NFC East: jerricho cotchery

Halftime thoughts: Vick looks awful

October, 7, 2012
PITTSBURGH -- Honestly, 30 of the worst minutes of professional football I've ever watched. The Pittsburgh Steelers lead the Philadelphia Eagles 10-0 at halftime of a game of which neither side should be proud and for which Eagles quarterback Michael Vick should be getting screamed at by teammates and coaches throughout the intermission.

Vick has fumbled the ball away twice in the game, raising his personal turnover total for the season to 11 and the team's to 14. Both fumbles were on runs up the middle on which he chose not to slide and demonstrated a continued refusal to prioritize protection of the football. Earlier in the drive that resulted in the first fumble, he made a rotten decision to throw a ball up in the air and nearly saw it intercepted, and he fumbled on another run only to have the play overturned when it was ruled that a Steelers player had touched his foot while he was on the ground. More than once, he has thrown deep downfield into double coverage, and in general he has looked nothing like the responsible quarterback who went turnover-free in last Sunday night's victory over the Giants.

Each team has been penalized five times -- the Steelers for 56 yards and the Eagles for 35. But the difference in the score (which could have been worse, had Jerricho Cotchery not fallen down just short of the goal line on a catch he made just before the half) is the two turnovers and the mastery of the quarterback position the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger showed while orchestrating a 12-play, 75-yard, 7:21 touchdown drive in the second quarter. Roethlisberger was ducking blitzes, faking pitches and managing to keep plays alive while also appearing to play under control and managing to read the field and the difference. If Vick was taking notes, he could come out and be a different guy in the second half. And if the Eagles' defense can keep the score close, it would give Vick a chance to win the game with his fourth fourth-quarter comeback of the season. But the way he played in the first half makes it feel as though the Eagles are very far from being able to even hope for such a thing.

The Steelers get the ball back to start the second half, but Vick will get it back eventually. The difference in this game might come down to whether he's able to keep it.
The Philadelphia Eagles announced Wednesday night that they have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with former New York Giants wide receiver Steve Smith. It's the latest in the string of high-profile free-agent signings the Eagles have made since free agency began and the latest free-agency setback for the Giants, who'd hoped to re-sign Smith in spite of the fact that he's recovering from knee surgery and isn't likely to be ready in time to start the season.

Smith had 107 catches for 1,220 yards in his 2009 breakout season with the Giants and remained one of Eli Manning's most reliable targets in 2010 until he suffered a knee injury that cost him the second half of the season and required microfracture surgery to repair. I spoke with Manning Wednesday afternoon about what Smith's absence would mean to him and how the Giants planned to replace him in the passing game.

For the Eagles, once Smith is healthy enough to play, he'll give them additional depth at receiver, which could be important depending on the status of DeSean Jackson (who's in a contract dispute with the team) and Jeremy Maclin (who has yet to practice this training camp due to an undisclosed illness). It's unclear when the Eagles expect to have Smith on the field, but if he does come back healthy he'll help them deal better with those situations. The Eagles also have Jason Avant, who has performed well for them in recent seasons in a slot receiver role similar to the one Smith filled in New York when he was healthy.

Earlier in free agency, the salary cap-strapped Giants tried and failed to sign Plaxico Burress, who went to the Jets instead. Now they've lost Smith, and it's hard to say whether or not they'll still go after receiving help. Former Jet Jerricho Cotchery remains on the market, and the Giants could have interest in him now that they've lost out on Smith. In the meantime, they're hoping someone like Domenik Hixon or Victor Cruz steps up into the No. 3 receiver spot behind Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham.