Mike Vick Wasn’t That Bad in Jacksonville, and Other Offensive Observations

Mike Vick Wasn’t That Bad in Jacksonville, and Other Offensive Observations

On the surface, Michael Vick’s first game as the newly reinstated starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles seemed like a mess. He didn’t demonstrate flawless precision like the two games prior. He seemed to be holding on to the ball too long in general. He made some horrendous decisions with the football.

Some of that is on Mike, some it not. If you want to understand why the Eagles only managed to score 16 points during the eight possessions Vick was under center, you need not look at any one individual. The mistakes were everywhere, not just with the signal caller. Take a look at these brief drive summaries:

  • Series 1: Lane Johnson gets too deep in his backpedal and winds up beat to the inside. Vick tries to escape, but can’t this time, putting the Birds in 2nd and 16. Punt
  • Series 2: Vick finds Brent Celek to convert on 3rd and 8, but a holding penalty on Evan Mathis brings it back. Punt
  • Series 3: Vick overthrew Celek on a would-be touchdown, then on the next play a missed assignment drops Philly in a 3rd and 15. Field goal
  • Series 4: Touchdown
  • Series 5: Todd Herremans gets beat, and Vick winds up with almost immediate pressure in his face. He should just eat the sack, but instead tries to throw the ball away off of his back foot resulting in an easy interception. Turnover
  • Series 6: Jason Kelce’s snap wasn’t the best, and Vick couldn’t handle it. They lose the down and five yards, another 3rd and 15. Field goal
  • Series 7: Vick winds up throwing the ball away on all three downs, the third time under almost instant pressure again. Without an all-22 look, we don’t know what was going on downfield. Field goal
  • Series 8: Bryce Brown fumbles at the two-yard line, and the ball goes out of the end zone for a touchback going the other way. Turnover

Even on Vick’s two biggest mistakes – the interception and fumbled snap – the fault rests at least partially on his offensive linemen. Protection was an issue starting from the opening gun for that matter, which did appear to rattle No. 7 a bit at times, perhaps causing a pass or two to sail. Who can blame him?

Vick was largely fine. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 184 yards (a solid 8.0 average per attempt), with one touchdown and one pick – not much wrong with that line. He ran an additional seven times for 53 yards, avoiding a bunch of sacks in the process, or just taking whatever the defense was giving him. He even hit the deck or ran out of bounds on most of his runs.

Actually, the worst play off all wasn’t an interception or a fumbled snap, it wasn’t a sack or an inaccurate pass. It was this pass attempt as Vick was being hauled to the turf, as captured by Jimmy Kempski.

Vick is literally parallel to the ground as he releases, causing the ball to sail straight up in the air, landing near the sideline but still in bounds where luckily when no one was around. The only thing that kept this from being intentional grounding much less picked off is Vick had already been whistled down.

To be honest, this is the most baffling decision I’ve seen a quarterback make all summer, and unfortunately it’s not the first time we’ve seen Vick attempt this ridiculous crap. But it doesn’t mean he had a bad game overall. As Chip Kelly worded it, the 11-year veteran still needs to learn when to live to fight another day.

Question remains whether Vick can or not.

RISING/FALLING

Jason Peters

He was the only member of the offensive line who didn’t get beat or miss an assignment at all really, and he hasn’t played football in close to two years. Very reassuring performance from perhaps the true most valuable player of the Eagles.

Brent Celek

Didn’t drop anything for a change. Finished with four reception for 74 yards. Also had a big third-down conversion called back on an offensive holding. Beat his man for a would-be touchdown, but Vick led him too far. Celek should still be a big part of the offense this season, folks.

Todd Herremans

Improved last week after a tough first game, but had problems here. Was getting plain beat/overpowered one-on-one quite a bit. Was also part of some of the confusion along the offensive line, particularly that interior. Looks like the line’s weak link so far.

DeSean Jackson

Three receptions, 48 yards. Nothing spectacular in this one, but continues to be effective in the intermediate passing game which is a great sign. Seems like he can get open at will. Screened the corner on one of Vick’s long runs. He could be in for a big rebound campaign.

Nick Foles

The 99-yard drive he led in the fourth quarter was all the more impressive by the fact that of the 14 plays there was only one third down. Biggest strength is he gets rid of the ball quickly. Lot of dinks and dunks, but he lets the offense come to him, a mark of efficiency.

MIXED REVIEWS

Jason Kelce

Has generally looked good this summer. Stands his ground at the point of attack. Generally knows his assignment, although there was some confusion on one or two plays in Jacksonville. Biggest issue has been snapping the ball, as both quarterbacks have had issues whether in games or practice. Can’t run a shotgun-based offense with a guy who’s good for a couple of shoddy snaps per game, so let’s hope Kelce gets it fixed.

Damaris Johnson

Flipped field position twice with big returns, one kick, one punt. Those are game changers, and we’ve seen it before. Did get tackled well short of the 20 on one kickoff, but his own man ran into him. Fumbled during a punt return though which is inexcusable. Finished game three with two catches for 24, leaving him at seven for 53 yards in the preseason – nothing to write home about. Should be a fine returner as long as he protects the football.

Bryce Brown

Speaking of protecting the football, looks like we’re still at square one with the second-year back. Racked up 92 yards on 11 carries like it was a joke, yet managed to put the ball on the carpet on his longest gallop of the night, a 23-yarder that was a step or two away from being six points. Brown does not keep the ball high and tight to his body, period. It’s an issue that will keep him off the field if Chris Polk continues to be reliable.

QUICK CUTS

Eagles have to get down to 75 men by Tuesday, so these people are gone.

TE Derek Carrier - Had a chance to make the roster as long as the Eagles are carrying four tight ends, but Clay Harbor played well and demonstrated enough versatility to fend Carrier off.

WR Nick Miller - Was actually cut earlier then brought back after Jeremy Maclin went down. Had five catches for 50 yards in garbage time, but his future was clear.

OT Nic Purcell - The big Aussie didn’t see too much game action, didn’t impress with the limited reps he got. Lot of competition on that line, Purcell was probably too raw to compete.

TE Will Shaw - Seemed like the coaching staff preferred Carrier over Shaw, so no surprise here.

LS James Winchester - Signed after Jon Dorenbos sustained a concussion in the first game. For emergencies only.

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

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End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

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Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue on. Or at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday with John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4 but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P

Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

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Claude Giroux, Shayne Gostisbehere excited to represent Canada, North America in World Cup

Flyers captain Claude Giroux has a word of advice for rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere when the two meet each other as opponents in this fall's World Cup of Hockey.

"The last few weeks, I told him to keep his head up," Giroux said Friday night on a conference call after both players were added to World Cup rosters.

"I'm pretty excited to go on the forecheck against him. It's pretty impressive what this kid has been able to do this year. To see it right beside him, he's got so much potential.
 
"To be on this team will only help him be better."
 
Giroux was named to Team Canada's roster, while Gostisbehere, the NHL's top rookie defenseman, was penciled in on Team North America (see story).

You may recall Giroux was overlooked by Team Canada for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
 
"That was a little disappointing," Giroux said. "Any time you have a chance to represent your country and go play for them, you hope to get the call. I was a little disappointed for that. To be able to be on this team, I'm excited and I"m ready for the challenge."

Team North America is a unique blend of age 23-and-under players who will compete in the eight-team tournament starting in mid-September.

Whether the veteran athletes competing for other countries take this young stars contingent seriously on the international stage is subject to debate.

"I hope some teams would take us seriously," Gostisbehere said, "because I think we're pretty darn good. It's a different dynamic.
  
“You don’t have the veteran presence per say, but some of the guys on the team have been playing in the NHL for three years already. It’s definitely going to be a fun experience.”
 
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare was also named to the tournament, playing for Team Europe.
 
“I am really surprised and excited,” Bellemare said in a statement. “I am happy that the way I played with the Flyers has helped me get a chance to play in the World Cup for Team Europe. I think this is going to be a celebration of hockey and it is surreal that I get to be in the middle of it.”
 
Both Giroux and Gostisbehere have been rehabbing at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, since their hip and abdominal surgeries on May 17.

Bellemare will go into the tournament fully healthy, while Giroux and Gostisbehere will not. Giroux had reservations about undergoing surgery if it meant his exclusion from the tournament, sources said.
 
“The surgery was a little question mark,” Giroux said. “Maybe not so much for me, but for them. I don’t know what they were thinking. The rehab has gone very well right now. There’s no issue as to why I wouldn’t be ready for that tournament.”
 
Gostisbehere is no stranger to serious rehab from surgery. He missed nearly all of the 2014-15 season as a Phantom with a torn ACL in his left knee.
 
“It’s the same sort of rehab I did with my knee,” Gostisbehere said of his current rehab.  “We’re going to keep going down the line knowing something is at the end of the line for us. We gotta really focus.”
 
The 23-year-old Gostisbehere, who is a finalist for the Calder Trophy, which will be announced in late June, said he was humbled by the selection.
 
“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “The whole format of the tournament is pretty cool to see. … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
 
The Flyers have eight players competing. Chicago has an NHL-high of 12.