In defense of Vick, Eagles say all right things

Andy Reid during the winning drive.
Andy Reid during the winning drive. (RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 12, 2012

THERE ARE two big recurring worries when it comes to Michael Vick: his health and his decision-making.

Either variable can lead to an Eagles loss. Sunday in Cleveland, against all odds, the health part went great, even with the Eagles running 88 plays, the most snaps they've had since a Nov. 19, 2006 loss to the Tennessee Titans (a game in which Donovan McNabb was injured, by the way), and even with Vick hitting the deck frequently.

Perhaps because of a bunch of early hits, the Vick decision-making part proved to be a disaster, so terrible that Andy Reid broke out his favorite rhetorical device Monday, the mythical pie of culpability. Reid served up slices to everyone - himself, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, the offensive line, receivers who could have run better routes - Reid deflecting blame from his quarterback at a furious pace.

"We didn't play with the discipline we needed to offensively, all the way around," Reid said. Later he said: "It starts with the plays that are dialed up. It starts with the protection, and then it comes back to decision-making . . . You've got to add the route-running in there, too."

Obviously, the Eagles aren't going to make the playoffs if Vick plays like that very often. But despite what fan-base keepers of the legend of Nick Foles might think, the Eagles probably aren't going to the playoffs if Vick gets seriously injured, either. And he just about has to get hurt, if many more games go like Sunday's adventure in Cleveland.

An offensive line that talked all week about needing to protect Vick, needing to make sure his acclimation to game speed after that too-brief preseason was simple and clean, was a train wreck through most of the first half. Instead of getting comfortable, Vick ran for his life, and though the line eventually settled down a bit, Vick did not.

"Listen, it could have been that game. It's not necessarily him [holding the ball too long]," Reid said Monday, when asked about Vick taking so many hits. He repeated his praise from Sunday of Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron, who served on Reid's staff 2 years ago. After the game, Reid had noted that Jauron "got a few shots on Michael." The Browns were credited with 11 quarterback hits, which is a lot.

"We all struggled," left tackle King Dunlap said after the game. Dunlap replaced All-Pro Jason Peters, out with a torn Achilles'. Demetress Bell, the tackle the Eagles originally signed to fill that void, was inactive Sunday, after losing out to Dunlap in training camp. "First game of the season, we got to clean it up," Dunlap said. "It was ugly."

Dunlap said as the turnovers mounted, the line told Vick "we've got his back." Vick could be excused if he didn't quite believe this, or if he wished they might have his front and his sides from time to time, as well.

Monday, Reid said the leaguewide focus on hits to quarterbacks now might make it seem like Vick is taking a riskier number of shots than he is. Asked if he thinks Vick gets hit in the pocket more than other QBs, Reid said: "Well, in the pocket, I wouldn't say he gets hit more than the other quarterbacks." Then Reid acknowledged he didn't have numbers on that, "but I know quarterbacks are taking hits within the pocket there."

When the Eagles start practicing Wednesday for this week's home opener against the Ravens, Reid and offensive-line coach Howard Mudd are going to have to do what they can to get the protections straightened out, while hoping Vick makes better decisions. And hoping the better decisions help Vick stay healthy.

Receivers hurting

When you throw 56 passes, as the Eagles did in Cleveland on Sunday, it's not just hard on the quarterback. The receiving corps takes a beating as well. With Riley Cooper (collarbone) sidelined, the Birds brought only four wideouts with them to Ohio, and rookie Damaris Johnson got only a handful of snaps, Johnson targeted three times and catching one ball, for 10 yards.

So Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant engaged in hand-to-hand combat all afternoon with an aggressive Cleveland defense that might have been emboldened by the presence of the replacement refs. Those three wideouts were targeted 30 times, catching 15 passes for 200 yards.

Big shock, then, when Andy Reid addressed the media Monday, his injury report included both Maclin and Avant. Maclin, Michael Vick's workhorse, with seven catches (on 14 targets) for 96 yards, suffered both a hip pointer and a hip-flexor injury, Reid said, on different plays. Maclin was able to play through the pain Sunday after taking a short break, but Reid acknowledged Maclin was "awfully tender" Monday.

Would this lead to a roster move? Reid said there is no chance Cooper plays this week. The Birds' practice squad includes B.J. Cunningham, cut by the Dolphins at the end of the preseason. Chad Hall and Mardy Gilyard remain unsigned.

Reid said he wanted to wait to see how Maclin feels in a few days, which is NFL coachspeak for "we're really hoping he's able to battle through this and play."

Avant, meanwhile, has a wrist contusion. Reid said he was sore Monday, "but in a couple of days should be all better."

The injury report also included safety Jaiquawn Jarrett (shoulder strain) and corner Curtis Marsh (hamstring).

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