The Philadelphia Eagles have clinched the third seed in the NFC playoffs, but they should not rest upon their laurels. Although Michael Vick has shown he is capable of leading this explosive offense, he has also shown he has not demonstrated he is capable of lending balance to this offense. Vick himself carries much of this offense, without use of the running back LeSean McCoy or tight end Brent Celek. Both McCoy and Celek are talented in their own right, but they are far too underused. I imagine both are frustrated and biting their tongues for sake of professionalism, the team and the coach Andy Reid.
Facing their opponents in the playoffs are going to be a different picture altogether with this quasi-one-dimensional team. One misstep and they will be gone.
But with all the resources available to the Eagles, here’s how the Philadelphia Eagles should gameplan against the Green Bay Packers:
Shore Up the Offensive Line
This may be easier said than done. This offensive line has been mediocre all year. Whether with Michael Vick or Kevin Kolb, the pocket has constantly collapsed, and sometimes at the most inopportune moments. It has caused Vick to throw interceptions and forced him to rush, as he is forced out of the pocket. This offensive line cannot take overload blitzes too well. Neither can Vick’s health.
Tagteam and Key on Clay Matthews
The Eagles offensive line have to know that Clay Matthews is coming for Michael Vick. It will be dependent on Vick to spot him and perform a “mike” (blitzer) check on Matthews on every single play. Again, this is easier said than done. With the lackadaisical and porous nature of this line, realistically, Vick will have to rely on his feet to keep the game in play. But if Clay Matthews doesn’t get to him, someone else certainly will.
ALWAYS Cover Greg Jennings
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings simply exploded this year. Originally the counterpart to Donald Driver, he has taken over the position and become the 4th most dominant receiver in the league, with the ranks of Indianapolis Colts Reggie Wayne, Atlanta Falcon’s Roddy White and Denver Broncos Brandon Lloyd. With Jennings 12 touchdowns to date, he currently has more touchdowns than either Brandon Lloyd or Roddy White. However, he realizes that he cannot work alone, and he has Jordy Nelson and James Jones to help. The Eagles secondary is moderately good, but they can’t be trusted. And with someone as athletic and aggressive as Greg Jennings, they will be contending with more than they have handled previously.
Respect the Run But Fear the Pass from Aaron Rodgers
Packers Aaron Rodgers is not a flashy quarterback, but he is efficient and accurate. Even more importantly, his backup Matt Flynn is just as capable. Aaron Rodgers is currently ranked 3rd in terms of quarterback rating at 101.2, ahead of Michael Vick, and he has 28 touchdowns to his name right now. Plus Rodgers is ranked 7th in terms of passing yardage at 3,922 yards. Meanwhile, the Eagles Pro Bowler is ranked 20th in comparison.
Although the rushers of Brandon Jackson and their fullback John Kuhn aren’t fantastic by any means, they are respectable, when given space. Jackson has shown that he’s capable of breaking out long runs, and Kuhn has shown he is capable of scoring near the goal line. The Eagles should respect the run, but they should continue blitzing whenever it’s appropriate.
Establish the Run with LeSean McCoy
The Eagles should attempt to establish the run with LeSean McCoy. If McCoy can establish the run early, with long runs against the Packers defense, it should give Vick some breathing room to pass, but should McCoy shut down or the Packers defense don’t respect the run, Vick will be a small fish in a shark pond and will have to rely on his rushing ability. Given that Vick has scored a rushing touchdown in four of his last five games, McCoy may be essentially riding the pine although he will get his carries. And again the hits will leave marks on Michael Vick…
Intermediate Passes vs. Homerun Hitting
Remember the days when Donovan McNabb used to throw screens to Brian Westbrook and Brent Celek. Those were the days…Although Micheal Vick used to throw screens when he and the media declared him a pocket passer early in the season, but he has all but stopped doing this. He also stopped relying on intermediate passes to his tight end Brent Celek or wide receivers DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. He has become the impulsive shotgunner in the past few games, overthrowing receivers or missing receivers entirely.
Don’t Let Green Bay Packers Hang With the Philadelphia Eagles
With this, I don’t mean after the game they can’t hang out at a Chickies and Pete’s in South Philadelphia, but it is more meant that if they allow the Packers to hang in with them during the game, the Packers will find a way to strike at the worst moment for the Eagles. The reverse was true for the Eagles during the Giants, but lightning has not struck twice with Michael Vick.
Hits = Interceptions or Fumbles for Michael Vick
This is the superficial part of the equation that the Packers defense is working on right now. Right now, just maybe, the Packers defense is watching the final few tapes of the New York Giants, the Minnesota Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys and Vick’s tendencies to scramble in the film room after breaking it down over the past week. Whether Michael Vick will have to scramble from necessity or not in this game, he will have to address this problem at some point. Sometime before this playoff game would be preferable. The Pro Bowler for the NFC has an interception in his last five games. We’ll let that speak for itself.
Michael Vick Is Not a One-Man Army
However spectacular his play may have been during the Washington Redskins, it foreshadowed Vick’s tendencies to be self-centered. In light of his success within the first few minutes of the first quarter to DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, both disappeared into the second quarter afterwards. Vick basically played around with the Washington defense and was not relieved until late fourth quarter. Lesson: Even TCU’s Andy Dalton realized he couldn’t carry the team himself after the half of this year’s Rose Bowl…