Stuck in Reverse: Eagles Offense Dismal in Loss to Giants

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley (left) looks up at Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams, who recovered his fumble late in the second quarter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley (left) looks up at Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams, who recovered his fumble late in the second quarter. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—The first half of the Monday night season-opener against the Washington Redskins seems like a distant memory for the Eagles offense.

Chip Kelly’s high-scoring, fast-paced offense that transformed the Oregon Ducks into a national powerhouse at the collegiate level, has simply not worked game in and game out at the pro level.  While it has compiled yardage, it has been inconsistent.

The Eagles 15-7 loss to the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday was another example of an offense that is stuck in a quagmire and going nowhere fast.  The Birds offense has scored just three points in their last eight quarters and could only muster 201 yards against the Giants defense.

The only points came via special teams late in the fourth quarter when Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie sailed the ball over the head of punter Steve Weatherford.  Eagles reserve linebacker Najee Goode recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Meanwhile, the Eagles defense had another solid outing while the offense struggled. The Birds did not allow a touchdown and held the Giants (2-6) to five Josh Brown field goals.

For the second straight week, the Eagles offense could not generate points. They lost starting quarterback Michael Vick who re-aggravated his left hamstring and was ineffective when he was on the field.  He was 6-of-9 passing for 31 yards with one interception. Vick left the game for good early in the second quarter.

With backup quarterback Nick Foles recovering from concussion symptoms, rookie Matt Barkley was pressed into service as the Birds quarterback for the rest of the game.  Although he showed flashes of brilliance, Barkley played like a rookie quarterback.  Good on some plays and terrible on others.   He completed 17-of-26 passes for 158 yards with an interception and a fumble. Barkley was sacked three times.

Ironically, it was when Barkley was at his best that he made the most egregious mistake of the game for the Eagles.  The former USC star drove the Birds from their own 20 to the New York two-yard line. On first and goal, Barkley was sacked at the Giants 14 by cornerback Terrell Thomas, who jarred the ball loose.  New York linebacker Jacuian Williams recovered the ball at the Giants 12.

“I saw (DeSean) Jackson first and it looked too close to throw it to him, so I was going through my second progression and was about to throw it away and (Thomas) just got there a second too early,” Barkley said.

That was as close as the Eagles (3-5) would come to scoring an offensive touchdown for the rest of the game.

Barkley’s fumble had folks questioning why Kelly would pass the ball that deep in Giants territory with a rookie quarterback when they have running back LeSean McCoy in the backfield.

Granted, McCoy gained just 48 yards on 15 carries for the game. You would think with a back as good as McCoy the Eagles would be able to get two yards on two carries deep inside the red zone even on a day when he was struggling.

“That was the play I called,” Kelly said. “It didn’t work. So obviously, it didn’t work. But we know in that situation, we’re first and goal and we talked about it.  If we don’t have it, let’s throw it way and we’ll go the next time.”
The only thing Barkley threw away in that sequence was a golden opportunity to put points on the board.

Kelly said inconsistency at the quarterback position, among other things, has been the reason the team has struggled offensively in the last couple of weeks.

“Yeah I think we’ve had some instability at the quarterback position,” Kelly said. “It starts with me. I’m the play caller. I’m the guy calling the plays. In the last two weeks, I haven’t done a very good job of it.  Until we can get that straightened out, the disappointing thing is I think our defense played a really, really good football game again today. They’ve really come along.

“But offensively, we haven’t done what we need to do to win two football games and we need to get that fixed.”

















Vick Says He’s Close, But Not There Yet

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Michael Vick says he's close to being ready to play in Sunday's game against the Giants. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Michael Vick says he’s close to being ready to play in Sunday’s game against the Giants.  NIck Foles is going through the NFL’s concussion protocol. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—Just when you thought the Eagles quarterback situation for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants would be clearer, it is still up in the air.

Earlier in the day, reported that a source close to the team said Michael Vick, who is recovering from a sore left hamstring, would be ready for Sunday’s game against the Giants.  At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Vick said he wasn’t sure about starting on Sunday.

“I wish I could give you a definite answer on that, but I can’t right now,” Vick said. “At some point this week, I’ll test it out and see what it feels like. But I have to give it a go, but I just don’t want to do it this early in the week.”

Vick said his left hamstring was getting better with each passing day, but he didn’t want to rush the healing process.   He said the knot that was in the hamstring is gradually going away.

“It’s progressed quickly and it’s gotten better each and everyday,” Vick said. “I just don’t want to lose sight of what’s gotten me to this point. I don’t want to re-aggravate it. I want to continue with my progress. I don’t want to regress.

“Whenever I can do things without thinking about it, that’s when I’ll be able to make that determination.”

Teammate DeSean Jackson said Vick has been really pushing hard in the last few weeks to get back on the field to help the Eagles offense.

“I feel that Mike is doing a great job of preparing himself to play a game,” Jackson said. “As far as he’ll be ready or not, I can’t answer that question. He’s been out here practicing and he’s been practicing last week as well, too. I think he’s ready, sooner or later, we’ll find out who the quarterback will be.”

Oddly enough, Vick said it was third-string quarterback Matt Barkley took the first-team reps during Tuesday’s practice. That might be a smoke screen to confuse how the Giants prepare the game-plan to attack the Eagles offense.

“We put together a plan that fits all the quarterbacks, so it’s not like we’re all the way over here if we say Nick’s playing or all the way over here if Mike is playing. We put together a plan that fits all our quarterbacks,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

With Nick Foles going through the NFL’s concussion protocol, there is the possibility that he won’t play on Sunday as well.

Vick said Foles condition doesn’t mean he’s going to rush his healing process just to regain the starting position.

“It’s a very delicate situation, you want to get back out there, you want to play and you want to help your teammates,” Vick said. “That’s what’s eating me up on the inside right now. I wish I can tell you that it’s going to speed up the recovery process. I just got to put it all in God’s hands.”

Later in the press conference, a reporter asked Vick if the game were on Thursday, would he be on the field in uniform, ready to start.

“We’ll see. I’m optimistic about it,” Vick said.

One of the things Vick said he would like to do differently this week if he does start is to focus on his stretching routine.

“I understand that stretching more than anything gives your muscles more endurance,” he said. “Sometimes, you’re so eager and so excited to get out to the game that you forget the small things and you can’t forget about the small things that’s gotten me to the point to where I am now as a 12-year veteran.”





Concern Over Vick’s Reckless Style Overshadows His True Toughness

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Michael Vick's hard-charging style has often landed him on the injury list. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Michael Vick’s hard-charging style has often landed him on the injury list. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADLEPHIA—No coach, owner or fan wants to see their franchise quarterback out with an injury for any amount of time.

Nor do they want their quarterbacks in situations where they could get hurt-whether it’s behind the pocket or when they’re out on the run. Most coaches cringe when they see their quarterback blocking or tackling somebody after an interception.

In an NFL where quarterbacks are seen as over-protected divas, you have the curious case of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, whose reckless style has often landed him on the injured reserve list to the point where he hasn’t a full 16-game season since 2006.

Last month, the 33-year-old Vick said he would not change his style, which includes not sliding to avoid hard hits when he gets out of the pocket to run.

That prompted NFL Network analyst and former Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin to ask the question, “how stupid can you be?” People like former NFL general manager Charley Casserly have said Vick won’t last the season. Considering Vick’s history with injuries, it is a legitimate concern.

“I think you can get hurt at any point of the game,” Vick said after practice on Wednesday. “Some guys have their worst injuries just staying in the pocket—torn ACLs and things like that. Injuries are what happens in this game. There’s no way to prevent it. Every player is at risk on every play.”

As much as I would like to see Vick protect himself by sliding when he runs and throwing the ball away if it’s not there to avoid hard hits in the pocket, I have to admit that I admire his heart and his tough-guy approach to the game.

In Monday night’s game against the Washington Redskins, Vick threw two touchdown passes and ran for another. He had 54 yards on nine carries including a 36-yard run in which he didn’t slide.

In the second quarter of the game, Vick threw a good block on a Redskins defender during a run by LeSean McCoy. While fans and more than a few of us in the media cringed at the site of him throwing his body into a bigger defender, Vick’s teammates admired his toughness.

“We might tell him afterwards, you don’t need to do that you could easily hurt yourself there, but that just shows what kind of a guy Mike is and he’s all in,” said Eagles right guard Todd Herremans. “He’s going to do everything he can even hurl his body into a defender if he thinks it’s going to get us some positive yardage.”

Over the years of watching football, I’ve seen guys like Brett Favre block for receivers even after he’s thrown the ball to him. When he was playing with the Minnesota Vikings back in 2009 against the San Francisco 49ers, he threw a pass down field, followed the play and threw a block on a defensive back.

In my own personal football film collection, I have footage of legendary Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas throwing a block against Hall of Fame middle linebacker Sam Huff, one of the fiercest hitters of his era.

Whenever I see quarterbacks do those kind of things, the first thing I will hear announcer and analysts say is what a tough guy, what a complete player that quarterback and what a competitor is and so on.

“People love to see it because they’re seeing the quarterback trying to work hard, trying to spur his team to victory,” said Eagles rookie quarterback and former University of Southern California star Matt Barkley.  “We understand that Mike’s a gamer. He’s going to give it his all. It’s cool to see that out of your quarterback.”

Eagles left tackle Jason Peters said as much as he can respect Vick’s willingness to go all out for his teammates, he would not prefer to see his quarterback block under any circumstance.

“I told Mike don’t do that again, let me do it,” Peters said. “We don’t need him out there blocking. If it’s a key block and it triggers a touchdown, hooray! But we don’t him out there blocking, we need him all 16 games.”

I agree with Peters, but at the same time I don’t want my quarterback playing with the fear of getting hurt because inevitably you will get injured.

As much as I don’t want to see Vick get hurt, I don’t want to see him lose that intensity and passion because that will more often than naught help his team win games than lose them.

Nothing Wrong With a Little Swag and Self Confidence From Your Quarterback

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Matt Barkley tells reporters he believes that he can start for the Eagles in 2013.

Matt Barkley tells reporters he believes that he can start for the Eagles in 2013.

PHILADELPHIA—Shortly before the 2011 NFL Draft, soon-to-be Carolina Panthers  quarterback Cam Newton declared to the world that he wanted to be an “icon and an entertainer” as a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Of course, a lot of us sportswriter types, especially one from CBS, got their collective panties in a bunch when Newton said that because they thought he was being arrogant and immature.

Apparently, Newton’s youthful bravado and self-confidence unnerved an uptight sports media establishment. Now the whole icon thing was a bit goofy on Newton’s part, but you had to admire his self confidence at the time.

Do you really want your quarterback to be unsure of himself? I saw Newton’s icon declaration as a silly expression of youthful exuberance, but I admired his uncompromising belief in himself. Self confidence in a 22-year-old quarterback or a sports writer is a damned good thing.

When Eagles fourth-round draft pick and former Southern Cal star Matt Barkley rolled into the Eagles rookie minicamp last Friday he said he expects to be competing for the Eagles starting job. That declaration raised a few eye brows among fans and media, especially with experienced players like Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Dennis Dixon and G.J Kinne all fighting for the starting nod.

At the end of the day, I’m not mad at Barkley for coming into camp with that kind of attitude and neither is Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Barkley has a chip on his shoulder and wants to prove that he was better than a fourth-round pick.

“I would hope anybody that came into this place isn’t sitting here and saying I think I’m going to be a really good, solid backup,” Kelly said.  “I want our guys to come in here and show us everything that they can do, and our job as a coaching staff is to put the best guys on the field the first game against Washington that will help us win, and if that’s Matt, that’s Matt, so we’ll see how that goes.”

That’s the thing you have to like about this Eagles quarterback competition is that you have bunch of guys that are unafraid to claim it for themselves.  Vick came into the pre-draft mini camp saying that it was his job to lose, especially after last year’s tough season.

“It’s still my team, still my job and that’s the mindset you gotta have,” Vick said. “I believe in myself and my abilities and I believe in the guys on this football team.”

And then you have the case of Dennis Dixon who has a 2-1 record as a starting quarterback and has been struggling to find a place in the league after a season-ending knee-injury late in his senior year at Oregon.

After being a backup in Baltimore and Pittsburgh since his rookie year in 2008, Dixon believes that he can be a starter with the Birds.

“Anybody in their right mind would love competition and that’s what we have,” Dixon said. “And I’m quite sure that Michael Vick and Nick Foles would say the same thing as well. We’re excited. We’re just excited to work and let the chips fall where they may.”

Foles and Kinne will also have something to say in the outcome of this competition as well. They both believe that they will emerge as the starter when the dust settles.

It’s always given that you’re starting quarterback is a guy with a strong, accurate arm and has the ability to read and pick apart a defense.

You also want your quarterback to have some swag and an unshakeable belief in himself even when times are bad on the field.

I remember the first time I covered an NFL game as a reporter back in 1985, I saw then Washington Redskins Joe Theismann at his locker after a tough loss to the Eagles. He confidently answered every tough question, looking every reporter in the eye as if he welcomed the scrutiny.

No quarterback comes into any situation whether he’s a highly-touted rookie, a journeyman, a high-price free agent or a guy just trying to hang on for another pay check, hoping to be the starter.

I can never get a mad at a rookie quarterback or any position when he comes and says he’s going to be the man for a team.

“But if anybody came in here and said they were really vying for a backup job, then they would probably be on the bus down 95 pretty quick,” Kelly said.

Nuff said.


































































Eagles OTAs: Birds Get Acclimated to Kelly’s Way of Doing Things

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

(From left to right): Michael Vick, Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne take turns throwing the ball during the first day of OTAs. Photo courtesy of

(From left to right): Michael Vick, Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne take turns throwing the ball during the first day of OTAs. Photo courtesy of

PHILADELPHIA—If you drive by the Eagles NovaCare practice facility in South Philly and you’re hearing Nicki Manaj or hearing “What is Love,” a song made popular by a Saturday Night Live skit, you’re not driving by a nightclub nor is there a special on Margaritas.

It’s the 2013 version of Eagles organized team activities for new head coach Chip Kelly who has definitely put his own unique stamp on the team’s culture. As the team goes through its various drills, mostly dance music with a few rock songs thrown in for good measure is being pumped in through loud speakers.

Some players see the music as a way of getting used to cheering crowds on the road while others are experiencing it the way they experience on their I-pods or in the weight room when they’re working out. Eagles wide receiver Eagles DeSean Jackson said the music is forcing him to concentrate even more on what he’s doing on the field.

“It’s almost like a football game where you have the crowd, everybody screaming and all that other stuff,” Jackson said. “You just have to go in there and focus in, you can’t worry about the music.”

In between the different drills, a computerized voice blares over the loudspeakers and simply says: “Period 20 Teach.”  That’s when the coaches walk through the various schemes that they just ran on the field.

Meanwhile, if you’re trying to get a reading on who’s ahead in the race to be the Eagles starting quarterback, Kelly’s not going tell you anything just yet. At Monday’s practice, the quarterbacks were working with a mixture of starting and backup running backs and receivers.

“It’s May 13th and we’ve got a long ways to go before we set a depth chart or do anything like that,” Kelly said during his post-practice press conference.

Last week at a team charity event, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said Michael Vick got most of the reps during the pre-draft minicamp last month and appeared to more than few people that he was getting most of the work at Monday’s practice.

“He hasn’t,” Kelly said. “Count them up. Someone charted them, I would imagine. (Vick) and Nick switched to different groups. We’re just trying to get the reps off and trying to get film and look at it.”

Relying on the eyeball test based on the idea that Kelly wants his quarterbacks to make quick decisions with the football. Vick seemed slow in going through his progressions, but was accurate with his passes.

Dennis Dixon, who worked with Kelly at Oregon, seemed to be the most comfortable with the offense in both the seven-on-seven drills and the 11-on-11drills.

Former USC star and seventh-round draft pick Matt Barkley did a good job of getting the ball out and quickly finding the open receiver. He doesn’t necessarily have the strongest arm in the world. According to Kelly, Barkley has done a good job of learning in the offense in the four days he has been with the team.

“Matt has been really good. Really thought he picked up things quickly,” Kelly said. “He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s every morning at six a.m. working at whatever it is to work on.”

Nick Foles looked comfortable in the offense and made some decent throws, but made some bad throws, too.  He also made some good reads when he handed the ball off in the running game. G.J. Kinne was about average, nothing to write home about.

Speaking of the running game, LeSean McCoy said the tempo of the offensive is a good thing for the running game and that there will be more touches for the Eagles running backs in this offense.

“There’s definitely a difference,” McCoy said. “Being able to run the ball a lot more because if you look at (Kelly’s) track record, a lot of his backs touched the ball quite a bit.  Sometimes, a big hole may be happening when a guy (on defense) might be out of place. With the backs we have here you don’t need that much room to get going.”

One of the features of Kelly’s up-tempo offense is that the players, as they are going up to the line of scrimmage will be getting the plays signaled in from the sidelines similar to the way it was done at Oregon.

“I think the game is about making quick decisions,” Kelly said. “The difference here that we didn’t have in college is we can communicate to the quarterback and there’s a lot to put on him, so there’s a whole system involved in that. We can talk to him.”