|Michael Vick was Andy Reid's choice. And while it looked brilliant for a season, it's been a precipitous drop from glory. (AP)|
As I mentioned last week, this week would be declaration week. A time in which teams have shown their true colors and we can safely assess their prospects as well as individual player "realness" in regards to continued performance and ability to produce through the second half of the season. Hot streaks be damned, each player and team has had more than enough time to put up or shut up.
The Eagles, and not just Michael Vick, are falling apart.
On Sunday, the Eagles lost their first game ever in Andy Reid's tenure after a bye week (12-1). Now that record does mean a little something, but ultimately it's more a novelty record than anything. Overreacting to a crushing loss to the only unbeaten team in football is nothing to be up in arms about, but for the first time in Reid's career in Philadelphia, this team truly seems lost. Appropriately the Eagles dawned black jerseys because Sunday might as well have been a funeral.
There have been good teams and bad, teams that needed a little kneading to turn make that dough rise and achieve success, but this Eagles team is one that has no identity or purpose.
A lot of the conversation circles around Reid and Michael Vick. This isn't surprising, but while Vick has amassed and unseemly amount of turnovers this year, he's not the only person to blame. Most of the blame should in fact fall on Reid. Reid has turned his solid success into a Belichick-ian or Shanahanny type reign where all power and personnel decisions go through him. Out of virtually any team the Eagles have ever had in his tenure, this is Reid's vision. He made Vick one of the most dominant QB's in football (not just a flashy runner, but a true QB threat), he extended DeSean Jackson and signed Nnamdi Asomugha to large extensions. His play calling and clock management have always been in question, but his stubbornness to adapt and improve is what is ultimately leading to his downfall.
It isn't a stretch to say that the Andy Reid that coached his first game in 1999 with Doug Pederson is virtually no different from the coach that took the filed Sunday and led a listless team to an underserving 3-4 record (they could have easily been much worse). Sure he has some more gravitas, some wins and NFC titles under his belt, but the strategic and game management side have only grown more tiresome and frustrating. Once Reid was able to successfully take the reigns of this team a couple of years ago, team owner Jeffrey Lurie, who always has supported Reid, let him know that continuing to fail to adapt, to fail to make key subtle personnel decisions (improving draft picks, developing players, not just QB's) would put Reid in the cross-hairs should the Eagles fail to perform again.
Reid has responded by doing more of the same thing. Exposing Vick by having him throw all game long. Neglecting the run game and establishing or at least attempting to keep the opposing team's defense on their heels. This was an Eagles team, under the helm of Vick, two years ago that was one of the most explosive offenses in football. Now, they've been relegated to dinks and dunks. Wide receiver screens and quick slants to Jason Avant. There is a clear realization that either Reid has no confidence in Vick or himself.
This isn't to get Vick off the dunk tank seat. He's very much in line as his lack of decision making ability quickly enabled defenses to expose weaknesses and make life in the pocket for Vick hell. Vick hardly, if ever, audibles at the line to change protections or make decisions based upon what he sees from other teams. Sure, he'll kill a play or make a quick change from time to time, but when it comes to recognizing what the other team intends to do and fully controlling the situation like the Manning brothers or Tom Brady it's clear he is incapable. If another team wanted to constantly blitz their safeties, you don't think that Eli Manning would make them pay?
Vick's increased difficulties are largely on his shoulders. His accuracy has completely dropped off from two years ago, and along with Reid, he should be no longer a member of the Eagles come 72 hours after the final whistle at the Super Bowl where a $15 million roster bonus would kick in.
Reid took this team as far as he could, but it wasn't good enough. The Eagles are still one of the younger teams in football, so a new coach has a lot to work with. They can build around LeSean McCoy and Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie, but with a new regime primed to take the stage and no reliable starting QB, it may be a long time coming before the Eagles will again be a threat in the NFC East. (My head coach pick: Jon Gruden)
A couple other declarations:
Andrew Luck and RGIII are as good as advertised - baseball has Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, football has these guys. Worth noting that while RGIII has garnered more headlines, Luck leads RGIII in many of Football Outsider's DVOA ranks.
The Buc$ aren't half bad - aside from the force that Doug Martin has become and a much improved defense under first year head coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs have been my favorite team to bet on all year. They are constantly underrated by Vegas, and have the ability to keep in close games whether it's a defensive battle or a high scoring affair.
Something is happening with Calvin Johnson - somehow people have figured out a way to stop him from destroying everything in his path. Getting at Matthew Stafford helps, but the fact that Johnson has 1 TD to date in spite of increased targets is an anomaly.
How important is a head coach? - The Saints must be saying a lot. While they've always been a suspect defensive team, without Sean Payton, they've become simply a vehicle for Drew Brees to put up stats.
Alfred Morris is starting and good - easily my biggest missed call thus far has been Morris. He's managed to not only start regularly under Mike Shanahan, but perform well enough to earn Terrell Davis comparisons. I even just traded Brady for him in my one fantasy league (RGIII is my starter).
Don't sleep on AJ Green - he's starting to earn more well deserved attention. Fellow draft mate Julio Jones is getting a lot of hype and we all know what Calvin Johnson has failed to live up to. Green is quickly vaulting into the upper echelon of wideouts. Also, Larry Fitzgerald who is long forgotten in Arizona will be opting out of his mega contract. He's too good to waste away there.
Time to declare some money makers in Week 9.
|It was hard not to notice Jonathan Dwyer on Sunday for a lot of reasons. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)|
Cecil Shorts, WR - JAX (11%) DET
It's time to open up my favorite file. The Alshon Jeffrey/Josh Gordon "Someone has to Catch Passes" file. With Blaine Gabbert dinged up and no Maurice Jones-Drew someone had to enjoy themselves against the Packers miserable pass defense Shorts was able to continue a solid season hauling in his 3rd TD pass of the season.
Danny Woodhead, RB - NE (38%) BYE
Especially in a PPR league, Woodhead appears to be the kind of dual threat back that can be helpful, you know, when he's not on a bye week. There's plenty of balls to go around in the Pats offense, it's always a question of which 2nd level offensive player for the Pats will be graced with a solid game.
Jonathan Dwyer, RB - PIT (46%) WAS
There are plenty of unhealthy options in Pittsburgh at running back. While Rashard Mendenhall and Isaac Redman got their first couple of shots at the starting job, injuries have cleared a path for Dwyer. When Mendenhall is healthy you can expect him to get a shot at earning his job back, but with injuries mounting in Pittsburgh like they usually do, Dwyer has an opportunity to be a factor in the backfield.
PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED
Beanie Wells, RB - ARZ (11%) @GB
He's coming back from injury again. Feel free to waste money on him.
Ryan Broyles, WR - DET (7%) @JAX
Typically I like to try to get this done prior to 12 on Tuesdays because around then is when ESPN's Chris Harris drops his pick up list. Now, obviously, we're not in competition, but personally, I like to see who he picks and who I pick in a given week. A bit of a compare and contrast. Well due to the hurricane I got a bit delayed today, so I read Harris' article and his write up on Broyles is better than I could ever do.