Published September 30, 2012
| Sports Network
Turnovers kill. Plain and simple.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick has accounted for nine so far this season with six interceptions to three fumbles.
After the Eagles were waxed by the Arizona Cardinals, 27-6, on Sunday, questions of benching Vick began to surface. It seems the backup quarterback is the most popular choice when things start to go awry, and it has been the case for several years in the City of Brotherly Love.
When asked if he would consider making a change under center if the turnovers keep piling up, Eagles head coach Andy Reid gave his usual stale response.
"Right now, we're with Michael and that's what we're doing," Reid said. "We'll evaluate it as we go."
Perhaps Sunday night's game versus the despised NFC East-rival New York Giants could be the cutting board on which Vick's fate will be determined. He barely got by in wins over Cleveland and Baltimore to begin the season and has been struggling to read defenses, an area the athletic signal caller has experienced trouble with throughout his career.
The Eagles were missing one of their top playmakers in Jeremy Maclin because of a hip issue and DeSean Jackson failed to pick up the slack. Pro-Bowl running back LeSean McCoy touched the ball 13 times for 70 yards in an offensive attack that featured more Vick dropbacks than handoffs, which is usually the case under a Reid gameplan.
Another area of concern for Philadelphia is the offensive line. Vick was sacked five times in Arizona and lost both of his fumbles. Center Dallas Reynolds has taken over under center with Jason Kelce out for the season with a knee injury and left tackle King Dunlap missed Sunday's game with a hamstring issue. Dunlap won the job over newcomer Demetress Bell, who will most likely make his second start.
"I think I did some good things but I know I have a lot of work to do," Reynolds said. "It's just something where I need to get better every day, keep working hard and trust my coaches. I think it got better as the game went along. I feel like we're going to get there."
In other Eagles news, former safety and fan favorite Brian Dawkins will have his No. 20 officially retired by the club in a ceremony. Dawkins livened the crowd with his big hits and tenacious play, and signed a one-day ceremonial contract to officially retire a member of the Eagles.
New York's strong defensive front has to be frothing at the mouth to face the Eagles' patched-up line. Defensive ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck have been quiet thus far in three games this season, but an old-fashioned rivalry could jettison New York's confidence.
Tuck watched some of the Eagles' film against Arizona and gave his perspective on Vick.
"I saw some plays in that game where he still looked the same and he got out of the pocket and started running, but it's tough," Tuck said. "I think he's getting some clean shots on him and obviously that's going to take a toll on any player, not only him. I think he's still one of the most dangerous people on the football field."
The Giants defeated an athletic quarterback in Cam Newton last week in a 36-7 rout of the Carolina Panthers. Newton was sacked twice and threw three interceptions against a banged-up Giants' secondary. Cornerback Corey Webster has a broken hand, while safety Antrel Rolle injured his knee and rookie cornerback Jayron Hosley tweaked his hamstring. Webster was able to return to the game with a hard cast.
"He can play with it," Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said. "He can probably catch as well as some guys with two with one (hand). He's very talented in that way. I think naturally it will be cumbersome to him a little bit."
Webster will have his hands full with Jackson and the possibility of Maclin's return to action. Maclin was back at practice this week and expects to play Sunday night.
"I felt good," Maclin said after practice Wednesday. "They've been easing me in to everything, but I felt good today."
The defending Super Bowl champions were hoping to have a receiving weapon of their own back on the field this weekend. Deep threat Hakeem Nicks didn't play against the Panthers because of an issue with his surgically-repaired foot and a knee issue. Hicks can stretch the field and serve as a reliable possession receiver, but won't play Sunday.
Wide receiver Domenik Hixon (concussion) and running back Ahmad Bradshaw (neck) will give the Giants a trio of offensive weapons back in the fold at Lincoln Financial Field. Hixon and Bradshaw were cleared to practice, while Bradshaw is expected to start.
Including the playoffs, the Giants have lost seven of the last eight matchups with the Eagles. They split the 2011 series, with each team winning on the road.
WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL
Eli Manning has shredded the Dallas Cowboys the most in his career and the Eagles are right behind. Manning (1,011 yards, 5 TD, 3 INT) has thrown for 3.632 yards with 27 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions in his career against the Eagles and was 27-for-35 for 288 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Panthers. Despite not having Nicks (237 yards, TD) to throw to, Manning improvised and found Ramses Barden (162 yards) nine times for 138 yards. The Giants had high expectations for Barden when they drafted him a few years ago and hope he can build on his latest performance.
Victor Cruz (279 yards, TD) is having a slow start to the season, but did some damage to the Eagles a year ago. New York hopes to have tackle David Diehl at full strength and he has been dealing with a knee issue. Running back Andre Brown (184 yards, 3 TD) has shined when given the chance and ran for 113 yards and two scores on 20 carries last week. Brown is expected to share time with Bradshaw (94 yards, TD) returning to the field against the Eagles.
Philadelphia's secondary has had problems the past few years and it won't get any better this week with a lack of preparation. Reid stated how the Cardinals were just better on Sunday and the team dug itself into a hole in the first half. Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald caught nine passes for 114 yards and a score and made Eagles cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha (5 tackles) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (5 tackles, 2 INT) look average at best.
For the Eagles' sake, they were hoping Nicks wasn't going to return this week. Safeties Kurt Coleman (21 tackles, 2 INT) and Nate Allen (19 tackles) seem lost at times in the defensive backfield and need to communicate better with each other. Kevin Kolb hit seven different receivers for 222 yards and two TDs with no interceptions. The Eagles must apply pressure up front with their healthy rotation, and both Jason Babin (10 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks) and Trent Cole (6 tackles, 1 1/2) have to play more aggressive.
WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL
Reid said he needed to have a better gameplan for the Cardinals and that last week's debacle in the desert falls on him. Unfortunately, Reid doesn't strap on shoulder pads or a helmet, so getting his players in better position to win games is vital. Vick (905 yards, 3 TD, 6 INT) couldn't overcome his lapses in judgement this week and it cost his team a 3-0 start. The elusive Vick is responsible for nine of the Eagles' NFL-high 12 turnovers, while Philadelphia is a minus-6 in the giveaway/takeaway category.
However, the team could be righting their turnovers woes, as it turned the ball over five times in Cleveland, four times versus Baltimore and three times at Arizona. The Eagles also struggled in the red zone Sunday and have not scored an offensive touchdown since a Week 17 loss in Dallas at the end of the 2009 regular season. If Maclin (119 yards, 2 TD) is unable to go, rookie Damaris Johnson (107 yards) will take over again. Johnson led the Eagles with five catches for 84 yards last week. Brent Celek (258 yards) had a breakout game versus the Ravens, catching eight passes for 157 yards, but was held to just two catches for 36 yards in Arizona. McCoy (261 yards, TD) must get on a consistent pace, too.
The Giants have been able to harass Vick in the past and will most likely use a cornerback coming off the edge. Veteran defensive end Osi Umenyiora (3 tackles, sack) got his first sack of the season on Newton, and owns 11 1/2 sacks in 13 career games against Philadelphia -- the most against any team in his career. If New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell takes a page out of Arizona's playbook, Vick could be in trouble.
Pierre-Paul (15 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks) and Tuck (10 tackles) will be relied on to wreak havoc and force Vick out of the pocket, where he tends to make most of his mistakes. The Giants hope Webster (9 tackles, INT) will have no issues with protective wear on his broken hand and that Rolle (21 tackles) is at 100 percent after running into a camera man along the sidelines. Linebacker Michael Boley (10 tackles, 1/2 sack) leads the team with three interceptions, and will need help up front if the Eagles opt to hand McCoy the football 20 to 25 times. Boley recorded his third interception in three games last week.
The Giants have had plenty of time to rest and prepare for their second NFC East battle of the season, and will be hoping to avoid an 0-2 hole in division play. New York is averaging 38.5 points over the last two games and will face an Eagles team that has given up 25 ppg in that time.
Philadelphia is in crisis mode right now and Vick must protect the football if he intends on remaining the starter. The Nick Foles fanclub already has been assembled and another poor showing from the $100 million Vick will add new members to the backup QB's bandwagon. Vick will improve his play on Sunday night, but it won't be enough to overcome a hungry Giants defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Giants 24, Eagles 17