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Fan-Demonium: Underestimating The O-Line


The Eagles went on the road and beat the Lions 35-32 on Sunday to get into the win column for the first time in 2010. It wasn't a perfect game to be sure. There were far too many warts for the coaching staff to be satisfied, but as Andy Reid pointed out, getting the win was key. Falling to 0-2 would have been a major setback.

The story most people are focusing on is the quarterback situation. Michael Vick played well against Detroit and showed that he is in fact capable of being a starting quarterback in the NFL. That's big for him and us. We know that our backup quarterback is able to step in and start if that is needed down the road. Vick showed the rest of the league that he is someone to target in the offseason for those teams in need of a starter. Give Vick a lot of credit for working hard during his time here and give the coaching staff credit for turning an athletic quarterback into a player that can sit in the pocket and run the offense.

Vick got a big boost from some young skill players. DeSean Jackson was far too quiet in the opener, but he came alive on Sunday. Jackson delivered three plays of 29 or more yards. One was a 45-yard touchdown. His speed had a definite effect on the Lions defense.

LeSean McCoy played arguably the best game of his young career. He ran 16 times for 120 yards, but the numbers don't tell the whole story. McCoy showed his physical gifts. He was quick and fast. He showed an excellent burst. He was elusive. I was just as impressed by some more subtle elements of his game. McCoy ran hard. There was no hesitation in his game. That was a big problem last year. McCoy wasn't running naturally. He was reading the play and thinking, then running. This season McCoy looks very natural. He impressed me by breaking a few arm tackles. He showed good balance on a couple of plays. He took hits, but wasn't affected. That is an excellent sign from a running back. You don't want a player that goes down on first contact or is re-directed easily.

The offensive line played better than most people think. The stat sheet shows Vick getting sacked six times, but that's a flawed number. One sack occurred when Vick fumbled the snap and had to fall on the ball. One sack came late in the game when Vick was trying to eat up some clock and didn't throw the ball away. Another sack came on a screen pass that was well covered. Vick had to eat the ball. Those sacks weren't due to poor blocking. They were circumstantial.

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The Lions were very aggressive on defense. Their blitz did give us problems. That is something that the offensive coaches and players must work on. One simple thing the Lions did was walk a linebacker up to the line and then have him fire off the edge. That guy came free several times. If not for some dynamic spin moves and footwork by Vick, he could have taken some big hits. Those are assignment errors, either on the linemen or the skill players who help them block. We can fix those. You really worry when your players are getting beat one-on-one. That didn't happen much. Nick Cole did have his hands full with rookie Ndamukong Suh. After studying the game I have to tell you that Suh is going to be a big-time force in the NFL. He was outstanding.

Mike McGlynn made his first NFL start and did a good job of blocking. I can't evaluate how he did with line calls and blitz adjustments. Only his teammates and coaches know the answer to that. I like the fact that McGlynn is a nasty, physical blocker. He got a block out in space on a screen pass, showing some agility. I think McGlynn has what it takes to be a starting center in the NFL from a physical perspective. Hopefully he was assignment sound and made the right calls.

The quick-hitting run plays we ran so effectively were simple, but very well executed. Todd Herremans, McGlynn and Cole all showed the ability to get to the second level and block a linebacker. That is critical on quick hitters. If you block that linebacker cleanly, McCoy has a chance for a big play since he's running north-south and there isn't time for pursuit to come over and get in good position. Winston Justice had some terrific blocks in the game. He is really good when he down blocks. Justice can cave in a defensive tackle or end and that gives McCoy a huge cutback lane. I have to give special mention to Jason Avant. He is "only" a wide receiver, but he blocks anyone we need. On one good run play, Avant took out a defensive end with a good cut block. Avant is truly a great role player.

The defense was very up and down. There were times when I loved what I saw, but in the end we gave up 444 yards and 32 points to Shaun Hill and the Lions. That is unacceptable. We have too much talent. We're simply making mistakes right now. There was one play where a couple of defenders bumped and that led to a big pass play. There were a couple of blown coverages. There were a couple of coverages where individuals made poor plays. The Lions fed the ball to rookie runner Jahvid Best and he gave us fits.

Think about our run defense for a minute. On the Lions' first scoring drive, they ran the ball six times for 76 yards. They ate us alive with misdirection plays. We didn't control the line of scrimmage up front and the linebackers were fooled by the flow of the plays. I got real nervous watching that. I wondered if we were going to be in for a real long day. Sean McDermott and his players made adjustments. The rest of the game Lions backs had 17 carries for 23 yards. That is outstanding run defense. The next step is to play like that for a whole game.

Trevor Laws played well. That may have been his best NFL game. He didn't have a tackle or sack, but he was disruptive and got pressure on the passer several times. Juqua Parker got a sack and hit Shaun Hill several times. Parker is off to a good start. It was great to see Brandon Graham get his first sack. He left the game with a shoulder injury, but is supposed to be OK.

If we had stopped the game at the 6:17 mark we'd actually be talking about the defense playing pretty well. At that point, we had given up 17 points and 299 yards, both respectable numbers. The Lions went to a hurry up attack and we couldn't stop them. Graham wasn't on the field for those drives and that hurt. McDermott will study the tape very carefully and figure out what corrections need to be made. The defense must do a better job of protecting leads in the future.

Quick Hits

• New fullback Owen Schmitt caught a couple of passes. His blocking was up and down.

• New tight end Garrett Mills got mixed into the offense. He caught one pass.

• Riley Cooper caught a 20-yard pass, his first NFL catch. Unfortunately, he'll remember dropping the onside kick at the end of the game more than the catch. Luckily, it didn't cost us. Learn from it, Mr. Cooper. We can forgive one mistake like that.

• Nate Allen had another interception. He's now got two in two games. Allen does not play like a rookie. He looks like a polished veteran. Great draft pick.

• Sav Rocca is off to a great start. He's really booming the ball.

• Ellis Hobbs had his first interception as an Eagle.

• King Dunlap filled in for Jason Peters at left tackle a couple of times and held his own. That was good to see.

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