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Previewing the Eagles 2012 Offense

Another year later, and many of the same pieces are in place for the Eagles; as always, Vick remains the key.

The Eagles broke camp this week. Surely, it was a positive thing to move geographically, at least, from memories of the tragic death of Garrett Reid. As Reid himself said, "Life goes on," because it does. Two days after the funeral, the Eagles played their first preseason game.

They are typically sluggish in the preseason and this year was no different. The first team played poorly against the Steelers; however, any astute observer knows little can be learned about a team in the preseason, let alone the preseason opener.

Vick threw four passes. Lesean McCoy had two touches; Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin had none. Surprisingly, the defensive line was the one unit that dominated despite missing its two starting defensive ends: the backups sacked Steelers QBs seven times.

Again, it is difficult to learn much of import from the first preseason game. Reid is notoriously conservative in the preseason, especially knowing he'll face the Steelers in Week 5 in the Steel City. It is wise to not show too much in the preseason against a team you will see again when it counts.

Quarterback

This preview of the Eagles offense is based largely on its performance last year because it is largely the same unit. It starts with QB Michael Vick. His poor play last year has been well documented here and in many other arenas, but it was his inability to stay healthy that really hurt the team.

Vick's main problem—and the team’s main problem—were his turnovers. Eagles QBs threw 25 interceptions last year. To be fair, only 14 were Vick’s, but in only 12 full games, that is still far too many. Especially when he only threw six in 2010.

Last year, Vick saw his QB rating plummet about 15 points from its 2010 levels. He ranked 14 in the NFL, behind such luminaries as Alex Smith and Matt Moore. Vick simply must play better for the Eagles to have a successful season. He has to keep himself healthy, and the coaches have to aid him in reducing his turnovers. Vick's ability to do these things will determine the fate of the Eagles 2012 season.

O-Line

By the end of the 2011 season, the Eagles offensive line was one of the best in the NFL. Rookie center Jason Kelce proved himself able to make protection calls and handle the position. His fellow rookie, guard Danny Watkin, was overwhelmed early but progressed nicely once he took on the starter's role.

Evan Mathis entered 2011 regarded as a journeyman, but under Howard Mudd’s tutelage, ended the season as one of the highest-rated guards in the league. The Eagles outbid the Baltimore Ravens for his services in the offseason. Todd Herremans made the change from guard to right tackle, and is one of the Eagles most solid and underappreciated players.

Left tackle Jason Peters became the best left tackle in football. NFL expert and Hall of Fame member, Ray Didinger, went so far as to describe Peters as this generation’s Orlando Pace. He was a bulldozer on running plays and a brick wall against pass rushers.

Peters tore his ACL while working out on his own March 27. In a bizarre twist that could only happen to an Eagles player, the device he was using to get around after surgery broke, causing him to fall in his kitchen. Peters tore the same surgically repaired ACL and had to undergo a second surgery. He will miss the entire 2012 season, reminding us again there is nothing worse in sports for fans than your football team losing a player to injury. 

The Eagles then signed Demetress Bell, late of the Buffalo Bills, reportedly the best left tackle available. However, after one preseason game, Bell was demoted in favor of King Dunlap. Dunlap has never distinguished himself, so that position is a concern. The rest of the offensive line is strong, but it lost its best player. More time will have to pass before a consensus can be reached on Peters’ replacement.

Running Back

Lesean McCoy turned in a monstrous season, amassing 1600 yards from scrimmage, averaging 4.8 yards a carry, and catching 48 passes. He broke a franchise record with 20 total touchdowns.

One of the most encouraging signs of McCoy’s breakout season was his ability to score in the red zone and his ability to convert short yardage into first downs. For years, fans have lamented the Eagles' excruciating inability to convert third-and-short yardage opportunities. The team finally started giving the ball to its best player in those situations, and it paid dividends. Hopefully, that problem is now in the past.

Receiver Corps

The wide receiver triumvirate of Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant seems poised to have a very productive year. Jackson, with his new, long-term contract, should be able to focus on football (like a professional should) and not on contract negotiations.

Maclin has been productive in his first three seasons, approaching the 1000-yard mark each year. He had a slow start to last year after a mysterious illness caused him to miss all of training camp, but still compiled over 800 yards, although his TD count dropped from 10 to five. The Eagles need him to take that proverbial next step forward this season.

Jason Avant never catches a ton of passes, but always makes the most of those  he does catch: throughout his career nearly 65% of his catches have been for first downs. Avant set a career high in receptions last year with 52. He is a solid third receiver and his toughness complements the speed of Maclin and Jackson very well in the offense.

After a slow start, Tight End Brent Celek turned in another solid season. He caught 62 passes last year and he should be able to match that this year, making him a valuable outlet target for Michael Vick. The unsettled left tackle spot may require Celek to stay in as a blocker more often than the team would like. Time will tell.

Overall, the Eagles have the personnel to be a very dynamic offense. They have a stud running back, quick-strike receivers, and a solid tight end. The one possible problem is the left tackle spot, but Howard Mudd should be able to manage that. The most important thing is that QB Michael Vick must be lethal to the opposition and not to the Eagles, shooting them in the foot with mistakes and injuries caused by risky play. That is what it will all come down to.

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Mike Diviney August 21, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Underline that part about not learning. Either he's not smart enough or just lacks the discipline to play it safe. He always says it like it's a sign of bravery- went down swinging, I only know one way to play. Learn this adage instead: sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. Taking a sack in a preseason game is worth doing to avoid injury.
Mike Diviney August 21, 2012 at 03:55 AM
On other thing. I've never seen Andy that fired up. They deserved it. Cullen Jenkins is the last guy you'd expect to be on the receiving end and he did the right thing walking away, but he should have kept his big ass on the bench.
Gary B August 21, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Exactly Mike. QB 101..get pressure, find a lane and step up into the pocket. Vick logic..run backwards, stay within the hash marks (wth?!), then while under the same pressure that's making you retreat, spin, plant feet and throw down field. ....It's a comedy of errors wrapped up all in one play. Foles should be working some plays in with the 1st team this week and regardless of Vick's prognosis.
Mike Diviney August 21, 2012 at 04:07 AM
I agree Gary. STEP UP!! That should be what they work on with Vick this week. Yes, a 32 yr old QB has to learn that and how to slide. Come on!
Gary B August 21, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Another quote about Vick's performance from last night; " I'm fine with someone making all the plays bein' Superman, I'm fine with someone having an "S" on their chest...but you gotta put down the cape 'cuz son you ain't smart enough to wear it" Warren Sapp
Gary B August 21, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Gotta wonder though, what was Andy doing over there in the first place. Seems like there is too much nonsense going on already, especially from a Reid squad.
Evan Richman August 21, 2012 at 01:46 PM
mike lets hear your thoughts on any eagles fan worst nightmare...i dont even want to mention what it is cause we all know it....do you think after last night foles is capable of stepping in or do the eagles need to pursue a proven vet maybe someone like tavaris jackson as a backup in a worst case scenario..also what are your thoughts on brining in a veteran RB to spell mccoy and to provide a different "look" or change of pace
Mike Diviney August 21, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Wow, I actually agree with Warren Sapp on something. Hurts to say it, but he's RIGHT on.
Mike Diviney August 21, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Gary, I disagree with you on your Reid take. He was over there yelling at the D which is what they deserved. A coach coaching isn't nonsense. You ever see Bill Parcells on the sideline- thought he was a pretty good coach. Yes, it's out of character for Reid, but that's not a bad thing.
Mike Diviney August 21, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Uh, Tarvaris Jackson and "proven vet" don't belong in the same sentence. I don't know that Foles is ready, though he's looked great so far. I think they have enough RB's to roll with. If McCoy... don't want to say it, but THAT's our worst nightmare. I don't know that there are any proven vet QB's out there now. Jeff Garcia anyone?
Gary B August 21, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Oh I 100% agree that the D needed to be chastised n called out...but my comment was more about why Reid needed to be there and Jim Washburn wasn't. And same goes for Juan Castillo...these two needed to be in the faces of their players and not have Andy make his way down the line. Andy believes in delegation and is hands off during the game of play for the most part. Remember when 5 was upset (as usual) because he wanted a hug and chat from Reid when he got benched, but got the message from the QB coach instead? ....Just thought it was really out of character and no it's not a bad thing...just the defense does not look good, again.
Porterincollingswood August 22, 2012 at 11:36 AM
Well, we did see Kendricks a half step behind on that TD throw, but that was an almost perfect throw so I can't fault him much. As for the rest, I liked what I saw in King. Far better than Bell in positioning himself. One caveat - my memory may be inaccurate because we play a game where we do a shot every time a Jon Gruden comment makes you roll your eyes. So I was barely able to stand by the time his pre-game comments were over, and blacked out after his "UFO" comment. Seriously, how can every player on every team be a great player who is among the best at / up and comers at their position? He's now cemented himself as worse than Costas, and slightly worse than Kornheiser / Miller. He never shuts up, it's like the announcer reel in Madden 93 - when they onlyhad 3 cliche lines they'd repeat over and over and over. It's almost unwatchable. At least last year Jaws would pop in when Jon came up for air.
Porterincollingswood August 22, 2012 at 11:39 AM
I have no doubt we'll sign an affordable vet after the last round of cuts. Hasselbeck will be available, no way the Titans keep his salary on the books to back up Locker. He'd seem to fit the bill. I set the over / under for Vick starts at 11.5.
Mike Diviney August 22, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Well, the Pats only had 204 yards of offense the whole game. In certain situations, I think the HC has to rip into his team sometimes. Usually it's the position coach, but it means more coming from the Head Coach so I like it in certain circumstances.
Mike Diviney August 22, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Hasselbeck is not a quality starter, but as a backup, he might be a good fit. Is he better than Trent Edwards at this point? I guess a little. The Eagles could probably survive if Vick goes over the 11.5, not if he goes under. No matter how many games he start, it can't be like last year when we found out every Thursday if he can go or not- too big a distraction.
Mike Diviney August 22, 2012 at 05:30 PM
From Porter: "Well, we did see Kendricks a half step behind on that TD throw, but that was an almost perfect throw so I can't fault him much. As for the rest, I liked what I saw in King. Far better than Bell in positioning himself. One caveat - my memory may be inaccurate because we play a game where we do a shot every time a Jon Gruden comment makes you roll your eyes. So I was barely able to stand by the time his pre-game comments were over, and blacked out after his "UFO" comment. Seriously, how can every player on every team be a great player who is among the best at / up and comers at their position? He's now cemented himself as worse than Costas, and slightly worse than Kornheiser / Miller. He never shuts up, it's like the announcer reel in Madden 93 - when they onlyhad 3 cliche lines they'd repeat over and over and over. It's almost unwatchable. At least last year Jaws would pop in when Jon came up for air."
Mike Diviney August 22, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Porter, I miss Jaws too and I don't like Gruden over-hyping EVERY guy. I have to say, though, overall I like Gruden. Ten times better than Theisman or Miller or Korny in my opinion. I don't mind Costas as a studio guy. I still like Gruden, but the broadcast was much better with Jaws because they played off each other well.
Mike Diviney August 24, 2012 at 06:15 PM
RIP to Steve Van Buren. When he retired in 1952, he was the NFL's all time leading rusher. He led the league in rushing 4 times. No other Eagles RB has EVER led the league in rushing. Hopefully, Shady can change that sometime in the near future.
Bo August 24, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Mike i agree with your assessment per the offensive line, and time will tell if Mudd can work with improving LT Bell. This worries me now with stud DE's Ware, Orakpo and JPP, to play twice against Bell or Dunlap. Peters had his best year in an Eagles uniform, and we know how it benefited Shady. It unfortunate knowing what we saw last year with Peters in and now we have a big question mark. Vick needs that extra time to be who he is. I wonder now to what degree Howard Mudd was included in the process of choosing or evaluating the potential Left tackle FA's or college draftees. I suspect maybe he wasn't, seeing how Andy hired him with the agreement that he'd be on a limited off season schedule, considering his age and his hip condition. In knowing how fragile Vick appears to be, wherein how important it is to protect him at all cost but now without the best left tackle in the league. I hope Bell improves and the same for Dunlap, because as good as our rookie QB may appear to many, we won't be getting anywhere near Tampa and the Super Bowl if he has to play for extended periods or even finish a season. The future with Foles looks bright, but that future doesn't mean this season and our expectations for this year's team.
Mike Diviney August 24, 2012 at 07:27 PM
I've been very impressed with Foles, but doubtful he's ready to lead this team anywhere at this point. The rest of the O line is stable and if Mudd is the magician people say he is, then he can make LT work. I've always been suspect about Vick's capabilities, even when healthy and this preseason has not been promising, but we'll see how he looks when it counts.
Bo August 24, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Yeah I hope, but with the way Bell quickly got demoted, and letting Winston walk, we appeared thin at LT and it would have been nice to have had another option, with an early round draft pick. I assume Peters will be back next year, but this is an Achilles injury so whether he'll be 100% is another question. When will he be able to start a conditioning program, his weight has been an issue in the past, is also a concern.
Mike Diviney August 25, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Bo, you seem to think the Eagles had 14 draft picks in the first 2 rounds, with all the draft picks you wished they had made. Remember, rookies are not only risky at QB, but at every position. And you thought Foles was a terrible pick at 1st. The draft is a crap shoot, especially expecting rookies to step right in. Bell was supposed to be the best guy on the market- doesn't look like it so far. I hope Peters can come back, but he'll weigh 450 after not working out for 6 months.
Bo August 25, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Mike I never thought that taking a quarterback, which turned out to be Foles, in this draft would be a terrible pick. I feel like a broken record re-explaining this, wherein taking a QB at the top end of this draft when I think there were more pressing needs for this years team is what I said. I could be wrong but I think there is a sense of urgency from the organization along with an overall feeling amongst the fans about the need and desire to succeed this season, which we all hope ends in February in Tampa. I think we would have been better served in using that early draft pick to get someone to fill our needs and or question marks in the secondary, and left tackle. A pick in the 3rd round in order to fill those two needs would hopefully be closer to being a starter, than one taken by the Eagles, at the bottom of the draft, where taking a QB would have been wiser. Foles isn't going to be on the field at crucial moments late in this season and into the playoffs to add anything, but going forward, yeah that pick was good and NEXT year could be a much different story.
Mike Diviney August 25, 2012 at 09:17 PM
You did say that, but regardless... Yes, the should have taken a LT AND a safety with one pick instead of Foles. Easy to say in hindsight, but Bell was highly regarded. There is NO position which approaches QB in terms of importance. There is a dearth of good QB's. See Matt Flynn getting a big contract from Seattle. If Reid saw a young QB who he thinks can be a good starter, it's 100% worth it. A rookie LT who may or may not have started is not nearly as valuable as young potential starting QB.
Bo August 25, 2012 at 10:25 PM
A LT with a skill set which is representative of his draft position, is as important, but probably more so, than any player drafted for an NFL team, except for the obvious position. That rookie LT taken high in the draft will get a chance to cut his teeth during the regular season, wherein a QB won't and shouldn't on any team which expects to seriously compete for a Lombardi trophy. Long term it is a good thing, as Andy's got a good eye for QB's and then coaching them for success. He really liked what he saw in Foles, and we know that is true now. However we are in year 14 of the Reid regime, and I am tried as heck about talking or even thinking about 'next year.' This is year 53 without an NFL title and we're starting to look and sound like the Cubs of pro football.
Mike Diviney August 25, 2012 at 10:55 PM
I hear you and I'm tired of it too. However, going into every year carrying the weight of past failures, especially those from 50 years ago, is counterproductive. This season is this season, independent to a degree from what happened previously. Players largely determine the outcome and few have been here for more than 5 years. That's the window through which I view each season, but that's me. I don't believe not following your draft blueprint will determine the Eagles success this year and I like having a capable young QB waiting in the wings, so to speak.
Bo August 26, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Yeah no doubt that's why I am only worried about the now and a obvious need for an LT which can keep our fragile QB protected and on the field for 16 games. Andy's blueprint for players who were over age 30, was to have a competent replacement in the ready, and we know Dunlap isn't that guy in his 4th season here. Jason Peters is 32, and has a long road to recovery, where he'll probably not even be 100% next season. Foles isn't the least bit about this year and he'd still have growing pains when other teams scheme him, if he happens to start next season. What also made no sense about this draft was taking OG and a WR in the latter rounds when we already had some strength at those positions. The pundits like McShay and Kiper often look at the player drafted and his value wherever he was picked, and put less importance but really have less info or concern about the depth or needs of a specific team. Sure all those guys had great value where the Eagles picked them, but have you even heard the name McNutt uttered once during training camp or the preseason games. 50+ years is a fact, but more 14 years under the Reid Regime, and that's a big reason why this year is the only one that really matters, but we weren't prepared at some crucial positions, which Andy should have properly addressed in the draft and with free agent signings. Did he really think that Jason Peters, before his 2nd Achilles rupture, was going to be back sometime during the 2nd half of the season.
Mike Diviney August 27, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Jason Peters is 30, not 32- just saying.
Bo August 27, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Are you serious, god love ya Michael, and I imagine he'll be 31 the next time he plays LT for the Eagles, right? Anyway, I watched NBC 10 sports final last night, where John Clark interviewd Brian Baldinger who had watched hours of tape, in Mt Laurel at NFL Films, on all the Eagles preseason. One of his observations, was warning us to be more concerned about the OG positions, that both guards Watkins and Mathis have had horrible preseason's. He said we should be more worried about this issue on the O Line, than Dunlap at LT. He also added that King didn't exactly earn the position, but more backed into it. Vick was asking for help and better protection, and it appears now that the tapes told the truth.
Fabiola Et September 24, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Although I am late commenting this article, but I most say job well done. I just like the way you assess and fully described each section of this article. Nicely done!

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