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Offensive Line Must Improve vs. Baltimore

Sep 9, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) throws the ball during the second half at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-US PRESSWIRE
Sep 9, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (7) throws the ball during the second half at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-US PRESSWIRE

During an interview this afternoon on 94WIP, Danny Watkins said that he watched the Baltimore Ravens impressive victory over the Cincinnati Bengals last night.

If he did not know it already, seeing the Ravens defensive front harass Bengals QB Andy Dalton should have made Watkins realize one thing- if the Eagles have any hope of moving to 2-0 this weekend, the offensive line has to be much better.

A lot of the criticism this week has been on Michael Vick, and rightfully so. Vick made some bad decisions with the ball- especially on the interception he threw that was returned for a touchdown. But the fact is that the offensive line did Vick no favors in helping him, as they allowed the Browns to get in Vick's face all afternoon.

How bad was it? Every single member of the Eagles staring offensive line allowed Vick to be hit at least once, and Todd Herremans- who arguably had the best game of the group- allowed Vick to be hit 4 times. As a unit, the line combined for a total of 6 penalties- many of which negated big plays and forced Vick into situations that were tough to convert. Watkins, King Dunlap and Evan Mathis all allowed their man to collapse the pocket on Vick at least twice, forcing him to go outside of the pocket.

Vick being forced out of the pocket was a big reason he struggled this past Sunday. On plays where Vick was under pressure, he was 7 of 22 for 93 yards and 3 interceptions. His quarterback rating under pressure? A Brandon-Weeden-like 6.6.

Keeping Vick off the ground and in a protected pocket against the Ravens will be key, as Vick did much better when he had time to survey the field. Against the Browns, Vick was 22 of 34 for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns and just 1 interception. His quarterback rating when he had time? 90.8. Needless to say, that is an obvious improvement over how Vick did when he was under pressure.

Saying that the quarterback will perform better when he is given time is not exactly an earth-shattering statement, but it does show that part of the reason for Vick's struggles was he simply did not have enough time. Vick still has to make better decisions when he leaves the pocket, but if the offensive line played better, he would not have to leave it as much.

Of the other top quarterbacks/offenses in the league, none of the quarterbacks were under as much pressure as Vick. Aaron Rodgers only faced pressure in 15 of his drop backs. Tom Brady on only 12. Vick on the other hand, faced pressure on 25 of his drop backs. He was hit on 16 of those plays.

One area the line did excel in was run blocking, especially Todd Herremans. When LeSean McCoy ran to the right side of the line, he averaged close to 7 yards the 8 carries. When going to the left side, McCoy averaged 5 yards a carry- not as great, but still a good number.

Like Vick, the offensive line has the talent to do it despite missing Jason Peters. Despite the struggles on the line, the Eagles still have the 2nd ranked offense in the league. Against the Browns, they were able to gain yards and get just enough points to win. That speaks to the talent they have on the unit.

But one thing was clear watching the Ravens last night- they are not the Browns, and the Eagles will not be as lucky if the offensive line does improve.

Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks

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