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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Rolle said that he's been playing some first team WIL in the base
defense ahead of Moise Fokou.less
than a minute ago
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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]

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles-Vikings 5 things: Game much bigger than Sam Bradford's return

Eagles vs. Vikings
1 p.m. on FOX

Eagles +3

A familiar face comes to town on Sunday when the Eagles host the Vikings, the NFL's last unbeaten team at 5-0.

There's more to this matchup than a certain jilted quarterback returning to Lincoln Financial Field though. After an inspired 3-0 start, the Eagles have come out flat in two consecutive games, both losses. If this squad has any hope of getting back on track in Week 7, they can't afford to focus on the high-profile former teammate in purple sleeves.

Grinding it out
How good is the Vikings' defense? Even though they're ranked fourth in the league against the run and eighth in yards per carry allowed, they've faced the second-highest number of rushing attempts. Simply put, between a fierce pass-rush and ball-hawking secondary, offenses are afraid to put the ball in the air against this team.

Opponents have decided the best way to beat the Minnesota defense is by keeping the ball on the ground — shorten the game, try to create manageable third downs and play the field position game. Of course, the best way for the Eagles to beat Washington's 28th-ranked run defense last week, with a fifth-round rookie right tackle making his first career start mind you, also would've been to hand the ball off early and often, which wasn't exactly the game plan that we saw.

As good as Carson Wentz is, the Eagles probably aren't going to beat this team by airing the ball out. It may be inefficient and look ugly, but this time, head coach Doug Pederson needs to lean on the ground attack and take the pressure off of his first-year quarterback and tackle. Otherwise, a Vikings defense that ranks third in the NFL in sacks and fourth in interceptions can take this game over.

Self-inflicted wounds
Ticky-tack calls or not, you can't blame the judgment of the officials for all of the penalties the Eagles have taken the past two weeks. Last week in Washington, they drew 13 flags for 114 yards. The week before, it was 14 flags for 111 yards. Is it really any coincidence in two losses the Eagles have been penalized 27 times for 225 yards? Unlikely.

Were one or two or even a handful of those calls excessive? Have officials missed some potential calls that could have gone the other way? Yes and yes, as is always the case. When it's that many penalties for that many yards though, you can only place so much blame on the refs.

Simply put, the players need to clean up their acts. According to TeamRankings.com, the Eagles are committing the most penalties per game at 9.8. Only one other team is above 9.0. All excuses aside, the Eagles lack discipline right now, and it's hard to beat anybody when they are continuously shooting themselves in the foot, let alone the only undefeated squad in football.

No gimmes
There is no bigger indicator of winning and losing in the NFL than turnovers. So what happens when the two teams who cough the ball up the least are going head-to-head?

One thing the Eagles did correct in Washington was the little giveaway problem that cost them the game in Detroit. After losing their first fumble and throwing their first interception of the season in the final three minutes of their loss at Detroit, the offense went back to playing turnover-free football on Sunday, one of the positive things that could be said for the performance.

Yet the only team that's committed fewer turnovers than the Eagles is the Vikings, who have just one through five games. The ball security these clubs have displayed is remarkable bordering on unheard of. So what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object? The first one to blink, or in this case make a mistake, might just cost themselves the game in what could be a tightly contested tilt.

Just a pit stop
If it feels like the Eagles' 34-3 romp of the Steelers at the Linc was a long time ago, well, it has been almost a month. Since then, there's been a bye week followed by trips to Detroit and Washington, putting the last home game at exactly four weeks ago.

Don't get used to the feeling either. After their game against the Vikings on Sunday, the Eagles go back on the road for two contests against the division rival Cowboys and Giants.

What does it all mean? Besides a travel-heavy stretch, it suggests this sandwich game with the Vikings is an especially significant spot on the Eagles' schedule, particularly given the slow starts they've jumped out to as the visiting team of late. That can't be blamed entirely on going on the road of course, but it certainly hasn't helped. Vikings or not, the Eagles could use a positive showing on Sunday before they go away again.

The Bradford Bowl
You didn't really think we were going to completely gloss over Sam Bradford, did you? Not even mention his name?

It's interesting, because right now, the trade that sent Bradford to the Vikings and cleared the way for Wentz to start at quarterback for the Eagles looks like a win-win. Both head coaches agreed with that sentiment as well. Mike Zimmer says Bradford gave the Vikings an energy back after starter Teddy Bridgewater was lost for the season with an improbable injury, while despite coming back down to earth a bit the last two weeks, it's obvious the Eagles' future is bright with Wentz.

That being said, there are some additional bragging rights at stake for both signal-callers this week, whether they acknowledge it or not. If the Eagles win, it shows their gamble on Wentz being prepared to start right away was justified. If the Vikings win, pundits could argue the Eagles never should've traded Bradford in the first place.

These are only narratives of course, and the Eagles' investment in Wentz and the Vikings' desperation trade for Bradford are both left to be judged somewhere down the road, long after this game has been played. Nonetheless, the result on Sunday is sure to spark some interesting debate in the coming days.

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21

Penn State upsets No. 2 Ohio State, 24-21


STATE COLLEGE – As his team slogged through back-to-back 7-6 seasons in his first two years as Penn State’s head coach, Langhorne native James Franklin heard time and again that he was in need of a signature victory.

Now he has one, even if he refuses to admit it.

Junior cornerback Grant Haley returned a blocked field goal 60 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 4:27 left as the Nittany Lions stunned second-ranked Ohio State 24-21 on Saturday night.

“That’s for you (media) guys, all that signature stuff,” Franklin said.

Not exactly.

“It’s just a game that put Penn State back on the map,” Haley said. “We needed that signature win, and we did it tonight.”

The fans stormed the field after the Lions, 5-2 after their third straight victory this season, beat a ranked team for the first time since 2013 (Wisconsin). It was also PSU’s first victory over a team ranked in the top five since 1999 (Arizona) and its first over a team slotted as high as No. 2 since 1990 (Notre Dame).

Ohio State (7-1) saw winning streaks of 20 straight road games and 17 straight Big Ten road games come to an end, despite building a 21-7 lead through three quarters.

The Lions whisked 90 yards in five plays to cut the gap to seven with 13:32 left in the game, with quarterback Trace McSorley running two yards for the TD.

Freshman linebacker Cam Brown then blocked Cameron Johnston’s punt to set up a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Davis with 9:33 remaining, making it 21-17.

Ohio State mounted a drive behind J.T. Barrett, their splendid quarterback, moving from its own 13 to the PSU 28. Barrett’s 34-yard connection with wide receiver Noah Brown was the big play.

But the Buckeyes stalled, and Tyler Durbin came on to attempt a 45-yard field goal. Penn State safety Marcus Allen made a leaping block, however, and Haley scooped up the bouncing ball and beat Durbin and Johnston, the holder, down the left sideline for the go-ahead score.

Ohio State’s final drive of the night ended with a pair of Penn State sacks, the last a combined effort by defensive linemen Kevin Givens and Evan Schwan with 1:02 left.

When the final gun sounded, several Penn State players sprinted toward the south end zone and launched themselves into the front row of the stands, Lambeau Leap-style, among the delirious students. And thousands of fans, all clad in white for PSU’s traditional White Out, flooded the field.

“This is for everybody,” Franklin said later. “This community’s been through so much in the last five years (a reference to the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and its aftermath), and this is a big step in the right direction, in terms of healing. I said very, very early on that for us to get where we want to be, we need this entire community together, and a win like tonight – I know I’m biased – but I believe that football has the ability to bring a community together like nothing else.”

Moments later, he caught himself and said he “didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about the big picture.”

Rather, he added, “I just want to enjoy tonight.”