Man Up: Which offensive pieces fit in 2012?
I did things a little differently this week. In addition to notes on how each offensive player performed against the Cowboys, I took a look at how each player fits into the Eagles' 2012 plans.
As always, this breakdown comes after having re-watched the game.
Michael Vick - I'll have the full breakdown in Mike Check, but Vick completed 18 of 32 passes for 293 yards and two touchdowns. Early on, he somehow got away from Anthony Spencer and found Riley Cooper for 28 yards. Vick made a nice throw on the 13-yard touchdown to Brent Celek in the first. He showed off his arm on the 33-yard out to DeSean Jackson in the second and made a good throw to Jeremy Maclin on the 5-yard touchdown. But Vick was far from perfect. He threw high to Jackson on a third down in the first and was nearly intercepted on a throw to Maclin in the first. In the fourth, with the Eagles up 20-0, Vick unnecessarily stepped right into a Spencer hit and got crushed. Those are the kinds of plays he has to avoid in 2012. Vick will lead the offense again next season, but the Eagles need to make sure they have a capable backup.
LeSean McCoy - McCoy's chances of breaking the franchise rushing record took a hit with his 13-carry, 35-yard performance. He would need 203 yards against the Redskins to tie Wilbert Montgomery, and McCoy trails Maurice Jones-Drew by 128 yards for the league's rushing title. As a blocker, McCoy was somehow responsible for picking up DeMarcus Ware in the first and gave up a sack, although Vick probably held on to the ball too long on the play. It looked like McCoy missed his blitz pickup in the third as Vick took a hit and was forced to throw the ball away. McCoy's done everything asked of him in three seasons, and remember, he's only 23 years old. I know there have been complaints about not using him enough, but McCoy is fifth in the league in rushing attempts, and no tailback has played more snaps in 2011. Getting him an extension is likely high on the team's to-do list this offseason. McCoy's contract is up after 2012.
Ronnie Brown - He saw increased time when McCoy was sidelined with an injury. Good blitz pickup by Brown on 3rd-and-6 in the first. He also had a 4-yard run on 2nd-and-2 in the third and converted a 3rd-and-1. Overall, eight carries for 33 yards. Brown will always be known around these parts for the run-pass option against the 49ers (and for the trade to the Lions that was negated). He won't be here in 2012.
Dion Lewis - He played one snap, but did not have a carry. Can Lewis be McCoy's backup in 2012, or do the Eagles need to add a veteran? That's a question they'll have to answer this offseason. He did not impress as a kickoff returner, another area they'll need to address.
Owen Schmitt - He played about 10 snaps and didn't touch the ball. Schmitt's not under contract in 2012. He's been OK, but the Eagles could look to add a fullback who can carry the football.
Todd Herremans - Herremans once again got the job done in protection, and he did a good job getting out in front on the 39-yard screen to Celek. Right tackle was one of the biggest question marks on the team during training camp, and Herremans stepped right in and played at a high level. That's where he'll play once again next season. He and Jason Peters form one of the best tackle tandems in the league.
Danny Watkins - As has been the case all season, he had ups and downs against Dallas. Watkins had trouble with Kenyon Coleman in protection on an early pass play. He got beat badly by Jay Ratliff in the red zone as Vick was forced to throw the ball away in the first. Ratliff went right past him to force McCoy into a 4-yard loss. Watkins didn't get much of a block on Sean Lissemore on McCoy's run that lost 2 yards in the third. There were good moments too. He picked up Sean Lee, who was blitzing, on Vick's 12-yard completion to Jackson on third down in the first. Good double-team with Jason Kelce on Ratliff on McCoy's 11-yard run in the second. Nice block on Bradie James on Brown's short-yardage carry in the third. And good job getting to Lee on McCoy's 6-yard run in the first. One of the biggest keys this offseason will be Watkins' improvement in pass protection. If he can raise his level of play, this could be an elite offensive line in 2012.
Jason Kelce - He had trouble with Ratliff for much of the day. Kelce was overpowered by Ratliff on McCoy's run that lost a yard in the first. He had trouble on Vick's 19-yard throw to Jackson in the first, and again on a third down where Vick was forced to scramble. Kelce was overpowered by Ratliff on Brown's 4-yard run in the third, and he couldn't handle Ratliff in the fourth, getting flagged for holding. He won some battles too. Good job in protection vs. Ratliff on the 13-yard touchdown to Celek. Nice job on Ratliff on McCoy's 6-yard run. And Kelce got just enough of Keith Brooking on the 39-yard screen to Celek. He's been up and down as a rookie, but seems to have impressed Howard Mudd. It's reasonable to assume Kelce will be better after getting a full offseason under his belt. He will be the starting center in 2012.
Evan Mathis - He was once again very good in protection. Mathis also made good blocks on McCoy's 6-yard run in the first and Brown's 10-yard run in the fourth. Throughout his career, Mathis has had trouble finding the right fit for his talents. My guess is he'll want to return as the starting left guard in 2012, and the Eagles will re-sign him.
Jason Peters - I would argue that he was the Eagles' best and most consistent player in 2011. Peters held Ware in check all day (when he got pressure, Peters wasn't the guy blocking him). He's been outstanding in protection all season and a beast in the running game, appropriately earning a starting Pro Bowl nod. The Eagles have Peters under contract for three more seasons. As Andy Reid would say, "that's a good thing."
DeSean Jackson - He had five catches for 90 yards against Dallas. Jackson had a 19-yard grab in the first and a 12-yard catch on 3rd-and-6. He picked up 18 yards on an end around in the second and 9 yards on the very next play. Jackson's 33-yard catch at the end of the second helped set up the Eagles' second touchdown. He was open for what would have been a big gain in the third, but Vick, who was pressured on the play, was off-target with his throw. And Jackson had a 17-yard catch over the middle in the fourth. The question is: Will he be back in 2012? I've maintained all along that Jackson and the Eagles are a good fit, and the two sides should find a way to get a deal done. But if Jackson wants Larry Fitzgerald money, that's not going to happen. The Eagles' other options are to franchise him and then trade him, or just let him walk as a free agent. If they choose one of those routes, they better have a plan in place to replace Jackson. Remember, he's only 25 years old and should be entering the prime of his career.
Jeremy Maclin - A solid game for Maclin, who finished with five catches for 72 yards on six targets. He had a 7-yard grab on 3rd-and-6 on the first drive and did a good job to scoop up a low throw for an 18-yard gain on the play where Spencer hit him late and was called for a penalty. Is he capable of being the No. 1 receiver in this offense? We may find out next season.
Jason Avant - He had a pair of catches for 35 yards. Avant dove for the end zone, but fumbled in the second, giving the Cowboys the ball at their own 20. He made a nice move to pick up yards after the catch on the 27-yard gain in the second. Avant will be back as the team's slot receiver in 2012.
Riley Cooper - He made a nice play on the ball, coming down with the 28-yard catch in the middle of three Cowboys defenders in the first quarter. Haven't seen enough from Cooper to think he can be a starter, but he should continue to develop as a fourth receiver/spot starter.
Chad Hall - He lost 3 yards on a screen in the third.
Brent Celek - Two catches for 52 yards and a touchdown for Celek. He had the 13-yard touchdown in the first and took a screen 39 yards in the third. Celek drew some tough blocking assignments and struggled. He was asked to block Ware one-on-one in the red zone and couldn't get the job done; Ware threw him out of the way and pressured Vick in the second. Spencer tossed him aside and tackled McCoy after a gain of 1 in the third. And Celek could not block Lee on the screen to Hall that lost 3 yards. Overall, though, he's had a very strong season with 56 catches and 725 yards and will continue to be an important part of the offense in 2012.
Clay Harbor - Just one catch for 9 yards. He also drew some tough blocking assignments. Good job getting by Harbor to get in front of Lee on the 18-yard Jackson end around in the second. He was asked to block Ware one-on-one on the flea flicker and couldn't; Ware pressured Vick, who was forced to scramble. Harbor had a tough time blocking Ware on a Vick incompletion in the third. And he gave up a sack to Ware in the fourth. Harbor's role should continue to increase in 2012 as the Eagles play with more two tight end sets.