Eagles work on improving Vick's protection

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick tries to avoid the tackle of Broncos Malik Jackson in third quarter. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick tries to avoid the tackle of Broncos Malik Jackson in third quarter. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Posted: October 03, 2013

After Sunday's 52-20 loss in Denver, Eagles coach Chip Kelly insisted that quarterback Michael Vick needs better protection. Vick has been sacked 14 times this season, the third-highest total in the NFL.

For an offense that has had little trouble accumulating yards, pass protection is one area that the Eagles must shore up to score more points.

"I'm not worried about protection," Vick said. "We'll get that straight. If not, we'll find a way."

Center Jason Kelce and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur agreed that there is no common thread to the protection problems. Kelce attributed problems the last two weeks to "overthinking things" and "poor technique."

Shurmur pointed out that the Eagles played strong defensive fronts against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Broncos, which factored into the nine sacks allowed. The problem is a common one, he said.

"When you watch any game, there are times when it's not a perfect pocket," Shurmur said. "Ideally you want them to be able to take one step from the gun or three steps from the gun and be able to play it, hitch, and throw the football. There are a lot of times when that doesn't happen."

One thing Vick could do is pass the ball sooner. He holds the ball the longest of any quarterback in the NFL at 3.4 seconds, according to the website Pro Football Focus. The number can be skewed because Vick can extend plays, and the top quarterbacks on the list are threats to scramble. Vick was near the top of that list the last two seasons, too.

Shurmur puts little stock in the number. He said Vick "does a good job of getting the ball out" based on the way the Eagles calculate how long he holds the ball relative to the play call.

"If he's in the pocket and we're throwing something that's a three-step rhythm, then the ball hits out extremely quick," Shurmur said. "Later in the game, when you're trying to drive the ball down the field and chuck it a little bit because you're behind, there are times when you hold it a little longer. . . . I think it's neat that everybody tracks that. But we look at it a different way."

Shurmur said the Eagles' calculations vary based on the play call and the progressions. He reminded a reporter that "these guys are not machines and robots that you're playing with."

When Vick was asked last week if the clock in his head is different from past offenses, his reaction was similar to Shurmur's.

"It depends on the play, the design of the play," Vick said. "Sometimes it's designed to get out fast, sometimes you've got to hold it."

The offensive linemen often don't know what he's doing behind them. They're measured by keeping their quarterback clean, but the longer the quarterback holds the ball, the greater the likelihood that they get beaten.

Guard Todd Herremans said that how long the linemen must hold their blocks is different each game and each play, depending on the quarterback's drop.

"There's no set time," Kelce said. "We're taught to block until the whistle's blown or the ball's downfield."

The line was supposed to be one of the strengths of this team, and it has lived up to its billing in run blocking. Kelly said Monday that the problem with discussing offensive line problems is that they could come down to one player who is sound for most of the game but slips up on a play and gets burned.

Receivers are also involved. The Eagles receivers have struggled to get open, forcing Vick to extend plays and allowing more time for the line to leak. But the linemen remain accountable, and they say the protection problems come back to them.

"They need time for the route to develop, too," Herremans said. "If we can block longer, we'll be better off."

Extra points

Safety Patrick Chung was at practice, but his participation level was not known. Chung missed last week with a shoulder injury. . . . The New York Giants, who host the Eagles on Sunday, signed former Eagles center Dallas Reynolds. They released running back Da'Rel Scott, a former Plymouth Whitemarsh standout.


 


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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