Watching Sportscenter at 11:30 tonight (I took a 3 hour nap and probably won’t see much more sleep tonight) I became a bit incensed when Mark Schlereth essentially insulted the Eagles offensive line (deservedly so) without mentioning that they were starting:
1) A rookie Center (6th round pick Jason Kelce)
2) A rookie Right Guard (Canadian firefighter Danny Watkins)
3) A 3rd string Right Tackle (Pitt product King (of screw-ups) Dunlap)
Now, I’m not saying the right side of the line won’t be an issue this season for the Eagles (I think RT will be their #1 issue). For all I know Kelce will be the 2011 starter and struggle all year, Watkins will prove to be a 1st round bust, & King Dunlap will start all season and…umm…be King Dunlap.
However, I’m a man of the truth, so I wanted to provide a quick breakdown of the Eagles’ offensive line “lowlights” against Cleveland tonight…
First Uh-Oh: 2nd & 3, 12:31 left 1Q:
Eagles go empty backfield (mistake #1…empty backfield invites a blitz with no one to step up in protection…I hate empty backfield). ROOKIE RG Danny Watkins doubles down on NT Phil Taylor, leaving LB Scott Fujita unblocked. Vick rolls left and throws the ball away but gets hit hard.
-Why the hell are Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg in an empty backfield set with 3 WR & 2 TE (all running routes) on 2nd & 2?
-Mistake by Watkins to double down, looked like there was no pre-snap read of blitzers from Vick/Kelce (it’s Vick’s job under new OL Coach Howard Mudd, but the C can help out)
Second Uh-Oh: 3rd & 3, 12:25 left 1Q:
One play later, the Eagles went shotgun with 3 WR, 1 TE, & 1 RB. The Browns lined up in man-to-man press coverage with 7 in the box. Eagles ran a PA draw (weird because typically no one believes the Eagles would run the ball unless it was 3rd and under 4 centimeters) and pull the RT (King Dunlap). The entire left side of the Browns D Line is fooled. Phil Taylor, all 6’4 355 lbs. of him, is not fooled. At all. He steamrolls his former Baylor teammate Watkins, smacks Vick, and forces a fumble that was recovered by Cleveland.
-Not sure about pulling a RT on a pass play…it helped sell the fake, but Watkins ended up being manhandled 1-on-1 and the Browns LOLB Jamie Mitchell ended up running free on the play after a mini/quasi/not really block from Eagles TE Brent Celek and recovering Vik’s fumble.
-Riley Cooper had beaten his man on a slant route, but Vick was looking the opposite way, either at Celek in the flat or DeSean Jackson. Either way, the play resulted in an epic fail thanks to Watkins.
Third Uh-Oh: 1st & 10, 6:20 left 1Q:
Eagles in a single back, 4 WR (Celek lined up as WR) set. Browns have 4 down lineman & look to be in a nickel package. Initially, Cleveland rushes 4, but Vick fumbles the exchange from Kelce and quickly scoops up the fumble. He proceeds to run into RB LeSean McCoy, and is forced to throw the ball away. Browns’ LB D’Qwell Jackson rushes Vick after seeing the fumble & McCoy in the backfield. Vick is absolutely crushed by Browns’ DL Derreck Robinson, which makes this likely the only time you will see the name Derreck Robinson published on this blog.
-RT King Dunlap immediately moved to the middle of the line, leaving Robinson to be blocked by Kelce. Kelce was promptly steamrolled, as was Vick. Unless King really screwed up (entirely possible if not likely) This play seemed to be a designed rollout. The fumbled snap threw off the timing of the entire play and resulted in a disaster. Good job by Vick to throw the ball away, sorry about the hit.
-Eagles ran 3 go routes & a cross, with McCoy never making it past the line of scrimmage. Again, we have no TE/RB to help in protection. Some openings downfield, but no time for Vick to find them after the botched exchange.
Fourth Uh-Oh: 2nd & 15, 6:02 left 1Q:
Eagles in a 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB set with all WRs to Vick’s right (this is essentially a dead giveaway that Vick will be rolling right, which he does). The Browns are in man-to-man coverage. I HATE when the Eagles do this type of play. They consistently run similar plays near the goal line. It cuts half of the field off, making the defense’s job much easier. Vick throws on the move, to a semi-covered DeSean Jackson-3 Browns are within 2 yards of him. The throw is off target and almost intercepted by Bears CB Mike Adams but falls incomplete.
-like I said, I hate it when the Eagles run this type of play because it makes the defense’s job easier by cutting the field in half, especially when you line every WR on the same side of the field.
-Vick is left handed, rolls right, and throws on the run. This is probably the most difficult throw in football for a QB (rolling away from his strong hand & throwing on the run).
-A better placed pass results in a 17 yard completion. Poor play-calling, protection was fine.
Fifth & Final Uh-Oh: 1st & 10, 6:24 left in 2Q:
Eagles in an I-Formation, 2 WR, 1 TE set. Play is a PA pass where the LB bite on the run and end up rushing the passer. After faking the handoff, Ronnie Brown fails to block (notice?) the inside LB D’Dwell Jackson rushing Vick, opting instead to wait for OLB Scott Fujita’s rush. Jackson is untouched on his way to Vick, who forces a deep ball to Desean Jackson. The throw was impacted by Jackson’s hit and intercepted by Mike Adams, although a roughing the passer call on Jackson (pretty lame) saved Vick from his 4th INT of the pre-season.
-The Eagles O Line blocked very well on this play.
-Ronnie Brown screwed up in his protection, otherwise this play likely would have resulted in a first down.
As an Eagles fan, am I concerned? Absolutely. Starting 2 rookies on a 3rd stringer on the offensive line is a recipe for disaster. The easy answer to protect Vick would be for the Eagles to simply run the ball more (32 attempts for 147 yards and a 4.6 YPC Thurs night against 4.5 YPA in the passing game). We all know Andy Reid won’t do that though, which means the Eagles will have to…
A) Sure up the right side of their O Line-this is possible if Ryan Harris can get healthy (unlikely) and Danny Watkins works out his rookie kinks (more likely).
B) Find a strong, consistent starting Center-not sure if Jackson or Kelce will be named the starter. Whoever it is needs to work with Vick in identifying blitzes better. Remember, it’s not like Vick & Jackson have some well-established chemistry. Aside from Vick’s wildcat snaps in 2009, they’ve never worked together in an NFL regular season game. The coaches are high on Kelce. Hopefully he rewards their confidence.
C) Hope Vick’s pre-snap reads improve. He “worked” on it this off-season, however much he could away from the team during the lockout. It seems so far that instead of using his legs to make plays, he’s trying to make the right reads on a blitz, which he largely has failed to do up to this point. With the right reads & time
Vick any NFL QB can tear a defense to shreds.
I don’t think the sky is falling on the Eagles. I’m already sick of their media coverage though, and I understand why every success or failure will be dissected (Thanks a lot, Vince Young). The Eagles need to fix their O-Line (maybe sign Adam Dunn?) & blitz pick-up problems fast, or they will be in for a rude awakening in 2011.