Filmroom Friday: How Reid Is Setting Vick Up to Fail

Filmroom Friday: How Reid Is Setting Vick Up to Fail

This isn't another story about play-calling balance, which has been rightly questioned, although perhaps blown out a bit out of proportion as well. The NFL is a passing league, so the Eagles do need to be able to throw the ball -- maybe not to the tune of 25 to five in the first half, but as Marty Mornhinweg explains, that number is probably skewed against Arizona. A two-minute drill, multiple long down and distances... they were in a number of situations that dictated pass.

That said, everybody would like to see a bit more Shady in the offense, but that isn't what really concerned me when I watched last week's coaches' film. In the first half, the Eagles were doing the same types of things in the passing game that weren't working two weeks ago in Cleveland: attacking the defense vertically, and giving Michael Vick few other options.

That includes running.

One of the things I've been hearing and reading a lot is the Eagles are not using Vick correctly. The premise goes that Andy Reid is trying to turn Vick into a pocket passer, thus taking away from what made him a star in the first place, his running ability.

I don't believe that's really the case at all. It's not that Reid doesn't want Vick to run, he simply doesn't want him to run as the first or second option, and for good reason. That didn't really work in Atlanta, and it's never really worked anywhere. But this idea they don't want him running is absurd, and debunked rather easily when you look at the amount of called runs and rollouts that get him out of the pocket -- almost run/pass options in Vick's case.

To some extent, the problem is the passing attack is not making it easy for him to run. Let's look at Vick's first fumble against Arizona. This is going to be a two-man route by the receivers at the top, with the quarterback rolling the pocket to their side.

Uh oh. Five guys are covering two, and wouldn't you know it, those receivers are not open! Guess Vick will have to take off running in the opposite direction. (A reader points out Celek was probably supposed to release into the flat here, and it appears he begins to do so right at the end. That likely would have drawn the LB inside the circle on the left to the sidelines, which it appears would have opened the WR curling back to the QB. Obviously, that doesn't happen.)

It looks like he has blockers, but this play is going nowhere fast since there were two linebackers on the right side whose only responsibility was peering into the backfield. Why were they essentially standing there, twiddling their thumbs? At least in part because there are no receivers running routes anywhere near them.

Clay Harbor is finally going to release as a safety valve here, but Vick's in trouble. He's going to pull it down rather than make the risky throw. Unfortunately, the pursuit from the backside is going to catch up to him, and the ball winds up on the carpet anyway.

I'm not sure I've seen a single one of these two-man routes work for the Eagles yet, and mostly I've noticed it working to their detriment. Remember D'Qwell Jackson in Week 1? He diagnosed the play, ran toward the only receiver in his time zone, and had himself a pick-six.

Let's look at another example similar to one that occurred in Cleveland, only this time it's not how many receivers, but where they are all at. Here we have the Eagles passing in a three-wide, two-back set. Stanley Havili is going to run a route, leaving McCoy to block.

McCoy basically whifs on his man, linebacker Daryl Washington. At this time, I'd like to point out McCoy is no Brian Westbrook in protection. He's willing and usually capable, but he's missed quite a few blocks already this year. Anyway, Vick is going to spin and avoid a sure sack, buying himself precious little time to get rid of the ball.

But what's this? The only guy within a country mile of Vick is Havili, who has a defender draped all over him. Everybody else is manned up 20 yards down the field with safeties over the top, and even if one of them was open, how is Vick going to set his feet and make a throw while a linebacker is hunting him down from behind? Meanwhile, look at all that open field in the short and intermediate ranges -- it's a shame nobody, not one guy, is running a route there.

No chance for Vick to take off, either. He's not going far to his left with that spy over there, and with bodies in front, he has to cut to get out of the backfield. That split second is enough time for Washington to chase Vick down from behind.

This type of play design is one out of probably a couple dozen similar examples from this season alone, and it's not just the fact that defenses aren't giving up the deepest part of the field, though that is part of the problem, too. Say there's a breakdown in protection -- and no matter how good or bad the offensive line is, there will be a breakdown on occasion -- what is the quarterback supposed to do when the token checkdown is covered, and everybody else still has their back turned to the line of scrimmage?

Vick is suffering from the lack of options. The coaches understandably want to leave guys at home to help block, but that's making it harder to find an open receiver. When they are sending multiple routes deep and the defense predictably takes that away, the play is shot. Nobody is just going to let Vick run wild, either.

In my opinion, the Eagles need greater variance in their route combinations, with receivers working every level of the field, and more of them, too. It makes Vick susceptible to pressure, especially via the blitz, but his decision making has to be allowed to sink or swim. Give him two or three targets at different levels in the same window, and let him get the ball out. If teams want to come after him, and the Eagles are utilizing every blade of grass, somebody is going to be open. If not, more defenders are going to be busy actually chasing somebody instead of standing around with their hands in their pockets -- which that could theoretically open up more space for Vick to scramble as well.

Whether Vick can execute that type of offense, who knows. The one thing that is certain is these all-or-nothing passing plays have not been the answer.

Snap counts: Dorial Green-Beckham's playing time continues to increase

Snap counts: Dorial Green-Beckham's playing time continues to increase

Wendell Smallwood played just seven snaps and had just three carries coming into Sunday's game against the Steelers. 

In his third game, the rookie fifth-rounder from West Virginia led the Eagles in snaps and rushing attempts. 

Smallwood carries 17 times on his 24 snaps — many as the Eagles worked to run out the clock. Smallwood rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown, impressing his teammates along the way (see story). It was the best rushing performance for an Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 

Smallwood and Sproles each had 24 snaps. Kenjon Barner had 12 and starter Ryan Mathews had just eight. After the game, head coach Doug Pederson said Mathews was being evaluated. The running back had an ankle injury not long ago. 

As far as the rest of the offense, the entire starting line and Carson Wentz played all 65 offensive snaps. 

Jordan Matthews led the way for the wide receivers with 55 snaps. Dorial Green-Beckham continues to be more involved, going from 32 percent to 46 percent to 49 percent of offensive snaps on Sunday. He appears to be ahead of Josh Huff in many cases. 

The poor Eagles defense had to play 60 snaps on Sunday after two straight weeks with 52. Last year, the Eagles' defense averaged over 74 snaps per game. 

The Eagles have held the ball for 34-plus minutes in three consecutive games for the first time since 2008. 

What really stands out on the defensive snap counts is that Mychal Kendricks had just nine snaps on Sunday. Kendricks, who came into the game with a broken nose and a quad injury, is still a starter but has been demoted. He's no longer in the team's nickel package. 

Another interesting note is that while Vinny Curry began the spring practices as a starter, he was overtaken by Brandon Graham. Now Graham is playing so well it's hard to take him off the field. Connor Barwin led the defensive ends with 47 snaps on Sunday, followed by Graham's 42. Curry had just 26. Curry got a big contract in the offseason, but is clearly the third D-end. 

Through three games, here are the snap counts for the Eagles' top three defensive ends: 

Barwin — 124

Graham — 115

Curry — 74

Meanwhile, Destiny Vaeao picked up 19 snaps as he continues to show he's a solid depth piece. And Stephen Tulloch got 11 as Jim Schwartz continues a little rotation at linebacker. 

Here are full snap counts from Sunday's game: 

Offense

Allen Barbre: 65 snaps (100 percent)

Brandon Brooks: 65 (100)

Lane Johnson: 65 (100)

Jason Peters: 65 (100)

Jason Kelce: 65 (100)

Carson Wentz: 65 (100)

Jordan Matthews: 55 (85)

Nelson Agholor: 52 (80)

Brent Celek: 45 (80)

Trey Burton: 33 (51)

Dorial Green-Beckham: 32 (49)

Josh Huff: 26 (40)

Wendell Smallwood: 24 (37)

Darren Sproles: 24 (37)

Matt Tobin: 12 (18)

Kenjon Barner: 12 (18)

Ryan Mathews: 8 (12)

Beau Allen: 1 (2)

Stefen Wisniewski: 1 (2)

Defense

Malcolm Jenkins: 60 snaps (100 percent)

Rodney McLeod: 60 (100)

Nolan Carroll: 60 (100)

Ron Brooks: 58 (97)

Nigel Bradham: 56 (93)

Jalen Mills: 53 (88)

Jordan Hicks: 49 (82)

Connor Barwin: 47 (78)

Brandon Graham: 42 (70)

Fletcher Cox: 41 (68)

Bennie Logan: 29 (48)

Vinny Curry: 26 (43)

Destiny Vaeao: 19 (32)

Beau Allen: 17 (28)

Marcus Smith: 13 (22)

Stephen Tulloch: 11 (18)

Mychal Kendricks: 9 (15)

Steven Means: 6 (10)

Jaylen Watkins: 3 (5)

Najee Goode: 1 (2)

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

Cuban ballplayers mourn loss of Jose Fernandez

CHICAGO — Chicago Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler played with Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez when the two were growing up in Cuba. They traveled together to Venezuela for a youth tournament.

Soler said Fernandez's ability was obvious, right from the start.

"Since he was a child, since we were kids, I knew he had something," Soler said through a translator. "He had a talent. It was very impressive."

Fernandez's death in a boating accident at the age of 24 cast a dark shadow over the major leagues on Sunday. Miami's home game against Atlanta was canceled, and several ballparks observed moments of silence. Wrigley Field's iconic hand-operated scoreboard displayed Fernandez's No. 16 in its pitching column next to Miami.

But the loss of Fernandez was felt most acutely in baseball's growing Cuban community.

"He was one of those guys that everybody loved," St. Louis Cardinals catcher Brayan Pena said. "He was one of those guys that everybody knew exactly what he meant to our community. For us, it's a big, big loss. It's one of those things where our thoughts and prayers are obviously with his family, the Marlins' organization and the fans. But it gets a little bit closer because he was part of our Cuban family."

There were 23 Cubans on opening-day major league rosters this year, an increase of five over last season and the most since the commissioner's office began releasing data in 1995. Many of the players share similar stories when it comes to their perilous journey from the communist country to the majors, and the difficulty of adjusting to life in the United States.

A native of Santa Clara, Cuba, Fernandez was unsuccessful in his first three attempts to defect, and spent several months in prison. At 15, Fernandez and his mother finally made it to Mexico, and were reunited in Florida with his father, who had escaped from Cuba two years earlier.

He was drafted by the Marlins in 2011, and quickly turned into one of the majors' top pitchers.

"How he was on the mound was a reflection of him," Oakland first baseman Yonder Alonso said. "A guy who had a lot of fun, was himself. A very talkative guy, he would come into the room and you'd know he was in the room. Never big-leagued anyone, very professional. No matter what, he would talk to you about hitting, because he thought he was the best hitter, and he (would) talk to you about pitching, because he thought he was the best pitcher."

Alonso said Fernandez's death was "a big-time shock." Yasiel Puig used torn pieces of white athletic tape to display Fernandez's jersey on the wall in the home dugout at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, who had known Fernandez since they were little kids, declined an interview request through a team spokeswoman.

"We Cuban players know each other well and all of us have a great relationship," Pena said. "For us, it's devastating news when we woke up. We were sending text messages to each other and we were showing support. It's something that obviously nobody expects."

Fernandez, who became a U.S. citizen last year, also was beloved for his stature in the Cuban community in Miami.

"He was a great humanitarian," Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman said through a translator. "He gave a lot to the community and I think that's why he got a lot of respect from the community in terms of what a great person he was and always giving, in terms of always willing to help out in whatever way he can to try to better and progress within the community someone that perhaps wasn't as fortunate as he was."

The 28-year-old Chapman lives in the Miami-area in the offseason. He said he spent some time with Fernandez while he was home.

"He would come by my house. I would go by his," Chapman said. "We would have long conversations. We would talk a lot. We spent a lot of good amount of time together. It was very special for me."