PHILADELPHIA — New center Dallas Reynolds won’t be the only member of the Eagles’ offense making snap decisions against Arizona today.
During the approximately 20 seconds between the time quarterback Michael Vick calls a play in the huddle and Reynolds hikes him the football, all 11 players have options to consider and choices to make in order for the offense to have success on each play.
“People may not realize it, but there’s a lot going on out there,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “It’s pretty intense.”
Playing on the road adds to the challenge, as does playing in an indoor stadium. The retractable roof at University of Phoenix Stadium is expected to be closed today, which will make the cheers from the Cardinals’ fans bounce off its walls and ceiling.
Vick will use hand signals to communicate with his wide receivers and running backs.
Reynolds just has to raise his voice to deliver the blocking scheme to his offensive linemen.
“The coaches always pipe in noise during our practices so we can get used to it,” Reynolds said. “The other linemen are close enough to hear me, but it will be really important for everyone to focus.”
Reynolds, who is making his first career NFL start in place of injured Jason Kelce, will set everything in motion up front by pointing out the inside linebackers in the Cardinals’ 3-4 defense.
That will tell Mathis, right guard Danny Watkins, right tackle Todd Herremans and left tackle Demetress Bell, which Cardinals players they are responsible for blocking. If the Cards adjust their front seven or look as though they are going to blitz, changes will be made in a matter of seconds.
“There are 11 guys out there on defense and the offensive line is responsible for blocking five of them,” Mathis said. “If their defense stays the same, then we go ahead with what’s been called, but that almost never happens. The center or Mike (Vick) will change the calls sometimes, but if the defense shifts while the center is looking between his legs, one of us will do it.”
When tight ends Brent Celek or Clay Harbor come to the line, they also scan the defense. If it’s a running play, they try to find the player they are supposed to block. If they are involved in a pass play, they study the secondary to see which route to run.
“Certain plays call for me to be in a certain spot and I have to make sure I get there and that Mike sees me,” Celek said. “It all depends on what play (Eagles offensive coordinator) Marty (Mornhinweg) calls and what the defense is giving us. If it’s a run play, I talk to the offensive tackle to see who is blocking who. If it’s a pass, I have to make sure Mike and I are on the same page. Things can change all the time, so we all have to trust each other to know what to do. “
The level of trust is even more important between Vick and the wide receivers.
When DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and the other wideouts break the huddle, they approach the line of scrimmage without knowing what route they are going to run until just before the ball is snapped.
“The first thing I do is look at the other team’s cornerbacks and safeties,” Maclin said. “I like to see what type of coverage the corners are going to play, whether they’re going to try to press me or play off the ball. But the safeties tell you what kind of defense they’re going to play, whether it’s a Cover 2, Cover 3 or something else.
“That tells me what I’m going to do when the play starts. Unless Mike audibles, my route doesn’t usually change that much, but depending on what coverage they’re in, I can either be the No. 1 (option), the No. 2 or the No. 3.”
In the backfield, running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, and sometimes fullback Stanley Havili, wait and listen to see if there is an audible. McCoy will either be getting a handoff, staying in to pick up a blitz or running a route as a receiver.
Vick is the player that makes all the final decisions.
He is the one who can change the protections if he sees something that the linemen miss. He can also change the play if he thinks another one will work better based on the way the Cardinals’ defense is aligned.
Everything unfolds in about 20 seconds.
“I only call an audible about three or four times a game,” Vick said. “Most of the time, I might just change my reads and where I’m going to go with the ball. The most important thing is that everyone else sees the same thing I’m seeing, and they do. We have such good communication and chemistry that it works out well for us.
“But we don’t have a lot of time to work things out. There are a lot of things that can happen at any moment. It all happens kind of quick.”
And it happens on every offensive play.
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