Bengals stumble in Oakland

After sweeping both the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers for the first time in franchise history, the Cincinnati Bengals were looking for their first ever win in Oakland on Sunday.

However, three lost fumbles and a missed field goal proved to be the Bengals’ undoing. They failed to sack Raiders QB Bruce Gradkowski as he drove 80 yards in 11 plays to tie the game at 17. It was bad enough the Bengals had played down to the level of the 2-7 Raiders. Despite two rushing touchdowns from QB Carson Palmer, they just couldn’t seem to land the knockout blow.

With 33 seconds remaining in the game, one had to wonder why WR Andre Caldwell was in for RB Bernard Scott to receive the ensuing kick after the Raiders had tied the game. When Caldwell fumbled, allowing Sebastian Janikowski to kick the game-winning field goal, you had to demand an answer.

After the game, Scott admitted he had been suffering from leg cramps, so Caldwell was sent in as a replacement. The costly cramps set the stage for the final anomaly, which led to the Bengals’ first road loss of the season.

Ironically, Scott’s legs had grown weary while he was filling in for Cedric Benson, who had the day off due to a hip flexor injury. While posting the first 100-yard game of his career, Scott’s workload kept him off the field when the team needed him most.

When asked about the significance of last week’s win in Pittsburgh, to a man the Bengals believed its importance would have to be validated with a win in Oakland. Regardless, there is no denying this is a special year for the Bengals. After losing in Oakland, the Bengals still managed to stay ahead of their division opponents – because every AFC North team lost in Week 11.

With upcoming games against Cleveland and Detroit, the Bengals will have to prove they can play above the competition and remain the dominant team we thought they were.

Panthers played right into Dolphins’ hands

While standing on the Panthers’ sideline for the entire game Thursday night, I saw several things that suggested their game plan was geared more toward passing than running the ball.

The Dolphins’ defense featured two rookie cornerbacks, Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. Clearly, the Panthers believed their veteran wide receivers, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad, would feast on the inexperienced cover men. However, this game plan relied on QB Jake Delhomme having his best night throwing the ball behind an offensive line that was playing without its stellar left tackle, Jordan Gross.

By halftime, Delhomme had attempted 20 passes and twice missed on deep balls to Smith, who beat his man for what should have been big plays for the Panthers. It was clear that Delhomme was off his game.

The Panthers rebounded from an 0-3 start by relying on their running game, averaging 200 rushing yards in each of their last five contests. Delhomme threw 13 interceptions in his first six games, but he had no picks in his last three outings. Even more telling, Delhomme had been 4-0 in games in which he attempted 25 passes or less, but he was 1-4 in games in which he threw the ball 30 or more times.

On Thursday, the Panthers dialed up more than 40 pass plays intended to attack the Dolphins’ young defensive backs. And now the Panthers are 0-5 when Delhomme attempts 30 or more passes. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined for more than 180 rushing yards, but they failed to top the much-needed total of 200 on the night.

The loss can’t be blamed on Delhomme, but his coaches designed a game plan that played away from the Panthers’ strengths and right into the Dolphins’ hands. Joey Porter and Co. would rather rush the passer than spend the night being hammered by the run. The multiple sacks on Delhomme is what was needed as the Dolphins gladly welcomed the Panthers to participate in their style of fight.

High production, low maintenance wideouts

So many wide receivers today need to conjure up a dance or a corny routine in order to garner media attention. Even after making a simple first down, the truly self-centered divas have become their own endorsement-seeking public relations firms. Gaudy numbers really don’t tell the full story, or properly measure the true worth of just a few wide receivers who go about doing their work while putting the goals of the team before their own.

The short list of receivers who produce star-studded work without diva-like drama includes the following players:

Texans Titans Football

With a league-leading 800 yards on 54 catches this season, Houston's Andre Johnson is considered one of the best receivers in the NFL. (Wade Payne / Associated Press)

The quiet cool of Andre Johnson epitomizes the Latin phrase “Actum Non Verba”, which means “Actions not words.” Johnson is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. He is football’s equivalent of a five-tool player. Speed, size, quickness, the toughness to knife across the middle of NFL defenses and create yards after the catch, and finally the vertical jump and fly paper hands to consistently pluck the ball free from double coverage. Believe me, he is all of that and more. Like a quiet storm, Johnson leaves defensive coordinators quaking in fear of how he might wreck their game plans once he has blown through town. Rarely does a receiver collect 10 passes in a single game, but Johnson did it seven times last season and already three times in eight games in 2009.

His regal demeanor makes him a coach’s dream and the perfect teammate. If Johnson doesn’t experience postseason play before his career has come to an end, it would be as criminal as Stevie Wonder having never wrote his epic creation that is the award-winning album “Songs in the Key of Life.” We should all cheer for Johnson to be unleashed on to the NFL’s biggest stage and in its biggest games. If he is, then get ready to see something special.

The professional poise of Larry Fitzgerald has taken the league by storm. He shares his knowledge with other young receivers during his offseason workouts. Fitzgerald never complains to his quarterback about where the ball is or is not or who it is going too. His hard work is aimed to produce wins more than stats. We need more players in this league like Fitzgerald. As he continues to train and mentor other young wide receivers around the league, I’m sure his humble spirit will also be a shared resource.

The blue collar worker that is Hines Ward has made a Super Bowl MVP out of a receiver who entered the league as a special teams player. Before Ward caught one ball in Pittsburgh, he had to cover kicks and participate in the Steelers’ dreaded training camp ritual as a tackler in the Oklahoma drill. No diva receiver could ever flourish in Pittsburgh. The blue collar fan base would never tolerate one of its star players not willing to do the dirty work.

I’ve always said that Ward plays the wide receiver position unlike anyone who has ever played the game. His head-knocking blocks have become his calling card for toughness and unselfishness. When you have passed both Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth in the record books, not many words are needed to declare your greatness.

The model of maturity shown by Reggie Wayne should never be understated. Wayne was mostly thought to be the Colts’ No. 2 receiver behind Marvin Harrison, but many NFL defenders will tell you that Peyton Manning has been playing with two No. 1’s for quite some time. Wayne has measured up to the demanding standards set by his quarterback and has achieved some eye-popping numbers in the process. He is a consistent and polished route runner. His five consecutive seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards should come as no surprise. No touchdown dance, no loud mouth proclamations of how good he is compared to others. Wayne simply speaks softly, but carries a big stick.

More to come from Colts-Texans rivalry

In preparing to call the Colts-Texans game for CBS, I expected a very good game Sunday and it lived up to the billing.

With four of the last five meetings between these two teams decided by six points or less, Houston and Indianapolis also had to figure the game would be close.

Despite losing 13 of 14 games to the Colts, the Texans weren’t just hoping they could win in Indianapolis. Thanks to so many tight finishes against the Colts, Houston went on the road full of confidence. However, the Texans still showed the kind of early game jitters that can trip up young, talented teams against a veteran Colts squad.

The Texans punted or committed turnovers on five of their six first-half possessions, including a costly fumble inside the red zone by Ryan Moats. Meanwhile, Peyton Manning nearly had 300 yards passing by halftime. Only a 56-yard field goal by Kris Brown to end the half gave the Texans a sense of accomplishment as they trailed 13-3.

Matt Schaub led an 86-yard scoring drive to open the third quarter. The Texans then went on to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold it. With Houston on the move to regain the lead, linebacker Gary Brackett hit Schaub and Clint Session picked off the pass. That appeared to be Houston’s last chance, but the defense forced a punt and Schaub went to work.

Schaub got the ball inside the Colts’ 30-yard line to set up a potential tying field goal. It appeared the game was headed for overtime when Brown’s 42-yard attempt sailed wide left.

Once again, the Texans lost a close decision to the Colts. Once again, Houston lost at Indy, the eighth straight such defeat.

However, mark your calendars when the two teams meet again in Week 12 down in Houston. The Texans remain confident that they can play with the Colts. Now Houston must prove its good enough to beat Indianapolis.

Colts make it look easy

What should I say that hasn’t already been said about the Colts? As I called their 42-6 victory over the Rams in Week 7, I couldn’t help but think to myself that I could be watching the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

I could offer exhibits A to Z as evidence as to why I believe that when Peyton Manning is finished playing the game, history will clearly show that he’s the best ever at his position. However, I will wait until another time to convince those who disagree.

Here, I just wanted to serve as your eyewitness to a Colts team that could be on a collision course with Archie Manning’s former team. That’s right — after watching the Colts roll to their 15th consecutive regular-season victory, it dawned on me that a Colts-Saints Super Bowl would serve as an epic battle under the February lights in Miami.

Manning and Drew Brees wouldn’t disappoint the masses.

I also noticed that coach Jim Caldwell has quietly made the Colts his team. In some ways, he’s very much like Tony Dungy. He’s confident, intelligent and highly organized. Conversely, Caldwell is a more vocal coach and was willing to physically challenge his team by scripting the starting offense to compete against the starting defense in a lengthy practice during the team’s bye week. With a spanking of the Rams, Caldwell has become just the fifth rookie coach to begin his career with a 6-0 record.

I like what I see in Indy. However, with dates looming against stiffer competition, we’ll find out if this version of the Colts will have a championship kick in November and December.

Talent pool at QB makes NFL a passing league

Even in my limited Wisdom, I can see the evolution in what it takes to win in today’s NFL.

Gone are the days when you could win a championship with only a strong running game and a dominant defense. As a former NFL defensive back, even I have to admit that without a top-notch, steely nerved quarterback, you cannot expect to win consistently in the league today. It’s not going to happen.

Kyle Orton's performance has helped hammer home the point that this is a golden age for QBs. (Bill Nichols / Associated Press)

Kyle Orton's performance has helped hammer home the point that this is a golden age for QBs. (Bill Nichols / Associated Press)

Even traditional run-first teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers have converted to become primarily a passing team. With QB Ben Roethlisberger completing more than 70 percent of his passes, I can hardly blame them. The Steelers’ play selection in 2009 has called for Roethlisberger to throw the ball 224 times with only 166 running plays. Yes, the Steelers are throwing the ball 57 percent of the time. But even that pass/run ratio pales in comparison to the Arizona Cardinals, who lead the league in throwing the ball a whopping 69 percent of the time. So why the increase in passing?

Without argument, this is the deepest talent pool of quarterbacks in the 90-year history of the league.

Houston’s Matt Schaub has a league-leading 14 TD passes to set the pace for others, like Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco, Kurt Warner and Big Ben, who have all seen their teams call substantially more pass plays than run plays. My last count totaled at least 20 starting quarterbacks who have either Pro Bowls or playoffs on their resumes. Of those 20, only Schaub and Kyle Orton of the Broncos could not make the previous claim, but are clearly entitled to be listed among the really good starting quarterbacks. At least 14 quarterbacks having a passer rating at 90.0 or better, serving as evidence that the level of quarterback play in our league has drastically improved.

It has become even more clear that more passing means  more wins for some NFL teams. Through Week 6, we already have 49 300-yard performances by quarterbacks this season. Last Sunday we saw eight quarterback pass for more than 300 yards, with six of those winning their games. Only Flacco and Jay Cutler passed for more than 300 yards last week and still lost.

So far this season, when quarterbacks have eclipsed 300 yard passing, they’ve won 78 percent of the time.

As we head into Week 7, get ready for even more of what you saw from Brady and his six-touchdown performance against the Tennessee Titans last week.

With rules tailored to insure the quarterback’s health, and game plans designed to promote the talents of teams’ greatest financial investment, quarterbacks are now given the green light to win games doing what they do best. Throw the ball. So get ready for more passing, more points, more record-setting performances, and most of all, more fun.

Don’t blame TV after officials miss a call

Almost every week, an NFL game is guaranteed to give you something you have never seen before. While calling the Pittsburgh-Cleveland game for CBS last Sunday, I witnessed the impossible.

After the Steelers attempted a fourth-down play, the chain measurement clearly revealed that they had come up short. However, the official still awarded Pittsburgh a new set of downs. Without any explanation, the officials went about their business as usual, which left our broadcast crew, the fans and members of both teams wondering what just happened.

Several days later, a half-hearted explanation was given. Officials claimed the television camera hadn’t captured a pure straight-on angle of the measurement and ball placement. Upon hearing this, I went crazy. I contend that television allows fans to view a game in an up-close and personal way. Often times, television cameras will offer viewers an intimate look at critical and controversial plays. But in no way is the camera capable of moving the ball enough to create a first down or a touchdown.

When Broncos WR Brandon Stokley was awarded a touchdown in Monday night’s game against the Chargers, I once again reflected on how blown calls by officials can never be blamed on television angles.

I believe NFL officials are highly skilled and do a great job. This, however, doesn’t mean that they are perfect. When mistakes are made, don’t tell the fans that what you saw on television isn’t what really happened. You can’t convince the viewer that what they clearly saw with their own two eyes was just an illusion, and that the men in stripes are the authority on visual reality.

It has been said that the eye in the sky don’t lie. I believe in what I see, not in what you tell me. I also believe in the technology of the day. I’m watching a game in high definition, with the clarity to count the blades of grass in the end zone, so don’t tell me it was a first down. Even the guy on the bar stool in Pittsburgh could see that it wasn’t.

Big Ben helping Steelers pass the test

The Steelers entered the season in search of a new identity. After Sunday’s 27-14 victory over the Browns — the Steelers’ 12th in a row over their AFC North rivals — the path has been clearly defined.

Ben Roethlisberger entered the game with the league’s highest pass-completion percentage (73.8) and didn’t disappoint. Like so many other games this season, the Steelers came out throwing and closed things out on the ground.

“Our game is tailored to the talents of No.7,” Mike Tomlin said after Roethlisberger went 23 of 35 for 417 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. “We are comfortable putting the game in his hands. His high completion percentage is our form of ball control.”

After winning two Super Bowls in his first five years in the NFL, Roethlisberger is still searching for improvement.

“He has become a veteran quarterback who never rests,” Tomlin said. “His better days are ahead of him.”

Roethlisberger had one of those better days against the Browns. He led the Steelers to 543 yards in total offense. According to Tomlin, Roethlisberger completed every pass during Thursday’s practice.

“The ball never hit the ground,” Tomlin said.

Roethlisberger said he has improved because this is the first time he has been healthy enough to take every snap from minicamps, training camp, preseason and throughout the regular season.

“The ball feels real good coming off my hand right now,” Roethlisberger said.

The Steelers have always been known as a team to run first and pass second. However, with a young Rashard Mendenhall and an aging Willie Parker in the backfield, Pittsburgh has reluctantly embraced its new way of winning games.

A pass-first offense help put together the winning drive for the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl title. That same formula has carried over into this season to give the Steelers a new identity, but the mantra remains the same: “In Ben We Trust.” And Roethlisberger already has proven that he can be trusted to lead the Steelers to the top.

Hasselbeck’s heroic return

Just 21 days removed from sustaining fractured ribs, Seattle Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck risked further physical damage to help his team snap a three-game skid in Sunday’s 41-0 win over Jacksonville.

“On Monday, after receiving both acupuncture and a massage, I was in so much pain I couldn’t even move,’ Hasselbeck told me when I spoke with him two days before his return to action. “I just worry about having enough juice on the ball when I throw it.”

Hasselbeck had more than enough juice to torch the Jaguars’ secondary for four touchdowns. He cared enough about his team to offer himself as a sacrifice in order to provide the spark his team desperately needed.

With a half-dozen starters out due to injury, Hasselbeck ignored the advice of those he respects in order to play anyway.

“I spoke with Donovan McNabb and Warren Moon, who both said that I was crazy,” said Hasselbeck. “Even my brother, Tim, was on SportsCenter telling everyone that I was going to play, so after taking 60 percent of the snaps away from Seneca [Wallace] in practice, I felt it was my responsibility to come out and play.”

Maybe Hasselbeck had done enough homework to realize that Jacksonville arrived in Seattle with the fewest sacks (three) of any team in the league. He also had to be aware that the Jaguars’ secondary ranked near the bottom of the league in pass defense. Having wide receivers like T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Nate Burleson and Deion Branch had to offer encouragement for the Seahawks’ passing attack.

Even with playmakers who were poised to have a big day, Hasselbeck still had to summon the courage to perform despite being less than 100 percent. He knew ignoring a painful injury would require more heart than anything else.

For three hours on Sunday, Hasselbeck proved that toughness in quarterbacks is very underrated. The value of his inspirational performance to his team cannot be overlooked.

Around the League: T.O. struggling to get separation

 

In my Around the League segment today on NFL Total Access, I talked about last night’s showdown between the Packers and Vikings, including the play of both quarterbacks and Jared Allen‘s performance. I also previewed this weekend’s AFC East matchup between the Dolphins and the Bills, and why Terrell Owens has struggled early this season.

Dolphins, Bills heading in opposite directions

By Sunday night, both the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills were 1-3 teams headed in opposite directions.

Even after losing starting quarterback Chad Pennington for the season, the stock arrow for the Dolphins is pointing up. Second-year QB Chad Henne showed well in his first NFL start.

Henne avoided the crucial turnovers that usually haunt young quarterbacks and helped the Dolphins convert 9 of 17 third-down opportunities in a 38-10 win at Land Shark Stadium. Once again, Miami dominated in time of possession, reeling off 24 more offensive plays than the Bills.

Coach Tony Sparano said the entire team needed to play better around Henne, and that is exactly what happened. The defense hit and harassed Trent Edwards until he threw his first two picks, which led to 14 easy points for Miami. From there, the Dolphins used the Wildcat to explode for more than 200 yards rushing for the second time in three weeks.

The Dolphins’ third-ranked run defense kept Bills running backs Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson in check while yielding only 46 yards on the ground. Before Sunday’s game with Buffalo, the Dolphins had posted just five sacks and one forced turnover in their first three games. But against the Bills they went on a tear with six sacks and three interceptions of Edwards.

The Bills’ offensive line was simply overmatched, even without Joey Porter in the game for Miami. Right tackle Kirk Chambers was beaten repeatedly while Edwards struggled to consistently connect with his receivers.

The intended game plan certainly had Terrell Owens in mind. The Bills’ very first offensive play was a pass specifically designed to get T.O. the ball. In fact, the Bills threw to Owens seven times, completing three of them for 60 yards.

No way the Dolphins looked like a 1-3 team, but the Bills appeared to be just that. A leaky offensive line never allowed the running or passing game to take off. The Bills secondary played without three of its four starters, so it was easy to see why Dolphins coaches would allow Henne to come out throwing into every area of the Buffalo defense.

Needless to say, Buffalo’s stock could be trading down after being outplayed by a young quarterback and his group of neophyte receivers. It’s might be time for the Bills to circle the wagons.

Everyone’s to blame for the end of T.O.’s streak

Who do you blame when one of the game’s most prolific wide receivers goes without a catch for the first time in 185 consecutive games? As it turns out, everyone is to blame, including the New Orleans Saints defense.

Yeah, blame it on Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for using former Bills CB Jabari Greer, who along with lots of help in double coverage, blanketed Terrell Owens on quick slants designed specifically to get him the ball.

Blame it on the Bills for firing offensive coordinator Turk Schonert in the final days of the preseason and placing their quarterback behind an O-line with only 42 combined starts in the NFL. The Bills attempted to throw the ball to T.O. five times in the second half, but only once in the first half, which means the early game plan did not include an initial effort to use T.O to help win the game.

In fact, this proves that T.O was not a primary plan for what the Bills wanted to do on offense, but that he was more of a secondary option within their scheme against New Orleans. Even when T.O did beat the Saints secondary on a deep pattern late in the game, his quarterback, Trent Edwards, overthrew his intended target, missing on what certainly would have been a touchdown.

To be fair, you would even have to blame T.O himself for not extending his consecutive game streak to 186 games. When the Bills did work to get him involved, he failed to secure the ball when it hit him squarely in the hands. It’s clear that Owens’ injuries, which caused him to miss valuable time gelling with his quarterback during training camp, has hindered the crucial chemistry needed between them.

Owens has always been a hard worker in practice and in the weight room, but his lost time on the field is just one contributing factor to his failure to consistently connect with Trent.

I believe a team should make an effort to help players achieve individual milestones as long as it aligns with the more important goal of winning the game. In my mind, I believe getting the ball to T.O will certainly help the Bills to win, and win big. In Week 3 against the Saints, the Bills did try to get the ball to T.O, but their overall failure to do so could trigger the beginning of a rift between player and team that so many initially feared since both sides agreed on their one-year matrimony.

Explaining the Wildcat

The Wildcat has left more than just NFL defenders confused and frustrated. In fact, just about everyone I talk to seems to have their own concept about the Wildcat. With that said, I want to help explain the Wildcat offense in its simplest form.

First of all, the Wildcat is an offensive system, not a formation. Much in the same way that the West Coast offense is not a formation — it’s a concept or system — the same is true of the Wildcat.

Remember the Run-n-Shoot? It was an offensive concept which helped wide receivers get open, but failed to protect the quarterback because it used several different formations that didn’t employ a tight end and only used five down linemen in its protection scheme. In the same vein, defensively, the zone blitz is a concept and not a formation.

I called the game last season in which the Dolphins unveiled the Wildcat against the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass. It reminded me then of what David Lee had done at Arkansas before he brought it to the NFL, so I included this video that details that history.

So now that it’s established the Wildcat is not a formation that can be revealed on a pre-snap read, let me tell you what it is — which is a system or concept that gives you a run/pass option to either keep it, pitch it or pass it. In fact, the terms “Wildcat” and “Spread Option” are interchangeable. That’s right, both terms describe the same offense. Some teams who use the Spread Option may also use the term “Pistol” to describe the offense while others may use Wildcat.

The key component to the Wildcat or Spread Option is a read-option play that can come out of several different formations and alignments. However, all Wildcat plays have at its core the following elements:

  • A direct snap out of a shotgun formation.
  • A key read of the defensive end on the ball side to determine what to do with the ball.
  • Multiple plays can come off this read action: a sweep, a pass off sweep action, a dive play up the middle, a reverse, and a reverse pass.

Off a direct snap to a versatile, skilled player the plays out of the Spread Option are endless. Remember, the option to keep it, pitch it or pass it is the primary objective of teams who use the Spread Option concept.

On that note, although this video is somewhat dated, Steve Sabol of NFL Films explains some of these concepts of the Wildcat as well as some of the elements of its history.

As Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid explains, “Its now time to turn the tables on defenses by making them play you, and you not play them.” Reid believes that over the past few years, exotic defenses have become more offensive in nature as they dictate to the offense.

In Week 2, Jets coach Rex Ryan often used two down linemen and nine defenders off the ball in coverage to confuse and befuddle Patriots QB Tom Brady. Whether it’s Tony Dungy‘s Tampa 2 scheme or Dick LeBeau‘s zone blitz, offenses have fallen behind the innovative creativity used by defensive coordinators like the late Jim Johnson of the Eagles.

The Wildcat or Spread Option has become offensive coordinators’ answer to the zone blitz.

Now, defensive coordinators will have to spend more practice time trying to figure out today’s offensive version of the Rubik’s Cube. For teams who have multiple skilled players who possess above average speed, it helps coordinators get the ball in their hands outside of a traditional offense to which they are already familiar.

Kolb stole the show in Philly

It had been 1,001 days since Michael Vick last played in a meaningful NFL game. So while the pregame hype around Vick’s comeback increased television ratings for the Philadelphia Eagles’ Week 3 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was a backup — QB Kevin Kolb — who moved the offense for more than 400 total yards Sunday.

On a day that was supposed to be a coming out party for Vick and the Wildcat offense, Kolb simply stole the show by running the Eagles’ base offense with high efficiency. Thanks to three seasons in the system, he displayed a comfort and confidence that will take more time for Vick to acquire. Vick’s long layoff revealed the rust that comes with inactivity.

“We didn’t have proper workout facilities at Levenworth,” Vick told me. “The exercise equipment was stationed outside and once winter came it was too cold to even do that.”

While Vick struggled, Kolb flourished, completing 24-of-34 passes for 327 yards and two TDs while becomming the first quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards in his first two starts. Even more telling about his performance was that he overcame the three-interception game last week against the New Orleans Saints with no turnovers against the Chiefs.

I talked with Kolb last week, two days before his second NFL start.

“I need to stay aggressive throwing the ball down the field,” he said. “I’ve studied the winning quarterbacks in this league and I’ve noticed that the ones who win are not afraid to be aggressive and challenge the defense. I wasn’t that way when I arrived here, but coach Marty [Mornhinweg] and coach [Andy] Reid allows us the freedom to play with confidence where we can go out and make plays.”

Kolb has now more than solidified his place as the Eagles’ No. 2  quarterback behind Donovan McNabb. The Eagles have been clear on this all along — stating that Vick is not ready to take command of the entire offense. Veteran Jeff Garcia was brought in only after McNabb broke his ribs and while Vick was still under suspension in Week 2.

“I needed a second quarterback,” Reid said. “Jeff is doing me a favor by coming in while Donovan is hurt.”

After the bye-week, McNabb should be back to start against Tampa, while Kolb will go back to holding the clipboard as the team’s backup. Vick will be used exclusively in the Wildcat offense, but Kolb’s strong arm and accuracy has made things more than clear about who will play if McNabb returns to the training room.

Around the League: Eagles will utilize Vick

 

In my Around the League segment on Total Access today with Alex Flanagan, we looked at how Michael Vick will contribute to the Eagles’ offense, Todd Haley‘s takeover of the Chiefs offense, and the surprising 2-0 start for the Denver Broncos. Watch the video to see what I had to say in today’s segment.

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