Vick Expects to Play Better Against Baltimore

The Eagles can ill afford turnovers against a tough Baltimore Ravens defense.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

With Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the Baltimore Ravens strolling into South Philly on Sunday, Eagles fans are hoping that Michael Vick and the offense don’t duplicate the first 44-minutes and 32- seconds of their season-opener against the Cleveland Brown.

If the Eagles commit the turnovers, penalties and have a lack of balance on offense against a tough Baltimore squad, the day will with a crescendo of resounding boos at Lincoln Financial Field because the Birds are not going to walk off that field with a win.

Even though the Eagles won last week on the final drive of the game, Vick has probably been more scrutinized this week by fans and media than both President Barack Obama and his opponent Mitt Romney in the presidential campaign.  Throwing four interceptions in the last game you played makes you a topic of conversation.

But Vick said he definitely wants to put the last week behind him and wants to come out on Sunday with a better performance than he had this past week.

“I’ve got to go into the next week, I can’t dwell on the last game because I don’t plan on having that type of ball game again,” Vick said with a large crowd of reporters surrounding his locker.  “Regardless of what the situation dictates, I think you have to go out there and play your game. Don’t get frustrated and don’t get too high or too low when things aren’t going your way. Just keep pounding, keep plugging and good things are going to happen in the end.”

Oddly enough, Vick said the only motivation he has for Sunday’s game is going over the game field and seeing the game film.

“Nobody really has to motivate me, I motivate myself, I watched the film, I’m the one who lived it,” Vick said. “This is about playing the game that I love. Every game is not going to be easy.”

Just about every aspect of Vick’s game has been criticized this week from his inability to read defenses, not finding secondary receivers, not playing enough snaps during the preseason, and for holding onto the ball too long. Head coach Andy Reid defended Vick from such criticism and likened Sunday’s game versus to a basketball player getting hot late in the game after struggling.

“He finished strong and so you gotta take that and roll with it,” Reid said. “He finished the way a great player finishes.  You see this all the time in basketball. Great shooters when they have an off-day they keep shooting and when it comes down to the end, the great ones sink the winning shot.

“Michael, that’s what he did, he kept firing. He didn’t seem hesitant at the end of that game of that game where everything was on the line, he continued to fire. He’s a great player, he didn’t have a lot of reps in preseason, but he’ll continue to get better.”

Vick admitted that he has to work on his decision-making and stop trying to players when it’s not there. In Sunday’s game against Cleveland, Vick inexplicably threw passes into double and triple coverage.

“You can’t force throws, you can’t try to stick a ball in a tight spot when a guy’s not really open and try to make something happen,” Vick said. “You’ve got to give it time, you gotta work your way downfield and take what the defense gives you and keep it simple.”

While folks might think that the Ravens are salivating at the opportunity to force Vick into more turnovers, Lewis said he doesn’t think Vick will toss four interceptions against his defense.

“He’s going to get past that real quick because that’s one thing professionals do, especially a guy like that who has the ability to bounce back and make those plays,” Lewis said.”The same mistakes he made last week, we’re not looking for him to make those same mistakes this week.

“ We understand who we’re playing and we understand what Michael Vick is going to give us when we come to Philly. We’re not going to let what happen in Cleveland last week fool us into what’s going on when we come to Philly.”

Despite Win, Eagles Offense has To Correct Mistakes

Michael Vick threw four interceptions in the 17-16 win over Cleveland. He threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Clay Harbor with 1:18 left.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

There are several ways to look at the performance of Michael Vick and the Eagles offense in Sunday’s 17-16 win over the Cleveland Browns in which they committed five turnovers (four interceptions by Vick) and you would probably be right.

“We didn’t play as disciplined offensively as we needed to all the way around,” Eagles head coach Andy Reid during his weekly day after the game press conference. “I know Michael took the blame, but it’s not a one-man show. That’s not what it is. Everybody had a piece of this pie, starting with me and the coaches. You can’t play like that-whether it was from the play-calling, the execution to the penalties.”

One way is that the rust from Vick having just 12 snaps in the preseason really showed.  He made some really bad reads. He threw into triple coverage on a couple of those picks including the pick-six he threw to Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson midway through the fourth quarter.

“I had plenty of throws that I would like to have back. I was sort of rusty out there, but I just fought through it and that’s all I could do. When we scored that last touchdown it was a sigh of relief,” Vick said.

Another way to look is that along with the turnovers, the Eagles committed too many penalties on offense. For the game, the Eagles committed 12 penalties for 110 yards—seven of them were on the offensive side of the ball for a total of 65 yards-five of them were holding penalties.

You can also look at the fact that the Eagles were incredibly predictable on offense and seem to have a forgotten that they have an All-Pro running back in their backfield in LeSean McCoy, who oddly enough still gained 110 yards on 20 carries. Vick threw 56 passes while completing 29 for 317 yards with the aforementioned interceptions and two touchdowns.  He was sacked twice and was hit 16 times because the line struggled at times trying to protect him. .

“You know what? We probably could have done a little bit more of that early.  We had fumbles and that early and we got away from it, but as it’s all said and done we probably could have run a little bit more early,” Reid said after the game.

On the Eagles last two drives including the game-winning 16-play, 91-yard, McCoy carried the ball eight times and the offense seemed to move smoothly. But Reid said it was because the Birds didn’t commit any penalties or make any mistakes on that final drive.

“When you eliminate the problems, the mistakes, that’s why that drive looked a little better than the other ones,” Reid said. “It’s a potent offense, if you eliminate the mistakes…You got to make sure that you eliminate the turnovers, eliminate the penalties and then good things happen.”

In spite of getting knocked around and throwing those interceptions, Vick played with a lot of heart and determination on the final drive of the game to help the Eagles pull out the victory.  There was concern from his teammates who felt that Vick lost some confidence after tossing the interception return for a touchdown to Jackson.

“He’s got a lot of courage man, honestly,” said Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson. as you could see he fought back, he kept you know making plays. Regardless of him being down on himself, everybody’s like regardless of anything,, we will still ride with you.. It was just a good situation to see him come back and make a game-winning throw.”

Next up for the Eagles is Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the Baltimore Ravens. If the Eagles offense has the kind of game against the Ravens they had this week against a Cleveland squad that’s not very good, they will be in for a long, long, long day that might involve the  chasing a purple and white jersey wearing No. 20 or No. 52 as they waltz into the end zone on a pick-6.

Super Bowl or Bust for the Eagles in 2012

Can the Eagles Protect Michael Vick or can Vick protect himself ? That’s the big issue confronting Eagles fans. Photo by Webster Riddick

By Chris Murray

For the Sunday Sun and Chris Murray Report

After struggling through last season’s mediocre 8-8 record, the Philadelphia Eagles have nowhere to go but up or else.

Team owner Jeffrey Lurie has made it clear in both the offseason and in his recent state of the team address that anything less than the playoffs, heads are surely going to roll including that of head coach Andy Reid.

“Well 8-8 itself isn’t good enough. None of us are shooting for 8-8. Nobody in this building is shooting for 8-8 so I’m all in on that,” Reid said.

The Eagles have had the full offseason and training camp to come together as a unit. But will all that translate into team capable of getting to the postseason and possibly going to the Super Bowl.?

The one worry that seems to stick in the crawl of Eagles fans is the health of quarterback Michael Vick. The concerns are justifiable because injuries including bruised ribs that limited the amount of snaps he took during the preseason.

But Reid insists that Vick and the offense will be ready roll in Sunday’s season-opener in Cleveland against the Browns and that he’s not worried about Vick not being in sync with the Eagles offense.

“He has enough experience where I expect him to go in and perform well. I think we got a good base game plan in today,” Reid said. “I expect him to go out and play and play well.”

Vick said he has been feeling much better since hurting his ribs in last month’s preseason game against the New England Patriots. If anything, the time off may have been more beneficial to him because it allowed to get rest and recover.

“I feel good going into this game. I feel like I’m 100 percent, and I don’t really have any nagging injuries. I think I’m fully recovered. The last two weeks have really helped me get there. I’m just ready to go,” Vick said.

Vick will certainly have his share of his weapons starting with running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The offensive line will come into the season with one new face in 6-foot-9 inch, 330-pound left tackle King Dunlap who is starting in place of injured Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters.

“I’ve got trust in [T] King [Dunlap] and he’s been here a while. I know him,” Reid said. “He’s played well in the preseason here, and the opportunities that he had to play before, I thought, were quality starts for him and opportunities for him, when he came in when either [T] Jason [Peters] went down or one of the other people went down. I’ve got confidence in him.”

            With the exception of Dunlap, the Eagles starters have played together long enough to know that their main job without question is to protect their injury-prone quarterback.  Center Jason Kelce said the team is not making the protection of Vick an individual cause celeb, it’s something that goes without saying.

“(Vick) is our guy and our job is to protect him and we’re paid money to protect him,” Kelce said. “We’re always rallying around Mike. To say that we’re individualizing Mike because he had a rough preseason, I don’t think so. We’re just ready to go with Mike as our starting quarterback.”

With last season and the offseason OTAs and training camp behind, the Eagles defense is looking to avoid falling into early hole as it did last year. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said the defense has a better feel for defensive coordinator Juan Castillo’s Wide-Nine defensive scheme and for each other.

“We’re a lot more comfortable and not with just the scheme, it’s with the players, it’s just relationships with everything,” Jenkins said. “We’re a lot more settled in and we’re approaching as a team now and this how we got to play.”

The glaring weakness that most football observers point to in the Eagles defenses is both safety positions with strong safety Nate Allen and free safety Kurt Coleman. But Allen said he’s not buying into the hype that they are somehow the weak link in the Birds defense.

“We hear about it and it’s in the back of our minds, but we can’t really worry about that with all that’s being said on the outside with the media and with the fans,” Allen said. “We just focus on what’s going on here and doing what we have to do to take care of each other.”

Brian Westbrook: Philly’s Ultimate Weapon

By Chris Murray

Brian Westbrook was one of the most versatile running backs of his era. He was a threat to score every time he touched the football in both the running game and in the passing game.  During the prime years of his career in Philadelphia, the opposing coach conference calls at the Eagle s Nova Care Facility, coaches around the league talked about the nightmare of having to cover Westbrook.  Last week, the 32-year-old Westbrook officially retired as a Philadelphia Eagle. In this video report, the CM Report takes a look back at the career at one of the most dynamic players of the early 21st century.

 

The Line Between Toughness and Avoiding Injury

The offensive line has to protect Michael Vick, who is helped up by Danny Watkins (63) left and right tackle Todd Herremans during a pres-season game against the PIttsburgh Steelers on Aug. 9. Photo by Webster Riddick

Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Michael Vick is a fierce  competitor, but showing how tough on every play could shorten his season.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

What was supposed to a dress rehearsal for Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and the Eagles offense turned into an evening of alarm and outright panic for Eagles fans because Vick injured his ribs on a third-down play in Monday’s exhibition game against the New England Patriots that was just about everybody’s fault.

It was the second straight week that Vick has sustained some sort of injury. During the Eagles’ first exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago, the quarterback injured his thumb.

While those injuries aren’t serious enough to miss any significant time, the concern over Vick’s health in a 16-game season has some Birds fans hanging their heads in doom and gloom even though the regular season is about two  weeks away.

Eagles fans and those of us who cover them in the media point to Vick’s reckless style of play, the offensive line not protecting well, Vick holding the ball too long, not sliding after a run and trying to make a big play when all hell is breaking loose as the reasons to be concerned for his health in a long season.There’s only so much Vick’s smallish 6-foot frame can take.

The flipside of the collective worry for Eagles fans’regarding Vick’s health is that his aggressive approach to the game, his desire to make the big play and to not give up on a play when things break down is something that fans in tough, gritty blue collar Philadelphians usually admire about  their quarterback.

“That’s what you would think a competitor would do, never quit on a play,” said Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. “With Mike back there, you never know what’s going to happen. There could be five guys around him and he can break out the pocket and make a beautiful throw downfield. He never wants to lose,he wants to win in everything.”

Vick’s greatest virtue as a quarterback, his ability to extend plays with his legs and to create something out of nothing, can become not-so virtuous when defenders finally catch up to him and tackle him hard. While it may remind many of the “Michael Vick Experience” days in all the wrong ways, it has served Vick…and the Eagles…well for the most part.

“I don’t necessarily call it reckless, I just think he has a unique style of play,” Maclin said. “I think you get the best of both worlds with Mike as far as a guy who can read defenses and make throws and also a guy who can use his legs and run it out a little bit.”

As a quarterback, Vick has to learn that no matter how strong his arm is or how fast he can escape the rush of a linebacker, who runs a 4.6 40-yard dash, there are times when he has to get rid of the ball or take the slide.

Watching Vick on Monday against the Patriots on the play when he dove head first on a scramble instead of sliding like a baseball player, there was a part of me that cringed for his safety. But I also knew that Vick’s first inclination was probably to barrel into that guy for the first down.

If that was the case, I’m not mad about that because it shows me that this guy will do anything to win…and because he’s willing to take the hit to bring home the ultimate prize for Eagles fans…a celebratory Super Bowl Championship parade down Broad Street…fans shouldn’t be mad either.

As some who has seen footage of John Elway diving into the Green Bay Packers defensive line in the Super Bowl, legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback John Unitas throwing hard blocks at Hall of Fame linebackers like the Green Bay Packers Willie Davis and Washington Redskins middle linebacker Sam Huff, I like Vick’s competitiveness. While some Eagles fans, a group best known for seeing the glass as not only half empty, but also broken in a thousand pieces on the floor, may see the dings he gets as proof of being injury-prone, I see them as proof of his fearlessness as a competitor.

You would think that a city that heaped all kinds of praise on former Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand for bloodying his nose against the center field fence, admired tough guys like Joe Frazier, who wasn’t afraid to take a punch to knock you out,and adored images of Bobby Clarke with no teeth,would appreciate that from it’s football team’s quarterback.

If Vick worried about getting hurt as much as Eagles fans would like him to, the doubt that comes with that would put him on the slow boat to injured reserve for sure.

But while Vick can’t think about getting hurt when he‘s on the field because he’s less effective when he’s less aggressive, he might also want to consider some advice that he got from the Football Fan In Chief, President Barack Obama, over the summer.

You see, President Obama, a guy that knows a little something about having people with ill intent coming after you all of the time, said that Vick might want to slide instead of run every once in a while.

If the idea is to make it the Super Bowl, that bit of Presidential Advice might be good for Vick to heed.

 

 

Eagles Not Sharp at All in First Preseason Game

Eagles offense performed poorly in preseason opener.

By  Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

One of the questions that I tweeted and Facebooked out to fans was how much do they or even should they read into what was an awful performance by the Eagles first team offense and defense against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first preseason game of the season.

As for my two and a half cents on this issue, I would say that it’s complicated to really say that this is a prelude to the upcoming season. In the millions of years I’ve been watching football since the late 1960s, I have seen teams stink on toast in the preseason and then go on to win Super Bowls or at the very least make the playoffs.

In the case of the Eagles, the days leading up to last Thursday’s game has been clouded by the sudden and tragic death of Andy Reid’s eldest son, Garrett.  You can’t get all uptight if Reid or his team’s collective mind wasn’t necessarily on super focus mode over what is ultimately a meaningless preseason game.

The Eagles ultimately won the game 24-23 on a last second 51-yard field goal by Alex Henery.  Considering how this week has gone for Reid’s family, it was good to see him smiling at the end of the game.

The death of the 29-year-old Garrett Reid was probably almost as hard for the team as it was for the Reid family. The young man was apparently popular with Eagles players. Because the team has genuine affection for their head coach, they were no doubt trying to be there for him at a tough time.

You can say that athletes have to be professional and be focused even in the face of tragedy.  But when you or someone you’re close to loses  a loved one like that,  to say they’re you’re not going to affected by such  a tragedy is simply not true.

All that said, the Eagles are still a work in progress on both sides of the ball. The Steelers certainly exposed that particular truth. The Eagles starting defensive unit looked like the squad that was getting gashed by opposing offenses last year and they looked like a team that forgot how to tackle in the open field.

“The blocking, the tacking and penalties on both sides of the ball, it just wasn’t good enough on both sides,” Reid said. “There’s a certain attitude that you have to bring to the table there and we have to get better at it.”

The Steelers offense started the game by holding the ball for 16 plays and 9:52 minutes before getting a field goal.

It was the Steelers second of the drive of the game that was an unpleasant reminder of the team’s struggles from last season.  Pittsburgh’s second-team offense drove 10 plays and 70 yards for the game’s first touchdown of the game.

There were three plays that had fans pressing the SMDH (shaking my damn head) keys on their favorite social networking. sites One of them included a stupid penalty by Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, who launched himself head first  into Steelers backup quarterback Byron Leftwich  on a third down that resulted in a 15-yard penalty.

Later in the drive,  the Steelers faced a third and 13 at the 50-yard line and wound up getting a 14-yard run by running back Chris Rainey , who powered his way through a defense that missed a couple tackles.

On the next play, Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer ran another 33-yards through the Eagles defense.

Two plays later, Leftwich hits a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders for a two-yard touchdown in between Nnamdi Asomugha, who apparently had corner of the end zone and safety Jaiquawn Jarrett who was playing about seven or eight yards off Sanders.  Both players seemed confused about the coverage on that play.

The Eagles starting offense was equally as terrible.  In two possessions, they didn’t get any first downs and managed just -7 yards of total offense. Michael Vick was sacked and left the game with a thumb bruise. He  completed three-of-four passes for six yards.

Now they’re a lot of Eagles fans who are looking at his performance and  going into panic mode.  Stop!

For as bad as the starters were and they were terrible,  there’s still time to fix both sides of the ball at this point of the season. That’s why you can’t really can’t  put too much stock into the first preseason game.

If they ‘re playing  like this in September or mid-October, then you may have some reason to sound the alarm or push the panic button.