wrecking crew against Oakland. He forced a fumble in the first and later made a huge stop, dropping Darren McFadden for a 3-yard loss on 3rd-and-goal from the Falcons’ 1. Overall, he had three tackles for loss in that game, and on the season, Babineaux’s got 2.5 sacks. Evan Mathis will see plenty of him on Sunday. As of this writing, it’s unclear whether Danny Watkins will be healthy enough to start at right guard. If he can’t go, rookie Dennis Kelly will get the nod. The Eagles switched backup centers during the bye week, but Dallas Reynolds remains the starter.

5. At linebacker, the player to watch is Sean Weatherspoon. He’ll be used in a variety of ways, including as a blitzer. Weatherspoon blitzes an average of 5.7 times per game, per PFF. And he’s second on the team with three sacks. Michael Vick’s been great against the blitz (29-for-42, 405 yards, four TDs, 0 INTs) in his last three games. Akeem Dent takes over at middle linebacker after Curtis Lofton left for New Orleans in the offseason. Stephen Nicholas plays the SAM and stays on the field with Weatherspoon in nickel. The Falcons have been the top team in the league at covering opposing tight ends, according to Football Outsiders. Brent Celek is coming off a rough game against the Lions, in which he dropped a couple balls (including a touchdown) and was called for offensive pass interference in the end zone, negating another score.

6. With Brent Grimes injured, Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson are the Falcons’ starting corners. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin don’t have to worry about getting pressed at the line of scrimmage. Samuel and Robinson will play off for most of the game. The Falcons have allowed a league-low six touchdown passes and are tied for third with 10 interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson’s been targeted 37 times and Samuel 32 times. At safety, Thomas DeCoud has four interceptions, and William Moore has two. For the Eagles, Jackson is quietly having a really good year and is on pace for career-highs of 77 yards and 1,240 yards. He has yet to drop a pass all season. Jeremy Maclin gave the Falcons fits last year with 13 catches for 171 yards on 15 targets, although he dropped a fourth-down pass from Mike Kafka with the Eagles driving late.

7. There is a lot going on for the Falcons on any given play. Let’s start with their pre-snap looks. Here, you’ll see they stack the box with eight defenders against the Raiders. The key is the safety, Moore, who hovers around the line of scrimmage. This is a couple seconds before the ball is snapped. It appears that the deep middle of the field is going to be wide open.

But just before the ball is snapped, Moore retreats deep.

Part of the pre-snap calls for Vick and Reynolds involve identifying where the safeties are. You can see that the Falcons don’t make that easy.

And then there’s the movement up front. Another angle of the pre-snap look on the same play. Eight defenders in the box. Only three with their hands down. Who’s going where?

Babineaux, the defensive tackle, drops back into coverage. But instead of dropping back immediately, he first engages the center.

When Babineaux drops back, Abraham, who started at left defensive end, loops inside and gets in Carson Palmer’s face as he releases the ball. The center was initially blocking Babineaux and is now accounting for no one. The left guard can’t get there in time either.

Again, this was all going on before and during one play. Reynolds, Vick and the offensive line will need to be sharp mentally, or the offense will commit more turnovers Sunday.

8. One of Mike Nolan’s chess pieces is Biermann, the versatile DE. Not sure many other DEs in the league are being used the way Biermann’s being used. He does the typical things – rushing the passer, playing the run. But then he does things like you see here. The Falcons show a heavy blitz look with eight at the line of scrimmage on this 3rd-and-7 play.

Atlanta ends up rushing six, and Biermann drops back. But it’s not like your average defensive lineman dropping back into coverage. He’s pretty much the free safety on this play.

Biermann is asked to get way downfield. He pretty much turns and sprints towards the deep middle part of the field. This only happens a handful of times per game, but it’s something the opponent needs to be aware of. Biermann has played about 68.7 percent of the Falcons’ defensive snaps, per PFF. He’s another guy Vick and the Eagles will have to account for.

9. You saw the good and bad of Samuel on consecutive fourth-quarter drives a couple weeks ago. With the game tied at 13, the Raiders faced a 3rd-and-6 at the Falcons’ 28-yard-line. Worst-case scenario, you set up for the field goal on fourth down, right? Well, not exactly. Here, you’ll see it looks like wide receiver Denarius Moore has space against Samuel.

But as he’s done so many times in his career, Samuel reads the quarterback, jumps the route and picks Palmer off for a 79-yard game-changing score.

On the next drive, with the Raiders now down seven, they faced a 1st-and-10 from the Atlanta 43 with 1:15 left. This time, Palmer gave Samuel a little pump-fake, and he bit.

Derek Hagan ran right past him for a 38-yard gain.

Two plays later, Darren McFadden scored the game-tying touchdown.

Samuel will definitely want an interception in his return to the Linc. Will he get one? Or can the Eagles make him pay for gambling?

Considering how far off Samuel plays, don’t be surprised to see screens to his side. And if I’m the Eagles, I’m running to the right all game long.

10. Leftovers: Atlanta’s red-zone defense is 27th, allowing touchdowns 64.29 percent of the time. The Eagles’ offense is 26th, scoring touchdowns 42.1 percent of the time. …The Falcons are 20th in third-down defense, allowing conversions 41.67 percent of the time. The Eagles’ offense is 14th, converting 41.38 percent of the time. …Vick was 8-for-12 for 91 yards last year when the Falcons blitzed him.

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

Eagles Add Center Tennant, Release Vallos

The Eagles have made a roster move at center, signing Matt Tennant and releasing Steve Vallos.

Tennant (6-5, 300) was originally a fifth-round pick by the Saints in 2010. He played his college ball at Boston College. In 2010 and 2011, Tennant appeared in six games for New Orleans, but did not start any of them, according to Pro Football Focus. He was let go and claimed on waivers by the Patriots before this season. New England released Tennant once previously, but ended up re-signing him. Tennant did not dress for any games with the Patriots.

Here’s the NFL.com write-up on Tennant from when he was drafted:

Strengths: Tennant possesses a nice blend of size and athleticism. Displays impressive initial quickness and agility to reach his blocks at the second level. Is a real technician with great field awareness. Exhibits good hand use and gets his arms extended and locked. Body control and balance are also impressive.

Weaknesses: Has a good frame but lacks good bulk for the position. Does not possess the power to consistently deal with the bull rush when pass blocking or blow interior lineman off the ball in the running game. Is not a great knee bender.

The Eagles clearly feel like they have to upgrade the offensive line, but their options are limited right now. They’ve handed the starting left tackle spot back to King Dunlap, demoting Demetress Bell for the time-being. They also worked out veteran tackle/guard Chris Williams, but he signed with the Rams.

The Eagles have been scrambling at center ever since Jason Kelce tore his ACL in Week 2 against the Ravens. Kelce had surgery yesterday but is out for the season.

Dallas Reynoldshas started the last four games, but he’s been shaky. Vallos spent training camp with the Eagles, but was cut before the season started. He was re-signed after the Kelce injury, but didn’t dress the last two games.

There’s a chance Tennant could push Reynolds, but considering we’re already in Week 8, he’ll have to make up for lost time.

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

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Taking Stock Of the O-Line

Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Howard MuddThe area where the Eagles are most likely to shake up personnel during the bye week is the offensive line.

The problem? They don’t have a lot of options. We’ll see if they sign someone or even make a trade. But given the way the roster currently stands, let’s take a look at all five spots to see where things could be headed in the final 10 games.

Left tackle: King Dunlap won the starting job out of camp and was the man the first two weeks before suffering an injury. Since then, it’s been Demetress Bell. The Eagles are looking for adequate out of this spot, not great. They know none of their current options is going to be Jason Peters. I thought Bell gave them adequate a couple weeks ago against the Steelers. But he struggled big-time against the Lions.

The key with Bell is this: Do you think he can be significantly better a few weeks from now? If the answer is yes, you stick with him. After all, this is the guy the Eagles targeted in the offseason to fill in for Peters, and he comes with a track record of having started 24 games prior to 2012. But if you anticipate him playing more games like last week, you have to make a change. One option, and probably the most likely, is to go back to Dunlap. The other (and a longshot) would be to throw rookie Dennis Kelly into the mix.

Left guard: Evan Mathis has not been as consistent as last year, but he’s the least of the concerns on the offensive line. The Eagles took a look at Chris Williams yesterday. He started nine games at left guard for the Bears last year.

Center: Jason Kelce’s injury has simply been devastating. He started the first two games, and since then, it’s been Dallas Reynolds. The offense had a pair of botched snaps last game, one of which resulted in a turnover. You can live with Reynolds missing blocks and getting beaten, but errors like the snap that sailed past Michael Vick will kill this team.

The Eagles have veteran Steve Vallos on the roster, but all signs indicate they’re not too confident in him. Remember, Reynolds beat out Vallos in the preseason. And even though the Eagles brought Vallos back, he’s been inactive the past two games. Instead of having him dress as Reynolds’ backup, the Eagles have gone with Mathis. So if you’re looking for a truly outside-the-box idea, that might be it – give Mathis a shot at center.

Last week, when I was asked Todd Herremans why the Eagles have improved against the blitz, he pointed to preparation and mentioned that Mathis had been going to meetings with Reynolds and Vick. From a physical standpoint, Mathis is better than Reynolds. And going over the protection calls probably wouldn’t be a major issue. But there are two major red flags. One is that Mathis has never played center in the NFL (yes, that’s a big one). And the other is this: If you’re weakening left guard to potentially upgrade at center, then what’s really the point?

Right guard: Danny Watkins continues to be way too up-and-down in his second season, specifically in pass protection. Does he have his moments? Sure. Watkins did a good job pulling in front of a LeSean McCoy run last week, and I showed with the All-22 how he did a nice job on a 17-yard screen. But overall, just too many mistakes.

I know some are calling for him to be replaced, but Watkins doesn’t look any worse to me now than he did for much of last season. And the truth is, the Eagles don’t have a lot of options to replace him. Dunlap played a game at guard last season and held up well. But asking him to play there every week is a different story. Kelly played guard in the preseason, but it’s unlikely that the rookie would be able to step in and provide a significant upgrade. The Eagles signed Nate Menkin from the Texans’ practice squad, but he seems like more of a down-the-road option.

In other words, I think they stick with Watkins and hope that he improves.

Right tackle: Of all the positions, this is where the Eagles actually have some flexibility. Todd Herremans has been up-and-down this season. And you know he can play guard at a high level. But the only reason you move him inside is if you’re able to adequately replace him at right tackle. Would I consider Dunlap adequate? Probably. But I have concerns about him holding up for a 10-game stretch. If they really like Kelly, he could be an option too.

I’m not sure replacing Watkins with Herremans and Herremans with Dunlap/Kelly is a significant upgrade. If the Mathis-to-center move is an option, then perhaps Herremans moves to left guard. But that would mean three of the five spots would be occupied by new starters – probably too drastic a shake-up for Week 8 of the regular season.

I’d say it’s unlikely that Herremans gets moved back to guard at this point, but given the struggles of this group, my guess is all options are on the table for the final 10 games.


Even if he wants to, Andy Reid cannot replace Vick with Nick Foles. Tim explains why.

While we are well aware of the offensive line’s struggles, this week’s All-22 analysis shows that Vick left too many plays on the field Sunday.

Reid is getting slammed by the national media for his decision to fire Juan Castillo.

The link between Todd Bowles and Bill Parcells was formed during Bowles’ playing days.

What does the Castillo firing say about Reid? Tim takes a look.


SI.com’s Don Banks has the Eagles 13th in his power rankings:

Well, I’d say Andy Reid finally understands the urgency of the situation in Philly. It’s win-or-surrender-your-parking-space time. Firing a coordinator and benching a quarterback are two of the biggest cards an embattled head coach can play in midseason to try to save the ship from going down. Reid just did one of those, and looks ready to do the other any minute now.

Joe Banner was introduced as new CEO of the Cleveland Browns yesterday and was asked how his current situation compares to taking over the Eagles. Per the team’s Web site:

“There are a lot of analogies. You’re in a market with a fan base that’s just tremendously passionate and frankly, in running a franchise there’s nothing more valuable than being in a place where they care that much and there’s that much passion and interest. That’s very analogous to what I had in Philadelphia. The challenge is how do we take advantage of that and how do we reward that quite frankly, whether it’s a gameday experience, getting from your car to the stadium or buying a hot dog at the concession stand or how you feel when you walk out of the building based on how the team performed. We’re going to evaluate every single aspect of that and that’s again similar to Philadelphia. There will be some places where a little incremental improvement can be made and there will some places, frankly, where you’ll see dramatic changes, but it will take time.”


You should know by now that Birds 24/7 doesn’t believe in the bye week. We’ll have plenty of content to get you through the day.

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

« Older Posts  |  Newer Posts »