O-line gave Vick time but can still improve

O-line gave Vick time but can still improve

September 11, 2013, 2:00 pm
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According to Pro Football Focus, Michael Vick was afforded more time on dropbacks in Week 1 than any NFL quarterback. (USA Today Images)

He had time to throw. A lot of it. More than anyone could have expected. Certainly more time than any Eagles quarterback had during almost any game last season.

When Michael Vick dropped back to pass –- as he did 25 times -- against the Washington Redskins in the season opener on Monday night, he received one of the NFL’s most precious and elusive gifts: time. According to Pro Football Focus, Vick had, on average, 3.33 seconds to throw the ball. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, it is. It’s a ton, actually –- the biggest cushion afforded any quarterback in the league in Week 1. By comparison, Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton had just 2.04 seconds to throw the ball per attempt. That was the worst in the NFL.

“I saw a team play its first game,” head coach Chip Kelly said when asked to evaluate the offensive line. “At times, on the touchdown pass to DeSean [Jackson], outstanding protection and did a really good job. And some other times -– it’s a loud stadium -– there were some communication issues. Not everybody, all five of them, were on the same page, so we had some leakage inside. I think that’s to be expected in the first game. You don’t want it to happen, but you understand where we are.”

Here’s where they are at the moment: healthy and productive. That’s a long way from where they were a year ago when the unit was undone by injuries and ineffective play.

“Whenever guys go down, it’s a little bit different,” Jason Kelce said. “No guy plays exactly the same as another guy. Obviously the continuity would help with all phases of the game.”

Last season, the Eagles' patchwork offensive line –- among the five original starters, only Evan Mathis lasted the entire season -- surrendered 48 sacks. That was the fifth-worst performance in the NFL.

The Eagles gave up three sacks for 23 yards against the Redskins on MNF, but the offensive line –- aside from giving Vick time to throw -– also helped the team push the pile and amass 263 rushing yards, most in the NFL.

“I think it was a good first game, and hopefully it was our worst game,” Mathis said. “Our plan is to get better every single week ... we didn’t protect perfect. It was decent. It could still be better. And we ran the ball really well. Like I said, we want to improve on all that.”

The unit has played exactly one game together that counts. There are still 15 more to go in the regular season. Staying healthy and staying together –- learning each other’s tendencies and fixing the communication issues that Kelly mentioned -– will go a long way toward improving on last year's substandard performance by the line.

“It’s still a relatively new group together,” Kelly said. “Jason [Peters] missed some time in camp. Lane [Johnson] is a rookie. Everybody's getting together and learning a new system. So I was pleased. But we still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go with that group. But, again, like everybody, like our entire group, I liked their effort, but there are so many things we can still work on.”