Not one but two Eagles bloggers opine about the upcoming Eagles vs Giants matchup. Mike Burke, an Eagles blogger at BirdsFan.com, is up first. Then Thomas Jackson of Eagleseyeblog.com shares his thoughts.
What is going on with Michael Vick? He has been so inconsistent. Last week, instead of blitzing him, the Cardinals opted to drop back seven defenders. He became impatient and did not stay in the pocket. And because of the pounding he took, he may not play. Give us your take on why Vick has been so ordinary this year.
BF: Vick’s slippery slope started well before this season. He was on a decline for a large portion of the end of 2010. I don’t think there’s any denying that we saw Vick play some of the best football of his life last year. He was able to show us that he can make plays from the pocket. He was able to progress through all of his reads and find the open receiver. Life was great.This changed towards the end of the year. I think he lost confidence in his offensive line which didn’t help, but the worst thing he was doing was making bad decisions with the football that resulted in turnovers. You can’t win football games when you turn the ball over. It’s that simple.He’s turning the ball over a lot again this year, and the Eagles are losing football games because of it. It’s not the only reason, but it’s definitely played a huge part. He’s making bad decisions and giving the ball away. When he doesn’t do this, he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league because of the x-factor he has with his legs. However, we haven’t seen much of that Vick this year.
Does Vick start on Sunday Night?
BF: If he was able to essentially play the entire game with a pair of broken ribs against the Cardinals, I don’t really see why he wouldn’t be able to play after having a few days of rest. Despite his poor play, you can’t deny his toughness. I heard Jason Avant make some comments on the radio this week saying that he wished everyone on the team was as tough as Vick. The season has been on a slide for awhile now, but I view this as the last straw. If they lose, I view them as officially finished and I think everyone else does too. I think this plays into Vick starting on Sunday.
Why is defensive coordinator Juan Castillo having Nnamdi Asmougha play zone coverage? In the offseason, the Eagles signed this guy to be a cover corner. It is perplexing to see this guy in zone and not locked in on a team's number one receiver.
BF:That’s the million dollar question. It blows everyone’s mind. Did you see the stats from last week when he covered Larry Fitzgerald? He covered him 20 times without giving up a completion. However, the Cardinals recognized that they could move him to areas away from Asomugha because he was responsibly solely for Fitzgerald and he ended up killing the Eagles. To me, it’s not exactly rocket science. If you have a guy who is one of the top cover corners in the league, you throw him on the opponent’s top receiver and say see you after the game. Maybe it’s not quite that simple, but COME ON JUAN!
The Eagles safeties are not good at all. Their best safety Nate Allen is out this week. Indeed, they are going to miss him. Can you talk about the Eagles poor safety play? And because of the weakness in the part of their secondary, will Eli have a big game?
BF: Let me just say, we miss Brian Dawkins. Allen has shown some brilliance at times but has struggled to be healthy. Kurt Coleman was a seventh-round pick, but at times, he plays at a level where you would never know it. However, he struggles with consistency. The Eagles surprised a lot of people when they drafted Jaiquawn Jarrett in the second round, but there was a lot of hype in the offseason about how could he could be and people bought into it. He hasn’t seen the field enough for me to judge him enough, but the fact that it’s taken him so long to get on the field says enough. You’d think that the corners we have would be able to cover some of the poor safety play up, but clearly Juan Castillo has no idea what he’s doing. I wouldn’t call this the reason why Eli could have a big game. One, because I think he had a big game earlier this year due to his guys making plays and the Eagles failing to make plays. Two, because I see Eli as a guy who’s great when he’s on and awful when he’s bad. Which Eli will show up Sunday? We’ll have to wait and see.
In the past, Andy Reid's teams have had excellent second halves of seasons. At 3-6, this is the worst they have been this late in a season. Do you think they can run the table and win the NFC East?
BF: Absolutely not. Andy Reid has a phenomenal record in the month of December, but there’s really no indication that we’ll see more of the same this year. They have too many tough games remaining on their schedule. There’s also a number of winnable games that remain, but who’s to say they can beat teams like Seattle and Miami based on the effort they just had against the Cardinals? They had an opportunity with the Giants having a very tough remaining schedule, but they’ve already failed to take advantage of it.
Your prediction on the game.
I can’t see the Eagles winning this one. I say the Giants win pretty easy, 28-17.
Q and A with Thomas Jackson:
Generally speaking, in the past, Andy Reid's teams have executed. Why are the Eagles so sloppy this year?
EE: The Eagles had one near-masterpiece game...the 34-7 win over Dallas a few weks ago. Every other game has featured nail-biting moments of their blowing momentum or late leads with sloppy turnovers and missed assignments. It's been mind-boggling to witness. I can't pinpoint any single reason. I can only theorize that they exceeded the tipping point of football equilibrium when it comes to installing too many new personnel, new schemes and new coaches in too short a time frame. There must be a fine line which they crossed there...
Why has Michael Vick been so inconsistent this season? In retrospect, did Eagles management make a mistake by signing him to long term multi-million dollar deal?
EE: They have turned Vick into a pocket passer. He looked great against Dallas. Ever since, teams have studied the film and really confused him with coverages and blitz looks. He pulls the trigger too soon or too late. He's also been playing hurt for much of the season, mostly due to the physical beating he took back in the Atlanta game.
The only thing you can argue about the validity of any long-term contract is the guaranteed money part... Vick gets $40 milz guaranteed...In retrospect, that's what it cost to carry Vick for 2010 and then 2011 and into 2012. I consider that the going rate for a QB#1 who we thought would extend his winning ways. In that sense, even if Vick flames out early in his contract and gets released or traded, I'd say it was not a mistake to sign him, just a very interesting experimental direction to go for a while. As a fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the entertainment value of Vick at the helm.
Will Vick play on Sunday Night? Or will we see Kafka or Young?
EE: Well, the Giants are saying they're preparing for Vick at QB#1. Personally, I know Vince Young has been taking first-team reps in practice all week. Kafka has been taking backup reps. I'd say the Eagles should rest Vick with his two cracked ribs. But that doesn't mean he won't surprise me by strapping on that Kevlar vest and giving it a go.
Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo is being lampooned in Philly. Give us your take on what the heck is going on with this defense.
EE: The Castillo defense had one gold standard moment--- the Dallas game--- and that's it. Every subtle step of improvement seems to get adjusted to and outsmarted by the opponent late in close games. Castillo has been slow to adjust to modifying his "Wide 9" pass rush and his zone coverages with corners... and he can't seem to make up his mind whether Nnamdi should cover man or zone. The linebackers are often lost in coverage or translation of gap coverage assignments at the worst possible times. Safeties have missed a ton of tackles which fundamentally were there and needed to be made... It almost appears at times that, as talented as most of these guys are on D, they're out of sync and the game is too fast for them. And the DL and linebackers are getting pounded inside with the run. They're quick and athletic guys, but they're sized smaller than past Eagles defenders.
The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing. Based on their statistical model, Cold Hard Football Facts has ranked LeSean McCoy as the best running back in the NFL. Why have they been so good this year?
EE: The one new scheme that has worked out pretty well for the Eagles is Howard Mudd's zone-blocking technique on the offensive line. Lighter and faster O-linemen have learned the old Colts stretch plays...and they're rolling out some nice downfield blocking opportunities for McCoy.
On the other hand, the Giants are having difficulty running the ball. They are 29th in the league averaging a paltry 89 yards per game. If the Eagles defense can stop the Giants run game, do you believe Eagles DE Trent Cole will have a tremendous game? Oh by the way, he usually comes up big against the Giants.
EE: For some reason, the Giants and especially Brandon Jacobs have a history of runing the ball on the Eagles pretty well in the first halves of games. And the Eagles are vulnerable to the run this year, due to the factors involving gap coverage and linebackers listed above. So I say throw out all the averages or expectations for the Giants running game in this one. If I were Juan Castillo, I'd be very concerned about the Giants' running game this weekend. Trent Cole from his RDE position will be more concerned about getting to Eli. Unless they bring in the Wide 9 look and tighten it up to account more for the "B" and "C" gaps, I don't think Trent Cole will be much of a factor in stopping the run. But if Eli is forced into a lot of passing downs, then Cole becomes dangerous coming off the right edge, and may require a double-team. I expect Eli to adjust to that trend very quickly. Jason Babin and Brandon Graham will rotate at the LDE position, and if Cole is double-teamed, you might see some pressure from those guys. Tapp, Landri and Parker are also in that rotational mix at DE...
Pete, one of our experts here at UltimateNYG, likes LB Casey Matthews. Can you talk about his play thus far?
EE: Tell Pete at Ultimate NYG his boy Casey Matthews will be pretty good in this league one day... but right now he doesn't play much after having started the season at MLB for the Eagles. Matthews was replaced in the middle by Jamar Chaney, and then on the weak side as Brian Rolle took over... The rap on Casey is he was having a lot of trouble shedding blocks in time to read a play or adjust back to the play. It's a tough position to play at the NFL level, especially in a 4-3 with a Wide 9 which opens up so many gaps and sone coverage responsibilities. Casey might be better suited to a 3-4 system in the long run. He has heart, and I've no doubt he'll wind up a good player on somebody's team someday.
Can you talk about the loss of safety Nate Allen?
EE: Nate Allen was slowed early by coming back from ACL surgery perhaps too soon, but he was finding his step again when he suffered a severe concussion recently. Allen was actually the starting strong safety this season, but in Castillo's scheme the strong and free safety positions are virtually interchangeable. Now he's been replaced by New York's own Jaiquawn Jarrett, the talented rookie out of Brooklyn and Temple. That's an interesting angle on this game for me to follow. Jarrett will have his hands full with a lot on his plate.
Former Giants receiver Steve Smith has had a limited role with the Eagles. Only 10 catches thus far. Do you see him being a factor in Sunday's game?
EE: You know, in this bizarre season for the Eagles, it would make perfect sense that Steve Smith would come up big on Sunday Night Football... as so far, he has been a bust, either been mis-used or apparently coming back too soon from his prior injury rehab. I don't know, maybe it's payback for the bad karma of that whole deal last summer where Smith shocked the Giants by signing with the Eagles... But for the most part, Steve hasn't looked at all like the Steve Smith who excelled for the Giants.
Three years ago, the Giants had an opportunity to bury the birds. They did not. And it came back to haunt them. If the Eagles defeat the Giants on Sunday Night, do you think they can turn this thing around?
EE: The Eagles turned it around in 2008, but they made their move from a 5-6-1 base point. They also had Jimmy Johnson at DC. They were never 3-6 during that crazy 2008 season. And I don't expect them to get to 4-6, as I feel (and have said since our last meeting) this is the Giants' year to break the Philly run...The Giants were and are due. Even if the Eagles were to luck out a victory on Sunday night, it is clear to most fans in Philly that the pieces of the flying machine have fallen apart... and now injuries are piling up and playing a bigger factor. There are also some dissension issues and team discipline problems.
Prediction-- If Vince Young starts for the Eagles, I see an attempt by the Eagles to play things closer to the vest than usual, resulting in a relatively low-scoring game decided by turnovers created by defense. The kickers will be involved, too. I'm feeling a final of Giants 21, Eagles 17... The good news there for Philly fans: We as a whole would much rather see the Giants win the division than the Dallas Cowboys...
Both Mike and Tom like the Giants. Mmmmm..... Let us hope they are correct. My worst nightmare is the Eagles beating the Giants. Subsequently, using this game as springboard to string off SIX straight wins. Maybe this is what Vince Young was talking about referring to his Dream Team comment. All I know is the Giants must BURY THE BIRDS on Sunday. No excuses. Just Win! Go Big Blue!