Yes you read that right. Two years ago Donovan McNabb was knocked out of game 1. Last year Kevin Kolb was knocked out of game 1. This year, prayer for the Eagles starting QB is needed more than ever. With the hodge podge Philadelphia has on its offensive line, not to mention a fresh-out-of-retirement offensive coordinator Howard Mudd, Vick will be lucky to survive the first couple blitzes.
Philadelphia media has reamed the Eagles front office and coach Andy Reid for 1. assuming 26 year old rookie guard Danny Watkins would be ready week 1 (he’s since been replaced, at least temporarily) and 2. For not making stability of the offensive line a priority given how important Vick is.
Count me among the folks who don’t understand why the offensive line wasn’t a top priority even more than solidifying the pass defense. I don’t begrudge the signing of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers Cromartie, but Vick is the real centerpiece of the team. Without him the cards can come crumbling down pretty quickly.
The Eagles are like the Colts in the sense that they are supremely QB reliant. As panic sets in across Indianapolis at the thought that Manning’s neck injury means he may never play again –which is HIGHLY likely– other teams have to take note of the need for succession planning. As annoying as the Patriots can be, it’s one thing that they understand very well, and that has contributed to them being a solid team (if not a playoff team) pretty much every year since the late 90s. I’m glad the Eagles signed Vince Young as backup, but this deep team has high expectations and Vick is the only real present QB option that can meet them.
The Eagles are known to patchwork lines on both sides of the ball, but this year, with the front office saying they’re going “all in” it seems like protecting Vick would have been move numero uno. Make no mistake, this year he will be targeted more than ever:
With the Eagles boasting so many explosive offensive players, getting to Michael Vick might be the only sure way to slow down the Birds scoring. Expect the Rams to try, especially after surrendering nearly 224 passing yards per game last year.
The Eagles, meanwhile, counter with a rookie at center, Jason Kelce; a journeyman, Evan Mathis, at left guard; a right tackle, Todd Herremans, who has played one game at tackle since 2006; a right guard, Kyle DeVan, who first practiced with the team Monday; and left tackle Jason Peters, the only piece of continuity from a year ago.
Mathis did not play with the first team at all in the preseason and Herremans did not play at tackle in the Eagles dress rehearsals. Each will be facing live competition Sunday for the first time in their current roles.
The lineup change is partly a result of miscalculation – first-round pick Danny Watkins not being ready to start, for example – and partly a result of last year’s poor pass protection. The Eagles sought to overhaul their offensive line with new coach Howard Mudd after the team allowed 49 sacks last season, fourth most in the NFL.
But the change has been hampered by the lockout and a search for healthy personnel who can play Mudd’s style.
PRAYER NEEDED. Or else Michael Vick will be looking at a season full of injuries and…condoms.
For Vick’s part, he’s remaining his normal chirpy self:
Vick’s confidence in his abilities may be unparalleled.
“You can never have too much bravado, man,” the 31-year-old said. “Never.”
You can see it in the way he fearlessly plays, in the way he often carries his team, and in the way he frequently talks about himself. But isn’t it possible to have too much confidence and to lose sight of your limitations, even for a quarterback?
That very question could sum up the 2011 Eagles as they open their season Sunday at the St. Louis Rams. They are stocked with talent and equipped, in many ways, for a Super Bowl run. But the Eagles have holes that maybe not even Vick can cover.
Don’t tell him that, as reporters have tried recently in bringing up the Eagles’ patchwork offensive line. “I’m going to give defenses fits anyway,” Vick said a few weeks ago. His unbridled confidence may just be the Eagles’ best hope.
“I’m afraid to fail, and I think that’s what keeps me going,” Vick said late last month, just hours after he signed a five-year, $80 million contract. “I think that’s why I keep my confidence up at a high level, because I’m afraid to fail.”
I hope he can instill the same fear of failure in his blockers.