Can Vick propel the Eagles to a winning season?
It has arrived.
Pumpkins dot porches, green leaves give way to yellow-orange hues and cool air snaps through the door in the morning.
Fall is here and so is The Philadelphia Eagles midseason report card.
By every account, the Eagles have performed below expectations this year, turning in a marginal record at 3-3. That’s the bad news. Now, the good news: It can be fixed. The Eagles can rise from C-level mediocrity to the laudable straight-A team they were forecasted to become.
Heading into Game 7, the Eagles Nation holds its breath and wonders: Will they do it?
Despite costly errors and turnovers on both sides of the line, the Eagles remain in 13th place in Sports Illustrated's Power Rankings for Week 6. If Philadelphia hopes to redeem the season—and save a job or two along the way—the Eagles must send the Atlanta Falcons home with its first loss of the season.
If not, the forecast looks anything but sunny in Philadelphia.
Check the Philadelphia Eagles midseason report to see where they received high scores, where they need extra practice and where they require intensive work to get a passing grade.
Quarterback Grade: B-
Anyone who follows the Eagles, and the ups and downs of its renowned passer, Michael Vick, has heard both sides of this ever-flipping opinion coin. He is an elite quarterback. He is the Philly fumbler. He deserves credit for saving the Eagles from total loss. He deserves the blame for every loss. It is not uncommon to hear all of it in the same day, sometimes during the same broadcast. On any given Sunday, any of it could be true.
However the Philadelphia football history books write this chapter of the Vick story, his third season as the Eagles’ starting quarterback will go down as either his swan song or his Eagle victory cry.
Critics point out Vick’s interceptions and fumbles. In fact, Vick has eight interceptions, the seventh most in the NFL but two notable quarterbacks sit directly behind him in this class with seven interceptions each, Drew Brees and Eli Manning.
Former Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski knows a thing or two about the pocket pressure Vick faces.
Jaworski has charted the hits Vick has taken this season. In six games, Vick was hit 147 times, 103 of those took him to the turf.
Kevlar top or not, very few quarterbacks would take those hits and stand up to throw again. Since losing Jason Kelce as center, the offensive line has faltered on several key assignments, leaving Vick to run while attempting to throw the ball like a hot potato.
So in spite of the high number of turnovers and his present rank at 27th in the NFL, Vick deserves a B-. Vick plays innovative and, at times, impulsive, ball. When it pays off, crowds roar. When it falls apart, heads roll.
Running Back Grade: B+
Despite little run protection and receiving minimal handoffs until Week 4, LeSean McCoy has managed to make good impact, especially against New York where he carried for a total of 123 yards.
McCoy who ranks ninth in the league rushing yards per game with an average of 4.1 yards per carry would be higher if he had more protection on the route. His longest run through Game 6 was 34 yards, a dismal distance compared to previous seasons where he had nearly double that distance.
Fullback Stanley Havili makes his biggest contribution opening the lane for McCoy. “The guy is just blowing people up this year. He’s making my life easier. He’s opening up big holes…,” McCoy was quoted as saying on the Philadelphia Eagles website.
This is one place the Eagles can get an easy “A” just by holding open the door for their top running back.
Celek Hurdles Over Baltimore To a Philadelphia Win
Tight Ends: B-
This is another area where the Eagles can be effective in making plays and adding points, if mistakes are minimized.
According to Football Outsiders, Eagles tight end Brent Celek ranks 14th in the NFL.
Clay Harbor is listed at 30th in the league. Celek has excelled as a tight end but against Detroit two errors cost Philadelphia two touchdowns. The first mistake was a dropped ball in the end zone on an 8-yard pass. The second was a pass interference call that appeared benign but still negated Celek’s completion in the end zone.
Maclin Hangs On To Defeat New York
Wide Receivers: A-
As of Week 6, Jeremy Maclin ranked second as the most valuable receiver in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. Even though the Eagles lost to Detroit, Maclin averaged 21.7 yards per carry, which included a 70-yard touchdown and a total of 130 yards for the afternoon.
Eagles hope to keep Maclin healthy after he was sidelined intermittently with a hip injury. He has averaged 14.8 yards per game this year, his highest average since he started with the Eagles four years ago. Maclin looks primed to build on his numbers, provided the offense develops some well-constructed plays.
King Dunlap Defends the Run
Offensive Line: D-
At times, the offensive line looks like they just need more practice, more snaps and better communication. Then again, maybe they are just outgunned. From the beginning of the O-line woes when center Jason Kelce went out with a season-ending knee injury, the entire offense has suffered. The run suffers from lack of protection. The receivers suffer because the ball doesn’t get there. And the quarterback. He has suffered the most.
Last year Vick was hit 69 times in his 13 games. This year he has already been hit 50 times in only six games.
“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,” says Sheil Kapadia, Philadelphia Magazine Birds 24/7 blog.
Philadelphia ranked ninth at the end of Week 6 in run blocking but 30th in pass protection, according to Football Outsiders. Only the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars ranked lower than Philadelphia in pass protection in the NFL.
In Game 7, King Dunlap is expected to return at left tackle to replace Demetress Bell. Hopefully Dunlap's return will close some of the gap in this line.
Boykin Competes against Arizona Cardinals
Defensive Line C / Defensive Backs B+
Coach Andy Reid’s impersonation of the decapitating Queen of Hearts may have puzzled some experts when defensive coordinator Juan Castillo was the first target. However, Reid’s actions clarified that the coach will cut off any part of the Eagles’ organization not performing to his standards.
Enter new defensive strategist Todd Bowles.
The sackless Eagles defense has failed to catch the quarterbacks for three straight games. Not since 1983 have these Birds gone three games in a row without a sack. All eyes will be on the defensive line to see if this is one streak they can break at home against Atlanta in Game 7.
On the other hand, cornerback Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie has pulled down three crucial interceptions, one in the end zone against Detroit, and according to Pro Football Focus, has held opposing passers to a low 28.7 quarterback rating when throwing in his direction.
With 20 tackles to his name this year so far, Nnamdi Asomugha has also helped shut down receivers including Detroit’s Calvin Johnson until the final minutes of the game. As it turned out, that was all Johnson needed to whittle away the Philadelphia lead. Still, Asomugha will continue to be a mainstay of the Eagles defense.
Additional defense asset rookie Brandon Boykin faced Pro Bowl champions Anquan Boldin, Larry Fitzgerald, Antonio Brown and Calvin Johnson and rose to the challenge. Comparing Boykin’s numbers to veteran players Rodgers-Cromartie and Asomugha, Boykin has allowed the least number of receptions at 14.
Jordan Makes the Tackle in Arizona
Recently recovered from injury, Akeem Jordan forced a fumble against Detroit in the overtime portion of the game. Unfortunately, Detroit recovered its own ball. But it still reminds the Eagles of the game-changing plays the line needs to make regularly.
Jordan has played weak side linebacker in four of the six games that he appeared. He has also made 13 tackles and forced two fumbles this season.
Last year, according to Football Outsiders as noted on the Philadelphia Eagles website, the Eagles ranked 29th in the league in covering running backs.
This year with linebackers DeMeco Ryans, 28, and Mychal Kendricks, 22, filling this role, the Eagles have ranked sixth in running back coverage.
Eagles Special Teams Must Radically Improve
Special Teams: D-
Botched plays and missed opportunities have earned special teams their grade. This unit requires additional instruction, intensified practice and increased study time on how to cover these plays.
On kickoffs, the Eagles are 26th in the league with an average of 20.8 yards per return. That reflects zero improvement from last year when they averaged 20.9 yards per return.
On punt returns, the Eagles have not had a return greater than 13 yards and Football Outsiders ranks the Eagles’ punt-return unit 29th in the league, as reported in Philadelphia Magazine's online blog Birds 24/7.
This unit has the potential to make big differences in field position and strategic placement for the offense.