Michael Vick Debuts, Offense Sputters, Asante Shines

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Michael Vick Debuts, Offense Sputters, Asante Shines
(Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

It took only two plays, but Michael Vick's much ballyhooed return to the NFL finally happened in Philadelphia tonight—a four yard shuffle pass to running back LeSean McCoy.

Disappointed? Hey, not everyone's preseason debut can be an 81-yard touchdown the first time they touch the ball like the last controversial signing the Eagles had in 2004.

Coincidentally, it also only took two McNabb overthrows to Jason Avant on the Eagles first drive (resulting in a 3-and-out) to take the collective air out of the stadium atmosphere.

Did someone say third down? Through three quarters, McNabb and company failed to convert on six of their nine opportunities:

  • 3rd and 6: McNabb incomplete, intended for Avant
  • 3rd and 9: McNabb incomplete, intended for Avant
  • 3rd and 10: McNabb incomplete, intended for Curtis
  • 3rd and 13: McNabb to Avant for seven
  • 3rd and 3: McNabb to Eckel for no gain
  • 3rd and 3: McNabb incomplete, intended for Baskett

Of the nine third down attempts the Eagles had under McNabb's leadership, Reid called for a pass eight times, with the lone exception being a third and two that required a measurement to confirm LeSean McCoy had gained enough to move the chains. McNabb converted the other two by hitting rookie receiver, Jeremy Maclin and using his legs to convert another.

Add in a first and goal at the Jacksonville one, which resulted in a 92-yard fumble return for the Jags, and we see the more things change, the more they stay the same—third down and red-zone issues still abound.

Three of the Eagles' first four drives resulted in three plays and a punt—the fifth and sixth drives both ended in fumbles. This preseason, Andy Reid's offenses in the first half of three games have been outscored by 36-points in six quarters.

Defensively, the starting defensive line looked ready to go right now. Trent Cole wreaked havoc on whoever set up behind center. After temporarily knocking David Garrard out the game, he equally terrorized Todd Bouman until Garrard returned.

Asante Samuel was easily the standout of the game though. Not only did he have an interception (nearly two), he also forced a fumble on Torry Holt. A goal line hit on Jaguars receiver, Nate Hughes, not only caused another fumble but a concussion for Hughes as well. At times we saw Asante channeling memories of Brian Dawkins while decleating a much larger running back.

The one glaring opportunity for improvement going forward for the defense is to not allow themselves to be invited in on the blitz only to be burned by the screen. I place this burden of responsibility on the linebackers to be there, because if Asante Samuel is making the tackle, it's probably always going to be 45 yards later like we saw tonight.

All in all, basically a slow first half by the starting offense and an off-and-on defensive showing with plenty of "teaching points" to go around with just 10-days until it counts.

But back to Michael Vick for a moment. What did we see here? To be honest, not much aside from a pass to Baskett for 14 yards—a couple of shuffle passes, a pass to D-Jack for no gain, and a half hearted designed run for a yard. But he got his feet wet, which was the point of tonight for him.

We primarily saw him on second down, once with McNabb split out wide, usually though as the lone quarterback on the field. We also saw Vick as a decoy split out wide with McNabb under center. Just enough to keep defensive coordinators up a little longer throughout the week, but little in way of exciting the casual fan.

So what's the key take-away if you're a "the glass is half empty" person like me? The main thing is that it's the preseason, and let's not forget Westbrook didn't even step onto the field, nor did newly acquired fullback Leonard Weaver nor Sheldon Brown (although Ellis Hobbs played well tonight).

However, I'm concerned with the fact that with the first unit in there, we're still refusing to run the ball on third down, and McNabb is as streaky as he's ever been. The fact that he finished 21-36 for 244 yards is very surprising if you actually watched the game.

When the pocket breaks down, he's as good as anyone in the game throwing on the run, but that's not always the case sitting comfortably in the pocket.

In the end, Kevin Kolb led the Eagles reserves from a fourth quarter 12-point deficit, allowing Dave Akers to make a 35-yard game winning kick, his fourth field goal of the game.

Eagles 33, Jags 32

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