Eagles vs. Cardinals: Philly Showing That Offensive Approach Isn't Sustainable

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 23, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 23:  Quarterback Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles reacts as he walks off the field following a 27-6 defeat to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 23, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

To be clear, Michael Vick isn't taking way more hits or facing significantly more pressure than he was in 2010 or 2011. Vick has always been beaten up during his reign as the Philadelphia Eagles' starting quarterback. 

He was able to post MVP-caliber numbers despite facing such heat in 2010, but his play dropped off sharply last year. 

Early in the season, it's becoming obvious that 2010 was the anomaly and Vick and the Eagles will be condemned to relive their 2011 disaster unless they readjust on the fly. 

Vick and the Philadelphia offense were completely conquered by a feisty Arizona Cardinals team Sunday in Glendale as the Eagles dropped their first game of the 2012 season. With two regulars absent on the offensive line, he was hit at least 21 times by Arizona's defensive front. At this rate, it's only a matter of time before No. 7 is injured again. 

But as I've said before, this isn't necessarily about the threat of Vick missing time. Instead, it's about how ineffective he's become while taking such beatings. He missed just as much time in 2011 as he did in 2010, but the cumulative effect of two years' worth of hits was taking its toll. 

That will only get worse going forward.

According to Pro Football Focus, Vick was pressured on about 16 drop-backs per game in 2010, 15 in 2011 and 21 through the first two weeks of 2012. Yet, when you consider how often he missed time within games those previous two seasons, the difference isn't very significant. 

But it's been said time and again that the Eagles can't succeed without Vick at, or near full strength—the only way to accomplish that might be to change the offensive philosophy on the run. The team might have entered 2012 confident in the line sans Jason Peters, but it's now evident that it's not good enough to hold up without help.

Successful NFL teams don't pretend not to be flawed. Instead, they do their best to conceal those flaws on game days. The Eagles have, again, failed to do so by not giving their depleted line enough help and not using a balanced enough attack offensively.

I've grown tired of saying it, but Andy Reid isn't committed enough to running the ball, and he often abandons the run far too early. Reid panicked again Sunday when the Eagles started slowly, and as a result, LeSean McCoy received only four first-half carries.

The offense's pass-to-run ratio in that half was 25-to-5, which is embarrassing. At this level and against defenses like Arizona's, it's a recipe for disaster. That's the primary reason why Vick took so many hits and so many sacks, and why the Eagles turned it over three more times, raising their season total to 12 in just three games.

McCoy is one of the most talented backs in this league, and this defense was lights-out the first two weeks. They have the talent to win without getting the absolute most out of Vick, who can only reach his top plateau by risking his health. 

Vick isn't capable of being a game manager like Alex Smith, but he might not have to be the team's knight in shining armor, either. The Eagles can't continue to put him in the line of fire 15 or 20 times per game in an attempt to make him that. It's doing more harm than good—to Vick and to the team.