Eagles Extras: Vick Struggles Against the Blitz (Still)

Eagles Extras: Vick Struggles Against the Blitz (Still)

Over the last year, I've taken a lot of heat over the perception I am not ultra-supportive of Michael Vick. While it's true he's come much farther than I ever thought he would, I couldn't help but find the flaws in his game from week to week last season, namely with blitz recognition and holding on to the ball too long.

Sorry, folks, but they're baaaack...

Part of the reason for the Eagles' inefficient start on offense this past Sunday was a direct result of the Rams blitz. They brought the heat early and often, at times sending more rushers than there were blockers, and once again, Vick got burned, holding on to the ball too long and taking big hits. It was the main focus in this week's Under Review with Brian Baldinger and CSN's Ray Didinger.

“This is the play that bugs me,” Baldinger said, cueing the tape to Quintin Mikell’s sack of Vick that killed an Eagles’ drive in the red zone. “Look at DeSean (Jackson) on this play…”

Jackson was lined up in the slot, one-on-one with a Rams defender. At the snap, Jackson beat his man to the inside.

“The ball has to be gone right now,” Baldinger said. “That’s an easy throw and an easy six (points).”

Instead, Vick held the ball. He never saw Mikell coming from his blindside. He took a big hit, the ball popped loose and Laurinaitis recovered the fumble.

“That’s the same blitz Minnesota and Green Bay used against him last year,” Baldinger said. “That tells me he’s still not seeing it.”

Fans are often quick to blame an offensive line that has endured its share of problems over the last season and a half, but when defenses blitz, at some point it's the quarterback's responsibility to find where to deliver the ball. An overload blitz where the defense sends six or seven defenders means a very talented player on the Eagles has a one-on-one, or maybe isn't even covered at all.

To be fair, we assumed Vick and the coaches would work on this over the off-season, but the lockout prevented any serious teaching from taking place. Like many other areas on the Eagles, his recognition could be considered a work in progress, and he should be better in January than he is in September.

Of course, he has it to make it that long first.

- Strongside linebacker Jamar Chaney has some sound advice for the Atlanta Falcons in Thursday's edition of the Inquirer (via PFT): "I would probably run at our linebackers if I was them." The Rams experienced some success getting to the second level in Week 1, where the linebacker play was not exactly formidable. Michael Turner is a bruiser who will provide a tough test for a defense that has already allowed 169 yards to ball carriers. [Inq]

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Brian
Rolle said that he's been playing some first team WIL in the base
defense ahead of Moise Fokou.less
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Jeff
McLane

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- On a related note, Jeff McLane Tweeted rookie Brian Rolle saw some practice time with the starters ahead of Moise Fokou at weakside linebacker on Wednesday. It's somewhat surprising, given Fokou was one of the more active backers on Sunday, but Rolle has been gaining a lot of attention after an outstanding training camp and preseason. According to the Moving the Chains blog, the Ohio St. product was in for 14 snaps versus the Rams. [Follow Jeff McLane]

- And in even more from McLane, the Inqy beat writer reported earlier in the week that Brandon Graham plans to come off the Physically Unable to Perform list after Week 6, and the defensive end claims he will be suit up after the Eagles' bye.

"I'm very confident I'll be ready and I'll be playing Dallas," Graham said.

Last year's first round pick admitted there is still a chance he winds up on injured reserve, but clearly thinks he'll be good to go.

We're not so sure. The Eagles received contributions from all four of their active defensive ends on Sunday, and they waived last year's third rounder, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, so they could keep Philip Hunt on the roster. That's five defensive ends, and while Hunt did not play this week, Graham still could be caught up in a numbers. Considering the difficulties associated with microfracture surgery, the Eagles have to consider even if Graham is cleared to play, he might not be able to make a contribution either way.

Shame for such a promising young athlete, but hopefully he will will be making an impact in a Birds uniform sooner rather than later. [Inq]

- Over at Blogging the bEast, we are treated to a brief film review in the vein of the late Iggles Blog. It's only one play, but if you were wondering why Jason Avant was motioning out of the backfield in the second quarter on Sunday, this is a very well done breakdown of that play. [bEast]

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with Western Conference leader

Flyers-Blackhawks 5 things: Matinee showdown with Western Conference leader

Flyers (12-10-3) vs. Blackhawks (16-6-3)
1 p.m. on CSN and CSNPhilly.com

Behind captain Claude Giroux's two goals and overtime heroics Thursday, the Flyers enter Saturday's matinee with the Chicago Blackhawks on their longest win streak of the season.

That and more as we get ready for the afternoon showdown at the Wells Fargo Center.

1. Three's company
With their 3-2 OT win over the Senators, the Flyers have now won three (3!) games in a row for the second time this season, a sign the ship might be turning in the right direction.

Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol applauded his team's 61-minute effort afterward. Comparing it to Tuesday's win over Boston in which Steve Mason single-handedly stole two points from the Bruins, Hakstol said the Ottawa game was a "real, good, consistent effort" throughout the lineup, which the Flyers will have to mimic again Saturday in order to beat Chicago.

On Friday, Hakstol rewarded the Flyers with an optional practice. Brandon Manning, who has missed the last two games because of a possible concussion, returned to practice Friday and was cleared to play. If Manning returns Saturday, Andrew MacDonald seems like the likely candidate to come out.

Manning's return would be welcomed for the Flyers. The 26-year-old has been one of the team's most consistent players. He's been aggressive, both offensively and defensively, and his play is not deserving of a healthy scratch. But with no morning skate and limited player availability Friday, Manning's status for the Blackhawks' game remains unknown.

2. Power hour
For the Flyers to extend their winning streak to a season-high four games Saturday, they will have to do so not only with a sound, defensive game but also on special teams.

If there is one area Chicago has struggled this season, it has been the penalty kill. At 70.1 percent, the Blackhawks have the league's worst PK unit, and have a middle-of-the-road power play despite all of their offensive firepower.

The Flyers, on the other hand, have the league's third-best power play at 23.6 percent, and their penalty-kill units have improved lately, getting up to 80 percent. The Flyers have two PP goals in their last 19 opportunities.

Still, Chicago's power play is dangerous despite its recent struggles. The Blackhawks have just one power-play goal since Nov. 19, and went 0 for 4 on Thursday against the Devils.

3. Corey's crease
The Blackhawks also enter Saturday hot, winning three of their last four games; however, they have gone to overtime in their last three games. Chicago has had issues with slow starts in games recently, and the Devils' game Thursday was another example of that.

New Jersey took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but easily could have had a larger lead had it not been for Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, who's been excellent this season. Crawford faced 13 shots in the opening period Thursday and kept the 'Hawks in the game, as he has all season long. The Blackhawks sit atop the NHL with 35 points (at the time of this posting), and Crawford is a major reason for that.

Crawford has a 2.27 goals-against average and .927 save percentage this season. He's pitched two shutouts and has faced 33 or more shots in his last four games. Scoring on Crawford has not been easy for opponents this season, but the Flyers do average 3.1 goals, third in the NHL.

4. Keep an eye on …
Flyers: Let's stick with Giroux. The 28-year-old snapped a nine-game goal drought Tuesday with power-play goal, and then added two more Thursday — one at 5-on-5 and one in the 3-on-3 overtime. Giroux's play at even strength has been scrutinized, but his point production remains potent. Giroux has a four-game point streak — three goals, two assists — and has 22 points in 25 games this season. He also got engaged Thursday in Ottawa.

Blackhawks: So many players to watch, but let's highlight the ageless Marian Hossa. The 37-year-old continues to be an effective player even as he grows older. Now in his 18th NHL season, Hossa leads Chicago with 12 goals, including the game-winner in overtime against New Jersey Thursday. Hossa tallied his 500th career goal against the Flyers back on Oct. 18, and has 15 goals in 48 career games against the orange and black. He still has it.

5. This and that
• Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews is out for Saturday's game because of an upper-body injury, per CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers. Toews hasn't played since Nov. 23.

• Mason, Saturday's projected starter, is 7-12-3 with a 3.42 GAA and .890 save percentage in 23 career games against the Blackhawks. After a disaster start to the season, Mason has a 2.22 GAA and .912 save percentage over his last nine games.

• Chicago has five players with seven or more goals, and five players with double-digit assists.

TicketIQ: Affordable seats available to see Sixers face marquee opponents

TicketIQ: Affordable seats available to see Sixers face marquee opponents

Editor's Note: The following is sponsored content written by TicketIQ.

The improvements have been obvious for the 76ers this season. Just months removed from a franchise-worst 10-72 record, the Sixers have begun to see return on their rebuild with rookie Joel Embiid leading the charge.
 
December will be a big month for the team as it looks to rise in the Eastern Conference. Attending an upcoming game won’t come attached with big ticket prices, either. With several marquee opponents headed to Wells Fargo Center over the next four weeks, including the Lakers, Celtics and Raptors, fans can find relatively inexpensive ticket prices on the resale market all month long.
 
On TicketIQ, a ticket search engine that pools tickets and data from over 90 percent of the resale market, the average resale price for 76ers tickets in December is just $58. That makes December among the cheapest months to see the Sixers this season.

 
With the Lakers in town for a December 16 game, it will be the only 76ers home game this month that commands an average resale price above $100. On TicketIQ, 76ers vs Lakers tickets own a $112 average and the most inexpensive are listed from $27 each. It will be the Lakers’ sole visit to Philadelphia this season.
 
The Celtics will be the Sixers’ second most expensive opponent this month, but their December 3 visit is currently averaging nearly half the price the Lakers are seeing when they’re in town two weeks later. As it stands now the average resale price for tickets against the Celtics is $69 with a get-in price of $13.
 
The Nets, Pelicans and Raptors are all generating similar demand for their respective stops in Philadelphia later this month. With all three teams visiting over a six-day period between December 14 and 20, no game will average over $55 on the secondary market. Tickets start from as low as $7 each to when Anthony Davis and the Pelicans come to town on the 20th.
 
For those fans with interest in attending the most inexpensive games at Wells Fargo Center this month, the struggling Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets will serve as the most affordable opponents to see in action in December. The Magic play the Sixers on Friday night, where last-minute 76ers vs. Magic tickets are averaging $43. Their next home game against the Nuggets have an average resale price of just $35.