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.