Archive | October, 2012

Stop Blaming Michael Vick: Benching Him Would be a Mistake

30 Oct

Former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb tells NFL Network  Birds should consider benching  the defense and the  offensive line

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Commentary

Michael Vick’s days as the Eagles starting quarterback might be numbered if they can’t turn things around.  Is Nick Foles ready? Photo by Webster Riddick

If the reports that have been circulating around on several websites are true that  Eagles head coach Andy Reid is about to bench quarterback Michael Vick in favor of untested rookie Nick Foles, you might has well consider the 2012 season over.

The benching of Vick would also be a sure sign that Reid is in lame duck mode which means the clock is ticking on his tenure in Philadelphia. It is nothing but a desperation move on the part of a coach who’s looking to cover his own rear end.

It’s nothing more than a public relations spin move to let angry Birds fans that he’s on top of what ails the Eagles—sort of like the firing of former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. On Sunday, you saw how well that worked out as the defense gave up scores on Atlanta’s first six possessions. Vick did not turn the ball over, but his offense wasn’t on the field that often.

Don’t get it twisted, Vick has had his issues with turning the ball over, but it’s not all his fault given the number of times he’s been hit because of a porous offensive line that is starting two rookies and a third string left tackle  He has been sacked 20 times in seven games.

Even in the games where Vick has coughed up the football, he has managed to win three games and if the defense could have made a stop in the fourth quarter against Pittsburgh and against the Detroit Lions on at least one of their last three possessions, we are not having this conversation because Vick put them in position to win those games.

“If the defense of the Eagles were playing better, we wouldn’t be talking about Michael Vick so much, we’d be talking about what the Eagles can do to turn things around,” said former Eagles quarterback and NFL Network analyst Donovan McNabb.

McNabb, who knows a thing or two about being the brunt of criticism in Philly, told the NFL Network Tuesday instead of focusing on benching Vick, the team should look to bench some of the guys on defense.

“What if the offense goes out and scores 24 points, but the defense gives up 42 points, do we  talk about benching (Vick) and talk about Foles again?,” McNabb said. “Or do we start mentioning some of the defensive guys who need to be benched? Or do we say the offensive line needs to be benched? They’re other people in this situation besides Michael Vick.”

At the end of the day, all the Eagles struggles points back to Reid.  He, along with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, has not helped the offense with their playcalling. They under utilize their talented running back LeSean McCoy.

But then again this is nothing new during Reid’s tenure as coach of the team. During the McNabb years, Reid’s stubborn, oft-times arrogant refusal to give the running game a stronger role in the offense has been a thorn in this team’s side over the last 14 years.

In the first quarter of the loss to the Steelers, Vick drove the Eagles offense to the Steelers three-yard line. Earlier in the drive, Vick fumbled while running the ball, but the play was overturned by the replay officials.

But instead of utilizing McCoy or even backup Bryce Brown on a first and goal from the three, you allow your turnover-prone quarterback who came close to fumbling a few plays earlier to try an ill-fated quarterback draw. The ball was jarred loose and the headlines the next day in Philly said Vick’s fumble cost them game.

After further review, it was also another example of bad play-calling by Reid and Mornhinweg. Vick, as the starting quarterback, took responsibility for his own miscues.

Like a pitcher who has a couple of bad innings, Vick kept firing and eventually threw the touchdown pass that gave his team the lead with six minutes left. If the defense makes a stop late in the game that first-quarter fumble is a moot point.

When Vick walked off the field after hitting Jeremy Maclin with the TD pass in the fourth quarter against the Lions, the Birds had a 10-point lead with a little over five minutes left. But that became a moot point as the defense allowed Detroit to score on their final three possessions including overtime.

With the poor performance by the defense and the erratic play of his injury-depleted offensive line, Vick has not thrown anyone under the bus or yell at his teammates like Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler did earlier this season. When the subject of his benching came up during Sunday’s postgame press conference, he didn’t get angry and point fingers at his coach or his teammates,  he said he would support his coach’s decision.

Through all his horrific mistakes, Vick has had the heart to fight through them and give his team a fighting chance to win, something they won’t have if he is replaced by Foles.

Falcons Take What They Want From Eagles Defense to Stay Unbeaten

29 Oct

Matt Ryan and Atlanta offense Score on their First Six Possessions and Win Going Away

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones speeds past Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and safety Nate Allen for a 63-yard touchdown. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Long before Hurricane Sandy hit the shores of the Delaware Valley, another storm hit Lincoln Financial Field Sunday that simply devoured the Eagles defense and left in its wake a devastated team that is going nowhere fast.

The Falcons (7-0) scored on their first six possessions and didn’t look back in their 30-17 win over the Eagles in front of 69,144 fans at Lincoln Financial, many of whom left the building early in the fourth quarter because their team was in a deep hole.

It was the Eagles (3-4) first loss after a bye week under head coach Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach. Other than his usual short, terse answers about needing to “get better,” Reid had no answers for what was a terrible performance by his team during the post-game press conference.

The one group that was noticeably absent from the Linc today was the Eagles defense which didn’t show up at all as Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense moved through them with ease and without serious threat of being stopped.

“You got your backs against the wall coming into a must-win game and you and go out there and play like that, I can’t explain that,” said Eagles cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie. “There was no miscommunication, they just came out and flat out whipped our ass.”

Nearly two weeks after the team canned Juan Castillo as its defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles apparently couldn’t get the team to do any better. In fact, the Eagles defense was far worse for an entire game than they were in the fourth quarter of the two previous losses coming into today’s game.

Another view of Jones streaking past Eagles secondary. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The Falcons rolled up 392 yards of total offense and by the time they punted the ball for the first time midway through the fourth quarter, the game was pretty much over. The Falcons scored on long drives and short drives. They didn’t take what the defense gave them, they took what they wanted.

Perhaps the biggest symbol of the Falcons dominance on offense came two plays after the Eagles cut the lead to 14-7 on a two-yard run by LeSean McCoy. On second and 14 from the Falcons 37, Ryan hit Julio Jones, who sprinted past Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, for a 63-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead. The Eagles would come no closer than 13 points.

You would think that the Eagles multi-million dollar “shut-down corner” would have bumped Jones, who runs a 4.3 40-yard dash, at the line of scrimmage, but he didn’t. That situation was further complicated by the lack of safety help as Nate Allen got there way too late.

“Yeah, probably, but you can’t go backwards,” said Asomugha when asked if he should have jammed Jones at the line. “I probably would have changed it up.”

Ya think, Nnamdi? For a guy who’s supposed to be this big-time cover corner, he has come up small.

Meanwhile, the good news is that Michael Vick and the Eagles offense did not commit a turnover.  The bad news is that the offense wasn’t all that spectacular and was from being an offensive juggernaut because it couldn’t keep up with the Falcons offense. Vick, behind a paper thin offensive line, was sacked three times.

Even though Vick, who was 21-of-35 passing for 191 yards and a touchdown pass, didn’t commit any turnovers, Reid was asked whether the Eagles were going to bench Vick in favor of rookie Nick Foles.

“I’ll go back and look at everything. I’m not going to sit here and make decisions right now. I’m going to go back and look at it and analyze it,” Reid said.

If Reid does bench Vick in favor of Foles, it is a sure sign that the Birds have given up on the season. And while everybody in this town likes to think that replacing the quarterback is the panacea to fixing the Eagles problems, putting a rookie behind a horrible offensive line is not the solution.

When asked about the possibility about a change at quarterback, Vick said that he’s done everything he could to put the team in position to win (he’s not wrong about that), but if Reid would to were to do it, “then I’ll support it.”

NFL Network Analyst Deion Sanders apparently interpreted it as Vick quitting on the team. Really? After a loss, do you really think Vick is going throw his head coach under the bus? If he did that, the media  would brand him as a jerk for showing up his coach.

For all of his mistakes, Vick has put his team in position to win games this season and you can’t blame him for what happened on Sunday against Atlanta on him. You just can’t. He can’t play defense.

The bottom-line here is that the Eagles are at the point of the season where things are going to snowball out of control to the point where they can’t recover or they’re going to get it together and get themselves back in it. Stay tuned.

“I just tell my guys to keep fighting. Keep fighting, don’t let it spiral out of control,” Vick said.”But you can only say so much and at times I just get tired of talking. You get tired of talking and it’s more about letting your actions speak louder than your words. But it has to come from everybody.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eagles are in Must-Win Mode Against Unbeaten Atlanta

24 Oct

Although Michael Vick needs to cut down his turnovers, his offensive line has to do a better job of protecting him.

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report

After losing two straight games in heartbreaking fashion, the Philadelphia Eagles come off the bye week into the fire of a must-win game against the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons Sunday (1:00 p.m.) at Lincoln Financial Field.

“It’s a big game for us,” said Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. “The last two games, we were in position to win the games and we didn’t close it out.  We’ve got to put it all together as a team and the teams that do that are the teams that are sitting on top right now.”

While the Eagles are unbeaten (13-0) after a bye week during head coach Andy Reid’s tenure as head coach, they will be facing an explosive Falcons team that averages 28.5 points per game. Quarterback Matt Ryan is the NFC’s third-rated passer and has weapons at his disposal like running back Michael Turner, who gained 114 yards against Birds in last year’s game in Atlanta.

Ryan, a product of Penn Charter High in Philadelphia, also has wide receivers like Julio Jones (30 reception, 376 yards and four  TDs)  and Roddy White (37 receptions, 576 yards, four TDs) and veteran tight end tight end Tony Gonzalez, who burned the Eagles defense with seven receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s 35-31 win.

Meanwhile, the Eagles are coming off a tumultuous week in which they fired their defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and put everyone on notice that their jobs are not safe.  At 3-3, the Eagles are fighting to save their season.

“It’s not the offense or the defense, it’s everybody doing their job better,” Reid said Wednesday during his weekly press conference. “You know the obvious. You can’t have the turnovers and you can’t have the big plays and you’ve got to have field position in order to win the game.”

On offense, the Eagles have to figure out a way to protect Vick. The Eagles will be getting left tackle King Dunlap back from injury. The good news for the Eagles line on the injury front is that they could be getting Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters back in about three weeks.

Peters has been on the reserve non-football injured last since August after rupturing his Achilles tendon. Reid said Peters has been moving around and is making progress.

Nnamdi Asomugha intercepts Matthew Sfafford in the end zone for a rare forced turnover by the defense. The Eagles are hoping to get more turnovers in Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.

The next biggest subject of scrutiny during this bye week was whether or not Vick was going to lose his starting job because of his 13 turnovers. While some of those miscues aren’t his fault, Vick told reporters that it’s just a matter of him protecting the football.

“It’s not hard, It’s not a science to it, just protect the football at all times,” Vick said. “Despite the circumstances, I still sit back there and try to make the plays that I know I can make and that’s just me and my confidence in myself and confidence in the guys.”

And speaking of confidence, Reid said he still trusts Vick to get the job done. He said that his quarterback has gotten better at recognizing and beating blitzes, something he’s had some trouble with earlier in the season. This week, Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan will dial up a number of different blitzes to stop Vick and the Eagles offense.

“He’s done fairly well against the blitz, he’s been sharp there,” Reid said. “You saw that against Detroit and you saw it against Pittsburgh who throws a lot of things at you. It’s different scheme than (Atlanta), but he’s done a respectable job in that area.”

For all of Vick’s turnovers, the good thing for the Eagles is that Vick has been responsible for the Eagles three wins and has put them in position to win two more.

With new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles at the helm, the defense, which hasn’t had a sack in the last three weeks, is looking to redeem itself after coming up in the short in the fourth quarter of the last two games.

“The main thing is we have to finish,” said rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. “That’s the biggest thing. This week we’re going to come out and just play hard, but at the end of the day, we just have to finish.”

 

Preserving Smokin’ Joe’s Legacy

21 Oct

Led by their professor, Temple architectural students want to preserve Joe Frazier’s Gym as a historic landmark

Along with Temple students, the National Trust for Historic Preservation is hoping to turn Joe Frazier’s Gym into a historic site. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

If you’re a native North Philadelphian or even just a boxing fan riding up North Broad Street and West Glenwood Avenue and you see a furniture story with a myriad of “50% off Mattress” and “Free Lay Away” signs underneath of what used to be Joe Frazier’s Gym, it doesn’t seem quite right.

It was once the training headquarters for one of the greatest heavyweight boxing champions of all time. It also served as a safe haven that transformed the lives of young Black men and women living in a neighborhood surrounded by crime and drugs.

“Joe and (his son) Marvis helped turned some of these young men from the streets of North Philadelphia into people who have had the opportunity to grow and develop and become vital in the community,” said Vernoca Michael, a Frazier family friend and the owner of the soon-to-be sold Legendary Blue Horizon.

But like his relentless spirit in the ring, the sign, “Joe Frazier’s Gym,” towers above Broad Street as a reminder that “Smokin’ Joe” was an icon that truly represents the gritty, hardworking blue collar spirit of a city unafraid to wear its heart on its sleeves.

Temple University architecture professor Dennis Playdon, Temple architectural major Ann Dinh and the National Trust for Historic Preservation are spearheading an effort to persevere Joe Frazier’s gym as a historic site in Philadelphia.

“Joe Frazier was not only an icon in the boxing world, but also in the neighborhood,” Playdon said. “He was a symbol of hope and life in the neighborhood. He was a surrogate father to many people in the neighborhood.  In preservation we have come to understand that building themselves are not people who are thinking about preservation, but they are the vehicles by which the history of people are continued.”

Dinh, who is one of the students leading the project to save the gym, said buildings like Joe Frazier’s Gym are an important part of Philadelphia’s culture and and history.

“They hold history and stories in those walls and we have to maintain those stories for future generations and let those stories be heard,” Dinh said. “We, as a younger generation, have to keep Joe Frazier’s legacy and keep his commitment to the community alive.”

Frazier had trained at the gym back in the late 1960s and it was turned over to him by his management group when he retired from boxing back in 1976.  Frazier lost the gym in 2008 because of back taxes.

Recently, Temple University had a film screening for a documentary that not only chronicled Frazier’s boxing career, but also took an in depth look at the former heavyweight champion’s relationship with his son, the local residents of the community surrounding the gym.

The film entitled, “Joe Frazier: When the Smoke Clears,” was directed by Mike Todd. It was shown at Temple’s Reel Theatre last Tuesday along with a panel discussion afterward to raise community awareness of the efforts to save the gym. The film can currently be seen on Hulu.com.

“I feel that this film has a level of importance in preserving Joe Frazier’s legacy, especially the gym to give you a visual image of what the gym once was,” said Quenell Jones, the film’s director of photography. “Hopefully, the students here at Temple University along with the teachers can continue to push that envelope to preserve (Frazier’s) legacy. This film shows how much of a community advocate Joe Frazier was.”

The key to making sure the gym is ultimately preserved as a historic landmark will be to find a suitable buyer. Playdon said the obstacle here is that whoever buys the place has to maintain the leases of the business currently occupying the building.

“The problem is that the leases that are given to these furniture people are sort of unfavorable to buyers, who shy off because they will say, it’s not a favorable investment if they have to inherit the leases,” Playdon said.

The first thing that needs to be done it is to designate the gym as a local landmark, said Brent Leggs, field representative for the Northeast office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“What we want to do is to protect it,” Leggs said. “We don’t want it to be demolished and we don’t want the remaining historic fabric to be lost (such as the inscription), ‘Joe Frazier’s Gym’ that’s etched in the granite in the building. We want to protect the historic fabric that remains there.”

Leggs said the National Trust for Historic Preservation also wants to list the gym in the National Register of Historic Places. He said listing it here could make the gym attractive for future investors.

“Listing it in the national register provides an economic incentive which a future developer can use to reduce their construction costs in reserving the project,” Leggs said.

Leggs said the NTHP is not trying to buy the building itself, but they are hoping they can use their marketing power and brand recognition to attract a buyer who is interested in preserving the building.

“We can help them in determining what the future use may be- a public use that has a community purpose and benefit,” Leggs said.

Michael said it’s going to take partnerships between the public sector and private sector and the sheer determination of the community to help save historic buildings like Joe Frazier’s Gym and the Blue Horizon.

“We’re going to have to take that same oomph, that same determination, that same ability and turning into making sure we save this history,” Michael said. “A lot of that history will be transformed into young people looking at what has gone before and how others made it and inspire them to make it. We must continue this history for the sake of our young people.”

After Castillo Firing, Will the Eagles Bench Michael Vick?

17 Oct After the defense blow a pair of late leads, the Eagles fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Photo by Webster Riddick.

After the defense blow a pair of late leads, the Eagles fire defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sunday and the Chris Murray Report

 

On the surface, Andy Reid’s firing of now former defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is a move to let fans know that he is willing to do anything to right the Eagles 3-3 ship that seems to be on a collision course with last year’s 8-8 effort which kept them out of the playoffs.

And to quite a few fans it will probably seen as a panic move for a coach who will be fired this year if the Eagles don’t make the playoffs.  Some folks will see it as a warning shot to Reid’s players that say this could be YOU if you don’t deliver on the field.

What you’re really wondering if Reid’s next move is to bench his turnover-prone starting quarterback Michael Vick.

“As I sit here today, he’s the starting quarterback,” Reid said 24 hours after saying the same thing about Castillo as his defensive coordinator. “Right now Michael Vick is the starting quarterback. I’ve told you that I’m going through and I’m evaluating.”

If you’re thinking or even hoping that Vick is going to get benched, it’s not going to happen and nor should it happen at a point in the season while the Eagles are a long way from being mathematically eliminated playoff race.

More than anything else, the firing of Castillo is Reid’s way of detracting attention from him facing that question publicly. One would even say that the change in defensive coordinators was a passive aggressive endorsement of Vick and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.

As frustrating as Vick’s 13 turnovers has been in terms of preventing the team from putting more than 24 points per game on the board, the Eagles, who ranked 31st in points per game, have won three games and could have won two more.

In the Eagles three wins, Vick somehow overcame his foibles and helped win the game in the end for his team. After committing some costly early turnovers in losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions, it was Vick who brought the Birds off the mat and put them in position to win.

If the Eagles were 1-5 or 0-6 at this point, Vick would be on the bench faster than Usain Bolt running the 100-meter dash. But at 3-3 and knowing they could be 5-1 if the defense could have made stops in the fourth quarter of games, Reid has an interesting dilemma on his hands when it comes to the idea of benching Vick.

Another complication is the Eagles injury-riddled offensive line which is missing an All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters and a rising star at center in Jason Kelce. Vick has spent much of the season getting beat up and knocked down more times than former heavyweight boxing contender Chuck Wepner.  It’s a wonder that he hasn’t been down for a 10-count in some of these games.

How long will Andy Reid stick with Michael Vick? Photo by Webster Riddick.

Of  course, Reid and Morhinweg’s play-calling hasn’t helped Vick’s situation. Early in games this season, the Eagles have tried to pass the ball on virtually every down and the offense has struggled.

When they decide to balance the offense with the running LeSean McCoy, Vick is a lot more comfortable in the pocket because defensive linemen aren’t expecting pass on every play. Vick has managed to move the team down field and tends avoid turnovers for the most part.

In a real sense, I don’t think the Eagles are going to bench Vick because if for nothing else that line is not going to be able to protect backup rookie quarterback Nick Foles. Outside of a couple of preseason games, the Eagles really don’t know how the former Arizona star is going to perform under regular-season conditions. With that patchwork offensive line, I wouldn’t put a rookie back there to get beat up like that.

Since the Eagles are still legitimately in the playoff race, benching Vick would be a signal to fans that the Birds are waving the white flag for the season. It hasn’t come to that point, at least not yet.  That’s up to Vick on the field.

If Vick can cut down on his interceptions and fumbles, the Eagles will score points and win games by huge margins where they don’t put it on their defense to make a big stop late in the game. The Birds will be in the playoff chase.  If he doesn’t, Vick days as a starting quarterback and Reid’s days as a head coach in Philadelphia will be numbered.

 

Eagles Are Hoping to Fix Themselves During the Bye Week

16 Oct

At 3-3,  the Eagles are looking for answers after losing the lead in the fourth quarter in two straight games. The Birds have a whole week to straighten out their mistakes on both sides of the ball. Chris has more in this video report.

http://www.youtube.com/audio?feature=wenh&v=Q4GvGTRtW04

http://www.youtube.com/audio?feature=wenh&v=Q4GvGTRtW04

Soul Searching: Eagles Have to Take a Long Look At Themselves During Bye Week

15 Oct

Eagles Safety Nate Allen (29) is in hot pursuit of Detroit Lions wide receiver Stefan Logan in Sunday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles Blow 10-point lead in overtime Loss to Detroit

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

The Eagles 26-23 overtime loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday was a reflection of everything that has bothered this team since the start of the season.  All of this team’s shortcomings certainly came to fruition in a game they had no business losing.

With five-minutes, 18 seconds left in the game, the Eagles had a 23-13 lead after a 70-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Jeremy Maclin. It looked like the Eagles were on their way to victory.

“Honestly, I know our football team and I know how good we are,” Vick said. “After the touchdown to Maclin, I thought it was a great opportunity and a great position for us to be in to win the game.  Before I knew it, we were in a fight. It’s tough.”

But after slowing down Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and the Lions offense throughout much of the game, the defense allowed the Lions to score on their final three possessions—the last 10 in regulation and the final three in overtime on a 45-yard game-winning field goal by Jason Hanson.

“This is pretty bad,” said cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. “It was a big game for us having lost last week and then heading to a bye week. Our schedule only gets tougher from here, so this was a big loss. This one really hurts.”

The biggest criticism of the Eagles defense this season was their inability to put pressure on the quarterback and get a sack when they need it. Against a struggling Lions offense that’s had it own issues with consistency, the Birds defense came up small when it mattered most late in the game.

“It stings because it’s the second week in a row that we didn’t get it done in the fourth quarter,” said middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. “That is our time to go out and shut people out. We didn’t get it done.”

But you can’t just blame this loss on the defense’s collapse. Some of the Birds other failings came to the forefront today as well. Vick committed three turnovers—two interceptions and a fumble on a bad snap that wasn’t his fault.

“I’m just going to continue to work on ball security as much as I can,” Vick said. “Limit the interceptions, limit the fumbles and I just try to keep this football team ahead on the scoreboard.”

For the game, Vick passed 311 yards with two touchdowns for 28-of-46 passing. But even with the turnovers, the Birds quarterback played well enough in the second half and put the Eagles in position to win.

The Eagles offensive line gave up a pair of big sacks in overtime to the Lions defensive line and the running game never found a rhythm throughout the game outside of a few runs by Vick. This time it wasn’t because of the play-calling. It was because Detroit’s defensive line simply outplayed the Eagles offensive line.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game was made by the Lions front four. The Eagles, leading 23-20 with 2:41 left, faced a third and four from their own 18. Vick attempted to launch a pass to a wide-open Maclin on a crossing route, but the ball was tipped at the line by Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh.

“Jeremy Maclin would be still running downfield,” Vick said.

The Eagles will enter the bye-week with a 3-3 record and some soul searching as they try to figure out a way to stop beating themselves as much as their opponents are beating them. If the Eagles are going to be a serious playoff contender, they have to cut down the mistakes on offense and get off to a better start.

“You have to show how good you are,” said wide receiver Jason Avant. “I don’t care how many players you have on a piece paper. That means nothing in this league. It’s about playing the game every day. If we don’t step up and play our best football, we’re going to get beat.”

Defensively, they have to figure out ways to get sacks even when offenses are max protecting in the front line. They also have to figure out a way to force turnovers.

“We need them,” Ryans said. “We need the sacks and turnovers. If we want to control the game and give our offense a short field, we need more of those.”

Too Talented to Fail: Eagles Hope to Be Mistake-Free Against Detroit

10 Oct

 

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy believes the Eagles have the players to be an elite offense, but they have to avoid costly mistakes. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

With the way the Philadelphia Eagles have won and lost games this season, it has to drive their fan base crazy knowing that without the mistakes that have plagued them on both sides of the football, they could unbeaten or at the very least 4-1.

On offense, the $64,000 question is whether or not quarterback Michael Vick can survive a Sunday without giving the football away to the opposition. Coming into this weekend’s contest  against the Detroit Lions at Lincoln Financial Field, Vick, who fumbled three times against the Pittsburgh Steelers, said he’s bracing himself for defenses looking the jar the ball loose.

“Absolutely, I expect everybody that gets close to me to be reaching for the football,” Vick said. “It’s totally my responsibility to take care of the football and especially for the sake of this football team and it’s something I have to get corrected.”

Running back LeSean McCoy, who had a couple of fumbles early in the season, said Vick knows how important ball security and believes that he will do a better job of safeguarding the football.

“He knows how serious it is, but Mike is fine, he’s our leader,” McCoy said. “A lot of people are on him more than we are because we believe in him and we know that Mike got us.”

Oddly enough, Vick has not thrown an interception in his last three games-a total of 108 pass attempts. His last interception was in week two against the Baltimore Ravens. Head coach Andy Reid said Vick has been doing a better job attacking the blitz.

“They blitzed us on some of the plays in that long drive we had (against Pittsburgh),” Reid said. “In some cases, zero blitzes where they brought everybody they could bring and still covered the guys who were eligible. He did well against those.”

But Vick said while it’s good that he is getting better at reading blitzes, he still has to play better in all phases of his game.

“Just trying to take advantage of what the defense gives me. The thing is you can’t take steps forward and then take steps back. In spite of all of the good things that happen, I [have] to focus on the things I haven’t been doing so well,” Vick said.

In terms of yards, the Eagles rank 11th in the league in total offense and average nearly 400 yards per game, but rank 31st in points per game, scoring just 16 per contest. Eagles backup tight end Clay Harbor said it’s been frustrating for the offense because they feel they can be one of the league’s best if they can avoid giving the football away.

“We know how good we can be if we can protect the football,” Harbor said. “If we stop the turnovers, we can be top 10 or top 5 and one of the most explosive offenses in the league. As players we think we’re one of the best offenses in the league. A couple of turnovers and a couple of mis-executed plays and we’re right there. We still think we’re one of the best offenses in the league.”

McCoy said the Eagles are just too talented a team to be floundering in a sea of their own mistakes.

“We have the right weapons to be an elite offense,” McCoy said. “We just gotta capitalize on opportunities and execute. We gotta stop the penalties and turnovers and stay true to each other. We have to trust each other and be true to each other and just the get the job done. “

Hang On to the Damn Ball: Eagles Have to Get Out of the Way of Themselves

9 Oct

Vick has committed 11 turnovers so far in 2012 including two lost fumbles in loss to Pittsburgh. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the CM Report (column)

Analyzing the accident scene that was scene that was the Eagles 16-14 road loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers is like that famous all-of-the above answer you might have gotten on some multiple-choice test in high school.

The question would probably say the Eagles lost Sunday’s game because: A. Michael Vick’s turnover in the end zone in the first quarter. B. The defense didn’t put much a pass rush on Ben Roethlisberger or stop the Steelers running game. C. The Eagles defense failed to stop the Steelers on the game’s final drive after the Eagles had taken a one-point lead. D. All of the above.

If your answer was A, you would be right.  In a game where trips to the red zone would come at a premium, Vick’s fumble at the three-yard line on their second possession of the game in the first quarter was indeed a game-changer if not a killer the way it turned out.

As much as I think Vick is a dynamic player when he’s on, he has to figure out a way this side of using stickum and Crazy Glue to stop fumbling the football. After not throwing interceptions for the last three games, Vick screws that up by his inability to hang onto the football. Granted, that was a solid hit by Steelers defensive back Ryan Clark to jar the ball, but Vick has to hang on to the ball. He fumbled it three times, losing it twice.

On the drive in which Vick fumbled the ball into end zone, you could ask  why would Andy Reid let Vick run the football again after his near fumble earlier in that drive (which was overturned by replay)?  You have LeSean McCoy in your backfield, why not give it to him? The worse thing that could have happened other than turning the ball over is that you get a chip-shot field goal. Instead, they got nothing.

Answer B—the defense got some token pressure on Roethlisberger, but they couldn’t really bring him down and they couldn’t stop Rashard Mendenhall, especially late in the game when they needed to do so.  The Birds defense played well enough to keep the Eagles in the game and that’s what they’re supposed to do. But Roethlisberger’s mobility sidestepped the Eagles defense throughout the game and the Eagles could not force a turnover or get a sack.

It didn’t help that Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was torching Eagles cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, supposedly one of the better shutdown corners in the NFL. It’s not the first time that’s happened to Asomugha this season where he‘s been beaten consistently by the other team’s wide out.

All of that brings us to answer C … The Eagles defense failed to come up with a big stop  on the Steelers final drive  of the  game after Vick’s touchdown pass to Brent Celek,  put the Birds up 14-13 with 6:33 left .

The big play of that drive was Roethlisberger’s 20-yard pass to Brown on third and 12 from the Pittsburgh 18. From there, Roethlisberger methodically carved up the Eagles defense to get to Shawn Suisham’s 34-yard game-winning  field goal and that was “all she wrote” to quote the late great Marquette University basketball coach  Al McGuire.

All of these things should tell you that the underlying issue with your Eagles is that they have to establish some consistency on both sides of the football. On offense, Vick simply cannot afford to turn the ball over at any point of the game. As much as you admire Vick’s heart and refuse- to-lose attitude, he’s got play with that mindset for all four quarters of the game.

With the same determination that he has brought the Eagles back to win games, Vick needs to take care of the football. Reid needs to continue to lead with McCoy and the running game and not try to pass the football on every down. You notice that Vick plays a lot better when the team utilizes Shady in the running game.

While the defense has done a good job of carrying the team, they also have to turn their game up a notch and start getting to the quarterback and forcing turnovers.  If this defense wants to be the best in the NFL the way you hear Juan Castillo and his players talk about it, they have  to enforce their will on the opposing offenses.

At 3-2 are the Eagles a Super Bowl team? They can be, but they have to get out-of-the-way of themselves first.

Improved Eagles Defense Ready for Big Ben and the Steelers

5 Oct

Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin takes down New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz in last week’s win at home. The Eagles defense face the daunting task of taking down Steelers quarterback Ben Rothlisberger in Sunday’s road contest in Pittsburgh. Photo by Webster Riddick.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

The Eagles have managed to compile a 3-1 record at the first quarter of the season despite the offense’s issues with turnovers.

The reason the Birds have toughed out the three close games that they’ve won is because the defense has kept them in the game. At this time last season, the defense was everybody’s favorite whipping boy last season for losing leads late in the game.

This season, the Eagles rank 6th in the NFL in total defense, but rank 21st in sacks with just seven coming into Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. The Birds are also tied for 10th in scoring defense (20.8).

At this point, the Eagles defense isn’t necessarily evoking memories of the Reggie White days or the 1985 Bears or the 2000 Ravens, but they’re playing well enough to help the Eagles win. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said it’s all about the belief that they can be one of the NFL’s top defenses, especially after struggling throughout much of the season in 2011.

“It’s all about being accountable and having the mindset that we’re not going to come out and be the weak link of the team this year,” said Jenkins. “It’s a different attitude. We’re striving to be the best defense in the league. We’re not worried about just doing okay, we want to go out there and be the best.”

Of course, the challenge for the Eagles defense this week will be to figure out a way stop Ben Roethlisberger and running back Rashard Mendenhall, who is returning to the Steelers lineup after being out for the first four weeks of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The Eagles will be facing a Pittsburgh squad that ranks 18th in total offense, but No. 1 in third-down conversions. Getting off the field will be a huge key for the Bird defense against the Steelers.  Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said Pittsburgh’s offense might be the best they’ve faced so far this season

“They’re very talented, they’re very confident, [and] the quarterback, Ben, is playing with a lot of confidence,” Castillo said. “The thing we have to take care of, and I think we saw it the first series [in the preseason], he was able to extend plays. We had a third-and-nine and third-and-11 and he broke out of the pocket and was able to extend plays and was able to throw the ball. One he got it down and it was fourth-and-one and the other one made the first down. That’s what we have to be able to take care of.”

At the end of 2011 lockout, the Eagles acquired Jenkins from the then-Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers along with defensive backs Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Birds fans thought they had a Super Bowl-caliber defense.

Without having organized team activities to establish team chemistry and learning Castillo’s wide-nine scheme, the defense became best known for blowing fourth quarter leads and getting gashed on both sides of the ball. The Birds defense became the joke of the league as their plans for the Super Bowl deteriorated into a mediocre 8-8 record and out of the playoffs.

But this season the Eagles defense has been doing well without a lot of fanfare and their efforts have been overshadowed by the foibles of the offense. The defense has yet to allow an offense to score more than 23 points in a game. In the 27-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, a touchdown came as a result of a turnover by the offense that was turned into a touchdown.

“That’s the way you do it, you like flying under the radar,” Jenkins said. “I’d rather sneak up on people and surprise them. You saw what happened with the build up last year. That didn’t work for us. It always nice to have that fight in you first where you have to go out there and make it happen.”

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