If you saw the Eagles preseason game last night against the Browns, you saw Michael Vick pressured and hit, early and often. The Eagles started rookie 6th round pick Jason Kelce at center, and rookie 1st round pick Danny Watkins at guard. King Dunlap started at right tackle. While Dunlap played what I’ll classify as “acceptable” football, the two rookies were downright bad, particularly in pass protection. I’ll have to watch the game replay to evaluate the gory details, but I think Vick summed it up best:
You can’t expect a guy to come in and be, you know, a Pro Bowl type of player in two games. I mean, that’s just not the way this thing works. And you know, you got so many responsibilities on offense as a center, so many things you have to learn, so many defenses and different looks that you’re gonna see, and that’s just part of the growing pains that we all have to go through in this league. You can’t expect somebody to come out and perform at a high level when they only had two or three games under their belt. It’s going to take time, it’s going to take reps, it’s going to take mistakes.
Vick was trying to have his teammates’ backs with those statements, but they revealed what he really thinks – that they’re not playing well. And, obviously, he’s right. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take reps. It’s going to take mistakes. Unfortunately, with the shortened offseason, Kelce and Watkins didn’t have a full offseason of OTA’s, minicamps, and film study. They had a few weeks up at Lehigh University and a couple preseason games. That’s it. There’s a reason teams have OTA’s and minicamps – They’re certainly not having them just for shits and giggles. Even more unfortunately, the Eagles have neither the time nor the available reps to give their young offensive linemen, and too many mistakes are going to get Vick killed. A quick rundown of the problem areas:
C – Obviously, the Eagles can’t trust Jason Kelce to start the season at center. That job will (or rather should) go to Jamaal Jackson, a legitimate NFL center. Frankly, the Eagles may have just wanted to get a look at Kelce with the 1s in a meaningless game. If so, they have their answer, at least to start the season.
RG – From the second Danny Watkins was drafted, everyone and their mother had him penciled in as the Week 1 starter at RG. But as I already noted, even with Watkins being a smart, mature, 26-year-old rookie, he just hasn’t had adequate time this offseason to be NFL ready. I firmly believe that the Eagles can’t go into this season with either rookie starting. Some might call that panicking. I’d call it being realistic. In a move that barely moved the needle amid the Eagles major free agency signings, they were able to bring in Evan Mathis from Cincinnati. Per Pro Football Focus, Mathis hasn’t given up a single sack in 724 snaps over the past 2 years. I think Mathis could be an option until Watkins is ready to play, or rather play well.
RT – King Dunlap appears to be a solid swing tackle, but he’s not an answer as a starter. There’s really nothing the Eagles can do here. They just have to cross their fingers and hope that either Winston Justice or Ryan Harris feels better soon, and that they can continue to feel healthy once they’re ready to go. Not ideal.
As it stands, the Eagles are essentially parking their Lamborghini under a bunch of unsturdy trees as Hurricane Irene approaches.