Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles will look to figure out a stout Arizona Cardinals defense when the two teams hook up for a Week 3 battle of NFL unbeatens.
Both teams are coming off impressive, if not improbable, Week 2 victories. The Eagles came from behind in their home season opener to eek out a one-point victory against the Baltimore Ravens, while the Cards were able to hold off the New England Patriots on the road.
When you realize that the combined margin of victory for all four of their collective victories is a mere eight points, there’s a very good chance that the outcome of the game will come down to one final possession.
If Vick and his teammates hope to blow this game wide open, here are four things they should do on offense.
Counter-Attack the Cardinals’ Aggression
Similar to the Eagles, Arizona wants to get to the quarterback and wreck havoc in the backfield. Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell and Sam Acho are all serviceable pass-rushers, deserving of some extra attention.
The Cardinals used the combination of a stiff pass-rush and solid coverage last week, and sacked Tom Brady four times. Against one of the smartest quarterbacks in the NFL, this is no easy task.
In order to keep an aggressive pass-rush at bay, Michael Vick needs to change up the snap by utilizing quick-snaps and hard counts. This should benefit an offensive line that will be without starting center Jason Kelce, and starting left tackle King Dunlap. While this strategy sounds simple enough, it could set the Eagles back some. For it to be effective, Andy Reid must make sure his unit shows discipline and avoid all those costly pre-snap penalties.
Use the Tight Ends
When Brent Celek and Clay Harbor aren’t staying in to help out with protection, they must make their presence felt underneath and over the middle. Celek had a monstrous game against the Baltimore Ravens and helped the Eagles fight back against a physical defense.
The Cards field a formidable secondary and will look to shut down Philadelphia’s receivers on the outsides.
In order to keep the opposing defense honest, Michael Vick must remain patient and take the shorter passes when the opportunities come. If he holds onto the ball too long, or forces anything down field, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take a beating behind his inexperienced offensive line.
Utilize the Run Game
It’s important that Michael Vick defers some of the offensive burden to LeSean McCoy. Not only can McCoy alleviate some of Vick’s punishment, but with good runs, will open up play-action for deeper shots.
Andy Reid should start off the game with a draw, counter, or trap play. This way, he might make the Cardinals pay for over pursuing, or at the very least, make the defense more hesitant to do so throughout the contest.
In instances that the coverage blankets his receivers, Vick must continue to identify when it is time to tuck and run and when he should stay in the pocket. This obviously hasn’t been his strong suit, but Vick’s scrambling abilities are still a dynamic that defenses will always be cautious of.
Avoid Patrick Peterson
Patrick Peterson is one of the few cornerbacks who are athletically gifted enough to keep up with DeSean Jackson in a footrace, and strong enough to knock Jeremy Maclin off a route. I’ve said before that I believe he’s Arizona’s best defensive player, and is in line to become one of the top cornerback in the entire league.
Now I’m not saying that Michael Vick should give him Darrelle Revis type treatment and completely avoid throwing to Peterson’s side of the field; it’s just that he should be wary of the how fast Peterson can make up ground and how fast those windows can close.
Peterson has 18 games of experience under his belt and has already intercepted the same number of passes as his sixth-year counterpart, William Gay.
No matter who lines up across from Gay on Sunday, expect a lot of balls to head his way.
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