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Previewing the Eagles 2012 Offense

Another year later, and many of the same pieces are in place for the Eagles; as always, Vick remains the key.

The Eagles broke camp this week. Surely, it was a positive thing to move geographically, at least, from memories of the tragic death of Garrett Reid. As Reid himself said, "Life goes on," because it does. Two days after the funeral, the Eagles played their first preseason game.

They are typically sluggish in the preseason and this year was no different. The first team played poorly against the Steelers; however, any astute observer knows little can be learned about a team in the preseason, let alone the preseason opener.

Vick threw four passes. Lesean McCoy had two touches; Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin had none. Surprisingly, the defensive line was the one unit that dominated despite missing its two starting defensive ends: the backups sacked Steelers QBs seven times.

Again, it is difficult to learn much of import from the first preseason game. Reid is notoriously conservative in the preseason, especially knowing he'll face the Steelers in Week 5 in the Steel City. It is wise to not show too much in the preseason against a team you will see again when it counts.

Quarterback

This preview of the Eagles offense is based largely on its performance last year because it is largely the same unit. It starts with QB Michael Vick. His poor play last year has been well documented here and in many other arenas, but it was his inability to stay healthy that really hurt the team.

Vick's main problem—and the team’s main problem—were his turnovers. Eagles QBs threw 25 interceptions last year. To be fair, only 14 were Vick’s, but in only 12 full games, that is still far too many. Especially when he only threw six in 2010.

Last year, Vick saw his QB rating plummet about 15 points from its 2010 levels. He ranked 14 in the NFL, behind such luminaries as Alex Smith and Matt Moore. Vick simply must play better for the Eagles to have a successful season. He has to keep himself healthy, and the coaches have to aid him in reducing his turnovers. Vick's ability to do these things will determine the fate of the Eagles 2012 season.

O-Line

By the end of the 2011 season, the Eagles offensive line was one of the best in the NFL. Rookie center Jason Kelce proved himself able to make protection calls and handle the position. His fellow rookie, guard Danny Watkin, was overwhelmed early but progressed nicely once he took on the starter's role.

Evan Mathis entered 2011 regarded as a journeyman, but under Howard Mudd’s tutelage, ended the season as one of the highest-rated guards in the league. The Eagles outbid the Baltimore Ravens for his services in the offseason. Todd Herremans made the change from guard to right tackle, and is one of the Eagles most solid and underappreciated players.

Left tackle Jason Peters became the best left tackle in football. NFL expert and Hall of Fame member, Ray Didinger, went so far as to describe Peters as this generation’s Orlando Pace. He was a bulldozer on running plays and a brick wall against pass rushers.

Peters tore his ACL while working out on his own March 27. In a bizarre twist that could only happen to an Eagles player, the device he was using to get around after surgery broke, causing him to fall in his kitchen. Peters tore the same surgically repaired ACL and had to undergo a second surgery. He will miss the entire 2012 season, reminding us again there is nothing worse in sports for fans than your football team losing a player to injury. 

The Eagles then signed Demetress Bell, late of the Buffalo Bills, reportedly the best left tackle available. However, after one preseason game, Bell was demoted in favor of King Dunlap. Dunlap has never distinguished himself, so that position is a concern. The rest of the offensive line is strong, but it lost its best player. More time will have to pass before a consensus can be reached on Peters’ replacement.

Running Back

Lesean McCoy turned in a monstrous season, amassing 1600 yards from scrimmage, averaging 4.8 yards a carry, and catching 48 passes. He broke a franchise record with 20 total touchdowns.

One of the most encouraging signs of McCoy’s breakout season was his ability to score in the red zone and his ability to convert short yardage into first downs. For years, fans have lamented the Eagles' excruciating inability to convert third-and-short yardage opportunities. The team finally started giving the ball to its best player in those situations, and it paid dividends. Hopefully, that problem is now in the past.

Receiver Corps

The wide receiver triumvirate of Desean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant seems poised to have a very productive year. Jackson, with his new, long-term contract, should be able to focus on football (like a professional should) and not on contract negotiations.

Maclin has been productive in his first three seasons, approaching the 1000-yard mark each year. He had a slow start to last year after a mysterious illness caused him to miss all of training camp, but still compiled over 800 yards, although his TD count dropped from 10 to five. The Eagles need him to take that proverbial next step forward this season.

Jason Avant never catches a ton of passes, but always makes the most of those  he does catch: throughout his career nearly 65% of his catches have been for first downs. Avant set a career high in receptions last year with 52. He is a solid third receiver and his toughness complements the speed of Maclin and Jackson very well in the offense.

After a slow start, Tight End Brent Celek turned in another solid season. He caught 62 passes last year and he should be able to match that this year, making him a valuable outlet target for Michael Vick. The unsettled left tackle spot may require Celek to stay in as a blocker more often than the team would like. Time will tell.

Overall, the Eagles have the personnel to be a very dynamic offense. They have a stud running back, quick-strike receivers, and a solid tight end. The one possible problem is the left tackle spot, but Howard Mudd should be able to manage that. The most important thing is that QB Michael Vick must be lethal to the opposition and not to the Eagles, shooting them in the foot with mistakes and injuries caused by risky play. That is what it will all come down to.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Mike Diviney August 25, 2012 at 10:55 PM
I hear you and I'm tired of it too. However, going into every year carrying the weight of past failures, especially those from 50 years ago, is counterproductive. This season is this season, independent to a degree from what happened previously. Players largely determine the outcome and few have been here for more than 5 years. That's the window through which I view each season, but that's me. I don't believe not following your draft blueprint will determine the Eagles success this year and I like having a capable young QB waiting in the wings, so to speak.
Bo August 26, 2012 at 02:45 AM
Yeah no doubt that's why I am only worried about the now and a obvious need for an LT which can keep our fragile QB protected and on the field for 16 games. Andy's blueprint for players who were over age 30, was to have a competent replacement in the ready, and we know Dunlap isn't that guy in his 4th season here. Jason Peters is 32, and has a long road to recovery, where he'll probably not even be 100% next season. Foles isn't the least bit about this year and he'd still have growing pains when other teams scheme him, if he happens to start next season. What also made no sense about this draft was taking OG and a WR in the latter rounds when we already had some strength at those positions. The pundits like McShay and Kiper often look at the player drafted and his value wherever he was picked, and put less importance but really have less info or concern about the depth or needs of a specific team. Sure all those guys had great value where the Eagles picked them, but have you even heard the name McNutt uttered once during training camp or the preseason games. 50+ years is a fact, but more 14 years under the Reid Regime, and that's a big reason why this year is the only one that really matters, but we weren't prepared at some crucial positions, which Andy should have properly addressed in the draft and with free agent signings. Did he really think that Jason Peters, before his 2nd Achilles rupture, was going to be back sometime during the 2nd half of the season.
Mike Diviney August 27, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Jason Peters is 30, not 32- just saying.
Bo August 27, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Are you serious, god love ya Michael, and I imagine he'll be 31 the next time he plays LT for the Eagles, right? Anyway, I watched NBC 10 sports final last night, where John Clark interviewd Brian Baldinger who had watched hours of tape, in Mt Laurel at NFL Films, on all the Eagles preseason. One of his observations, was warning us to be more concerned about the OG positions, that both guards Watkins and Mathis have had horrible preseason's. He said we should be more worried about this issue on the O Line, than Dunlap at LT. He also added that King didn't exactly earn the position, but more backed into it. Vick was asking for help and better protection, and it appears now that the tapes told the truth.
Fabiola Et September 24, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Although I am late commenting this article, but I most say job well done. I just like the way you assess and fully described each section of this article. Nicely done!

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