Birds' O-line not yet sturdy enough to keep Vick upright

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, left, is swarmed by the Chiefs’ Tamba Hali and Mike DeVito during last week’s game in Philadelphia. The Chiefs sacked Vick six times, putting the Eagles’ pass protection problems in the spotlight as they prepare to face the undefeated Denver Broncos on Sunday.

PHILADELPHIA - Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters had no trouble putting his finger on the reason why the Eagles' offensive line has been so inconsistent this season.

Peters, who is considered the one of the league's best left tackles, has been playing with a dislocated ring finger on his left hand since the start of the regular season.

"I hurt it against Washington the first game," Peters said. "And then it came back out again against Kansas City. It makes it hard to grab (an opposing pass rusher). But it's going to be that way for the whole season. I'm just going to have to play through it and find a way to make an adjustment."

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Against the Chiefs, Peters struggled for one of the few times in his career. Outside linebacker Tamba Hali, a former Penn State University standout, had just one sack but spent a lot of time harassing Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston had a career day at the expense of Eagles rookie right tackle Lane Johnson. Houston burned the first-round draft pick for 4½ of the Chiefs' six sacks and leads the NFL with 7½

"I needed to block him better than I did," Johnson said. "But there are no excuses. The (opposing pass rushers) are throwing a lot of different moves at me and I've got to be able to handle them. That's what it's all about."

Run blocking hasn't been a problem for the Eagles. Tackles Peters and Johnson, guards Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis, and center Jason Kelce have been creating canyon-sized holes for running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy is the NFL's leading rusher with 395 yards on 62 carries (6.4 yards a carry) and has two rushing touchdowns. Vick also has had success as a runner, gaining 182 yards on 18 carries (10.4 yards per carry) with two TDs.

The offensive line has had a tougher time protecting Vick. The group enters Sunday's game at Denver having surrendered 11 sacks, tying them with the New York Giants for the most sacks allowed in the NFC.

That group was supposed to be a strength of the offense this season after it was ravaged by injuries in 2012. Peters missed the entire season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon. Kelce torn an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in the opener a year ago and sat out the rest of the season. Herremans was sidelined for eight games with a torn tendon in his foot.

"I think the guys are battling hard," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said of the linemen. "I think last week we faced an outstanding (defensive) front. They (the Chiefs) challenge you quite well on the edges because of who they are on defense."

The Eagles should fare better against Denver. The Broncos have eight sacks but are missing their two top pass rushers from a year ago. Defensive end Elvis Dumervil signed with Baltimore during the offseason. Outside linebacker Von Miller is serving a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Defensive end Robert Ayers leads the Broncos with three sacks. Linebacker Shaun Phillips has 21/2.

Facing Ayers will be another chapter in Johnson's baptism by fire. In addition to Houston, he has already faced some top pass rushers such as San Diego's Dwight Freeney.

"A lot of guys have been bull-rushing me, but I've also seen a few spin moves," Johnson said. "I'm facing a different monster each week."

He doesn't have a lot of experience as a pass blocker.

He arrived at the University of Oklahoma as a quarterback and played some tight end before switching to the offensive line as a junior. But the Eagles were impressed enough with his size (6-foot-6, 310 pounds) and athleticism to make him the No. 4 overall pick in the 2013 draft and immediately anoint him as the starting right tackle.

"He's not a career offensive lineman, like a lot of guys," coach Chip Kelly said. "Lane's (NFL) experience so far is three regular-season games and a handful of snaps in the preseason. I think he's just young. And in this league, if you're young, you're going to make mistakes.

"When you make mistakes, the key is not to make the same ones again. That's the good thing with Lane. There are going to be new things that come up in the Broncos game that he may not have seen yet. But I think he's got a great future here. He's got all the athletic ability in the world, all the toughness in the world, and he's a really quick learner."

Extra point: Safety Patrick Chung (shoulder contusion) was listed as doubtful for the game Friday. As a result, rookie Earl Wolff is expected to start against the Broncos.

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