I posted a couple of weeks ago ( What To Expect Vs. DET ), before the Detroit game, that under Vick, this offense would put up numbers. I put that out there preemptively, because so many folks were on the 'wait until defenses can gameplan for him' bandwagon. Those pundits and fans, of course, must have chosen to forget that defenses gameplanned for him all the time when he was in Atlanta. Opposing coaches and teams routinely reported that they would spend an ENTIRE DAY of their weekly preparation specifically preparing to face #7.
Despite that, in healthy seasons, he took some truly mediocre rosters to the playoffs. Teams that had terrible lines, bad defense, horrendous receivers and, most glaringly, putrid coaching in the passing game. For all of Andy and Marty's faults, they know a thing or two about the passing game, including route design and creating matchup issues.
Vick is only in his 3rd week of taking 1st string snaps, in his second year with this team. The upside for the Eagles on offense is incredible. Anyway, on to what to expect this week:Passing Game
As I mentioned in the previous post, defenses HAVE to spy vick, and often allocate two players to the role, with half-field responsibilities. What that means is they will assign an LB or S to take a shallow drop and ensure that Vick doesn't break contain and beat them with a big running play. This is a +1 or +2 advantage to the offense.
Why? The defender(s) assigned to keep Vick in the pocket are 1 or 2 less defenders who will be in coverage or rushing. Pick your poison. Steve Young has mentioned that he loved when teams did that to him because it made finding open receivers easier downfield.
This week, Carlos Rogers indicated that Washington would not only follow suit with the spying precedent, but that they thought that their LBs were too slow, and would therefore assign the task to Safety Laron Landry ( R*dskins Would Rather Face Kolb). This is after he said earlier in the article that the Eagles receivers' success was from 'getting up on the opponents' safeties'. If Landry is forced to spy Vick, that means the Eagles will either face single high safety (3-deep zone or man-under, 1 deep), or they will have to play 'nickel', and replace an LB with another defensive back.
If they spy Vick with the S out of base personnel and rush four DL, that leaves them with 3 LB, 1 S and 2 CB to cover Jackson, Maclin, Celek and McCoy, if they send him out of the backfield. Either Shady or Celek will abuse an LB in coverage, and this means that the safety can provide help over the top to either Rogers (presumably guarding Maclin) or Hall (with a sore back, and presumably trying to stick with Jackson). And, again, that's sending only four rushers, leaving the Eagles to chip Orakpo with Shady on the way out and still have 5 to block 4. Good luck with that.
DHall is nowhere as good as he thinks he is, and his specialty is jumping routes on blitzes, which leaves him very susceptible to double moves. Vick will pretty much have his pick going up top to either of his WRs on the outside, and out of twins, or with Celek going deep to force 'choice' for the single high safety.
The way teams used to have success against Vick in ATL was to stack the box with 8 defenders to try to take away the run (and they still led the league in rushing, perennially), and to play press man on the outside (because they did not fear any Falcon receivers). Hall has the athleticism to play close to the line on receivers, but even with his speed he can't cover DeSean for 5 or 6 seconds with the whole field behind him and limited safety help.
Based upon what Houston did to WAS, expect at least 3 TDs through the air, maybe 4.
Remember what I said about the defenses being Vick conscious, and this providing an advantage to the Eagles' offense? That, as I predicted prior to the DET game, opens up the middle of the field, ESPECIALLY for cutback runners. Truth be told, the running game was there versus the Jags, but their secondary was so bad, it was easier to go over the top.
What won't work: Draw plays. Defenses already rush tentatively versus Vick because they are contain-conscious. The zone/read play that was getting on my nerves doesn't work as well as it could right now because Vick hasn't kept it and DEs are being careful to stay home. What will open it up is if they fake the inside zone, let Vick keep it, and then slip Celek behind the first level of the defense to give a run/pass option in case Vick can't beat Orakpo to the corner. Then, on the next time they run it, the defense will be overly conscious of the keep, and that will open up the middle for Shady out of that look.
Another wrinkle that would be impossible to defend would be to line up in I, fake the stretch right to McCoy, and have Schmitt block left, either chipping the DE's outside shoulder to ensure the corner, or destroying the CB if the defense brings secondary pressure to the backside of run plays, which teams did to Vick a lot in ATL. Then Vick has a run pass option on a bootleg to Schmitt in the flat (assuming no CB blitz), he has the edge due to the chip, and he has the WR on the left going deep, Celek on a deep drag and the (now) backside WR on a deep post.
That's a 20yd gain on the ground at minimum, and 30 yds to a TD depending on if one of the downfield receivers is open.
Eagles should be able to put up 150yds on WAS, and maybe a TD there.
Overall, bear in mind that the Eagles had about 3 drives killed versus the Jags due to brainfarts (DeSean not dragging his feet on the out, and running backwards in the middle of the field, plus a drop by Celek). And Vick missed on two or three throws early. I expect them to still be cleaning up those types of mistakes.
And they are still getting to know each other.
I don't *think* that WAS has enough of a running game to burn clock, especially with Bradley back in the lineup. They are going to be dependent upon making some big plays downfield to Santana Moss, or possibly death by a thousand cuts if the Eagles can't cover Cooley. Assuming that WAS doesn't somehow dominate T.O.P., the Eagles have every reason to be able to continue their quick strike habit.
The more I think of it, the only real alternative WAS has is to blitz 7 or so and try to get the ball out of Vick's hands quickly because they can't cover for as long as he can buy time. If they flush him out of the pocket before he can find his downfield guys, that just might end up causing a 50yd scramble.
This should be fun to watch.