Raanan Review: Where the Line Broke and Eyes on Ryans

Sep 9, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans (59) celebrates after making a defensive play against the Cleveland Browns during the 2nd quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-US PRESSWIRE

Veteran Eagles beat writer and current Xfinity sports NFL columnist Jordan Raanan will be joining us every week with a review of the previous Sunday's Eagles game. This week he offers his notes and thoughts on the Eagles win over the Browns.

Let's say this about the Week 1 tape, it wasn't pretty. Believe it or not, Michael Vick's decision-making was worse than the first impression. Yep, worse.

The offensive line's play was just as bad as believed too. And it wasn't just King Dunlap. It was Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans. The entire offensive line had a rough one.

Not surprisingly, there were far more positives on defense. But what we're going to break down here is the play of middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans. After a sluggish preseason, Ryans had a strong game. Just how strong? We'll get to that in a minute.

First, let's get the bad out of the way with an offensive line breakdown. By my count, Vick was hit an astonishing total of 19 times (12 in the first half, seven in the second half). That includes scramble and runs. And the blame is spread around.

Obviously, Vick deserves some of the blame too. He held the ball too long a few times, didn't recognize the blitz more than just once or twice and elected not to slide on a 1st-and-10 run in the first half. A clear slap in the face to President Obama.

But what we're going to concentrate on here is the offensive line. I charted the negative plays for each lineman and the biggest offender was very surprising.

O-Line Breakdowns

King Dunlap (Negative Plays: 7) - Dunlap is the easy target. He's replacing Jason Peters and can't hold Peters' jock. Everybody knows that. King had an especially rough first quarter when three of his seven negative plays occurred. He was beat badly on the very first play, picked up a holding just a few offensive plays later and his missed block led to Vick's first interception. And this was all in the first quarter. After that, give King credit for getting his act together and playing pretty serviceably. My biggest complain with King though is that he never finishes his block. He just more seems to get in the defender's way more often than not. In my opinion, after watching the tape, King deserves another shot against Baltimore, but should be on a very short leash.

Evan Mathis (Negative Plays: 3) - My apologies to Mathis. He was my dud as the most visible representative of the offensive line. That probably had to with the fact that two of his three miscues were penalties and my expectations for him are high. Overall though, he played pretty well.

Jason Kelce (Negative Plays: 11) - Kelce along with Watkins couldn't handle Ahtyba Rubin, who was easily the most dominant player on the field Sunday in Cleveland. On a fairly regular basis, Kelce (295 pounds) was getting pushed five yards deep into the backfield, making life very difficult for a diminutive quarterback like Vick. He also was called for a hold on a LeSean McCoy run in the first half. The Eagles need their center to play better moving forward.

Danny Watkins (Negative Plays: 12) - The second half in particular was a mess for Watkins. Eight times Rubin beat Watkins - five times in the second half alone - and pressured Vick. One of those led to an interception (Watkins was also called for a hold on the play). On one occassion, Kelce and Watkins double-teamed Rubin and still couldn't stop him. To his credit, Watkins looked good in the run game.

Todd Herremans (Negative Plays: 13) - This was the biggest surprise when watching the tape. I didn't realize during the game the extent of Herremans' struggles. The first half and late in the fourth quarter were especially difficult for Vick's blindside protector, who was beat a handful of times by ex-Eagle Juqua Parker. Herremans had eight negative plays by my count in the first half alone. He did play better in the second half though, until Parker got two hits on Vick late in the game. The chances of Vick remaining healthy if this continues are slim.

Now on to the positive. Yes, the Eagles won the game. I swear they did. And they're middle linebacker played great. Officially, Ryans led the Eagles with five tackles, one for a loss. His impact, however, was even greater. Let's take a look:

Total Snaps: 60 of 62

vs. Ryans: 3 catches, 29 yards

Great Plays: 8 (3 in pass game, 5 in run game)

Think about the upgrade the Eagles made in the middle of their defense in the span of a year. They opened 2011 with rookie Casey Matthews - after not having offseason team workouts. They opened 2012 with the cagy veteran Ryans making eight great plays against a Browns team that tried to pound them with powerful rookie running back Trent Richardson. It didn't work. Ryans was a big part of that.

Other Notable Observations:

  • Fourteen running plays went over the Eagles' right guard (Watkins) and tackle (Herremans) for a total of 74 yards. That's an impressive 5.3 yards per carry. Expect LeSean McCoy to get a majority of his carries in that direction this season.
  • Only one of the six passes thrown in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's direction was completed. DRC also had two interceptions.
  • Vick was under pressure on two of his four interceptions. The other two were just horrible decisions with a clear view of the field.
  • Akeem Jordan was a special teams beast. He had four special teams tackles and overall the Eagles did a nice job limiting the always dangerous Josh Cribbs.
  • The Eagles were lucky they were up against a rookie quarterback. Weeden missed two relatively easy touchdown passes to open receivers, one in each half. The first he overthrew to Mohamed Massaquoi (loosely covered by DRC) on the Browns' opening drive. The second he overthrew Alex Smith (loosely covered by Mychal Kendricks) late in the third quarter. Cleveland settled for field goals both times.
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