Rich Hofmann: Eagles must run to keep the blitz off Vick

Andy Reid says he understands the Eagles need to protect Michael Vick from the blitz.
Andy Reid says he understands the Eagles need to protect Michael Vick from the blitz. (MICHAEL BRYANT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: September 26, 2012

MICHAEL VICK dropped back to pass 46 times against the Arizona Cardinals, and the Cardinals blitzed him 24 times. That is 52 percent of the time; in other words, a ton.

According to the excellent profootballfocus.com, Vick ran once when he was blitzed, was sacked twice, and completed only five of the 21 passes he threw for 109 yards. His quarterback rating against that Arizona blitz pressure was 48.7; in other words, a disaster.

You can parcel out the blame to whomever you want - to Vick for being slow on the trigger; to the offensive line for being too feeble, too often; to the auxiliary blockers who are supposed to help the line; to coach Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for calling too many passes. Have at it. It is all anybody will talk about until Sunday night.

But the reality is the reality. That is, teams will continue to ramp up the blitz until the Eagles can start to do some damage against it. It is their most pressing issue as they prepare for the Giants. It is where Vick stands now, as he continues to endure withering punishment.

For this quarterback, at this time, against these blitzes, he needs to make the other team pay for its gambling. For Vick, it is a simple euphemism: kill or be killed.

"Listen, you've got to answer that, right?" Reid said Monday, at his state-of-the-debacle news conference following the Eagles' 27-6 loss to the Cardinals. "Teams have had some [success]. In particular, right here, this team had some success there, so you figure the next team will try it until you answer it. Then once you answer it, then it will be put on hold."

The answer is to run the ball. Everybody knows the answer is to run the ball. There are plays when Vick appears hesitant beyond all reason. There are more plays where new center Dallas Reynolds and new left tackle Demetress Bell appear overmatched. Add that to the normal complement of mistakes you see in any NFL game and it is too much. The Eagles, as currently constituted, cannot handle as much passing as Reid and Mornhinweg (and most of the NFL these days) deem appropriate.

And now, here come the Giants. They have blitzed Vick a bunch in the three games he has started against them. The NFL, in its infinite wisdom, has averaged blitzing about 38 percent of the time against Vick in his time with the Eagles, a heavy number. The Giants, in their three games, have blitzed Vick 46 percent of the time. Never have they laid back and, in one game, they were more than 50 percent blitzes.

In only one of the three games did Vick handle the blitz well - the miracle game won by DeSean Jackson's punt return, when he threw three touchdown passes against it (and one interception). In the other two games, he threw no touchdown passes against the blitz, one interception, and his passer rating never cracked 51.0.

All of which means, the Giants are coming.

It is why the Eagles will run. They have no choice, not anymore, not the way Vick is getting so repeatedly punished. Back when Donovan McNabb played around here, he had to take a physical beating and be at serious risk for more before Reid unleashed the run game. Well, that is where they are today.

It will happen, starting this week, until they can get the other team to back off on the blitzes. Because know this more than anything: The last thing Reid wants to do is be forced to go to rookie Nick Foles, either because of an injury or because Vick is messed up beyond recognition. This is true despite whatever he said about the subject at his news conference and thereafter.

Reid is a careful man. He also is a man who was burned 2 years ago and branded a liar when he said Kevin Kolb was his starting quarterback on a Monday and ended up giving the job to Michael Vick on the subsequent Tuesday.

It stung him, the liar business. He seems intent on never putting himself in the same position again. He couches his statements now. He tends to throw in an additional qualifier or two these days on most everything, avoiding the simple declarative whenever possible.

And so, on this particular Monday, Reid said: "Right now we're with Michael and that's what we're doing. We'll evaluate as we go."

Until he said several hours later, on his radio show, "Michael's our quarterback, period."

This, too, will be chewed over endlessly in the coming days. But the first statement, the we'll-evaluate-as-we-go part, isn't meaningful until it is meaningful, if you know what I mean.

And just know this: If they can't get the blitz numbers down, it has a chance to be meaningful. It is why they will start running this week.


Contact Rich Hofmann at hofmanr@phillynews.com.

 

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