Top to Bottom, Eagles' Offense Is Offensive in Victory

Top to Bottom, Eagles' Offense Is Offensive in Victory

Michael Vick chucked four interceptions on Sunday, but spent a good portion of the afternoon running for his life. LeSean McCoy lost a fumble, although 54 yards from scrimmage were called back on penalties. Jeremy Maclin piled up 96 yards receiving and a touchdown, yet he too drew the hanky and later dropped the potential game winner. The offensive line struggled to keep an aggressive Browns pass rush out of the backfield, and still Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg opted for a run-pass ratio close to 3:1.

No one individual can shoulder all of the blame for the pitiful offensive effort that hangs over the Eagles' 17-16 win over Cleveland. Almost every player in the huddle had a hand in this stinker, with the coaching staff sharing plenty of responsibility in what became a proverbial perfect storm. The complete lack of play-calling balance, inability to consistently keep the quarterback clean, and constant shooting themselves in the foot very nearly, perhaps should have cost Philadelphia a game on Sunday.

The worst part is, there were few signs of it turning around any time soon, especially with the defensive-minded Baltimore Ravens opening the Linc next week.

The problems began up front for the Eagles, as they often will. On the heels of a strong training camp to earn the job over free agent acquisition Demetress Bell, King Dunlap looked lost at left tackle. A measurable drop-off from Jason Peters was anticipated, but not only did Dunlap fail to assert himself in the running game (the second level is a mystery to this guy), his pass blocking was suspect as well while working across from journeyman defensive end Frostee Rucker for much of the day.

While Dunlap certainly didn't do a thing to win over skeptics, the returning linemen weren't a whole heckuva lot better. Pass protection was generally poor, particularly in the first half, and literally the only guy whose name was not called for at least one holding penalty was Todd Herremans. The unit improved as the game wore on, but it's tough to suggest with any confidence that we've seen the last of these problems.

Naturally the instability in front of Vick contributed to a subpar outing under center. No. 7 was sharp in fleeting moments, completing 29 of 56 passes for 317 yards and two scores, including the game winner with 1:18 remaining. He also made plays with his feet when he had to, buying precious seconds and scrambling four times for 28 yards. Those numbers along with the majority of his big plays were overshadowed by the four picks though, one of which was returned for the six points that handed the Browns a fourth-quarter lead in the first place.

That interception, and another that preceded it, had absolutely nothing to do with the pass rush. Vick twice had a comfortable pocket, made a bad read, and proceeded to throw right into coverage. Can't put those on anybody but the quarterback. It's hard to give him a pass for the pair he coughed up on the run, either -- once slinging across his body, another side-armed out of the intended target's reach. What's more, the Browns left others on the field, including just one play prior to Harbor's clutch grab.

Vick's seeming regression was more difficult to comprehend given that Cleveland was able to create much of the confusion by employing some of the same old tricks that have proven to rattle the erratic passer in the past. The Browns brought additional pressure by blitzing, often from a familiar area too -- the secondary. The hope was with his first full offseason as the starter in Reid's system, Vick might learn to cope when the defense sends extra rushers, but it still appeared to be a blind spot on Sunday.

Some of Vick's issues quite honestly may stem from missing so much action during the preseason. He participated in all of 12 snaps thanks to injuries, so there was concern in advance of kickoff that he might not be ready to hit the ground running. Afterwards Reid admitted Vick was probably rusty, and he eventually led the team on 16-play, 91-yard march to victory, so as a fan you can only hope everything else about his performance blows over.

As awful as both Vick and the offensive line were for stretches, the game plan was easily most confusing of all. The Eagles called 60 passes compared to 23 runs (minus three kneel downs) against a defense that ranked second versus the pass compared to 30th versus the run in 2011.

The previous season's trends aside, the flow of the action dictated an adjustment, yet it only happened once the Eagles lost the lead late. When they went into the locker room for halftime, Philly was ahead 10-3, with McCoy carrying seven times for 50 yards. After Cleveland pulled within four following a pick Vick during the third quarter, the offense went three consecutive series without calling a designed run, resulting in two consecutive three-and-outs and the pick six. Suddenly trailing 16-10, McCoy was reinstated into the offense, finishing with 20 carries for 110 yards.

It could be that Reid and Mornhinweg lost faith in the running game as big gain after big gain was trailed by yellow flags, but that wasn't the official explanation. The head coach said they believed they could exploit their opponent through the air. Even if that were the case, his reasoning flies in the face of the fact that Birds' offense lacked the ability to execute a crisp passing attack on this occasion, when at least they were experiencing some success on the ground.

Not to mention the Browns could barely move the ball themselves. Cleveland's offense managed 210 yards of total offense, 12 first downs, no TDs. They couldn't find paydirt from their best starting field position of the day, at the Philadelphia 22. Not so sure there was any need to "exploit" their defense as much as there was an incentive not to turn the ball over and give the opponent extra chances.

On a positive note, play-calling balance is something that likely corrects itself. While the Eagles under Reid have been known to be pass heavy to their detriment, and will rear its ugly head from time to time, it's a problem that's become less prominent in recent years.

The state of the offensive line and Vick's progression as a pocket passer on the other hand are things that won't change merely on a whim -- bad news with the NFL's third-ranked defense from a year ago heading to town. Maybe Vick and the men charged with keeping him upright can turn it around before then, but based on what we saw in Cleveland, there are not many reasons to feel positive about that great of a transformation taking place over the course of week.

Source: Former Eagles safety Walter Thurmond retires at 28

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Source: Former Eagles safety Walter Thurmond retires at 28

Defensive back Walter Thurmond, who had a productive year with the Eagles in 2015 in his first season as a safety, is retiring at 28, a source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com's Dave Zangaro.

The news of Thurmond's retirement was initially reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Thurmond was finally able to stay healthy in 2015. He played 16 games for the first time in his career, finishing with 71 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and two forced fumbles. Thurmond and Malcolm Jenkins formed one of the NFL's better safety duos, but the Eagles upgraded the position even more by signing Rodney McLeod to a five-year deal.

Thurmond battled injuries throughout his six-year NFL career, missing 44 of 80 games over his first five seasons. A broken fibula cost him most of the 2011 season, he missed significant time in 2012 with a hamstring injury, and a torn pectoral limited him to two games in 2014.

LSU PG Tim Quarterman on Ben Simmons: 'He's a great teammate'

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LSU PG Tim Quarterman on Ben Simmons: 'He's a great teammate'

By now, Tim Quarterman is used to being asked about Ben Simmons.

The former LSU point guard declared for the NBA draft following his junior season and enter the same draft in which Simmons, the freshman phenom, is projected to be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick.

As Quarterman goes through his own pre-draft process, it's inevitable he'll have to field questions about his former teammate he calls “his little brother” along the way.

“He’s a great passer, he can handle the ball and he’s always there to cheer you on,” Quarterman said Monday following a workout with the Sixers on Monday. “He likes for other people to accomplish great accomplishments. He’s a great teammate.”

Simmons came under criticism during his freshman year for “quitting” on the Tigers. The team went 19-14 and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. They also chose not to participate in any other postseason tournaments. Even though Simmons averaged a team-high 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game, there was question over his effort.

Quarterman said that wasn’t the case.

"Ben is a great person, a great player and he's a great competitor, so I don't think throughout the season he ever quit on us," Quarterman said. “I think he continued to play hard. I think us losing frustrated a lot of  us as competitors because we always wanted to win.”

The Sixers have an edge evaluating Simmons. While he grew up thousands of miles from Philadelphia in Australia, it just so happens Brett Brown coached Simmons' father David during his extensive coaching career in Australia. Not only does Brown know Simmons’ family, he still is closely connected to those involved in his basketball career.

“I know the people that have worked with him all across the board,” Brown said. “That’s just one of the benefits of living in the country and 20 minutes from where he grew up for 17 years, short of my Sydney days where it makes it 12 years.”

Of course Quarterman didn't work out with the Sixers just to speak on Simmons. He is also fighting for a place in the NBA as well.

"Tim did a very good job creating for others," Brandon Williams, Sixers vice president of basketball administration, said. "What I'm impressed by is he's such a nuisance defensively, his length and athleticism. Then he showed his ability to create off the bounce."

Jordan Matthews Q&A: Doug vs. Chip; playing outside; Carson Wentz's savvy

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Jordan Matthews Q&A: Doug vs. Chip; playing outside; Carson Wentz's savvy

Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews stopped by the Quick Slants set last week and addressed a number of topics with hosts Derrick Gunn and Reuben Frank.

Matthews, entering his third NFL season, has 152 receptions for 1,869 yards and 16 touchdowns in his first two seasons.

That’s the 10th-most catches, 34th-most yards and 15th-most touchdowns in NFL history by a player in his first two seasons.

Now, he has a new receivers coach, a new offensive coordinator, a new head coach and at some point soon a new quarterback.

Matthews spoke about all of the changes the Eagles have made, his disappointment in his early-season drops last year, his expectations for this year and much more during his visit to the Comcast SportsNet studios.

Here are some highlights from that interview:

Quick Slants: What’s it been like these first few months under new head coach Doug Pederson?

Jordan Matthews: “The family atmosphere has definitely been there. Having a coach that’s played here, he understands what it’s like to be in these shoes, play in the city of Philadelphia and have these high expectations. He’s put us in a great environment these first few weeks.”

QS: What’s been your initial reaction to Doug’s offense and how you’ll be used?

Matthews: “It’s definitely very versatile. We have a lot of situations where guys get to move around a lot more in the previous offense I played in, so that’s something that a lot of us have been excited about. Me in particular, I’m really excited to have the opportunity to go outside as much as inside, so now teams won’t be able to game plan for me in just one area. It’s been great learning it. The verbiage is definitely different. It’s not one word or signs or anything like that. We’re going in the huddle and I mean Sam’s spitting out the whole encyclopedia. But guys are getting it down, guys are learning. We’re having fun with it.”

QS: How tough was it to work through the drops early in the 2015 season?

Matthews: “It’s always frustrating because sometimes you think that, OK, just because you’re putting in all these hours that the immediate results are going to come right then, but that’s the thing about work: It’s not just going in and putting in the hours, but you also have to have faith in what you’re actually doing. Sometimes you’re not going to see those immediate results, sometimes you just have to take time and you just have to be patient with it. But I just know the expectations that I have on myself ... outside expectations I know they’re always big here, but I’m always going to be my hardest critic. So whatever people thought I might have been going through, trust me, I was beating myself up more about it than anybody was. I knew that I wasn’t playing up to my expectations but at the same time I knew I had to get through it, so I was glad I was able to finish the season the way I did but also know that type of play isn’t acceptable for me or for my teammates. That’s why going into these OTAs, I’ve been really big on the details for me and the rest of my receiving group. Getting on the JUGS machine, putting in extra time in the film room, making sure that we know everything we have to do on the field. So now that we know all the X's and O's, all we can focus on then is going out there and making plays and playing fast.”

QS: Can you compare Doug Pederson and Chip Kelly?

Matthews: “It’s crazy. Growing up in Alabama, you’re around a bunch of the country, family guys and that’s definitely Doug. But I also spent some time at Vanderbilt with the smart guys and that’s Chip, so I’ve basically had a Doug Pederson and a Chip Kelly in my lifetime just from my years of playing football. I know people like to compare and do all that kind of stuff, but it’s apples and oranges. Chip, when I was playing for him, he was a new head coach, and now it’s the same way with Doug and he’s going to do some things different than maybe what people (have) seen in the past. But I’ve had great experiences with both of them. I feel like I’m extremely lucky I’ve had the opportunity to work with both these guys.

QS: You’re as close to Sam Bradford as anybody on the team. What do you think of the way he handled the offseason?

Matthews: “Sometimes those situations can be blown up a little bit, especially when it’s the quarterback position because that is looked at as the leader on the field, so Sam understands that responsibility, and Sam understands that when it’s time to ball you’ve got to come out there and you’ve got to be the leader. He took his time that he needed, but at the same time he knew it was time to get back and get to work. Obviously, nobody is going to be thrilled when somebody gets drafted at their position, especially at the No. 2 pick. But it is a business, it is a lot more than just guys going out there and throwing the football around, it is about competition. And I think that’s the best thing that’s going to come out of this: It’s going to really fuel competition. Between Sam, Chase (Daniel) and Carson (Wentz) going out there and taking reps, it’s a good ball coming out there every single time. So if you come to our practices, you’ll see me running with the 1’s, the 2’s and the 3’s and I feel like that’s the best thing about it. Because that competition is really what’s going to help us push forward. Now guys can’t get complacent. You can’t think, ‘Oh, OK, I’ve made it, I’ve arrived.’ No. Every position, we’re bringing in guys that are going to go and compete for your spot. I’m loving it. From quarterback all the way down to long snapper.”

QS: Doug has said all along that Sam is the quarterback going into the season, but offensive coordinator Frank Reich said on WIP that there is open competition everywhere, including the quarterback position. It seems like the coach and offensive coordinator are sending out different messages.

Matthews: “There are different philosophies always going to come from different people. Obviously, Coach Pederson’s the head coach and he’s the captain of the ship, so we’ve got to go with him. I like coach Frank’s attitude, everybody’s got to go out and compete. It’s extremely early, so if anything, I side with both of then. Yes, it’s Sam Bradford’s team. He has to come out and he has to be the leader that we need. He has to run the offense, and we’re all looking at him to make sure he’s the quarterback who can take us where we want to go. But at the same time, you’ve got to come in every single day that somebody’s coming for your spot and you’ve got to go work for it.”

QS: What are your early impressions of Carson Wentz?

Matthews: “When I had my first time watching film with him, the type of shots he was talking about making ... he was like, ‘Hey, if this cornerback turns his head, I might try to throw this one deep,’ and I’m like, ‘Bro, I do not think that’s where the ball’s supposed to be going.’ But ... at the same time, I like it, because you can tell he plays the edge. You can tell he has that chip. You can tell he’s a guy who wants to take risks. I think one of the biggest attributes a quarterback can have that people overlook is savvy. The great ones, the Aaron Rodgerses of the world, the Tom Bradys, the Peyton Mannings, the Brett Favres, those legends, they’re great with the X’s and O’s but they have savvy. They’re not always going to go by the book. Sometimes, they’re just going to go make a play. Sometimes they’re going to say, ‘Hey, you’re my man right here, I’m coming to you, get open, I’m going to find you on the deep ball. And the way Carson was speaking, you can tell he wants to grow into that person and be that kind of quarterback. And then also he’s just a fun guy to be around. He and I were running routes just me and him one afternoon and then he was like, ‘Hey, I want to get some conditioning in.’ And Carson wanted to run routes. He was calling plays, he’s running corners and posts and I’m throwing to him. Everybody sees that serious side to him but he just loves the game. He wants to just be out there on the field, he wants to get to know guys, he also wants to take risks and I feel like he’s going to be really big for us going into the future.”