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.

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

Best of NFL: Redskins notch 1st win vs. Giants; Cowboys rout Bears

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.  -- Dustin Hopkins kicked a 37-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter for his fifth of the game and the Washington Redskins avoid a near-disastrous 0-3 start with a 29-27 win over the penalty- and error-prone New York Giants on Sunday.

Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes of 44 yards to DeSean Jackson and 55 to Jamison Crowder as the banged-up Redskins (1-2) handed new coach Ben McAdoo his first loss with the Giants (2-1).

Su'a Cravens ended the Giants' final drive with an interception in New York territory. It was Eli Manning's second pick of the quarter, with the other coming in the end zone by Quinton Dunbar after New York got to the Redskins 15 on a big play by Odell Beckham Jr.

This was a wild NFC East matchup that see-sawed the entire second half after Washington rallied from a 21-9 deficit (see full recap).

Prescott, Cowboys rout Bears on SNF
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without injured quarterback Tony Romo over three seasons before the rookie fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia rookie Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals in NFL history.

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox (see full recap).

Vikings stop Newton, snap Panthers' home win streak
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- The Minnesota Vikings keep finding ways to overcome injuries --and keep finding ways to win football games.

Sam Bradford threw a touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph, Marcus Sherels returned a punt for a score and the Vikings snapped the Carolina Panthers' 14-game home winning streak 22-10 on Sunday.

The Vikings put the clamps on Cam Newton, intercepting the league's reigning MVP three times and getting eight sacks, one of those resulting in a safety by Danielle Hunter. The eight sacks were the second-most ever against Newton.

"We have a great team -- the best team I have been a part of," said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen, who had three sacks. "We come from every area on the field and we get sacks."

Said Newton: "They were dictating to us after they got the momentum."

The Vikings improved 3-0 despite losing running back Adrian Peterson and offensive tackle Matt Kalil to injuries last week. They lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the preseason (see full recap).

Bills bounce back with win over Cardinals
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- LeSean McCoy scored twice and safety Aaron Williams returned a botched field-goal snap 53 yards for a touchdown in leading the Buffalo Bills to a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor also scored on a 20-yard run at a time the Rex Ryan-coached Bills spent the past week taking the brunt of criticism after opening the season 0-2.

The win also came on the heels of Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with running backs coach Anthony Lynn.

McCoy scored on 24- and 5-yard runs, and finished with 110 yards rushing after combining for just 117 in his first two games. Taylor had 76 yards rushing, including a 49-yarder, the longest by a quarterback in team history (see full recap).

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Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

Doug Pederson: For the Eagles, 'this was a good benchmark'

On his way to the locker room following his team's stunning 34-3 victory over the Steelers, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson reacted, well, like you probably did.

Pederson had to be surprised by what had just transpired. After all, this wasn't the Browns or the Bears. This was the Steelers, who entered the game with the second-best odds behind New England, per Bovada, of winning the Super Bowl (the Patriots were first). 

And the Eagles didn't just beat them. They clobbered them.

But minutes later, when Pederson met the media for his postgame press conference, he tried his best to act like it was no big thing.

“I told the team way back in OTAs that it just takes a little bit of belief," Pederson said. "Belief in themselves. Trust the process. Believe in the coaches and the coaches believe in one another. That’s what they did tonight. 

"Am I surprised? A little. But at the same time, I know that locker room, I know those guys and I know what they are building. By no means have we accomplished anything yet. The season is still extremely young. But what they did tonight just proves that they are coming together as a football team.”

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, Doug. It's OK to be surprised. Scratch that. Make that stunned. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. But now? Forget that. 

At least for the next two weeks. The Eagles are on their bye week and don't play again until Oct. 9 at Detroit. 

“It is still a young season, only three games. This was a good benchmark," Pederson said. "That’s a good football team, the Steelers are a great football team. They are going to be there at the end, they always are. Coach (Mike) Tomlin always has those guys ready to play. 

"But for our guys, it is just a little glimpse of that belief that I have been saying since the spring and summer. If they just do their jobs, I just feel that good things can happen. We just protect each other in that dressing room in there and keep coming to work everyday.”

Pederson is the only head coach in team history to win each of his first three games. It's only the ninth time the Eagles have started 3-0.

And of course, a big reason they've done so is their prodigy quarterback Carson Wentz, who became only the second rookie in team history to record a 300-yard passing game (Nick Foles is the other).

More impressively, Wentz now has attempted 102 straight passes without an interception, the longest streak ever begin an NFL career (per ESPN). Dallas'  Dak Prescott is at 99 after the Cowboys beat up the Bears.

But don't ask Pederson to admit he's amazed by Wentz or the fact he had the presence of mind to make plays like the riveting 73-yard TD pass to Darren Sproles (much more on that here).

“You know, you just put on his college film. Just watch him," Pederson said. "We exhausted his college tape and those were the plays that he made at North Dakota State. That play tonight was just a tremendous play by both he and Darren Sproles. Those are the types of things that we know he can do. He just keeps gaining confidence every single week.”

As does the defense, which kept one of the league's most potent offenses out of the end zone

"They just weren’t going to be denied," Pederson said. "They just weren’t going to bow their necks. They weren’t going to let them in the endzone. It just came down to our will versus theirs and I was just so happy with the way the guys played. Just a great team effort.”