OL Review: Watkins Continues To Struggle

Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins.Here’s a player-by-player review of the Eagles’ offensive line after having re-watched Sunday’s game against the Lions.

Demetress Bell – Looked like a step backwards for Bell, who struggled throughout. He was beaten badly by Lawrence Jackson and allowed a hit on Michael Vick in the first. Bell ran right into LeSean McCoy on the 3rd-and-1 shovel pass that resulted in a 3-yard loss. Jackson beat him again in the second and hit Vick as he threw complete to Jason Avant. He got spun around and beaten by Kyle Vanden Bosch, who hit Vick on a third-quarter incompletion. Bell was beaten by Vanden Bosch again on a third down in the third. Jackson beat him to the inside, forcing Vick out of the pocket on a third down in the fourth. Bell did a poor job on Bryce Brown’s run that went for no gain on the second-to-last series. And he got steam-rolled by Vanden Bosch on the Eagles’ final offensive play. Early on, Bell was called for a false start. He’s tied for the team lead with five penalties on the season.

Evan Mathis – Up-and-down game for Mathis. He gave up a hit on Vick in the first as Sammie Hill was called for a personal foul. He got blown back on a Brown run that lost 4 yards in the third. Mathis was beaten by Nick Fairley on the second sack of Vick on the final drive. Fairley twisted outside, and I’m not sure if Mathis was expecting help from McCoy, who stayed in to block momentarily before releasing into his route. Vick held on to the ball for awhile before going down for a loss of 14. The next play could have resulted in a safety. After Vanden Bosch steamrolled Bell, Mathis held him pretty blatantly in the end zone before Vick threw the ball way. Had the refs thrown the flag, it would have been a safety. On the flip side, Mathis did a good job pinning the defensive tackle inside on Vick’s 2-yard touchdown to McCoy. And he had some good moments in pass protection.

Dallas Reynolds – Not a good showing for Reynolds. We know about how he snapped the ball before Vick was ready, resulting in a turnover. But the other fumble where he and Vick botched the snap might have been on Reynolds too. Despite a double-team, he and Mathis let a rusher break through and get to Vick on his first interception intended for Avant. Fairley beat him badly and dropped McCoy for a 5-yard loss in the third. Reynolds completely whiffed on his block on the screen to McCoy in the fourth that picked up 1. He and Bell had a good double-team on the linebacker on McCoy’s 2-yard touchdown in the second.

Danny Watkins – The second-year guard is really struggling. Fairley and Ndamukong Suh made it a very long day for Watkins. He got beaten by Suh and gave up a hit in the first quarter. Fairley got past him and hit Vick to force an incompletion in the second. He was slow to get to the linebacker on Brown’s 2-yard run in the second. Watkins got abused by Fairley, who hit Vick in the third. It was really a bad play. Vick was in shotgun and threw an 8-yard slant. The Lions only rushed four, yet he still got crushed. That’s unacceptable. Fairley beat Watkins and dropped McCoy for a 4-yard loss in the fourth. Suh got in Vick’s passing lane and batted down a ball on the second-to-last drive. He could have had Jeremy Maclin for a big gain. Not sure if that was on Watkins or Vick. On the Cliff Avril sack in overtime, Watkins got beaten by Suh. The bright spots? Good job in pass protection on the 70-yard touchdown to Maclin. Good job pulling on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the second. And good job blocking out in front of a 17-yard screen to McCoy in the second. But just too many issues throughout.

Todd Herremans – He actually held up really well in pass protection… until the final drive of the game. Herremans gave up a costly sack against Avril, letting him get around the edge. Other than that, I’m not sure he got beaten all day. Herremans made a nice block on the 17-yard screen to McCoy in the second.

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

All-22: What We Saw From the Eagles’ Offense

Here’s the weekly look at what we saw from the Eagles’ offense after having looked at the All-22 tape from the Steelers game.

Play 1: As we’ve discussed, the Eagles’ offense the past two games has looked different than the version we saw in the first three. Part of that is giving Michael Vick options to get rid of the football quicker. But the big plays downfield are still important, given Vick’s skill set and the weapons he has to work with on the outside. Since the Eagles are attempting fewer of those big plays, it’s crucial that they hit on them when they have a chance. And I think they missed one early on against Pittsburgh. The key to the play was a fake that got Troy Polamalu taking a couple steps towards the line of scrimmage. The other safety, meanwhile, turned to help on Maclin.

As you can see, DeSean Jackson’s behind Polamalu and headed for open field, but Vick goes to Maclin, who has two defenders on him by the time the ball gets there, and the play results in an incompletion.

Play 2: Way too many breakdowns on the offensive line. Here’s one example. Take a look at the pre-snap shot. Brett Keisel (No. 99) is going to drop back into coverage. Lawrence Timmons (No. 94), who gave the Eagles fits all game, is going to blitz between Todd Herremans and Danny Watkins.

The Eagles even keep an extra blocker in here. They’ve got six blockers to handle four Steelers defenders, yet Timmons rushes untouched, and Vick ends up getting sacked.

The Eagles have three guys blocking one rusher on the left, although Evan Mathis is ready to help Dallas Reynolds. The culprit here (and of course, there’s always a bit of guesswork involved) appears to be Watkins. He’s blocking, well, no one. He’s ready to help Reynolds, but has no idea Timmons blitzed. Herremans is handling the pass-rusher off the edge. Vick gets away from Timmons, but takes a sack.

The talent level on the offensive line is certainly an issue, but it’s mishaps like this one that the Eagles need to avoid to shore up protection going forward.

Play 3: More offensive line confusion. Here, pre-snap, Watkins is expecting to block Timmons. The Steelers show six at the line of scrimmage, but Timmons drops back into coverage.

When the ball is snapped, Watkins looks to his right and clearly expects Reynolds to block Steve McLendon (No. 90). Reynolds, meanwhile, is double-teaming another defender with Mathis.

Watkins ends up blocking nobody. McLendon sacks Vick and forces a fumble. The Eagles have six blockers against five pass-rushers, but Vick has no chance on the play.

Play 4: So as not to just pick on Watkins, here’s another breakdown – this time on the left side. James Harrison twists behind the defensive tackle, but nobody picks him up.

Mathis sticks with his man, and Dion Lewis releases into his route. Harrison gets a shot on Vick and forces an incompletion.

Play 5: The very next play was ugly too. The Steelers show a heavy blitz look with seven defenders at the line of scrimmage.

But they only end up rushing four. The Eagles have six to block four, yet somehow three players – Mathis, Bell and Lewis – end up blocking nobody. Keisel rushes unblocked, chases Vick out of the pocket and forces a third-down incompletion.

Play 6: Alright, let’s turn to some positives. Not sure if we saw a lot of this earlier in the season. If we did, I missed it. But take a look at the unbalanced line with two tight ends to the left of Bell.

We often talk about blocking and attribute successes and failures to the offensive line. But tight ends and running backs play a role too. Here, Brent Celek takes care of the defensive back, and Clay Harbor does an outstanding job on Harrison.

LeSean McCoy has a nice lane to run through and picks up 10 yards.

Play 7: One more to this point. Look at Celek on Harrison in the first.

Not an easy assignment, but he delivers a really good block and opens up room for McCoy to get to the edge and pick up 6 yards. I thought Celek was really good blocking in the run game against Pittsburgh.

Play 8: Much of the talk this week has been about Vick’s fumble down near the goal line. But the other one was costly too. It looked like Vick’s first read on the play was to Jason Avant, who was open.

Not sure why Vick didn’t pull the trigger. He hitched a couple times and then took off, losing the ball when Timmons hit him. Protection was pretty good on the play, as the Steelers only rushed four. Had Vick gotten to his next read, the Eagles might have had a big play.

Harbor is matched up with a Steelers linebacker and appears to have a step. There’s no safety in sight, but Vick doesn’t get him the ball. A missed opportunity for the offense.

Play 9: Two good-looking back-to-back plays on the Eagles’ scoring drive in the third. On the first one, the Steelers blitz six, but rather than picking up the blitzer off the edge, McCoy runs right past him (on purpose).

Jason Worllds gets a free shot at the quarterback, but Vick has two options to get rid of the ball quickly. One is to McCoy in the flat (keep that one stored away), and the other is Avant over the middle. He goes to Avant and picks up 10, standing in the pocket, absorbing a hit and getting rid of the ball on time. Well-done.

The very next play on the drive will look familiar. Once again, McCoy releases into the flat and lets Worllds go right past him. Vick gets rid of the ball quickly, and Steelers linebacker Larry Foote has to hustle over to account for McCoy.

That’s a matchup the Eagles will take every time. McCoy jukes him and races for the end zone for the 15-yard touchdown.

Play 10: On their fourth-quarter touchdown drive, the Eagles converted a big 3rd-and-10 for 24 yards to Jackson. The play looked similar to one we saw the previous week against the Giants. This time, there was no help to that side, although a safety was dropping in the middle of the field. Jackson gave Ike Taylor a little inside move at the 25, looking back at the quarterback as if he was getting ready for the football, and then made his way to the sideline.

The Steelers rushed six on the play, but the Eagles kept eight in to block. Bell and McCoy did a good job on the safety who was blitzing from Vick’s front side. Once again, the Eagles hit on a big play even though they had two wide receivers going up against five defenders in coverage.

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

OL Review: Eagles Shifting Offensive Philosophy?

When evaluating the state of the Eagles’ offensive line right now, it’s important to manage expectations.

A couple weeks ago, the coaches approached the Cardinals game assuming the offense would be just fine operating as it usually does. They tried little things to help Demetress Bell and Dallas Reynolds, who were making their first starts of the season. But overall, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg believed this offense could still score points by hitting on big plays down the field in the passing game.

After a 27-6 loss, though, it appears they’ve made some changes. The offense is in a difficult spot. On one hand, the personnel – Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek – should thrive in a big-play offense. One in which safeties can never play deep enough because the Eagles just have too much speed. But such an offense requires pass protection that gives the quarterback time to wait for those routes to develop.

The truth is, the Eagles are not going to get that protection consistently with this line. Three of the five offensive linemen – Bell, Reynolds and Danny Watkins – are question marks.

So before the Giants game, the coaches made some fairly significant adjustments. Use fullback Stanley Havili and try to maximize production in the run game with LeSean McCoy. Choose spots to take shots down the field, and provide extra protection to let those plays develop. Have the wide receivers work the short and intermediate routes. Let them make plays after the catch. Give Vick options to get rid of the ball quickly.

It’s probably not the preferred style of play for Reid and Mornhinweg. But given the injuries to Jason Peters and Jason Kelce, the turnovers by Vick, the effectiveness of McCoy and the play of the defense, it’s the Eagles’ best chance to win games in 2012.

And so that’s what we saw for the second straight game yesterday. Later in the week, I’ll try to show some of what I described above with the All-22 tape. For now, here is a player-by-player breakdown of the offensive line after having re-watched the TV broadcast.

Demetress Bell – I think you can get by with Bell if he plays like he did on Sunday. In some ways, it was a King Dunlap-like performance. He wasn’t great, but he didn’t kill them. Overall, there seemed to be too many plays where general confusion among the offensive linemen led to pressure. For example, the Steelers fooled the Eagles on a third down in the third, showing six at the line of scrimmage, but only rushing four. Brett Keisel went right between Bell and Evan Mathis. Neither guy blocked anyone. Not good. Vick scrambled and threw the ball away. But overall, I thought Bell did pretty well in protection. He got his share of help, but was certainly asked to block people one-on-one at times. The Eagles ran to the left side a fair amount. Bell did a nice job on McCoy’s 10-yard run around the left edge in the first. Often times, a tight end lined up next to Bell to try and gain the edge on those runs. Bell did a poor job with his backside block on McCoy’s 2-yard run in the fourth. He didn’t block anyone on the inside screen to Clay Harbor in the fourth. He didn’t provide much of a block on Vick’s QB draw that lost 1 yard in the second. He offered a poor attempt at a cut block on McCoy’s 4-yard run in the second. And he was called for a false start on the first drive. Like I said, an OK performance. If he stays at left tackle, the Eagles need to continue to help him and see how much he can improve. I think the one thing Bell has over Dunlap is that his ceiling should be higher. In other words, if Mudd is seeing the right signs, significant improvement by the time November rolls around is possible.

Evan Mathis – He was OK, but this wasn’t Mathis’ best performance. I mentioned the confusion above. On another play, James Harrison twisted inside, and it looked like Bell was expecting Mathis to pick him up, but he didn’t. Harrison rushed cleanly and got a shot on Vick, forcing an incompletion. Mathis had an issue in pass protection on the throw to Maclin that drew a 31-yard pass interference penalty. Harrison beat him and hit Vick on a fourth-quarter incompletion to Celek. In the run game, Mathis did a good job on McCoy’s 6-yard run in the fourth.

Dallas Reynolds – Hate to repeat myself, but once again, confusion. The Eagles had seven to block four in the fourth, yet Lawrence Timmons ran right between Reynolds and Watkins to hit Vick. Reynolds and Mathis both picked up the linebacker on the play. One guess is Reynolds probably should have blocked Timmons, but Dion Lewis might have been responsible too. On another play, Reynolds had trouble with Casey Hampton, but recovered and took him to the ground as Vick stepped to his left. Overall, I thought Reynolds did a lot of good things. He made a nice block on Havili’s 5-yard run in the first. He did an excellent job of picking up a blitzer on the 10-yard completion to Maclin in the first. He made a nice block on Bryce Brown’s 4-yard run in the second. And he did a good job of switching off his man and picking up a blitzer on the 24-yard completion to Jackson. Again, it’s a matter of expectations. Reynolds is not going to make the Pro Bowl. But he appears to be improving.

Danny Watkins – It looked like he probably missed his assignment in the first. The Steelers rushed four. The Eagles had six in to block, and Timmons rushed Vick unblocked, leading to a sack. I’ll take a look at the All-22, but it seemed like Watkins was probably responsible. On another play, I’m not sure if Watkins was expecting help from Reynolds, but he let Steve McLendon go right past him and sack Vick in the third. Vick fumbled on the play, but Watkins recovered. He also got beat by Jason Worllds on the 2-yard touchdown to Celek. The good? Watkins made a nice block on the Vick QB draw that resulted in a fumble. And it looked like McCoy ran right behind him on the second fourth-and-one carry during the 17-play drive. The inconsistency, specifically in pass protection, remains an issue in Watkins’ second season.

Todd Herremans – Nice bounce-back game after Herremans had issues against the Giants. He was clean in pass protection throughout the game. And he did a nice job on the Vick QB draw that resulted in a fumble.

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

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Giants’ Defense

Here are 10 things to know about this weekend’s matchup between the Eagles’ offense and the Giants’ defense. If you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

1. It’s been an up-and-down start for the Giants’ D. In Week 1, Tony Romo picked New York apart, completing 22-of-29 passes for 307 yards. DeMarco Murray piled up 131 yards, averaging 6.6 yards per carry. The Bucs put up 34 points against the Giants in Week 2, although Tampa’s defense played a role in that one, forcing three turnovers and scoring once. And last week, New York shut down Cam Newton and the Panthers on Thursday night. Overall, the Giants are allowing 21.7 points per game. Football Outsiders has them ranked 21st overall – 17th against the pass and 22nd against the run. New York has six interceptions in three games, tied for second-most in the NFL.

2. With the Giants, everything starts up front with Jason Pierre-Paul, arguably the most disruptive defensive player in the NFL. In his second season, Pierre-Paul had 16.5 sacks to go along with 14 hits and 25 hurries (all team highs), per Football Outsiders. And he’s not a one-dimensional player. Pierre-Paul consistently makes plays against the run and creates havoc. He rarely comes off the field, having played 88.3 percent of the Giants’ defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Pierre-Paul lines up on both the left and right sides, meaning Demetress Bell (left tackle) and Todd Herremans (right tackle) will get matched up with him. Herremans played well last week against the Cardinals after an inconsistent first two games. Bell had all kinds of issues in his first start of the season, filling in for King Dunlap.

Pierre-Paul and the defensive linemen are able to make up for a lot of the Giants’ issues in coverage. For example, take a look at this first-down play against the Panthers. Newton clearly has tight end Greg Olsen open and wants to get him the ball.

But because of the Giants’ pressure up front, that doesn’t happen.

The Giants get good pressure from their defensive tackles, and look who’s standing in the way of Newton’s pass. Pierre-Paul, at 6-foot-5, with 34 3/4-inch arms, bats the ball down at the line of scrimmage. Keep in mind, Newton is about five inches taller than Michael Vick. The Giants were second in the NFL with 22 passes tipped at the line last year, per Football Outsiders. It’s another way for them to affect the game up front.

3. The Giants use a group of defensive linemen, but it’s not as much of a rotation as the Eagles. Along with Pierre-Paul, expect to see Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora at defensive end. Tuck will rush the passer from the interior as well. Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph are the primary defensive tackles. Tuck had five sacks and 15.5 hurries last season. Umenyiora had nine sacks and 11 hurries. As a unit, the Giants’ defensive line has 4.5 sacks in three games. Pierre-Paul has 1.5, while Umenyiora, Bernard and Joseph have one apiece. As for the Eagles, Dallas Reynolds will make his second career start at center after committing his share of mistakes against the Cardinals. Evan Mathis has been solid, and Danny Watkins is coming off his best game of the season.

4. At linebacker, the Giants go with Chase Blackburn in the middle, Michael Boley on the weak side and Mathias Kiwanuka on the strong side. Jacquian Williams will see the field plenty as well. Veteran Keith Rivers is out with a hamstring injury. The Panthers went to tight end Greg Olsen all game last week, as he caught seven balls on 14 targets for 98 yards. Brent Celek is off to a strong start, averaging 86.0 yards per game and 18.4 yards per reception. He has seven catches of 20+ yards, second in the NFL to only Calvin Johnson. Last week, Celek was used as a blocker 36.8 percent of the time on passing downs, up from the first two weeks (25.8 percent). The Eagles might be better served using Clay Harbor in that role (more on that below) and allowing Celek to help Vick as a pass-catcher.

5. The Giants have been middle-of-the-pack against the run, allowing 4.1 yards per carry. As you might suspect, LeSean McCoy has been better on runs to the right (including to the right sideline), averaging 5.9 yards per carry on 28 attempts. To the left, he’s averaging 3.8 yards per carry on 20 attempts. In two meetings against the Giants last year, McCoy had 241 yards on 47 carries (5.1 YPC). However, for most of the second game, the Giants kept him in check. McCoy broke a 60-yard run on the Eagles’ final drive, but until that, had averaged just 2.4 yards per carry on 22 attempts. He’ll be looking for more than four first-half carries this week.

6. There’s been a lot of talk this week about whether the Eagles might play a little more conservative. Perhaps they’ll try to find a little more balance, but my guess is Marty Mornhinweg has had to stop himself from drooling as he envisions ways the Eagles can exploit the Giants’ secondary. At cornerback, Corey Webster is expected to start, but he’ll be playing with a cast on his right hand. Rookie corner Jayron Hosley is out with a hamstring injury. And 2011 first-round pick Prince Amukamara is scheduled to make his first career start. Meanwhile, safety Antrel Rolle is questionable after suffering a knee laceration last week. In other words, this is a banged-up unit. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging a league-high 9.3 yards per attempt against the Giants. Vick, DeSean Jackson and company will have plenty of chances to get the ball downfield, if (and it’s a big IF) the offensive line can give Vick time.

7. After seeing the Eagles’ issues against the blitz last week, you can be sure that defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will decide the risk is worth the reward on Sunday night. Last year, the Giants rushed five or more 20.8 percent of the time, which ranked in the middle of the pack (17th). The blitzed six or more 9.1 percent of the time (10th). When the Giants do blitz, the Eagles will have opportunities to burn them. But will they be able to take advantage? Take a look at one blitz the Giants used against Newton. Hosley attacks from the slot, and Boley goes after Newton too. Umenyiora drops back into coverage from his spot at right defensive end.

Newton has the tight end open.

But he doesn’t get him the ball, possibly because the blitz is coming from that side. Instead, Newton spins out of the pocket, scrambles to his left and throws incomplete. The Panthers are forced to punt.

Another play below: Boley blitzes and is unblocked, while Pierre-Paul gets good pressure off the edge.

The Panthers have an empty backfield, and the protection does not account for Boley. You can see that the left guard (No. 61) is blocking nobody. Everyone else has a one-on-one matchup, as the Giants send just one extra rusher. Boley and Pierre-Paul meet at Newton and sack him.

But look at how many receivers Newton has open on the play.

There are five receivers in routes. And every single one is open (some more than others). Newton has a shot to hit on a big play at the top of the screen with the receiver (circled in red), who is running free towards the sideline. But protection breaks down, and he never gets rid of the ball.

This happened consistently. On the very next play, the Giants send six. Newton has wide receiver Louis Murphy open on the post, but is late with his pass and throws behind the receiver for an incompletion. Otherwise, the Panthers are looking at a big play.

Newton has a receiver open at the top of the screen too.

This is all to show that Vick is going to have his opportunities downfield. Whether he capitalizes or not could determine the difference between a win and a loss.

8. You probably heard a lot this week about how the Cardinals blitzed the A-Gap, specifically in the second half last week. That simply means the gap on either side between the center and guard. Given that Reynolds was making his first career start, that made sense. Given that the Cardinals had success, it makes sense that the Giants will copy them, especially considering since it’s something they’ve shown on tape already this season. Here’s a look at a play from Week 2.

The Giants show seven at the line of scrimmage. Middle linebacker Chase Blackburn is going to blitz the A-Gap, and Antrel Rolle is coming off the edge. Mathias Kiwanuka drops back, so in all, the Giants are rushing six defenders. As you can see, Blackburn goes untouched.

The result is a sack. Vick was 0-for-7 with two sacks against blitzes of six or more last week. He can expect to see them again on Sunday night.

9. One way to help Vick, Reynolds and Bell is to keep running backs and tight ends in to block. For some reason, Clay Harbor only played 11 snaps last week, his lowest number of the season. In the first meeting against the Giants in 2011, Harbor played 44.3 percent of the snaps, his second-highest percentage of the year. Keeping him on the field in this one makes a lot of sense. Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Celek should be able to get open, even if they’re outnumbered.

Look at how the Bucs blocked the Giants on a deep pass attempt in Week 2.

The Bucs have seven blockers going up against five Giants rushers. They double-team Pierre-Paul (No. 90) with a tight end. The running back cleanly picks up the blitzing linebacker. They double-team one defensive tackle and block the other two rushers one-on-one, giving Freeman time to take a shot deep. This kind of protection makes a lot of sense for the Eagles on Sunday.

10. Leftovers: It’s not just the tackles that will have to block Pierre-Paul. He’ll stunt inside, where Reynolds, Watkins and Mathis will have to pick him up. …Opponents have scored touchdowns on 66.7 percent of their trips inside the red zone against the Giants. …Vick was 10-for-13 for 141 yards in the first meeting last year when the Giants didn’t blitz. …Jackson had six catches for 88 yards in the second meeting last year, but lost a 50-yard reception when he flipped the ball at Fewell and drew a penalty.

OL Review: Protection Issues For Bell, Reynolds

Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton saw what everyone else saw when he was game-planning for Sunday’s matchup with the Eagles.

A left tackle in Demetress Bell who was making his first start of the season – someone who was struggling so badly two weeks ago that he didn’t even dress for the opener against the Browns. A center in Dallas Reynolds who was making his first career start and had been on the practice squad for the previous three seasons. A quarterback in Michael Vick who had six interceptions and three fumbles in the first three games.

And a coaching staff that would likely ignore many of those issues, deciding instead to focus on hitting on big plays downfield.

We know how that turned out. The Eagles had all kinds of problems protecting Vick, and he struggled to find receivers while turning the ball over two more times. By my count, Vick ended up on the ground 19 times. Those include hits, sacks and improvised runs. Over the next few posts, we’ll try to diagnose what went wrong with the offense.

One thing you’ll notice below is that not all the issues were the line’s fault. Others (running backs, tight ends, the quarterback, the coaches) played a role too. We’ll get to all of those, but let’s start with the player-by-player breakdown of the offensive line.

Demetress Bell – I don’t think you’ll hear many argue that he did enough to warrant consideration to be the team’s starting left tackle the rest of the way. Bell had protection issues throughout. Calais Campbell went right past him on the first play from scrimmage, forcing Vick to take off and run. Bell got beat inside by Sam Acho on the next play, again forcing Vick to escape the pocket and throw the ball away. He was called for a false start at the start of the second, right after the Eagles wasted one of their timeouts. Bell was called for holding against Acho in the second. On the deep incompletion to Damaris Johnson in the second, he likely got away with what should have been a third penalty. And he had trouble with Acho around the edge in the second half, as the linebacker got a hand on Vick as he threw incomplete. In the run game, Bell flashed good athleticism blocking out in front of an 8-yard LeSean McCoy run in the first. But he missed his block on a third-quarter McCoy run that was stopped for no gain. Overall, a shaky performance.

Evan Mathis – Good game overall from Mathis. He’s really doing a nice job in the run game. Good block on McCoy’s 8-yard run in the first, and again on McCoy’s 10-yard run in the third. Mathis got to the second level on McCoy’s 7-yard run in the third. In protection, he did an outstanding job of blocking his man and then switching off to a blitzer to give Vick time on his 34-yard completion to Brent Celek. Mathis did a nice job of picking up Darnell Dockett on a stunt on the 26-yard completion to Johnson near the end of the first half. He got out in front on the 8-yard swing pass to Bryce Brown in the fourth. Mathis got beaten by Campbell in the fourth and gave up a hit on Vick. But in all fairness, it looked like Dallas Reynolds was probably supposed to help him there with the double team. Defensive tackle Dan Williams went right past Mathis and dropped McCoy for no gain in the first. But like I said, overall, he played really well.

Dallas Reynolds – He had many of the issues you would expect out of a center making the first start of his career. Reynolds got beaten badly by Campbell on third down in the first, allowing a big hit on Vick. On third down in the second, he had trouble with Campbell, and the defensive lineman batted a Vick pass at the line of scrimmage. Reynolds couldn’t block the linebacker on the screen to Celek that picked up just 2 yards late in the second. He got beat badly by David Carter in the third, allowing pressure that led to a sack. In the fourth, the Cardinals sent multiple defensive backs blitzing up the middle. It looked like Reynolds let safety James Sanders go past him untouched in the fourth as he stuck with Danny Watkins on a double-team. Reynolds had some good moments in the run game. He made a nice block on McCoy’s 7-yard run in the second. And again on McCoy’s 10-yard run. He did a nice job on McCoy’s 7-yard run in the third and had a good backside block on Brown’s 17-yard run in the third. Overall, there seemed to be more “This is my first NFL start…” issues than “I’m just getting beat…” issues. We’ll see if the coaches agree.

Danny Watkins – I didn’t notice a lot of protection issues for Watkins, which is a good sign. It looked like he failed to pick up O’Brien Schofield on a delayed blitz in the third as Vick got hit low. But that was the only major one. I’ll have to give Watkins a closer look once the All-22 comes out. In the run game, Dockett went right past him on one play in the first. But Watkins made a good block on McCoy’s 14-yard run in the fourth. On a screen in the second, he couldn’t get to the safety, and McCoy lost a yard. Overall, seemed like this might have been a step in the right direction.

Todd Herremans – After two up-and-down games, I didn’t have a single note about Herremans giving up a sack or hurry in this one. He seemed to play well overall.

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

Cheat Sheet: Eagles’ Offense Vs. Cardinals’ Defense

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy.Here are 10 things to know about the matchup between the Eagles’ offense and the Cardinals’ defense Sunday afternoon. If you missed the first cheat sheet, which focused on the Eagles’ D and Arizona’s offense, click here.

1. The truth about the Cardinals’ 2-0 start is that it’s had far less to do with Kevin Kolb than Arizona’s talented defense and outstanding special teams. In Week 1, the Cardinals limited Russell Wilson to 4.5 yards per attempt and sacked him three times. Last week, they limited Tom Brady to 6.9 yards per attempt and sacked him four times. In one span during the second and third quarters, the Cardinals forced the Patriots to punt on five of six possessions. They’ve allowed just four pass plays of 20+ yards in two games. Only the Lions and Jaguars have allowed fewer. Talented defensive linemen, playmaking linebackers, a (potential) shutdown cornerback and veteran safeties. It’s not going to be easy for Michael Vick and company to move the football against this group.

2. Let’s start up front. The Cardinals run a 3-4, but for much of the game, it’s more of a 2-4-5 without a nose tackle. The two defensive linemen figure to give the Eagles all kinds of problems, especially considering Dallas Reynolds will make his first NFL start at center and Demetress Bell will make his first start of the season at left tackle. Add in the fact that Todd Herremans has been up-and-down through two games, and Danny Watkins is still having too many issues in pass protection, and the offensive line is a major concern going into this one. Veteran Darnell Dockett will line up opposite Watkins quite a bit. He was all over the place in last week’s victory. Brady’s first interception last week was the direct result of Dockett batting the ball in the air. He made a couple of other big plays too, once looping behind the right defensive tackle and pressuring Brady into throwing the ball away. In the second half, the Patriots faced a 3rd-and-6 from the Cardinals’ 30 and ran a toss to the left side with Danny Woodhead. Dockett dropped him for a 9-yard loss and forced a punt. Dockett led the Cardinals with 23.5 hurries and 16 QB hits last year, according to Football Outsiders. He’ll provide a big test for Watkins and company.

3. The other Cardinals’ defensive lineman to watch is 6-foot-8 Calais Campbell. Evan Mathis and Bell will likely see quite a bit of him Sunday afternoon. Campbell led the team with eight sacks last year to go along with 17.5 hurries. He’s got two sacks this season, although both last week had more to do with coverage than Campbell’s rush. That’s not to say he didn’t have an impact though. Against New England, Campbell had 10 tackles (7 solo, 2 for loss). He had a great sequence on a key drive in the fourth quarter. On one play, Campbell beat the right guard badly one-on-one, hit Brady and forced an incompletion. On the next play, he dropped Ridley at the line of scrimmage for no gain. Campbell had an interception last year against the Eagles. Vick has had issues with balls batted at the line of scrimmage in the past. He’ll need to find passing lanes in this one.

4. The Cardinals’ inside linebackers are Daryl Washington and Paris Lenon. On the outside, they’ve got Sam Acho, O’Brien Schofield and Quentin Groves. Washington is the best player in this group. According to NFL.com’s numbers, his 21 solo tackles through two games are tops in the NFL. Washington will also go after the quarterback too. He had five sacks and 15 hurries last year. Through two games, he’s blitzed 20 times, according to Pro Football Focus. Against the Eagles last year, he delivered a crushing blow on Vick, injuring his ribs. Washington made an impressive play last week, knocking Stevan Ridley back for a 3-yard loss. Meanwhile, Bell will see a lot of Acho. A fourth-round pick in 2011, he had seven sacks as a rookie. On one play last week, the Patriots tried to run two play fakes, but Acho read it perfectly and sacked Brady. Lenon has two sacks on the season. And more on Groves below.

5. When the Cardinals took Patrick Peterson with the fifth pick in the 2011 draft, they were hoping they got themselves a shut-down corner. So far, through two games this season, he looks like he’s headed for that label. Brady had very little success throwing at Peterson last week. He was tested, but didn’t let up big plays to Brandon Lloyd. Peterson also came up with an interception off of the Dockett tipped ball. And he made an unbelievable play against the run. On 3rd-and-1 in the fourth, Peterson knocked Rob Gronkowski back, got off his block and tackled Ridley for a 4-yard loss. The Patriots were at the Arizona 39. They might have gone for it on 4th-and-1, but instead punted on 4th-and-5. DeSean Jackson is off to a great start. Vick targeted him eight times last week, and Jackson came up with seven catches for 114 yards. This should be a really fun matchup to watch.

6. Arizona has veteran William Gay at the other cornerback spot. He spent five seasons with the Steelers before joining the Cardinals. Gay moves inside in nickel, and Jamell Fleming comes in. At safety, they’ve got 12-year veteran Adrian Wilson and eighth-year pro Kerry Rhodes. As for the Eagles, Jeremy Maclin will sit this one out, which will mean more playing time for Damaris Johnson and Jason Avant. The Eagles could also use more two tight-end sets with Brent Celek and Clay Harbor. Celek is coming off a monster eight-catch, 157-yard game against the Ravens. He’s been a huge part of this passing attack since the sixth game of last season.

7. The Cardinals will show different looks at the line of scrimmage, and they will blitz. According to Football Outsiders, Arizona rushed five 27.9 percent of the time last year, sixth-most in the league. They sent six or more 10.8 percent of the time, seventh-most. The Eagles will have to shore up protection, Vick will have to be especially good pre-snap, and Jackson will have to make the Cardinals pay when they send big blitzes. Last week, the Cardinals sent six defenders at Brady on the 5-yard touchdown to Gronkowski.

8. Let’s check out the All-22 on a couple specific plays from last week.

Cardinals show blitz.
Here, the Cardinals show six defenders at the line of scrimmage in what appears to be a blitz look as linebackers Lenon and Washington inch up. But when Brady takes the snap, the linebackers drop back into coverage, and the Cardinals only rush four. New England’s protection was set up to handle the blitz, so the Patriots kept seven players in to block four defenders. That set up an advantage for Arizona, which had seven defenders in coverage against only three Patriots receivers in pass routes. Brady had nowhere to go with the football, tried to force one to Lloyd, who was covered, and the play resulted in an incompletion.

9. One more to look at. This is an example of just a four-man rush. But it shows how critical communication will be between the Eagles offensive linemen. Take a look at the first image.

Arizona Cardinals Quentin Groves.

The key on this play is Cardinals outside linebacker Quentin Groves, who lined up with his hand on the ground. He takes a couple steps forward, as if he’s rushing upfield, but then comes back and loops behind the lineman to his inside.

Arizona Cardinals LB Quentin Groves.

The Patriots’ offensive line does a poor job of picking him up. The center has his back turned to Groves and isn’t blocking anyone, while the right guard can’t get to him either. Groves comes pretty much unblocked and sacks Brady. Meanwhile, it looks like he had a receiver open on this play, but Brady didn’t have time to get him the ball.

Arizona Cardinals sack Brady.

Again, Reynolds is going to get tested playing on the road against a very talented group of pass rushers for the Cardinals. The running backs and tight ends will have to do their jobs as well. Don’t be surprised if McCoy and Harbor stay in quite a bit to block.

10. Leftovers… Looking at LeSean McCoy’s rushing stats, he’s got 140 yards on 22 carries to the right (6.36 YPC) and 17 carries for 50 yards to the left (2.94 YPC). Those stats can be deceiving since they don’t always account for where the play was originally supposed to go, but those numbers seem to pass the eye test. Run behind Herremans and Watkins. …The Cardinals are allowing just 3.4 YPC through two games. They’ve given up one run of 20+ yards and no rushing touchdowns. Arizona seemed to be vulnerable to play-action last week. That could be one way for the Eagles to get the safeties to cheat up if they want to hit on a big play to Jackson. … Don’t forget about special teams. That could be the difference in this game. More details in this post from Thursday.

Twitter Mailbag: Does Kolb Have the Inside Scoop On Eagles?

Every Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

Jason Kelce (6-3, 295) is a little lighter than Dallas Reynolds (6-4, 320), though both are athletic and of a similar body-type. Kelce  is exceptional at getting upfield in the run game. Reynolds will be hard-pressed to match his effectiveness at the second level.

My greater concern is how he handles his first start on the road. Kelce and Michael Vick were having their share of communication issues in Cleveland on a day where the quarterback took an absolute beating. Reynolds will be sharing pre-snap duties at the line like Kelce was, and you would think there will be a learning curve. Consider also that the Eagles will be working with a different left tackle in Demetress Bell. Evan Mathis will have a new teammate on either side of him. He was asked if it changes his approach at all.

“A little bit,” said Mathis. “I’ll focus a little more on communication to make sure we’re on the same page.”

Mathis added that the offensive line will  not alter what it does in the absence of Kelce and King Dunlap. They will try and do the same things. The University of Phoenix Stadium  roof will be closed, and it will be loud.  This Cardinals defense is proving to be formidable. Communication along the Eagles offensive front has to be the main concern going into Sunday.

That’s debatable. For a refresher, here’s what Kevin Kolb said after the Cards beat the Eagles 21-17 last November.

“During the two-minute drill, you almost feel guilty,” Kolb said.  “Mike’s sitting there giving the signals, and I’m standing there on our sidelines, screaming at our corners, ‘Hey it’s a go ball, hey he’s running a screen, hey he’s running a slant.’”

And here was Marty Mornhinweg‘s response: “That’s a story you can always anticipate, an ex-player that’s on another ballclub and who’s injured and wants so badly to be a part of a win. In the two-minute (offense) we only called two plays on the line. Completed the third down and then dropped a big one.

“I did check and it had absolutely no effect.”

I tend to side with Mornhinweg here. Kolb was likely burning to be a part of the win over his old club, but had minimal impact on the outcome. I would say Vick’s broken ribs and DeSean Jackson‘s absence may have had a little more to do with it.

You can count on this: the Eagles will make sure, following Kolb’s assertions, that  the signals are not identifiable to their former QB anymore, just in case.

Exactly right.

The early evidence suggests the former.

Brandon Weeden had a 5.1 quarterback rating against the Eagles and rookie Trent Richardson was limited to 2.1 yards per carry. Against the Bengals last week, the Browns racked up 439 total yards, Weeden threw for 322 yards with a pair of touchdowns (114.9 QB rating) and Richardson rushed for 109 yards (5.7 average) with a TD.

Similarly, a Ravens offense that hung 37 points and 430 yards on Cincinnati in Week 1  looked far more pedestrian against Juan Castillo‘s unit. Now, maybe the Bengals’ defense is just that bad. But both the stats and the eye test suggests that the Eagles’ “D” is pretty darn good.

All-22: What We Saw From the Eagles’ Offense

Here are some plays from the Eagles’ offense that stood out after watching the All-22 tape.

If you missed the defensive breakdown, click here.

Play 1: Michael Vick has been coached to keep his eyes downfield and look for receivers when he escapes the pocket. On his first interception, that’s probably what was going through his head as he scrambled to his right. But he has to know better than to throw across his body.

Michael Vick interception.

As you can see, it looks like Harbor’s open. The problem is that this is a high degree-of-difficulty throw. And Vick was on the move. When he first sees Harbor, he’s around the 17. But by the time he actually releases the ball, he is near the line of scrimmage at the 12. That gave safety Bernard Pollard time to move to his right and intercept the pass.

Vick has to do a better job of recognizing the situation. It was 2nd-and-9 in the red zone. He had completed his first five passes of the game. Just run out of bounds and take a shot on third down. Worst-case scenario, you’re setting up for a chip-shot field goal a couple plays later.

Play 2: Defenses are going to continue to show Vick and this offensive line different looks, especially now that Dallas Reynolds is at center making protection calls. Look at the pre-snap look here. The Ravens overload the left side.

Ravens blitz.
Three of the four defenders highlighted rush Vick, while one drops back into coverage. But by design, Vick sprints out to his left to get away from the pressure as soon as he gets the snap. On the move, he throws a 10-yard strike to DeSean Jackson, picks up a first down on 3rd-and-4 and extends the drive.

Vick beats blitz.
Excellent example of how Vick and the offense can beat a specific type of blitz.

Play 3: In the second quarter, on a 7-yard run, you can see why the Eagles are going to miss Jason Kelce.

Philadelphia Eagles' Jason Kelce.
Kelce’s athleticism is on display as he gets out in front on a linebacker, clearing the way for McCoy. No back in the league breaks more tackles than McCoy, but Reynolds is an unknown in the run game. Combine the loss of Kelce with the loss of Jason Peters, and it’s clear that McCoy’s going to have his work cut out for him the rest of the way. He’ll have to rely on his ability to make defenders miss more than ever.

Play 4: There’s “avoid contact” mode. And then there’s “stay the hell away from Ray Lewis” mode. Check out Vick’s options on a designed quarterback draw in the third.

Michael Vick QB draw.
It looks like there’s a running lane up the middle, but going that way likely would mean a meeting with Lewis. Instead, Vick bounces it outside, picking up 8 yards and a first down.

By the way, I really like the designed quarterback draws. They take advantage of Vick’s athleticism, and they provide the threat of him running, with less of the chaos. By my count, four of Vick’s runs in Week 2 were on plays originally intended for him to pass. Three others were by design. As we mentioned earlier, Vick called his own number on the QB draw that won the game.

Play 5: I’m probably going to sound like a broken record every week, but the timing and precision on some of these plays is amazing. Take a look at the 49-yard bomb to Jackson. The first image shows where Jackson is when Vick lets go of the football.

Vick to DeSean.
Jackson’s at the Eagles’ 28, pretty much even with the cornerback. But look at where Ed Reed is – in between the hash marks at the 42. Why? Vick did something subtle on the play. He gave a little pump fake to the left side. Reed took about two steps that way, before turning around and hustling towards Jackson. Look at all the ground he’s got to make up. The second image shows where Jackson actually catches the ball.

Jackson’s at the Ravens’ 48. In other words, he went 24 yards from the time the ball was let go to the time it landed. Jackson’s received a lot of credit for the catch, and rightfully so. But what about the throw? Vick’s drop took him back to the Eagles’ 1. The ball traveled about 51 yards in the air and fell in Jackson’s hands right between two defenders. Take a look from a different angle.

Vick to DeSean (3).
Protection too was key. Both Brent Celek and McCoy stayed in to block at first before going into their routes. Great execution all around.

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

Kelce Out For the Season; Vallos Signing Official

Philadelphia Eagles center Jason KelceEagles center Jason Kelce will not play again in 2012. The team announced today that he has been placed on season-long injured reserve.

As of yesterday morning, the plan was to let the torn MCL in Kelce’s right knee recover, but Eagles doctors and the training staff decided to go ahead and fix it this morning. When Kelce had his knee scoped, they also made the decision that he would need to have his partially-torn ACL fixed.

“His knee was much looser than it was on the field or in the training room yesterday, and so they figured that he had a pretty good anterior cruciate ligament tear,” said Eagles head athletic trainerRick Burkholder. “When they scoped his knee, they found that his anterior cruciate ligament was torn, not totally, it was partially torn, but it was torn enough and in the wrong area of the ligament that they felt that they were going to have to fix his ACL.”

The plan now is let the MCL heal for three-to-four weeks and then perform surgery on the ACL. From there, Burkholder estimated that Kelce would face about a nine-month recovery period, which would put him at roughly around mid-July, right before the start of training camp.

Burkholder said Kelce’s injury is pretty “straightforward” and added that they expect him to make a full recovery.

“I think he knew he had a knee injury that was pretty significant just from what he felt on the field and what he saw on tape,” Burkholder said. “I think he was hoping for the best, but he had prepared himself for the worst.”

Kelce had started 18 games in a row since the Eagles picked him in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. He had been given more responsibility in terms of making protection calls at the line of scrimmage this year and had steadily improved as a blocker. He was particularly impressive at the second level, taking on linebackers and defensive backs and helping LeSean McCoy in the run game.

Now the Eagles will rely on Dallas Reynolds, a three-time practice-squad player who finally made the 53-man roster this season. Reynolds, originally an undrafted free agent out of BYU, saw his first NFL action on Sunday and played well against the Ravens. He was given the same pre-snap responsibilities as Kelce.

The Eagles also signed veteran Steve Vallos today. Vallos, originally a seventh-round pick by the Seahawks in 2007, has eight career starts under his belt, but those came in 2008 and 2009.

When you add in Jason Peters’ offseason Achilles injury, the Eagles have now lost two out of five offensive linemen from the unit that finished last season so strong.

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

Source: Eagles Likely To Sign Center Vallos

With Jason Kelce sidelined, the Eagles will will bring in veteran center Steve Vallos for a visit Tuesday and are likely to sign him, a source confirmed to Tim McManus.

Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com was the first to report the expected move.

Vallos spent training camp with the Birds, but was let go when the team cut its roster down to 53. He had been battling with Dallas Reynolds for the backup job at Lehigh.

Vallos, 28, was originally a seventh-round pick by the Seahawks back in 2007. He’s started eight games in his career, but those came in 2008 and 2009. Vallos spent 2010 and 2011 with the Cleveland Browns.

Against the Ravens, Reynolds saw his first NFL action and played well (offensive line game review here).

As for Kelce, he’ll be out a minimum of four-to-six weeks and could be done for the season. Details on his timetable right here.

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

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