Sunday, September 11, 2011
Eagles halftime thoughts
By Dan Graziano
ST. LOUIS -- If the lines were the concerns for the Philadelphia Eagles, the results are mixed with 31 regular-season halves yet to play.
The protection of Michael Vick has generally been very good, especially on third downs, where the Eagles were 5-for-7 in the first half against the Rams. The coverage downfield by the Rams has also been good, which is the main reason Vick has had to take off running (51 yards so far), but he's had plenty of time to survey the field and make the decision to run. The two sacks have been the result of failed blitz pickup on Vick's blind side -- something on which he clearly still has to work.
The defensive line ... not so much. They're getting plenty of hits on Sam Bradford, which is what they want to do, but in the meantime the Rams have had a great deal of success running the ball up the middle against the Eagles' over-pursuing linemen and overmatched linebackers. Steven Jackson ran 47 yards for a touchdown on the Rams' first offensive play, then later left the game with a quad injury and has not returned. But Cadillac Williams has 50 yards on 12 carries in his place. The concerns about the Eagles' run defense have so far looked legit, but again -- it's only one half, and they do have a 17-10 lead, which is part of the plan, too -- build an early lead so the opponent has to throw. The Rams and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels look willing to oblige, and might have had more success but for two bad drops by Rams receivers midway through the second quarter.
But Vick looks sharp, and the Eagles' menu of third-down options is remarkable, especially when you consider that they haven't really used Brent Celek or Steve Smith (each of whom has been on the field some, but just hasn't been targeted much if at all). After a rough start to the game, the Eagles looked much better in the second quarter and seem to be able to control the game with their offense. I imagine defensive coordinator Juan Castillo had some strong words for the guys, though, in his portion of the halftime speech.