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.

NFL Notes Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

NFL Notes Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald has skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.

Rams general manager Les Snead says the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex Monday.

Snead acknowledged Donald's absence is because of their contract negotiations, which are reaching "the serious part." The GM is confident Donald will be a long-term fixture on the Rams' line.

The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month. He will make nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign Donald to a long-term deal.

Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career.

Vikings: Zimmer takes time off after latest eye surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer "in a few weeks." Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

"We all agree Mike's health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term," Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations (see full story).

Jets: Former 2nd-round pick Smith waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Devin Smith has been waived from the injury list by the New York Jets.

A second-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2015, Smith rarely saw the field for the Jets. He tore his ACL during the offseason workout program after he appeared in four games last season. He started that season on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from another ACL tear suffered in December 2015.

If Smith clears waivers, he would revert to the Jets' injured reserve list.

"It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles said last month during the NFL draft. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger. But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field, and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

The Jets also re-signed wide receiver WR Deshon Foxx on Monday. Foxx originally signed with the Jets in January and was waived May 9. The Connecticut product first signed with Seattle 2015 after going undrafted and was waived/injured with a hamstring injury that August.

Buccaneers: TE Howard signs rookie deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tight end O.J. Howard has signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard, who was the 19th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, signed a four-year deal on Monday that includes a team option for a fifth season. He is the first of Tampa Bay's six draft picks to sign.

Howard, who is 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, was a third-team Associated Press All-America selection last season. He started 12 of Alabama's 14 games last season and had 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

The drafting of Howard and signing DeSean Jackson in free agency should give Jameis Winston more options in Tampa Bay's passing game.

The Buccaneers also announced that defensive end Jacquies Smith has signed his restricted free agent tender.

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

With the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery behind us, there appears to be a consensus on the first two selections in next month's draft. The Celtics are expected to take Washington guard Markelle Fultz, and it would be a surprise if the Lakers passed on Lonzo Ball.

After that, all bets are off, and the Sixers will have plenty of options at pick No. 3.

A popular choice has been Kansas' Josh Jackson, and with good reason. The 6-foot-8 guard was an All-Big 12 first-team selection in his lone season with the Jayhawks, averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Others have pointed to Kentucky sharpshooter Malik Monk, who would fill an obvious need. Monk consistently has shown the ability to pull up without hesitation. He shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 19.8 points per game to lead the Wildcats.

There is a strong case to be made, however, that Duke forward Jayson Tatum will be the most talented player remaining on the board when it is the Sixers' turn to pick. 

As a basketball beat writer for The Duke Chronicle, I had the opportunity to watch Tatum play up close and in-person for much of the season, seeing him at his best and his worst.

A quick rise
After coming to Durham, N.C. as one of the key pieces of the Blue Devils' top-ranked recruiting class, Tatum suffered a left foot sprain during a preseason practice that kept him out of action until early December. 

But even with what appeared to be a breakout performance against then-No. 24 Florida in early December, he struggled to find a rhythm throughout the first half of the season. Tatum shot only 30 percent from three-point range in his first 13 games.

When the Blue Devils were shocked at home by ACC bottom-feeder N.C. State Jan. 23, I was quick to call out the first-year player — he was not cutting it on the defensive end, and offensively, Tatum had yet to prove himself as a consistent shooting threat.

Down the stretch, however, no freshman came on stronger than Tatum. He scored 28 points on 6-of-7 shooting from distance against Virginia in February, averaged 22 points in four ACC tournament wins in March, and notched a double-double in his first career NCAA tournament game.

Whatever questions scouts have about Tatum's potential, he has already shown an ability to develop in a short period of time. Even if Tatum takes time to develop as an NBA player, it probably won't take all that long as the Sixers continue their rebuild.

Cool customer
In a deep ACC, Tatum was one of just two first-year players to earn all-conference honors, picking up a third-team spot in early March. He was also second in ACC Freshman of the Year voting behind N.C. State's Dennis Smith.

Tatum been a consistent performer at the charity stripe — unlike Jackson, who shot just 56.6 percent from the line. He hit on 118 of 139 free-throw attempts (84.9 percent) and has the body to get to the line at will with strong drives to the rim.

Although the Sixers have budding stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, they lack a true end-of-game threat who can score both inside and out. Tatum's improving outside shot combined with a powerful inside game could give the Sixers an option that will stretch opposing defenses.

Defensive concerns
As has been the case with a few recent young Duke prospects (e.g. Brandon Ingram, Jabari Parker), Tatum at times struggled on defense. As Sixers fans know all too well, Jahlil Okafor has the same problem. The former Blue Devil standout led Duke in scoring during his lone collegiate season but wasn't a major factor on defense and has been even worse with the Sixers, ranking 324th of 486 NBA players in defensive win shares last season.

Tatum's numbers suggest he has potential to be a better defender than many might expect. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Tatum had a 3.2 block percentage and a 2.3 steal percentage — an uncommon combination. He helped Duke limit North Carolina's Justin Jackson to only 6-for-22 shooting in an ACC tournament semifinal matchup.

Where Tatum needs to grow is guarding away from the ball. He often found himself losing his man on back cuts and long possessions in the half-court.

With the Sixers, the 6-foot-8 Tatum potentially could be the shortest member of a lineup that would feature the 6-foot-9 Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Simmons at 6-foot-10, and the 7-foot Embiid in the middle. Although he will likely need to improve his quickness, Tatum has the size to overwhelm smaller guards and the strength — weighing in at 205 pounds — to match up with most small forwards in the league.

Tatum vs. Jackson
Tatum and Jackson are comparable players in most respects. The two were right next to one another in the ESPN's Class of 2016 rankings behind Harry Giles and put up nearly identical numbers on the offensive end.

Both are considered top-five picks, but the 19-year-old Tatum is younger by more than a year and has room to grow physically. And unlike Jackson, he does not carry the baggage of a criminal property damage misdemeanor from December.

Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel told 97.5 The Fanatic last week that Tatum is "one of the most talented, most gifted offensive guys" he has ever seen. 

Agreed.