Does Eagles' Offensive Line Deserve Your Scorn?

Does Eagles' Offensive Line Deserve Your Scorn?

When I went back and watched the first half of Eagles-Cardinals to see what went wrong -- only the first half, because frankly that's when it was over -- I was a little surprised. Play after play, a flattened Michael Vick scooped himself off the turf -- 20+ times according to the broadcast -- yet the protection didn't seem all that bad. On occasion, I rewound and checked again, and for the most part the offensive line was getting the job done.

I was relieved to discover today that I was not the only person who noticed. As he does every week, Ray Didinger sat down with NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger and watched the tape. What they found was that despite the Eagles' patchwork up front, there were plenty of issues that were bigger contributing factors to Vick's abuse than the offensive line.

And Diddy and Baldy were not the only ones.

Among the problems that led to Vick's battering on Sunday were solid coverage, multiple two-man routes (with no Jeremy Maclin to boot), lack of play-calling ballance, and Vick himself failing to get the football out. The O-line didn't exactly receive a ringing endorsement either, but the talk of it being "porous" is a little over the top.

“The line didn’t play badly,” [Baldinger] said. “They were beaten a few times but a lot of those [hits] weren’t their fault. Overall, I thought the protection was decent. Not great, but decent.”

Diddy and Baldy weren't the only ones who found other areas to point their fingers.

The Inquirer's Jeff McLane reaffirmed what we've always known, that Vick is holding onto the ball too long. "From the snap to the throw, [Vick] took an average of 3.24 seconds ... Kolb, by comparison, got his 24 pass attempts out in 2.5 seconds."

John Smallwood from the Daily News had the all-too-common job of questioning Andy Reid's game plan. "Reid is committed to the passing game - even when every indication going into a game says it might not be the best idea."

And of course, even if the offensive line did struggle to some degree, there's also a feeling of, "Well what did you expect?" Overcoming the loss of a great talent such as Jason Peters was enough to begin with, but now Jason Kelce is gone, too. Whose line would thrive after season-ending injuries removed the starters at left tackle and center?

Yet that hardly seems to be the point today. For one thing, it's far too early in the season to be trotting out the excuses. The Eagles have the line that they have now, and it's the job of the coaching staff to make that work. And apparently, even when they were down to their third left tackle and a center making his first career start, the offensive line wasn't really the heart of problem anyway.

Whenever there is a discussion about what ails the Eagles this season, the only two names that keep consistently popping up are Vick and Reid -- and it seems this week was no different.

Carson Wentz further asserting himself as Eagles' leader in Year 2

Carson Wentz further asserting himself as Eagles' leader in Year 2

It's not like Carson Wentz wasn't a leader last year. 

He was. 

From the moment the No. overall 2 pick arrived at rookie camp in May, those leadership qualities the Eagles discovered during the pre-draft process were immediately on display. Wentz is a natural leader at a position that necessitates it. 

So in his rookie season, he led. 

"I thought that was all kind of natural, things naturally happened," Wentz said. "Yes, I was a rookie but I don't think that I was by any means quiet. I wasn't just the guy that rolled with the punches and went with it. I thought I was still doing my job as a leader as well. But the longer we're playing this game and the more experience we have, the more we can just step up our leadership as well."

If Wentz was a leader in his rookie season, he's really a leader now.  

Last year, he arrived to the Eagles' offseason after the whirlwind of the NFL draft and admitted on Tuesday that he "didn't really know where the locker room was." Hard to lead when you don't know where to get changed. 

And throughout last spring, he was the team's third-string quarterback preparing for a redshirt season until he was thrust into the starting role after the Sam Bradford trade, just a little more than a week before the start of the season. 

A year sometimes makes a huge difference. 

This year, he's the guy, the face of the franchise, the unquestioned leader of the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles. 

"There’s definitely a poise about him," receiver Jordan Matthews said. "You can tell it’s not like last year when he was thrust into the position. He knows his role, he knows he’s the guy, and I think there’s a sense of confidence that comes with that, a sense of poise that he handles extremely well. I’m excited to see what he does this whole offseason and what we’re going to do moving forward."

Wentz is the Eagles' leader on and off the field. He's planning on getting together with his receivers and skills position players again this summer, something he thinks will become an annual trip. 

Earlier this month, Wentz took his offensive linemen out for a day of shooting guns and eating steaks (see story). He bought his entire line shotguns last Christmas. 

It might not seem like a summer get-together or a trigger-happy trip would help the Eagles on the field, but it might. After all, the team's being closer certainly won't hurt. And Wentz, 24, is the guy facilitating all of it. 

Then there's the way Wentz leads on the field. He's always had control of the huddle, but with more time in the offense, he knows what he wants. Center Jason Kelce said the more knowledge Wentz gains of the offense, the "more comfortable (he is) voicing [his] opinion." 

"And I think that he's definitely asserting his style on the offense," Kelce said. 

For the most part, Wentz had a pretty good season as a rookie, flourishing early, hitting a long rough patch, and then finding his way out of it. He ended up throwing for 3,782 yards and set an NFL record for completions as a rookie. 

The Eagles this year, and in the foreseeable future, will go as far as Wentz leads them. 

"They say the biggest jump is from year one to year two, so him just knowing what’s coming, he looks like a vet already," offensive tackle Lane Johnson said. "Pretty extraordinary."

Sir Charles and Shaq made things personal last night and it was fantastic

Sir Charles and Shaq made things personal last night and it was fantastic

Shaq always has the trump card -- and by that we mean championship rings -- to throw in Charles Barkley's face. But with that said, Sir Charles is probably a much better trash talker and therefore has a superior mouth to defend himself with and throw barbs back in Shaq's direction.

The mouthy duo got into it a bit last night and it teetered between fun and lighthearted and a little personal.

Shaq attacks Chuck for only playing in one NBA Finals and therefore not really knowing what he was talking about. Charles claps back at Shaq for having ridden Kobe and Dwyane Wade's coattails. 

During an NBA playoffs that has been mostly boring, at least these two can still entertain us.