Philadelphia Eagles: Can the Eagles Keep Mike Vick Upright?
Everything seemed to be going right for quarterback Michael Vick, and the Philadelphia Eagles wouldn't have had it any other way. He was the leader of one of, if not the most exciting offenses in the NFL. He had a career year, and after it, he signed a six-year, $100 million deal to stay with Andy Reid and the team that gave him a second chance, the Eagles.
But there were signs that the honeymoon wouldn't last forever. It started with the Eagles' 21-16 loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers. While Vick's 292 passing yards and one touchdown were still good numbers, he threw an interception and was sacked a total of three times for 21 yards. He and the rest of the team struggled to take over the game in the fashion they had during the entire regular season.
Needless to say, the problems have continued into the 2011 season; there is plenty of blame to go around and some solutions as well.
As we all know, the key to the Eagles season is Mike Vick, and they need to do everything they can to ensure he has a much better finish than his start.
Let's start with the broadest approach to the problem—the head coach.
Heading into the season, the Eagles looked poised to make a Super Bowl run with the acquisition of high-profile players such as Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Vince Young, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha.
But due to the lockout, all of those signings happened very quickly and immediately before or even during the start of training camp. This left little time for the team to gel and build chemistry.
Part of that fault goes to the lockout, but the rest goes to Reid.
He's the head coach, he is supposed to find a way to bring the team together and make them an actual team, a cohesive unit.
The only unit that returned most of it's players from last season is the core skill players of the offense: Mike Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Jason Avant and Brent Celek. Other than that, most of the team looks different, and as the head coach, it is up to Reid to get everyone in sync.
The fact that this has yet to happen is hurting the entire organization and specifically Vick. The best the Eagles and their fans can hope for at this point is that the team will build chemistry as the season goes on.
The Eagles' offensive line has been porous at best.
The stats may be deceiving—Philadelphia ranks ninth in the league having only allowed eight sacks. On top of that, it has been the best line in terms of total rushing yards.
That being said, the Eagles have allowed Vick to be hit 29 times on the year. The only other teams worse than the Eagles offensive line in terms of protecting their quarterback are two non-playoff teams, the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks, and two teams who are under-performing, the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons.
Changes have been made, like starting rookie Danny Watkins at right guard for the first time against the Buffalo BIlls, and with left tackle Jason Peters hurt, King Dunlap made the start. The two new starters clearly hurt the Eagles more than they helped. In that game, Vick had four interceptions, although two were the fault of wide reciever Jason Avant.
The bottom line is: When the offensive line doesn't provide a solid pocket for Vick, he panics and makes poor decisions.
The Man Himself, Michael Vick
The offensive line plays a huge factor in Michael Vick's play.
When the line breaks down, Vick tends to make bad decisions.
It's happened over and over again this season. Almost all of his mistakes have occurred when his line doesn't create a solid pocket for him to pass from.
Vick then either runs without tucking the ball—susceptible to a turnover—or he makes an ill-advised throw that can be an easy interception.
Vick has committed 10 turnovers this year, only two less than he had all of last season.
Even worse than the potential turnovers, are the potential injuries to Vick. He's already left multiple games this season with injuries, and they are directly linked to when he makes a bad decision.
While all of this starts with bad execution by the offensive line, it ends with bad choices by Vick. He needs to calm down and simply throw the ball out of bounds or tuck the ball into his body when he runs. He doesn't always have to make the big play, and even when he does, he needs to remember he has great players like DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy by his side.
Vick is the key to the Eagles' season. Everyone who follows the NFL knows that. And that is why it is so crucial to keep him safe and provide him the opportunity to succeed.
Simply put, yes, the Eagles can keep Mike Vick upright.
The talent and tools are all around him to do so.
Will they be able to accomplish it? That's another question.
If they can fix the three key problems: chemistry, offensive line and Vick's decision-making skills, then yes, Vick and the Eagles can succeed.
As for a potential playoff run? Let's just see where the Eagles are in a few weeks.