Identity Crisis For Eagles’ Offense

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael VickOver the past couple days at the Novacare Complex, players and coaches have tried to articulate what exactly has gone wrong with an offense that is scoring just 17.1 points per game, 28th in the league.

During training camp, it seemed like the 2012 version wouldn’t be far off from last year’s group. Michael Vick and company produced 64 pass plays of 20+ yards in 2011, eighth-best in the league. The plan was to cut down on turnovers, get DeSean Jackson back on track and resume the high-flying, big-play attack.

But a few things happened to derail that plan. Demetress Bell failed to be even adequate filling in for Jason Peters at left tackle. Another hole was created when center Jason Kelce suffered a season-ending injury. And the offense failed to fix the turnover problem.

After the Cardinals game, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg decided to switch things up. More balance, coupled with a methodical passing game, was Plan B. If the defense could come up big (like it did against the Giants), perhaps that kind of offense would be good enough for the Eagles to get into the playoffs.

Nope. That hasn’t worked either.

When talking about the lack of big plays recently (Vick did not even attempt a pass of 20 yards or more downfield last week), Jason Avant nailed exactly why this team has had problems.

“If you can’t run it effectively and you can’t hit the short game, guys are just going to stay back,” Avant said. “If you’re not going to be consistent and move the ball methodically down the field, guys are just going to say, ‘We’ll play deep, and they’ll mess it up.’ And that’s’ what we’ve been doing. They’ve been playing deep, and we’ve been messing it up.”

Bingo.

The methodical approach has looked good at times. Against the Falcons, drives of 13, 9 and 16 plays resulted in scores. But there haven’t been enough of those to win consistently. The Eagles have dropped three in a row and four of their last five. The line has still had issues, the offense has still turned it over (last week being the exception), and new issues have surfaced.

For example, LeSean McCoy has 120 yards on 46 carries in the last three games (2.6 YPC). In the last two games, he’s been dropped at or behind the line of scrimmage on 11 of 30 carries. Think about that – 37 percent of the time, he wasn’t able to pick up a single yard. Too often, McCoy’s just had nowhere to go.

And so, with their season at a crossroads, the Eagles have to decide which course provides the best option going forward. It could change on a weekly basis, but Vick said Thursday that he was too conservative against the Falcons. Mornhinweg seemed to agree.

“The last ballgame, I thought we were just a little bit too careful with our mentality,” Mornhinweg said.

“It’s a certain attitude that we are the baddest men on the field. And that mentality that we are going to be aggressive, aggressive, aggressive.”

The problem is it’s not that simple. The mistakes and turnovers are part of what caused the changes initially. The Eagles have an offensive line that can’t protect well enough for plays to develop downfield. And they have skill-position players who can’t execute at a high-enough level to consistently move the ball in a methodical manner. The parts just don’t fit together in a way that makes sense.

“Every game, you don’t play a perfect game,” Reid said earlier this week, when asked if Vick missed opportunities vs. Atlanta. “You can take any player in this league, nobody plays the perfect game. So, I mean, you can sit here and say, ‘Okay, did he miss one?’ That’s ok. That’s alright. You’re going to do that in the game. He managed the game well. He got the ball out on time. I thought he did a nice job there.”

Earlier, Reid said he thought Vick played one of his better games of the season. This was an outing in which the Eagles scored 17 points, and he averaged just 5.5 yards per pass attempt. That tells you all you need to know about where expectations are right now.

But we are only seven games in, and the Eagles can get back to .500 with a win in New Orleans. Perhaps their best hope at salvaging their season is to find an offensive identity against the Saints, one of the worst defenses in the league.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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All-22: How the Eagles Are Beating the Blitz

One reason why Andy Reid is sticking with Michael Vick is because the quarterback has actually shown real improvement in a couple key areas.

Most notably, against the blitz.

In the first three games, teams killed the Eagles with extra pressure. The offense had breakdowns in protection, Vick held on to the ball, receivers ran routes way downfield. Overall, it was a disaster.

But in the last three games (while the offense has still had plenty of issues), the Eagles have done damage against the blitz. Just look at the numbers. Vick is 29-for-42 for 405 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions against extra pressure. That’s a 69 percent completion percentage and 9.6 yards-per-attempt.

If you’re a glass-half-full kind of fan (c’mon, there has to be one or two of you out there), this is something to be optimistic about looking ahead to the final 10 games.

Since the Eagles were on bye last week, there’s no new All-22 to break down. So instead, let’s take a look at some of the ways the offense has beaten the blitz in the last few weeks.

Play 1: Here, the Lions show blitz at the line of scrimmage. It’s 3rd-and-6, and they’re going to bring seven rushers, including the slot corner.


The Eagles are in a 1-RB, 4-WR set with no tight ends on the field. That means they lose the numbers game up front. It’s six blockers against seven defenders. Someone is going to be unaccounted for. But everyone executes their one-on-one blocks.

Here you see the linebacker rush unblocked between Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans. But again, that’s nobody’s fault. It’s on Vick here to get rid of the ball quickly.

The routes are key too. You’ll notice three of the four receivers are running short or intermediate routes. Vick actually has multiple options.

The key is getting rid of the ball before the unblocked rusher gets home. Vick does that, stands in the pocket, fires a strike to Riley Cooper for 8 yards and takes a hit, allowing the Eagles to extend their drive.

Play 2: Those 8-yard gains are nice. But good offenses burn teams with big plays when they blitz. Here, the Lions send safety Louis Delmas. The key to blocking him is going to be running back Bryce Brown, who has to first recognize the blitz and then get to Delmas across the formation.


Brown does a really good job here. And Vick does a good job too, taking a couple steps to his right to create space in the pocket.

The other key is the throw. As we showed last week, there are times when Vick is making good reads and good decisions. He’s just misfiring. Here, he throws a beauty. Check out what the coverage looks like when Vick gets rid of the ball.


The pass has to hit Jackson in stride, but also has to angle towards the sideline so that the safety can’t get there in time. Here, you can see the window Vick is working with. The result is a 30-yard completion and one of his best throws of the day.


Play 3: Big plays don’t always have to mean deep throws downfield. The key to the next play starts before the ball is even snapped. Jackson starts in the backfield to Vick’s right, but then motions out to the left.


Cornerback Ike Taylor goes with Jackson, signaling man coverage. The Eagles set up a bunch look. They’ve had some success in the past few weeks hitting on big plays out of the bunch (like Jeremy Maclin’s 70-yard touchdown last week).


Jackson is the outside receiver, but he runs a drag route across the middle of the field. Taylor is in man coverage, but Jackson runs behind Brent Celek, who picks the cornerback.


Jackson is wide open over the middle. It’s only a 6-yard completion, but he picks up 19 yards after the catch for a big play.

Of course, since the Steelers were rushing six at Vick, protection too was key. As you can see below, the offensive line did an outstanding job. And most importantly, LeSean McCoy, who was charged with blocking James Harrison, takes his man to the ground, giving Vick plenty of time to find Jackson.

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

What Happened To Vick And the Deep Ball?

In the last three weeks, the Eagles have tried to tweak their offense.

They’ve been more balanced. They’ve given Michael Vick options against the blitz. And he’s tried to get rid of the ball quicker.

The good news? Vick’s completing 63.2 percent of his passes in the last three. Against the blitz, even better: 28-for-42 (66.7 percent) for 398 yards (9.5 YPA).

The bad news? The Eagles still only averaged 18.7 points per game in those outings.

One thing we’re not seeing as much of is explosive plays in the passing game. Vick is averaging 7.1 yards per attempt. That number was 7.8 in 2011 and 8.1 in 2010. And according to Pro Football Focus, he is averaging one completion that travels at least 20 yards downfield every 25.7 attempts. It was one every 17.6 attempts last season.

So, what are the issues? Vick still has a big-time arm. The Eagles still have an outstanding vertical downfield threat in DeSean Jackson and other options like Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. Why haven’t they hit on more big plays?

The way I see it, there are three factors. Let’s knock them out, one-by-one.

1. The Eagles are throwing the ball downfield less.

This one really doesn’t require much explanation. As I mentioned up top, the Eagles are giving Vick shorter throws to work with to help against pressure, and that part has worked. According to PFF, 11.7 percent of Vick’s throws have traveled 20 yards or more downfield. Last year, that number was 13.7 percent. In 2010, it was 15.9 percent. So there’s certainly been a dropoff, although the Eagles haven’t abandoned the deep ball completely.

2. Pass protection hasn’t been good enough.

This is a big one, and an obvious one. With no Jason Peters and no Jason Kelce, the Eagles have had trouble giving Vick enough time to hit on big plays downfield. As a result, Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have adjusted and will often use extra protection on the “shot” plays. They’ve had success with that strategy at times.

For example, check out the blocking on the touchdown pass to Jackson against the Giants:

The Giants rushed seven, but the Eagles kept eight in to block and gave Vick a clean pocket.

Against the Steelers:

The Eagles again keep eight players in to block. Even though it’s a 2-WR vs. 5-DB matchup in favor of the defense, Jackson gets open for a big 24-yard completion.

The problem is that pass protection has been so shaky that the numbers game up front has not always guaranteed a clean pocket for Vick. Here’s a look at one play from the final drive against the Lions.

The Eagles have seven to block four, but even that’s not enough as Nick Fairley pressures Vick, who ends up taking a sack.

These issues manifest themselves on plays where Vick doesn’t get hit also. Because protection has been so shaky and he’s been eager to get rid of the ball and make decisions quickly, he’s missing plays downfield. Here’s an example against the Giants:

Maclin is wide open streaking down the sideline, but Vick takes off and runs.

Against the Steelers, he had Clay Harbor with a step on a linebacker and no safety deep.

Here, instead of pulling the trigger, Vick took off and ran, fumbling in the process.

To be fair, it’s tough to expect a quarterback to trust his protection when it so often lets him down. But you can see how the Eagles are missing opportunities.

3. Vick has been inaccurate with deep passes.

According to PFF, Vick was on-target with 51.7 percent of his “deep” passes last year – the ones that traveled at least 20 yards downfield and were either caught or incomplete because of a drop. This year? That number is just 33.3 percent. Even when he’s making good decisions and targeting open receivers downfield, he’s not always making good throws.

Examples from last week:

A ball thrown to the middle of the field likely results in an 80-yard touchdown to Jackson. But here’s where the pass ends up:

Vick said the wind took this one, but there were others. Jason Avant open in the middle of the field:

The throw is behind him.

Given that the Eagles aren’t taking as many shots downfield, it’s imperative that they hit when given the opportunity.

You’ll notice I didn’t list wide-receiver drops as an issue. Jackson, who’s had issues with drops in the past, has zero drops on the season. And as a team, the Eagles have not dropped a single “deep” pass all season, per PFF.

So there you have it. The Eagles’ lack of big plays has little to do with opposing defenses, play-calling or the receivers. It has everything to do with the protection and the quarterback.

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

Report: Roles Unchanged For Vick, Mornhinweg

Andy Reid’s next shake-up will not include Michael Vick or Marty Mornhinweg, according to a report by the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.

Vick will be the starting quarterback a week from Sunday when the Eagles host the Falcons, and Mornhinweg will continue with play-calling duties.

When asked Tuesday if he was committed to Vick, Reid said, “Today, I am. I am going to take a hard look at everything.”

Apparently Reid took a hard look and decided he would stick with the veteran.

Tim explained yesterday why keeping Vick as the starter is the right move. But there’s little doubt in my mind that Reid has at least thought about making a switch and giving Nick Foles a shot. The number one factor is turnovers. If Vick continues to give the ball away at his current rate, the Eagles have no shot at salvaging their season.

But I think it’s more than that. Vick appeared to be making strides as a passer against the Giants and Steelers, but he left too many plays on the field against the Lions. Considering the Eagles are 31st in the league in scoring, that has to irk Reid just as much as the giveaways.

As for Mornhinweg, he’s tweaked the offense over the last three weeks, although he’s been far from perfect. His job is to maneuver an offense around a mistake-prone quarterback and an offensive line that is in shambles. Still, given the talent at running back, wide receiver and tight end, 17.2 points per game is unacceptable.

For extended thoughts on Vick and Mornhinweg, click here for my earlier post.

Going forward, the Eagles’ most likely shake-up is the offensive line. We went over their options up front this morning.

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

Three Thoughts On the State Of the Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.Given everything that’s happened this week, and because it’s the bye, now is a good time to assess the state of the Eagles. Below are three thoughts to consider.

1. Let’s start with the defense and Andy Reid’s decision to replace Juan Castillo with Todd Bowles. Reid went with an outside-the-box idea when he promoted Castillo back in 2011. He thought that with the talent the Eagles had on defense, if he gave Castillo capable assistants, he could grow into the coordinator role and have success. In 2011, the ‘D’ had its ups and downs. But the Eagles lost five games in which they entered the fourth quarter with a lead. The defense gave up 60 points in the final 15 minutes of those games.

After an 8-8 campaign, Reid re-assessed things. While he has said he felt good about how the defense finished 2011, it was clear this offseason that he wanted to get Castillo more help. And so he tried to get Steve Spagnuolo to come on board in an unspecified role, but Spags chose the Saints instead.

Sidenote: Before you comment about how New Orleans’ defense stinks under Spagnuolo, that’s not the point. The point is that Reid tried to get help on the defensive side of the ball.

The other move he made was to bring Bowles on board to coach the secondary – a veteran who had experience, someone who could help maximize the talent in the back end and ease the burden off of Castillo.

Meanwhile, from a personnel standpoint, the Eagles acquired DeMeco Ryans and spent four of their first five draft picks on the defensive side of the ball.

Through six games, the defense has been the team’s strength. But after a meltdown against the Lions, Reid decided he had to make a change. This move was not so much about who the defensive coordinator is from Monday to Saturday. Putting together the game-plan and running practices is in many ways a collaborative effort. This move is about Sundays. Specifically, making the right calls, avoiding meltdowns and making adjustments.

Right now, the offense is a mess. If the Eagles are going to salvage their season, it very well could be the defense that has to lead the way. They’re healthy and talented on that side of the ball. Reid could have kept Castillo on and had Bowles call the plays, but what would have been the point? This move is about getting the most out of the ‘D’ in the final 10 games. Reid believes Bowles gives him the best chance to do that.

One final thought on the defense: It’s important to recognize that Castillo’s failure is Reid’s failure. No other coach in the NFL would have made the move he did. Of all the decisions he’s made during his time with the Eagles, this could be the one that ends up costing him his job.

2. What about the offense? That’s a question many asked as soon as the Castillo move was announced. Why didn’t Reid fire Marty Mornhinweg also?

That’s flawed logic. While the two sides of the ball are connected, these are separate issues. Defensively, Reid had a coach on staff whom he felt could do a better job than the guy in place.

The offense is a different story. The Eagles set franchise scoring records in 2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively. Mornhinweg was the coordinator each of those seasons. In other words, he has a track record. It’s reasonable for Reid to think Mornhinweg can help him turn things around.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t to say Mornhinweg should be free of criticism. The Eagles are averaging 17.2 points per game – second-worst in the NFL. But again, this is about looking at the final 10 games and how they can salvage their season. Reid had a choice to make: Either continue with Mornhinweg or take over himself. Right now, it looks like he’s sticking with Mornhinweg.

The other point here is that players on both sides of the ball have to be held accountable. Take Sunday’s’ game, for example:

  • Brent Celek drops a relatively easy touchdown.
  • Celek is called for offensive pass interference, negating another touchdown.
  • Michael Vick misses DeSean Jackson deep for what could have been an 80-yard score.
  • Vick’s pass to a wide-open Jeremy Maclin on the second-to-last drive is batted at the line of scrimmage by Ndamukong Suh.
  • Dallas Reynolds snaps the ball before Vick is ready, resulting in a turnover with the offense driving in Lions territory.
  • Todd Herremans, the most talented and experienced lineman on the team, gets beat one-on-one to start the drive in overtime, giving up a sack and putting the Eagles in a hole.

None of those things had anything to do with the play-calls. Players were put in the right positions and failed to perform at the level expected of them.

3. Lastly, we have to talk about the quarterback, starting with the position the coaches have put him in. This offensive line is bad. I’ve heard some say it’s the worst of the Reid era, and I have a tough time arguing. The struggles up front make it critical for Mornhinweg and Reid to put Vick in a position to succeed.

That’s why they changed the offense after the Cardinals game. Shorter passes to negate pressure and beat the blitz? We’re seeing those. Vick has been outstanding against extra pressure the last two weeks. Just look at the numbers: 21-for-30 (70 percent) for 280 yards (9.3 YPA). The offense has really performed well against the blitz in the last three games. The coaches are giving Vick more options to get rid of the football quickly, and he’s taking often times making use of them. Are there exceptions? Sure. Tim did a good job of showing a few in his All-22 breakdown. But for the most part, the offense has been tweaked to help negate pass pressure and make up for the deficiencies of the line. Vick is completing 63.2 percent of his passes in the last three games.

What about the run game? Wouldn’t using a heavier dose of LeSean McCoy help Vick? A couple issues with that argument. One is that McCoy’s averaging 18.5 rushing attempts per game – seventh-most in the NFL and the most of his career. He also has 25 catches, second-most among running backs, behind Darren Sproles. McCoy has played more snaps than any other running back in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. In other words, for the most part, the Eagles have tried to squeeze every ounce of production out of McCoy through six games.

The other issue is this: While we tend to focus on the offensive line’s struggles in pass protection, they’re not getting the job done on the ground either. McCoy had nowhere to go against the Lions and has averaged 2.5 yards per carry in his last two games.

The truth is that while a balanced attack and a heavy dose of McCoy are good things, the Eagles are simply going to need to get more out of their passing game to be successful. Vick is actually throwing interceptions at a higher rate than even last season (one every 30.2 attempts in 2011, compared to one ever 28.9 attempts in 2012).

But it’s not just the turnovers. Going over the All-22 from last week, the Eagles had countless opportunities to hit on big plays. Against Pittsburgh, I thought Vick played well minus the fumbles. Against Detroit, I thought he left too many plays on the field. Again, it’s not just Vick. But he’s part of it. And I think that’s why you heard Reid decline to say whether he would be the starter against the Falcons.

I don’t think now is the time to make a move. I agree with what Tim wrote yesterday on the topic. But I do believe Reid is weighing all his options. Don’t forget that in the offseason we heard reports that the Eagles looked into acquiring Peyton Manning and thought about trading up for Robert Griffin III. I fully understand that Nick Foles is not either of those guys, but the point is Reid at least had some doubts about whether Vick could get it done in 2012. You didn’t see other coaches who were confident in their quarterbacks look into either one of those moves.

Vick is showing improvement in some areas (blitz, getting rid of the ball quickly), while staying the same in others (ball security). Reid is not going to make a decision based on the future. He believes he can win now, and really, he has no choice considering he might be gone in 2013. Now, Reid has to decide whether Vick is the quarterback that gives him the best chance to be successful in the final 10 games.

As of earlier this week, he was still undecided.

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

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

Here’s what I saw from the Eagles’ offense after having reviewed the All-22 tape.

Play 1: My overall impression here was that there were plenty of opportunities for points, and the players on the field came up short. In other words, I probably put far less blame on Marty Mornhinweg than many of you for this one. But let me try to show what I mean. We start with the second Michael Vick interception, which really turned out to be a huge play.

The Eagles had everything work on the play except for the throw. They lined up in the I-formation and ran a play-fake that got the safety to bite. DeSean Jackson got open for what should have been a monster play, and pass protection held up.


The safety (No. 26) is barely in the picture, and Jackson has the cornerback behind him. If the ball is thrown towards the middle of the field, this is an 80-yard touchdown. But look at where the ball ends up.


It’s behind Jackson, forcing him to turn around, and allowing Chris Houston to pick it off. The Eagles go from a potential 80-yard touchdown to a turnover. Once again, we see that the offense is not hitting on big plays because it’s not executing. It has little to do with defenses taking those big plays away.

Play 2: Again, a game of missed opportunities. The offense just left way too many yards on the field. Both Vick and Andy Reid talked about how Jeremy Maclin was wide-open on the Eagles’ final drive in regulation. And they weren’t lying. Maclin did a good job of being physical against the defensive back and created all kinds of space.


That’s as open as you can hope to get on this route. The yellow circle identifies all the open field available with no Lions defenders. At the least, you’re looking at a 20-yard gain. If Maclin can make a defender (or two) miss, it’s a touchdown. But Vick’s pass gets batted down at the line of scrimmage by Ndamukong Suh, and the Eagles have to punt.

Play 3: The first interception was also a missed opportunity. It didn’t look to me like Vick made a bad decision, but he was late with the football. The first shot shows Jason Avant open, behind the linebacker and in front of the safety.


It’s not that Avant is covered when Vick throws the football. It’s that the pocket has changed because he waited. At first, he had a nice clean pocket.

But Dallas Reynolds and Evan Mathis have trouble with Nick Fairley. The next photo shows what the pocket looks like when Vick actually starts to get rid of the ball.


Can you even see him back there? How is Vick supposed to make an accurate throw with that crowd in front of him? The ball floats over Avant’s head and is picked off by Louis Delmas. Reynolds and Mathis take some blame here. But Vick does too for not getting rid of the ball sooner.

Play 4: Alright, before I get you too depressed and you stop reading, let’s get to some of the good plays. For a short time, it looked like the 70-yard touchdown to Maclin would be what everyone dissected this week. The Eagles’ biggest play of the game started before the ball was snapped.


Jackson is lined up in the slot to the right. ESPN’s NFL Matchup crew always does a good job of showing how quarterbacks use motion to identify coverages. Here, there are nine Lions defenders near the line of scrimmage. Vick motions Jackson to the left, and the defensive back goes with him.


That sets up a bunch look for the Eagles to the left. Three receivers against three defensive backs. The Lions take a huge gamble with a seven-man blitz. After the ball is snapped, the bunch look confuses Detroit as two receivers go with Avant, leaving Maclin wide open.


The result is a 70-yard score. If you’re looking for a bright spot with Vick and the offense, it’s that they’re much improved against the blitz. On Sunday, Vick was 10-for-15 for 157 yards against extra pressure.

Play 5: The Eagles’ screen game has been horrible for much of the season, but maybe there’s reason for hope. They scored the 2-yard touchdown to LeSean McCoy on an inside screen. And this one near the end of the first half had to be one of their best screens of the year.


Danny Watkins and Evan Mathis double-team one linebacker. Todd Herremans handles the other. And Brent Celek has a defensive back downfield. McCoy ends up with a nice 17-yard gain.

Play 6: Here’s why you can’t always blame play-calling. Vick has two receivers open in Celek (shorter crossing route) and Avant.


Vick chooses Avant, which is fine, except that the throw is behind him.


Give Demetress Bell some blame on this play too for allowing Kyle Vanden Bosch to hit Vick as he released the ball. A potential 16- or 17-yard gain results in an incompletion.

Play 7: And finally, perhaps because the Eagles have showed a more balanced game-plan in recent weeks, the Lions really geared up to stop the run on certain plays. Check out this look with eight men in the box on a 2nd-and-10 play in the first quarter.


Three linebackers and a safety right behind the four linemen. Even with the defense loaded up to stop the run, it looked initially like McCoy could have had a running lane. And if you can get past the defenders in the box, these runs can turn into monster gains.


But Mathis and Watkins can’t maintain the lane for McCoy, who actually runs into Watkins before absorbing a 2-yard loss.

He has just 75 yards on 30 carries the past two weeks.

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

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Drastic Move Coming From Reid?

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy ReidAndy Reid’s fate in Philadelphia will be determined by what happens in the next 10 games.

Owner Jeffrey Lurie put a number on it during his preseason address, confirming that another 8-8 year would not be enough for the head coach to stay.

That means the Eagles need to go at least 6-4 (possibly 7-3) for Reid to stay put.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Reid is overly concerned with his job security. If Lurie does let him go, he’ll find a job elsewhere. But yesterday’s comments made Reid sound very much like a guy who is willing to do something drastic during the bye week to get his team on track. There were words like pathetic and ridiculous, along with non-committal answers to questions about his coaching staff and his players. Reid didn’t sound like someone who believed his team would be just fine if it stayed the course.

Remember, this goes back to the offseason. The Los Angeles Times reported that Reid was ready to walk away if he didn’t get more control in personnel decisions. And there was also the split with Joe Banner, which the team tried to spin as no big deal. But the entire offseason had Reid’s stamp on it. There would be no excuses in 2012.

Now, six games in, his team is .500, just like last year.

So what could Reid possibly do to shake things up? It comes down to two areas – the coaching staff and personnel.

Let’s start with the latter. Some are calling for Michael Vick to be benched. I don’t see it for a number of reasons. For starters, this offensive line played as poorly Sunday against the Lions as it has at any time all season. While Vick has not played well, inserting Nick Foles gets you nowhere. The rookie won’t stand a chance with this group blocking (and yes, I know he played in front of a leaky line in college, but don’t see how that’s relevant here).

The other thing with Vick is that he’s actually improved in certain key areas – like against the blitz. After the Cardinals game, it looked like he may never get there. But in the past three games, he’s been outstanding making the right reads and right throws against extra pressure. Against the Lions, he was 10-for-15 for 157 yards against the blitz, by my count. And overall, he’s completed 63.2 percent of his passes the last three weeks. As we’ve discussed at length, it’s the turnovers that have killed him.

The area where it might be more likely to see a personnel change is along the offensive line. This, of course, would be far less drastic. Maybe King Dunlap or Dennis Kelly in for Demetress Bell? Steve Vallos in for Dallas Reynolds at center? What about shifting Evan Mathis to center? It’s probably a longshot, but he’s been the backup there the past two weeks. If there are any offensive linemen without jobs right now, the guess here is that the Eagles will at least make a call or two and bring them in for tryouts. I don’t know if any of those moves improves this unit, but I do know that the Eagles’ offense can’t get better with the group playing like it did on Sunday.

And then, there’s the coaching staff. Would Reid be willing to strip Juan Castillo of play-calling duties on defense and hand them over to Todd Bowles? Overall, the defense has played well. But in the last two years, the Eagles have blown six games in which they’ve led going into the fourth quarter. The defense has allowed 77 points in those defeats – the latest of which was Sunday’s meltdown vs. Detroit. Remember, in the offseason, Reid wanted to add Steve Spagnuolo to his defensive coaching staff, so a shake-up would not be completely out of nowhere.

And finally, there’s the offensive play-calling. Is Reid ready to snatch those duties back from Marty Mornhinweg? We’re six games in, and the Eagles are averaging 17.2 points per game. That’s second-worst in the league, ahead of only the Jaguars. Reid, an offensive coach, has to be embarrassed by that number. The only time it’s been worse during his tenure was in his first season here when the Eagles averaged 17 points per game. That team featured Doug Pederson throwing to Torrance Small and Charles Johnson. Not Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy.

As Tim pointed out on Birds 24/7 Radio yesterday (on 97.5 The Fanatic every Monday from 6 to 7!), perhaps if Reid is going to go down, he goes down on his own terms and calls the offense once again.

Those are Reid’s options for a shake-up, as I see them. The players have the week off. When they return, we’ll find out which (if any) path Reid has chosen.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Tim’s got the full run-down from an irritated Reid during his day-after press conference. Reid had this to say to T-Mac about whether Vick would remain the team’s starting quarterback.

I put up the offensive line game review. Danny Watkins, Demetress Bell and company continue to struggle.

Jason Avant sounds as frustrated as any player in the Eagles locker room. He’s tired of hearing about how much talent this team has. Tim’s got the full story.

Was Nnamdi Asomugha right to question Castillo’s blitz calls? I went back and took a look.

Trent Cole said the Eagles got enough pressure on Matthew Stafford, even though the team doesn’t have a sack in the last three games.

And finally, a look at Eagles snap counts from Sunday’s game. Riley Cooper got back in the mix, and Phillip Hunt has nearly been phased out entirely.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

SI.com’s Peter King has the Eagles 15th in his power rankings:

The story about Michael Vick carrying the ball around the Eagles’ practice facility all week, reminding himself to not drop it so much, didn’t work so well in the loss to Detroit. He fumbled for the 30th time in his last 30 games, and threw two more picks. That’s 13 turnovers in six games. It has to stop or an 8-8 season will follow.

In his day-after dissection, Paul Domowitch of the Daily News makes a good point about the Eagles’ lack of safety depth:

The Eagles’ lack of depth at the safety position came back to haunt them Sunday after Nate Allen left the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Colt Anderson. Anderson is a terrific special teams player, but he’s not a guy you want on the field playing safety against a potent passing offense like the Lions.

COMING UP

The players get the week off, but we don’t. Plenty to discuss, analyze and report on Birds 24/7. So check back early and often.

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

Irritated Reid Leaves His Options Open

Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid.Andy Reid used the word “pathetic” to describe the last two offensive drives against the Lions Sunday. Deemed the league-high 17 turnovers his team has committed “ridiculous.”

The ever-even Reid rarely takes his criticisms to that level. This loss is clearly causing the head coach some extra irritation. Now starts a bye week where he will go back and evaluate and “tear things apart.”  What changes will come of it? Reid left his options open.

Asked specifically if Juan Castillo will continue to call the plays on defense, Reid said, ““That’s the way I’m looking at it right now. That’s the way I’m looking at it as I stand right here.”

And on offense: How much time will be spent evaluating the offensive play-calling?

“Listen, like I told you, I’m going to look at everything. I’m going to look at every aspect of it that we have. This covers it. I’m going to look at everything.”

Including his quarterback situation, as he told Birds 24/7 afterwards.

Reid’s comments about the final two offensive drives suggest that he was not overly-enamored with Marty Mornhinweg‘s play selection.

“The last two drives offensively were pathetic,” he said, “They were pathetic from a coaching standpoint and they were pathetic from a players’ standpoint. When you’re in a tight game and have an opportunity to score, you go down and you put it together. When it’s needed, when your back’s to the wall, and when it’s the fourth quarter or overtime, you put that together and you go take care of business. Both sides of the ball, we failed in that area.”

Reid acknowledged the offensive line didn’t do a good enough job, and implied that his team is too undisciplined.

It is as far as Reid will go in terms of public criticism. It will be interesting to see if any moves will follow.

DeSean Jackson And the Missing Big-Play Offense

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean JacksonDeSean Jackson is on pace for a career-high in receptions and yards this season. He has yet to drop a pass and leads Eagles receivers in most statistical categories. He is invested and it shows.

Noticeably absent, though, are the big plays. Jackson just hasn’t landed many haymakers this season.

“If you watch film, it’s obvious what they’re doing  –  rolling safeties, things like that,” said Jackson. “A lot of times when I do have single coverage they’re blitzing. We’re just staying patient and hopefully something can break here.”

The offense, which ranks 31st in the NFL in scoring average (16 ppg.), is in need of a jolt. Jackson is still averaging a healthy 16.3 yards per reception but he has just one touchdown on the season, and that came in the red zone. He has five receptions of 20-plus yards, three less than Brent Celek and off the pace of the 21 he posted in 14 games in 2010.

Opposing defenses are keeping Jackson and the Eagles’ offense as a whole in front of them and forcing them to plod their way downfield.

“Oh yeah, we had a 17-play drive, a 15-play drive,” said Marty Mornhinweg.  “Now, we’re still taking our shots and I believe we’re sixth in big plays. That sounds a little better than it is because we’ve only had one touchdown on the big plays.

“We had some opportunities that we haven’t taken advantage of and we’ve gotten not quite as good as I want, but we’ve gotten some big plays that are there for us. The good thing is that we have had many long drives.”

The problem is the Eagles are only scoring touchdowns on 44 percent of their trips to the red zone (33 percent over their last three games), which ranks 24th in the NFL. If the red zone offense is spotty and the big plays aren’t there, where are the points coming from?

“Hopefully we get back to getting those big plays,” said Jackson. “That’s what we’re missing. They are keying on that and trying to stop that from happening, but we have to keep going on with what we’re doing and we’ll get one.”

Jackson said he is open to returning punts as well to try and generate some big plays, though the team hasn’t called his number yet this season.

“Whatever it is they need, that’s what I’m here for,” said Jackson. “It’s definitely a niche that I have for this game. I’ve been doing it for almost my whole life. We’ll see.”

 

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Birds Use Slow-Moving No-Huddle

Given that the Eagles’ offense is averaging just 16 points per game (second-worst in the NFL), you get the sense that Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg are willing to try just about anything to get Michael Vick and company on the right track.

Since Week 2, the offense has been using some form of the no-huddle throughout games – not just at the end of halves. What’s the reasoning behind the move? Well, not all no-huddles are created equal.

I went back and looked at last week’s no-huddle plays. The offense used it at some point on five of eight of their offensive drives. But in all, they only ran eight total plays without huddling.

Chris Brown of SmartFootball.com wrote an excellent piece on the no-huddle earlier this year. A couple of the advantages he mentioned were that it can tire out a defense and limit the opponents’ substitutions. But the Eagles’ no-huddle really has nothing to do with those things. Of the eight plays they ran out of the no-huddle last week, the Eagles actually changed personnel on offense seven times. And the defense had time to do the same. On most occasions, the play clock was under 10 when the ball was finally snapped.

If the Eagles are not using the no-huddle to speed up tempo, then what’s the point?

“It gives us more time on the play clock,” said Eagles right tackle Todd Herremans. “If we’re already up at the line, we don’t have to rush up and then see everything set up.”

That seems to be the real key here. The Eagles have worked all offseason with Vick on his pre-snap adjustments. They are also working with a backup center in Dallas Reynolds. And defenses are giving them all kinds of looks at the line of scrimmage.

The no-huddle allows the offense to get in place early and look at what the defense is showing. While the Eagles often times waited awhile last week before actually snapping the ball, there were a couple occasions where they ran a play quickly. It’s another way to keep the defense off-balance and dictate tempo. Given how often teams are blitzing Vick, anything the offense can do to gain an advantage in pass protection is worth a shot.

I’d expect to see the no-huddle used even more going forward.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Could the Eagles look to deal running back Dion Lewis? Could they get anything for him? T-Mac explores in his weekly mailbag.

Tim uses the All-22 to explain how Ben Roethlisberger out-smarted the Birds’ defense on a key third down in the fourth quarter. And I used the All-22 to look at what we learned about the Birds’ defense last week.

Will the Eagles turn to DeSean Jackson to return punts? We take a look at the option.

A day after choosing not to address it, Vick admitted to owning a dog.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie talked about the possibility of matching up against Calvin Johnson.

And finally, Brian Dawkins talked about a variety of topics, including dealing with depression, cutting alcohol out of his life and suffering concussions as a player.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Eagles only allowed one pass play of 20 yards or more against the Steelers. But Matthew Stafford and the Lions will look to test them downfield.

“We need explosive plays, whether it be through the run or the pass,” Stafford said, per the Detroit Free Press. “We don’t really care what it is, we just want plays of 20 yards or more and those equal points in this league. And the more and more you can do of those, the more and more points you’re going to score and that gives you a better chance to win.”

Bovada released its latest set of Super Bowl odds. The Eagles went from 20/1 to 28/1 after their loss to the Steelers. The over/under for Eagles sacks on Sunday is 2.5. Might be a little high considering the Birds have gone sack-less in their last two games. You can also bet on whether Vick will have a fumble against the Lions:

Yes (+150)
No (-200)

Which way do you go?

COMING UP

Reid will address the media as the Birds fine-tune preparations for Sunday afternoon’s matchup.

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

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