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Tag:Michael Vick
Posted on: October 5, 2011 11:17 am
Edited on: October 6, 2011 4:59 pm
 

Film Room: Panthers vs. Saints preview

Posted by Eye on Football Analyst Andy Benoit



The Saints are 3-1 but it’s the 1-3 Panthers creating most of the chatter. Or, Cam Newton creating the chatter. Through a quarter of his rookie season, the No. 1 overall pick is, in a word, sensational. But obviously not perfect. The Panthers are still dwelling in the basement of the NFC South.

Here’s a comprehensive look at Newton and his club as they head into their first divisional showdown of the season.



1. How good is he, really?
Through four games, Newton has far exceeded all expectations. Remarkably, this includes expectations about his physical talents. We knew the 6’5”, 245-pound Auburn Tiger was an athletic monster, but rarely are quarterbacks still athletic monsters once they reach the NFL. Newton has been a productive runner, both with power and speed.

He’s a poor man’s Vick when it comes to eluding tacklers and a poor man’s Roethlisberger when it comes to shedding them. That’s a rich combination considering no other quarterback truly exhibits any of these traits (save for maybe Josh Freeman shedding defenders).

Most impressive, however, is that Newton has not leaned on his athleticism. Operating almost exclusively out of shotguns, he’s been a willing and poised statuesque passer who willingly works through his progressions from the pocket. His decisions are usually capped off by a bullet either downfield, outside the numbers (he has the uncanny arm strength to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically) or, if need be, underneath.

For the most part, Newton’s decisions have been good. He has faced an aggressive blitzing defense in Arizona, a classic 3-4 press defense in Green Bay (playing without Tramon Williams, the Packers kept Charles Woodson outside and blitzed far less often than usual that game) and, most recently, a classic Cover 2 defense in Chicago. He posted a legit 370-plus yards passing against all three of them.

The proof that it’s not all daisies and roses is that Newton also threw crucial interceptions in all three games and came away with a loss. He’s still a rookie and still prone to the occasional blunder. The blunders have been far less frequent than anyone expected, but they’ve been costly nevertheless.

2. Panthers dual tight ends
We assumed that with tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen, Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski would craft a dink-and-dunk, run-first system. Indeed, the Panthers have kept two tight ends on the field a majority of the time, but often, at least one of them (usually Olsen) has split out, serving essentially as a No. 3 receiver.

This poses serious personnel issues for defenses. Leave your base three-linebacker unit on the field and risk getting burned through the air (Shockey and Olsen have been superb downfield route runners the first four weeks). Use your nickel personnel and you risk getting run on by a team that always has a top-10 running back on the field.

The Saints are one of the few defenses that have an answer for this: strong safety Roman Harper. He is their second best run defender (behind Jonathan Vilma) and a demon in the box. He’s versatile enough to play press man coverage (he’s not particularly good at it, but Gregg Williams feels comfortable using him sporadically in this capacity) or blitz (3.5 sacks on the season).
 
Expect the Panthers in Week 5 to continue to be pass-first with their tight ends. And expect the Saints to not simply react to this, but rather, to attack by changing up what they do with Harper throughout the game in order to get Newton thinking.

3. Running Impact
Newton is the first quarterback since Vick to pose a veritable threat as a runner (Vince Young can’t be counted as a running threat quarterback because he was such a limited passer that defenses could get away with putting nine in the box against him; not a chance that happens against Newton). Having a running threat under center does wonders for your rushing attack.

The Panthers have all the resources to pound teams on the ground – DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart are an excellent duo, center Ryan Kalil can lock defenders at both the first and second level, left tackle Jordan Gross is a Pro Bowler and right tackle Jeff Otah flashed his old power against Chicago last week. But for whatever reason, Chudzinski has not gone in that direction. Carolina is averaging 25.5 rushing attempts per game, tied for 18th in the NFL.

Chudzinski would be wise to change this. The threat that Newton poses really opens things up. We saw this on the third play of the game against Chicago last week:


4. What Newton will see from Saints D
The Saints have one of the most aggressive defenses in football – both in terms of execution and presnap disguise. That has a lot to do with the trust Gregg Williams has in his secondary. Jabari Greer is one of the best ball-man corners in the game. Patrick Robinson had a rough Week 1 at Green Bay but has come on the last few outings (he was phenomenal at Jacksonville).

Playmaker Tracy Porter was eased back into action last week – he missed two games with a calf injury – and should see more snaps Sunday. When you factor in free safety Malcom Jenkins’ range, the Saints clearly have the resources to handle a Panthers’ wide receiving corps that is underwhelming outside of Steve Smith.

Dealing with the tight ends might be an issue, but Roman Harper’s versatility could cause Newton to question that matchup at times. How will Newton react when he sees Harper leave Olsen or Shockey and blitz? The simple answer would be, “He’ll throw to Olsen or Shockey”. But if you and I can predict this, so can Gregg Williams.

The Saints are one of the best green dog blitzing defenses in the league. (A green dog blitz is when a linebacker has a running back man-to-man, sees that the running back is staying in to pass protect and so he goes after the quarterback in response.) These blitzes can be hard to recognize because they come unexpectedly and late in the action.
 
When blitzing is not involved, Carolina’s offensive line can contain a Saints pass-rush that has been hit-or-miss early this season (the return of end Will Smith certainly helps). Thus, expect Gregg Williams to go after Newton and get him guessing before the snap. Many of Williams’ blitzes come out of nickel personnel packages. The Saints used their nickel later in the game against the Texans to counter the receiving impact of Houston’s two tight ends (Owen Daniels and James Casey). Don’t be surprised if they refer to their nickel early against the Panthers’ two-tight end offense.

5. The other side of the ball
The Saints have remade their offense this season. It now runs through Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham. Sproles has been better for the Saints than Reggie Bush ever was (much better, in fact). That could be in part because Sproles doesn’t yet draw the attention that Bush drew. But more than anything, it’s because he has lightning quick feet and an understanding for how to create and exploit spacing in both the run and pass game.

Graham is the dynamic athlete we all knew he’d be after his 2010 debut. It just so happens that the ex-power forward is developing much quicker than expected. He’s a mismatch for any linebacker, has the size to out-position defensive backs and has better hands than Robert Meachem (who is now the fourth option in this pass offense, behind Sproles, Graham and, when healthy, Marques Colston).

Panthers strong safety Charles Godfrey has been stellar in coverage this season and can compete with Graham, but the Panther linebackers (who are really missing Jon Beason) will have trouble with Sproles. Carolina’s best hope is to get pressure on Brees early in the down.

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy are capable of embarrassing New Orleans’ athletic but grossly unreliable tackles Jermon Bushrod and Charles Brown. But Brees knows this and is also capable of adjusting.

So who will win? Check our Week 5 NFL expert picks for all the games

Follow @Andy_Benoit on Twitter or contact him at Andy.Benoit-at-NFLTouchdown.com.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 1:12 pm
 

Vick's finger 'popped out'; Peters, Cole injured

Posted by Will Brinson

Everything is coming up Eagles, huh? Not only is Philly's favorite football team 1-3, and not only is their defense an insult to the word sieve, but the injuries are starting to pile up.

This one, in particular, is gross and terrifying: one of the fingers on Michael Vick's left (read: throwing) hand "popped out" during the Eagles loss to San Francisco on Sunday.

"Yeah my finger popped out of place in the first half and I was just determined to finish the game, regardless of how I had to do it," Vick said on Sunday afternoon. "And I did it.  Wish the outcome could have been a bit different, but it is what it is."

One: ew. And two, um, it sure seems like Vick's body is determined to keep him out of some games this year doesn't it? Speaking of things that won't help Vick stay healthy, the offensive line took a pretty huge hit on Sunday as well, as it appears left tackle Jason Peters will miss some time with what Andy Reid classified as a "fairly significant" hamstring strain.

Peters could certainly miss time and Reid said he and defensive end Trent Cole will be closely evaluated over the next few days. Antonio Dixon, another defensive lineman, is expected to miss the rest of the season because of a torn triceps injury.

Cole also has a "fairly significant" calf strain, and it sounds like each could miss some, um, fairly significant time.

The news doesn't get that much better for the Eagles, who face the Bills and the Redskins on the road in the next two weeks before hitting their bye week. Theoretically, those two games are winnable without some of their key parts, but you can bet everything you own that Philly will see a heavy dose of Fred Jackson and Ryan Torain/Tim Hightower, respectively.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, subscribe to our NFL newsletter, and while you're add it, add our RSS Feed.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 12:43 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:36 pm
 

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Week 4


Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter.Make sure and listen to our Week 4 podcast review below as well and feel free to subscribe via iTunes.



1. The bandwagon rolls on
On Sunday, the mojo disappeared for the Lions and they fell 24 points behind the Cowboys in Dallas, until Tony Romo decided to drag Detroit back from a lockjob of a defeat with a pair of pick-sixes that sparked a rally in which Matthew Stafford hit Calvin Johnson for two touchdowns and the Lions stunned Dallas 34-30 at Jerry Jones' palatial estate.

There are two ways to look at this. One, Romo is a choker again (more on that in a second) and Dallas stinks. Or, two, the Lions are very much for real. I'm inclined to believe the second narrative. So is Cowboys fan LeBron James.


I'm including this mainly because I find it absolutely hysterical that Ohio native James is a Cowboys fan. I'm sure it has nothing to do with bandwagons. But I'm also including it because James is right -- the Lions do "got swag right now."

This was mentioned after Week 2, when the Lions slammed a beatdown on the Chiefs, and it makes sense to mention now.

That's primarily because the Lions are 4-0 for the first time since 1980 and became the fourth team to start a season 4-0 a year after starting the season 0-4 since 1990. (The impressive nature of that turnaround aside, what a statement on the NFL's parity, huh?)

Take it back even further, and count preseason games and the Lions are on a 12-game winning streak, and once, again, appear to develop some of this attitude from their head coach.

"I'm glad the third best wide receiver on the Cowboys is on our team," Jim Schwartz said after the game.

Naturally you'll recall that Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had some comments about the skills of Dez Bryant and Miles Austin versus Calvin Johnson before the game.

Schwartz' comments are a straight burn, of course, but it warrants mentioning that Dez did look otherworldly earlier in the game. But Megatron did some dirty things on his two touchdowns to the Dallas defensive backs. On the first catch, he went up in triple coverage and grabbed a ball that probably never should have been a score.

And on the second -- and most important -- score, Johnson scored when he was isolated in single coverage against Terrence Newman. Based on Ryan's theory, Newman's practice against Bryant and Austin should have prepared him for a one-on-one matchup at the goalline.

Unfortunately, Megatron's the biggest freak of nature in the NFL, arguably the best wideout in the league and slicing up some well-deserved humble pie for Ryan after the Lebowski look-a-like tried to put him in man coverage.

2. Hands on Necks
Obviously the Cowboys loss is going to be classified as a chokejob. And it should -- there's no way to classify it as anything other than that, especially when Romo packaged a pair of touchdowns and mailed it the Lions way.

"The games turn, obviously, on turnovers," Romo said. "It's the most important stat in the game. That's why you protect the ball. That's my No. 1 job and I didn't do a well enough job of that today."

The weird thing about the loss is that Dallas is now 2-0 in games where they were "gritty and tough and found a way to win" and 0-2 in games where "Romo peed his pants and threw terrible picks." Or something like that.

The point is that, yes, the Cowboys choked, but it wasn't even the worst choke on Sunday. And perhaps only the third worst -- Dallas was at least playing a very dangerous team in the Lions and even if the game was at home, we've seen Detroit do this before.

There's no real excuse for Buffalo, who was leading 21-3 against the Bengals on Sunday, to lose on a last-second field goal by Mike Nugent. Sure, it was in Cincy and, sure, it was the Bills and we should have seen something coming after buying in so heavily. But losing like that to a Bengals team with a rookie quarterback is just bad news Bears.

And yet it wasn't even the most embarrassing choke of the day. The Eagles deserve some, um, credit for their inability to hold off the 49ers in a home game where they led 23-3 as late as midway through the third quarter.

The Bills and Cowboys can at least hang their respective hats on records that aren't below .500. The Eagles have no such excuse and it's becoming increasingly clear why "offseason winners" isn't always such a nice thing to say about teams in the NFL.



3. Super Bowl champs remain under the radar

Thus far, the Packers have beaten the Saints, the Panthers, the Bears and the Broncos. It's not exactly a murderer's row of great NFL teams, but it's not the four-worst teams in the league either.

And they've looked outstanding on offense, compiling a league-high 148 points en route to a 4-0 record, and giving plenty of folks justification for selecting the Packers to repeat as Super Bowl champions in 2011.

Yet ... no one wants to talk about the success they've had this year.

This is partially because of the other storylines that are permeating the NFL this season, and partially because after last season's late run, we've come to expect this out of Aaron Rodgers and his outstanding teammates.

"Trust me, we don't have it all figured out as a football team," Mike McCarthy said Sunday. "We're 4-0, but we're very in tune with what we need to improve as a team."

The biggest issue is defense, clearly. While the Packers have arguably improved their running game from last year (James Starks looks like a legit back for their system, especially when it comes to melting the clock with a lead), the defense isn't the championship-winning caliber that showed up in the playoffs last year.

Both Kyle Orton and Cam Newton posted big numbers against Green Bay, and though there were some fantastic moments from the defenses in those games, it's difficult to justify any claim that the Packers defense is better this year than it was last year.

Having said all that, this team did a pretty good job of gelling at the right time last year, and they're off to a much better start in 2011. We should all take notice.

4. Hope you sick people are happy now
2011 has been a tough go for anyone who supports Arian Foster, whether it be Texans fans, fantasy owners or just, you now, nice people who care about other humans.

Fortunately, those people got some good karmic returns for their Foster love on Sunday, as he and the Texans took some punches from the Steelers and punched right back, eventually beating Pittsburgh 17-10 on Sunday afternoon. As my man Mike Freeman points out, everything about the win at Reliant Stadium on Sunday goes against the typical stereotype of Texans football.

More on that in a second, but first, Foster. When Gary Kubiak said he was going to bring Foster back against the Steelers, I thought he was insane. After all, the Steelers are (well, were) a top-10 rushing defense.

But Foster looked fantastic. He broke long runs, he showed tremendous burst through holes, when he got around the corner he was able to cut back upfield and pick up big yards and in general he looked like the 2010 version of himself.

"I go into every contest thinking that I'm the go-to guy," Foster said. "When the flow of the game starts going, we need certain things, and you've got to be there for your team."

Hamstrings are tricky, of course, and there's no guarantee that Foster's going to roll to another rushing title or anything. Plus, the Texans offense sputtered a bit (OK, a lot) after Andre Johnson left with a hamstring injury that really looked like a knee injury in the second quarter and that could be problematic going forward.

But at least for now, there's reason to think that the Texans offense can hop back up on Foster's back and ride him to a division title.



5. Sunday night monstrosity
The Ravens opened up on fire to begin the Sunday night game against the Jets, jumping out to a 27-7 lead before eventually winning handily. But, um, well, you see ... that was ugly.

Real ugly -- Joe Flacco limped his way to a 10 for 31 performance that generated 163 passing yards and an interception.

It would have been the ugliest performance on the field, but Mark Sanchez took full advantage of Nick Mangold's absence, and fumbled four times, three of which were lost, two of which were taken to the house by Ravens defenders and also threw a pick-six.

Things got so bad that, at one point, Rex Ryan called a timeout just to scream at the officials. It actually seemed to work, or it at least confused the Ravens and Cam Cameron, who took a 20-point lead with just a few minutes remaining in the second quarter and desperately tried to let the Jets back in the game.

That didn't matter, but it didn't make the performance of Sanchez, Flacco and their respective teams any worse or weirder. There were five defensive and special teams touchdowns in total during the game, most in NFL history and Sanchez' final pass (he finished 11 of 35, ugh) went off the heel of a defender.

What perplexes me isn't the Jets struggling, because, frankly, they were kind of due to regress a bit. I'm sure they'll start getting better, and they might start stopping the run (although I'm sure Cameron won't figure that out!) and running the ball better. They almost always do, just in time to claw their way into the playoffs.

The bigger concern is how the Ravens came out in Week 4, continuing the metronome-like performance for Flacco through a few weeks. At times (against the Steelers and the Rams) he's looked like an elite-level quarterback. And at others (Sunday and against the Titans), he's looked absolutely lost.

If he wants to truly "make the jump," he's going to need to find some consistency.

6. Goin' out east
There was no shortage of different predictions for the team that would win the NFC West. Well, except for the Seahawks. No one predicted that. The typical favorites were the Rams and Cardinals, mainly because of their quarterback play.

The 49ers should have gotten more love, but Alex Smith held them back, and Jim Harbaugh, in his first stop as an NFL head coach, is showing exactly why. His team managed to storm back against the Eagles on Sunday and move into first place in their division, with a firm command of the typically crappy NFC West.

San Francisco's 3-1, the Rams are 0-4 and the Seahawks and Cardinals are 1-3.

None of the teams out there have, unsurprisingly, looked very good. And the 49ers are the only squad with a positive point differential, which should tell you just how bad this division is. Again. But maybe Harbaugh is the difference -- look no further than his decision to house his team in Ohio for half a week in between their Week 3 game against the Bengals and Sunday's win in Philadelphia.

"Thanks Youngstown, you've been good to us," Harbaugh said in deference to Ohio. "That's as good a win as I can ever remember being a part of. I'm really proud of our players. They never flinched in a tough environment here, and there was no moment or circumstance that made them nervous in this ballgame. We kept fighting, made adjustments -- a great team victory for us."

Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards, and Alex Smith played pretty inspired football, going 13 of 17 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in just the second half.

It's a surprising turnaround for a surprising team that stunk the joint out last year. Given the dearth of talent for Seattle, Arizona's inability to close out, and St. Louis' rough schedule ahead, Harbaugh might have this team -- surprisingly -- poised to take over their division.

7. Remember the Titans

Unless Tennessee has something to say about that anyway -- Mike Munchak picked up his third-career win on Sunday afternoon as the Titans vaulted themselves into a first-place tie with Houston in the AFC South

On The NFL Today, Charley Casserly mentioned that Matt Hasselbeck was drawn to Tennessee because of two things: Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback with strong line play, and Munchak's commitment to protecting the quarterback's ability to throw deep by leaving in more blockers.

This has paid tremendous dividends for Hasselbeck, who's eighth in the NFL in passing yards, sixth in passing touchdowns, third in yards per pass and first in pass plays of 40-plus yards.

"We thought he had a lot left in the tank from watching him in the playoffs last year," Munchak said. "We didn't bring him here to retire quietly. We brought him here to do exactly what he's been doing."

And he's casually doing all of this while playing for a team that doesn't have a viable No. 1 wide receiver because of Kenny Britt's season-ending injury last week.

Chris Johnson finally managed to get going a little bit in the Week 4 win over Cleveland, and provided the Hasselbeck can stay healthy (which is somewhat of a stretch, but possible), the Titans might be the surprise playoff team that no one's talking about.



8. Pay the man!
Just like 2010, Mike Martz refused to run the ball until the Bears met up with the Panthers early in the season. And just like 2010, Martz got enough criticism for his playcalling that he ran the ball a ton against Carolina. And just like 2010, Matt Forte went HAM.

Last year it was 166 rushing yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. This year it was a career-high 205 rushing yards on 25 carries and a touchdown in the Bears 34-29 win.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons. One, the Bears are 9-0 when Forte rushes for 100 yards or more. Yet ... they don't like to run. Two, the Panthers defense is absolutely terrible. I could put up a hundo on them, and it shouldn't be too huge of a shock to see him go key largo against Carolina's beat-up defense.

That being said ... three, Forte wants a new contract, has wanted a new contract but can't get the Bears to even talk to him about getting more money.

The result, predictably, is a running back who appears to be playing with a great deal of intensity and a desire to be highly productive. Of course, for all of Forte's success against the Panthers, there wasn't that much to love about the way Chicago played. Just don't tell Lovie Smith that.

"We’re not apologizing at all about this win," Smith said. "We feel really good about it."

They shouldn't, even if this year suddenly looks like last year in terms of figuring out to run the ball and not get Jay Cutler killed. Cam Newton did a lot of damage to the Bears defense, though he made some rookie mistakes, and the Panthers were able to run pretty easily on Chicago.

Anyone can score on the Panthers, and do it at will, given the lack of depth they have on the defensive side of the ball right now. That being said, it sure does seem like the Bears might have saved themselves some money if they'd gotten Forte some cash before the season rather than waiting.

As my college football colleague Tom Fornelli likes to say, "Pay the man, Chicago."

9. Review Controversy
Could the NFL's current replay system be any less controversial? As you likely know, all scoring plays are reviewed by a booth official. That sounds simple, but it's not at all -- we've already had plenty of problems with plays that seemed like obvious needs for reviews that weren't scrutinized further by the officials.

Sunday, we saw two more examples. First, there an issue in the Chiefs and Vikings game.

With 5:01 remaining, Michael Jenkins caught a one-yard touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb. It appeared, pretty clearly, that he only got one foot inbounds. Fox didn't show any replays of the catch, and the officials at the game never reviewed it. Ultimately, it didn't matter, because the Vikings lost.

But it could have mattered and there wasn't anything Todd Haley or the Chiefs could do to get the play looked at. If Haley had thrown a challenge flag, he'd have been flagged for a delay of game penalty.

Another less controversial instance occurred during the Packers-Broncos game when Aaron Rodgers rushed for his second touchdown of the day on a third down. Rodgers was ruled down at the one-yard line, though replays showed he broke the plane of the goal line.

Mike McCarthy challenged and the Packers were given a touchdown that locked in their win against Denver. Here's the problem: "a scoring play" is only defined as a play in which the officials subjectively rule that a touchdown has happened. If that subjective ruling occurs, then the play is automatically reviewed.

If it doesn't happen, coaches are required to use a challenge.

I realize that the league can't challenge every single play that gets close to the end zone, but it seems to me that these two plays aren't that different. Something was botched by the refs and the booth wasn't available to make sure the right call was locked in. Ironically, in the non touchdown scenario, the coach has more freedom to help out his team with a red flag.

Even if the booth doesn't believe that a call should be looked at by the ref -- and in a close game like that, who's hurt by double-checking? -- there should be an option for a coach to take a stab at having a call overturned as well, if he's really adamant about what happened.

And, of course, there's the whole mess that went down in Arizona with Victor Cruz giving himself up and/or pulling the old stumble-->fumble disaster combo.

That actually seems like it was interpreted correctly, as it relates to the rule book.

"Official shall declare ball dead when a runner declares himself down by falling to ground or kneeling and making no effort to advance," reads Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1(e) of the NFL Rule Book.

In other words, it's a subjective call by the guys who look like zebras. If they believe Cruz gave himself up, then he gave himself up and that's the end of it.

10. Maybe they ARE the NFL's Heat

Whenever something good or bad happens in sports, reporters inevitably ask athletes how they feel. No, I don't know why it happens all the time either, but it rarely produces a good result.

It got a decent reaction out of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on Sunday, though, as he expressed a high level of frustration at the fact that the Eagles just choked away a huge lead against the 49ers -- at home, no less -- that eventually led to a 24-23 loss to San Francisco.

"Do I really have to explain how I feel right now sitting here at 1-3?" Vick asked. "It's frustrating. It's tough. I can't put that in words. I take sole responsibility. Maybe it's a lot of things I can do better. And I gotta figure it out.

"It's frustrating. I'm not going to continue to use that word, but, yeah, it's tough."


That's the thing with the Eagles, though. It's not all Vick's fault.

Is some of it? Sure, of course. But he was 30 of 46 for 416 yards and two touchdowns Sunday. A bigger problem is that he led the team in rushing, with 75 yards on eight carries. When you have a weapon like LeSean McCoy, it seems silly not to utilize him more.

Then again, the lack of a good push from the offensive line causes that too.

And when you can't stop other teams from running the ball, none of it really matters. Frank Gore gashed the Eagles for 127 yards on just 15 carries and Kendall Hunter picked up 38 on nine.

The Eagles might have some really, really talented players at a couple positions, but they're also really, really weak at other positions, and their depth just isn't that impressive at all.

So, come to think of it, maybe they're more like the Miami Heat than any of us could have ever known.

Muffed Punts
Leftovers from Sunday's action ...
... What the hell was Ronnie Brown thinking? He's not even a quarterback, so trying to throw the ball while being tackled at the goal line doesn't even work as a random logical excuse.
... Johnathan Joseph had two -- TWO! -- touchdowns nullified by stupid penalties by the Texans. First there was the ridiculous block in the back by Danieal Manning when Joseph took a blocked punt to the house to end the half. And then there was the pick six he grabbed to close out the game that was negated by a J.J. Watt penalty. Welcome to Houston!
... Speaking of picks, Vince Wilfork now has two on the season after his second career INT against the Raiders.
... Just for trolling purposes: Nnamdi Asomugha only has one interception on the year.
... In one of the more insane things ever, Rex Ryan used a first-half timeout on Sunday night just to yell at the officials.

Worth 1,000 Words



Jim Irsay Pop-Culture Referencing Tweet That's Sure to Drive Colts Fans Insane of the Week
"I woke up in a So Ho doorway ... a policeman knew my name."

"Who Are You" is actually a pretty good thing to ask the Colts quarterback, no?

GIF O' THE WEEK



Hot Seat Tracker
  • Tony Sparano: It would almost be an upset if he made it past the bye at this point.
  • Jack Del Rio: Very impressive that JDR figured out a way to make Maurice Jones-Drew completely ineffective during the first half of a game that was pretty closer during the first half.
  • Leslie Frazier: It might only be his first year, but looking terrible against a terrible Chiefs team ain't helping his cause. 
  • Todd Haley: Can Minnesota visit every weekend?
  • Juan Castillo: New guy for the Eagles, their defense is a leaky ship and someone needs to take the fall.
Chasing Andrew Luck (All odds mine)
We have a new entrant in the usual suspects who are searching for the answer to their franchise woes -- the St. Louis Rams! Heretofore unlisted in this space, the Rams are 0-4 and now squarely in the hunt for Luck, even though they could get to 0-7 and somehow still win their division, based on how easy their schedule is.

What I find fascinating about this is that the Rams and Vikings, my two current faves for Luck, both drafted a "franchise quarterback" in the past two years. Would the Rams consider acquiring Luck if they got the No. 1 overall pick again? Or is Sam Bradford just that much better? Would both they and the Vikings just absolutely trade the pick to whoever was desperate enough for Luck? Because I'm not so sure.

Vikings (2:1) -- Can't imagine they actually feel like Christian Ponder's better than Luck. Right?
Dolphins (2:1) -- As AJB points out below, Miami definitely deserves inclusion here. My bust. Was too worried about Sparano's job.
Rams (3:1) -- So spicy if they get it.
Colts (3:1) -- They'd be the favorites if/when they lose to Tampa on Monday.
Broncos (4:1) -- Stanford, everyone!
Panthers (5:1) -- Fairly confident that the Panthers would acquire some assets for that pick.
Eagles (10:1) -- Andy Reid does love quarterbacks ...

MVP Watch
Stafford, my leader up to this point, did some nice things Sunday. But after Rodgers did the dirty things -- six touchdowns! -- that he did to Denver and helped propel the Packers to 4-0, it's hard not to sit up and take notice and admit that right now he's the best quarterback in the NFL.
Posted on: October 2, 2011 9:59 am
 

Vick to wear Kevlar glove against 49ers

                                                                            (Getty Images)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

As expected, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick will start today when the Eagles host the 49ers, even though he has been knocked from the previous two games. Two weeks ago against the Falcons, Vick suffered a neck injury, and last week against the Giants he injured his right hand.

As CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Kevin Noonan mentioned Friday, Vick will wear a Kevlar glove when he faces San Francisco. "He also joked that he might have his entire uniform made of Kevlar. 'I'd never get hurt,' he said."

After Friday's practice Vick said that "I feel ready to go out and play the game that we love to play and do our jobs and try to get a win. I feel like I've played through worse. I think the most important thing is to go out and try to play and be conscious of protecting (the hand) but at the same time letting it all go."

ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reports that the glove is manufactured by a company for which Vick already serves as a spokesman. Which prompts PFT's Mike Florio to wonder if using the glove "will conflict with the league’s exclusive equipment and apparel contract."

In other Eagles injury news, it sounds like Vince Young will be the No. 2 quarterback ahead of Mike Kafka, who tossed two late-game interceptions last week. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane calls Young Vick's "likely replacement" in the event Vick has to leave the game.

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who battled a balky hamstring earlier in the week, is expected to start against the 49ers.

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Posted on: September 30, 2011 4:51 pm
 

DeSean Jackson's No. 1 priority is his health

JacksonPosted by Josh Katzowitz

All too often we hear players who claim that winning is the most important thing in the world to them. And while it’s nice for fans and teammates to digest that, I’m sure that’s not always rooted in reality.

Which leads us to the refreshing comments made Thursday by Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who said his health (which he needs in order to land a huge new contract) is of the upmost importance to him.

“That’s the No. 1 priority is to stay healthy,” Jackson said, via the Philly Sports Daily. “I wouldn’t be able to play the game if I wasn’t healthy. In my book, that’s the No. 1 priority. Winning is next in that category. As long as I’m healthy and we’re winning, regardless of my numbers, I think I’ll be very happy.”

Chances are if Jackson is healthy, he’ll probably put up strong statistics, and chances are if Jackson puts up strong statistics, he’ll be in line for a big raise (he, ahem, wants $10 million a year).

But at the same time, Jackson wants to point out that he’s not futzing around on the field. He’s not going out of his way to avoid getting hurt (especially when Dunta Robinson is on the same field as him).

“Every time I step on the field I leave it on the line,” said Jackson. “I never go out there and try to hold anything back because that’s how people get hurt.”

Unfortunately for Jackson, his contract year hasn’t gotten off to a great start, and he’s only caught four passes for 51 yards in the past two games.  Michael Vick has said it’s because opposing safeties are playing Jackson deeper, and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg says opposing defenses are playing soft in coverage to avoid Jackson’s big play-making abilities.

But Jackson seems OK with the number of targets he’s getting. After all, he’s got his health right now, and even if Jackson doesn’t stay healthy and, for some reason, can’t continue his career, at least he has the comfort of knowing that he’s got a big insurance policy to cash in on himself.

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Posted on: September 29, 2011 11:00 pm
 

Jacobs: skeptics can return to 'miserable lives'

Brandon Jacobs doesn't care if you never believed in the Giants. (US PRESSWIRE)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Not many people outside of New York figured the battered Giants stood much of a chance Sunday against the self-anointed Dream Team, division rival Philadelphia. So naturally, the Giants jumped out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead and won going away, 29-16.

The Eagles looked more like the Washington Generals, and quarterback Michael Vick was forced from the game with a bruised hand and plenty to say about the state of NFL officiating.

Meanwhile, the Giants, now 2-1, are tied with the Cowboys and Redskins for the best record in the NFC East. (The Dream Team is 1-2.) And New York running back Brandon Jacobs has a few words for the doubters.

"The people outside that want to say they're fans and don't believe in us, I couldn't care less if they ever believed in us," Jacobs said, according to the New York Daily News. "They don't mean anything to us if they didn't believe in us. They can go back and finish living their miserable lives as they've been living and hoping that they lose and whatever."

Jacobs, who has a reputation as something of a hot head, wasn't finished. "In this locker room, guys are ready to play," he said. "And I look in a lot of guys' eyes and see that they're ready to go ... The only thing that matters is the people that's on this football team and in this organization."

In less incendiary news, the Giants could have Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck in the lineup against the Cardinals Sunday. Umenyiora hasn't yet played this season after undergoing knee surgery during training camp, and Tuck has missed practice this week because of groin and neck issues. Head coach Tom Coughlin said he was "optimistic" about Tuck's availability in Arizona, though, in regards to Umenyiora, would only allow that “We’re going to have to watch and see how he comes back.” 

One thing's for certain, however: Jacobs doesn't care what you think.

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Posted on: September 29, 2011 5:41 pm
Edited on: September 29, 2011 10:47 pm
 

Vick may not have beef but do Flacco and Big Ben?

Vick may not have a gripe with the refs, but Flacco and Roethlisberger do. (US PRESSWIRE/Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Mike Pereira, the former NFL VP of Officiating and current FOXSports.com analyst, didn't take kindly to Michael Vick's comments earlier this week suggesting that officials were quick to protect some quarterbacks more than others.

Of course, Vick, the Eagles QB, made these observations shortly after getting roughed up by the Giants. A day later, he admitted that "I was kind of out of character and being too candid in that aspect. Ultimately, I have respect for the referees and their decision to make calls. You won't hear me complaining about it no more."

During a radio appearance Monday, Pereira called Vick's initial remarks "ridiculous," adding that "[I]t took me back to my job in New York when I worked for the league, and it was a constant complaint by the Eagles, whether it was McNabb at quarterback or whether it was Vick. They clearly complained more than any other team.”

Well, three days later and Pereira's still smarting -- he devoted an entire column to disproving that officials play favorites.

Regarding the myth that "The NFL protects its big-name quarterbacks," Pereira writes: 

"Well, I guess you are right — if you feel that the top three QBs in the league are Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler and Colt McCoy. Statistics from the 2010 season, combined with the first three weeks of the 2011 season, show that the Raiders’ Campbell ranked No. 1 in drawing roughing the passer penalties, getting 1.46 for every 100 passes. The Bears’ Cutler drew 1.28 and Cleveland's McCoy 1.20. Oh, and by the way, next in line was the PanthersJimmy Clausen at 1.0."


Patriots vs. Raiders, Panthers vs. Bears, Steelers vs. Texans, plus three more of the must-see games for Week Four. Get predictions from the expert hosts of Inside the NFL.

We don't recall Vick specifically stating that big-name quarterbacks got special treatment, but regarding the list above, the reason Campbell, Cutler and McCoy led the league in drawing rougher-the-passer penalties last season is because they got hit more than most other quarterbacks. Campbell and Cutler are known to hold the ball a long time and McCoy was a rookie trying to decipher NFL defenses on the fly. Oh, and the Raiders, Bears and Browns were among the league's worst pass-blocking teams. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Oakland ranked 26th in adjusted sack rate (defined as "sacks per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent"), Chicago was 32nd and Cleveland was 23rd. That's an important distinction Pereira somehow overlooked.

Pereira continues: "What about Tom Brady and Peyton Manning? Let me look down the list, although it might take me a while since they both are way down there. Brady does get more protection than Manning, that’s for sure. Brady has drawn 0.16 roughing the passer calls per 100 attempts compared to 0.15 for Manning. That, for Brady, is one call in every 625 pass attempts, while for Manning it is one call for every 679 attempts."

Pereira's right: Brady and Manning rarely benefit from roughing the passer penalties. There's a simple explanation, too: they're the beneficiaries of good offensive lines and they, along with Drew Brees, get rid of the ball quicker than anybody else in the league. Adjusted sack rate bears this out: In 2010, the Colts were first, the Patriots were sixth. Again, this is probably worth mentioning.

But what about the quarterbacks who play behind atrocious o-lines but also rarely get roughing-the-passer calls? Those are the guys who might have legitimate beefs with the officials, right? 

Joe Flacco
2010 Ravens adjusted sack rate: 25th
Roughing-the-passer-calls per 100 pass attempts: 0.00

David Garrard
2010 Jaguars adjusted sack rate: 24th
Roughing-the-passer-calls per 100 pass attempts: 0.00

Ben Roethlisberger
2010 Steelers adjusted sack rate: 29th
Roughing-the-passer-calls per 100 pass attempts: 0.20

Alex Smith
2010 49ers adjusted sack rate: 30th
Roughing-the-passer-calls per 100 pass attempts: 0.48

While Vick, on average, might get the calls other quarterbacks get, Flacco, Roethlisberger and Smith would be right to wonder why they don't.

Finally, something the Ravens and Steelers can agree on.

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Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:04 pm
 

Pereira calls Vick's comments on refs ridiculous

Vick is frustrated by hits. (Getty Images)
Posted by Ryan Wilson

After the Giants thoroughly dismantled the Eagles Sunday, a bruised (but not broken!) and battered Michael Vick spoke with the media. Philly's quarterback had been forced from the game for the second straight week, this time with a right-hand injury. He wasted little time getting to the point.

"At some point something catastrophic is going to happen," he said. "Not to blame the refs or say that it was their fault, it's just one of those unfortunate situations and I just think more precautions should be taken when I'm inside the pocket. If you look at all the replays, I'm on the ground every time and it's unfortunate for myself and it's unfortunate for my team and I'll be lying if I said I wasn't, if I were to sit here and say I wasn't frustrated right now because of that."

A day later, Vick softened his stance. "I was kind of out of character and being too candid in that aspect. Ultimately, I have respect for the referees and their decision to make calls. You won't hear me complaining about it no more."

The NFL hasn't commented publicly on Vick's observations which we take to mean that the issue is behind us. Except that former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira, who now works as a FOX NFL analyst, has some thoughts on the matter.

Appearing on SiriusXM Radio's Evan and Phillips in the Morning (transcription via PFT), Pereira needed only six words to get to the heart of the matter.

“Well, I thought it was ridiculous,” he said.

There's more, of course.

“It actually took me back, it took me back to my job in New York when I worked for the league, and it was a constant complaint by the Eagles, whether it was [Donovan] McNabb at quarterback or whether it was Vick. They clearly complained more than any other team.”

And more still.

“He’s a quarterback that’s on the move, he’s going to get hit more,” Pereira said. “Yes, there are a couple that may be missed but the fact that a ton of them are missed and that he’s hit late all the time is absurd. And he comes out and kind of does the mea culpa yesterday but at the same time what did he say? ‘I was being too candid.’ Well, that doesn’t sound to me like much of an apology. And also the damage is done. I don’t want to be the referee that goes in there now next and works with him. If he calls a roughing the passer penalty for a hit on Vick everybody’s going to say, ‘Well, Vick taunted him into that.’ If he doesn’t [call it] there’s going to be more criticism. So I think it was a bunch of bull and it didn’t sit well with me and it still doesn’t.”

Vick M.A.S.H. update
On one hand, we understand Vick's frustration. The guy takes an absolute beating. On the other hand, it is ridiculous to suggest that he's alone. Ben Roethlisberger is a perfect example. Not only is he mobile in the pocket, but he's also a huge target. If anybody had a legit complaint about not getting calls, it's Big Ben. (Remember when Haloti Ngata broke Roethlisberger's nose by clubbing him in the face last season? No flag, though Ngata was later fined.)

Jay Cutler and Tony Romo also take weakly drubbings, and Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan have been known to get rocked a time or 10 a game, too.

The difference between Vick and the five other quarterbacks we listed? Vick's the only one bellyaching publicly. And let's be honest: it's not like he's playing behind the Texans' offensive line. The five guys responsible for protecting Vick are, to put it kindly, a mess. Maybe Philly's QB should first direct his comments at offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg since he's responsible for dialing up the plays that inevitably lead to Vick getting peeled off the turf.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com