Eagles battle in Arizona
Philadelphia Eagles fell along with their hard-hit quarterback Michael Vick in Arizona in week 3 against a dominant Arizona Cardinals determined to bring the East coast birds down. Amid a rash of turnovers and a weak offense, the Eagles struggled to put points on the board until the third quarter when they kicked a 36-yard field goal.
Following narrow one-point wins in Week 1 and 2, Vick complained of a headache and a stomach ache. This week, Vick likely ached all over after the resounding 27-6 loss to Arizona where he was dropped by the defense five times.
As the Birds prepare to face their historic rival, the New York Giants (2-1), this weekend, the team needs a substantial dose of change to cure its shaky-play style and build a robust team fit for the next 13 matches. Here are five areas the Eagles must resolve to emerge from Week 4 in winning shape.
Vick searches for a target downfield
Fast release. Vick has often been criticized for taking too much time when he drops back to pass. After failing to score in the first half of game 3, ESPN's Skip Bayless dubbed Vick as “200 pounds of indecision,” referencing his costly hesitation in and out of the pocket.
Vick doesn’t just appear slow to launch the ball. The numbers reveal he actually holds the ball longer than most NFL passers. Against Arizona, Vick took 3.24 seconds from snap to release in 37 passes compared to Arizona’s Kevin Colb 2.5-second release action, according to an article by Inquirer staff writer Jeff McLane.
Need more proof? Figures produced by FootballOutsiders.com show that the median sack time in the NFL is between 2.7 to 2.8 seconds, based on research by J.J. Cooper performed from 2009-11. Vick ranked second highest among NFL quarterbacks with 5.34 percent of pass attempts resulting in sacks after three or more seconds, according to results for 2009-10 by FootballOutsiders.com. (No surprise that the QB with the lowest percentage was Peyton Manning with .32.)
Vick has to make rapid, decisive plays beginning the instant the ball is snapped and deliver to the Eagles highly-ranked receivers and running backs if the team expects to find success in the red zone.
Vision test. Quarterbacks cannot have what former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski calls “tunnel vision.”
“You’ve got to see the play coming,” Jaworski said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. Vick does not always appear to see or be responding to what is unfolding on the field, according to Jaworski.
This week, Vick’s completion percentage plummeted from 71.9 in Week 2 to just 45.9, and his game-passer rating fell from 94.7 to 64.8 percent.
While there are several factors that impact those figures, Vick’s vision of the play evolution and his ability to implement split-second adaptations will be key in determining the success of future offensive attacks.
Prescribed Talent. Most experts complain that the Eagles possess one of the league's top running backs who is also one of its most underused members, LeSean McCoy. The elite McCoy had only 13 carries for 70 yards and three catches for a gain of a mere eight yards against the Cardinals. Critics of the Eagles' game plan say that Vick needs to put the ball in the capable hands of McCoy regularly and often to advance the Birds in play completions.
Preventive medicine. Pundits rant about Vick’s mobile passing style and the hits—not just sacks—he takes every single game. The debate usually comes down to "who is to blame?" Is Vick holding the ball too long? Is he running out of the protective pocket too often? Or, is the offensive line missing some key assignments?
Due to offensive line injuries, the Eagles had no choice but to begin its two newest members, center Dallas Reynolds and left tackle Demetress Bell, in a tough Week 3 match. By game end, Vick had been sacked five times and knocked to the ground a total of 19 times. Beyond nine sacks this season, Vick has been hit into double digits in each game.
Most of the responsibility rests on coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
“He will not make it if they don’t find a way to protect him,” Smith said on ESPN First Take earlier this week.
Eagles currently have the seventh-most sacks in the NFL.
For his part, Reid agrees with Smith. “He’s getting hit way too much. That part has gotta end.”
Rhythm Detection. Eagles needed to establish “some sort of rhythm” that it never found against Arizona, Reid explained in Monday's postgame press conference.
“We never did get a rhythm,” Reid said. “We need to make sure our mix is better than what it was yesterday. And that’s my responsibility to make sure that happens.”
Describing likely causes of the Eagles Week 3 collapse, Reid indicated a multi-area breakdown, citing turnovers, improved running routes and faster play execution.
“I wish I could pinpoint one thing. There is more than one thing involved.”
Heading into game 4 against New York, the Eagles nation hopes Reid has discovered and fixed a few of those very things.