Eagles Notes: Vick, Offensive Line, Defense Have Issues to Fix
VickMaddening: The criticism of Mike Vick's his lack of ball security has almost always been centered around his inability to read defenses before the snap. Sunday was just the opposite - but just as bad of a result. Twice in the first half Vick lost fumbles, one of which would probably led to six points. First, it was Vick losing the ball as he was ready to enter the end zone in the first quarter. He clearly would have scored to give the Eagles an early lead. Then, Vick was hit from behind losing his second fumble of the quarter. Neither fumble led to Pittsburgh points, but potentially took points off the board for the Eagles.
Head coach Andy Reid didn't seemed to be very concerned by the turnovers.
"He’s going to get it right," predicted Andy Reid. "Just like he did the interceptions and we’re going to get it fixed. It won’t be the last time he carries the football. He’s going to continue to carry the football and he’s just got to secure it away, keep it high and tight and, when he’s in traffic, get that thing covered up with the off hand.”
The Offensive Line: Last season, the offensive line took a lot of heat - and deservedly so - for how badly they were continually getting to and hitting Mike Vick. Well, three sacks and eight QB hits this week against the Steelers, the line seems to be an issue again. It's so disappointing that the line the Eagles thought they were going to have this off-season, never materialized. Losing maybe the best left tackle in football, Jason Peters and up-and-coming center Jason Kelce, has left the unit very thin.
However, Reid defended the play of this offensive line on Monday.
“They (the Steelers) give you a lot of different combinations," explained Reid. " So we went back through that. We did on the sideline, then we did it again today, but we had a couple assignments that were off that we need to take care of. But I thought for the most part, the blocking was pretty good up front, in particular with all the different combinations. Listen, you ask about the blitz and you look at our last couple of drives there when they were doing just what you’re asking if we should have done more of. They did, and we were able to hurt them with that and they’re one of the better blitz teams in this league. There’s a give and a take in all of it.”
Defenseless: We've all seen the final drive. We discussed the defenes inability to get off the field on this radio station all day Monday and probably will most of the week. The Eagles scored a touchdown to take the lead, 14-13. They gave the ball back to the Steelers with 6:33 remaining on the clock - they would never get off the field, giving up the game winning field goal as time expired. This is a defense that had over 50 sacks last season and prides itself on getting pressure on the quarterback. It has now gone 79 straight passes attempts in a row without recording a sack. Everyone shares blame. The front four have not been able to get to the quarterback in large part because teams are getting the ball out so fast in anticipation of the Eagles pass-rush. A front four that added one high-priced defensive players Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins last season and drafted on the defensive line in two-of -the-past three drafts with Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox specifically to get to the QB (they also took Vinny Curry in the second round this season). They can't even get a sniff of a passer right now. The linebackers. While they are better then last years unit, the linebackers are still not play-making linebackers. The secondary. Teams continue to throw the way of Nnamdi Asomugha will success and the safeties are doing nothing to stand out, they still lack that play-making safety. They're just…..there.
"You’ve got to get off the field," admitted Reid. "As coaches and players, we’ve got to figure that out and get off the field. So, we can do a better job there. But up to that point, I thought we played a good, solid football game defensively."
Juan-stats: Some of the blame for the inability for the team to get off-the-field late in the game has to be directed at defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Two weeks ago I made a lot of points on the air to direct the defensive issues against the Cardinals at the players more than the coach, but put the blame on Castillo for the teams lack of pressure against the Steelers. This game wasn't about adjustments. It was about having his players in the right spots, maybe dialing up some blitzes late in that game and out some heat on Ben Roethlisberger. It's not happening enough, and the team isn't getting to the quarterback at anywhere near the same rate they did last season. There were tons of questions about the Castillo hire last season, the units success this season has covered up some of the teams issues on the defensive-side of the ball. However, the question is, when the game is close, will Castillo be able to dial up the right defense to get his team off-the-field? When Jim Johnson was in chagre of the defense, the Eagles will a risk-taking, blitz happy team, now all-the-sudden with Castillo the Eagles defense has had a change in identity a new mindset, just a different way of doing things. In their recent loss to the Cardinals, the Eagles had problems getting to Kevin Kolb - meanwhile, the Cards offensive line has given up a league-high 23 sacks this season. Something - or someone - needs to change on defense. Maybe the scheme. Maybe the players on the field. Everyone is beating the Cardinals offensive line - except the team that had over 50 sacks last season.
"You’ve got to look at the protections,' Reid explained. "On one hand, they’re honoring your defensive line by giving you, what I consider, blitz protections. They’re keeping tight ends in, sometimes two tight ends, running back-tight end combination in. Now, you’ve got to bank on your coverage here a bit to do that. There are a couple things you can do up front to try to give yourselves an opportunity to get your defensive lineman home in one-on-one situations."