Whether it is quarterback Michael Vick extending a play with his feet or making a critical throw to a teammate, wide receiver DeSean Jackson putting his speed on display after catching a pass or running back LeSean McCoy bursting through the line of scrimmage, the Philadelphia Eagles will bring a potent offensive attack to Cleveland for Sunday’s regular season opener at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Second-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur talked about the game with the Eagles during his media availability session on Wednesday and said the productivity in Philadelphia “starts from the top.”
“I think they’re a strong organization,” said Shurmur, who spent a decade as an assistant coach for the Eagles. “It starts with (owner) Jeffrey Lurie on down through (coach) Andy Reid and the coaches and the players. I was very proud to have been there.
“I was on Andy Reid’s first staff and I’m very proud of my time in Philadelphia. I’d like to think I had a small contribution to building that team into a consistent winner and they just do it. They find a way to win consistently. They’ve got good players; they’re well-coached and they’re very strong top-down.”
That success at the top has transferred to the roster.
Vick completed 253 of 423 attempts for 3,303 yards and 18 touchdowns against 14 interceptions during the 2011 season. He carried a quarterback rating of 84.9 through the season and led the Eagles to four straight wins at the end of the year. The Eagles were just 4-8 heading into a Week 14 matchup with the Dolphins in Miami, but won that game and subsequent contests against the New York Jets, at the Dallas Cowboys and against the Washington Redskins.
In addition to his passing abilities, Vick was the Eagles’ second-leading rusher with 589 yards and one touchdown on 76 carries last fall.
“He’s a superstar in this league,” Shurmur said of Vick. “He can have a bad play, bad play and, all of a sudden, boom, it’s a touchdown. I think that’s what makes him extremely dangerous. He can do it with his feet from outside the pocket. He throws the ball extremely well and you have to be able to do this as a quarterback in this league. He can beat you with his arm in the pocket. That’s what makes him, very, very dangerous.
“I’ve admired his heroism, his style of play since he’s been in the league and when you look at it, he’s very dangerous. He’s a very dangerous guy and I think, from that standpoint, I have a huge amount of respect for him.”
With Vick’s ability to run and pass the football, Shurmur knows that generating a good pass rush from the front seven could aid in pass coverage for the defensive backs, specifically when they defend Jackson and Jason Avant.
“We know they’re very dangerous guys,” Shurmur said. “I was there when DeSean burst on the scene and I was there when Jason Avant was a rookie. You can’t underestimate what he is as a receiver. In my opinion, when I was there, he was one of the toughest guys on the team. He’s a four-phase special teams guy. He’s a leader. We need to get a pass rush because I know they’re fast; I know they’re talented and I know they all catch the ball well.”
NO ADDITIONAL PRESSURE
The Browns have not been in a competitive situation on the football field since last Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns Stadium. With that extra time between the final preseason game and the opening to the 2012 regular season, Shurmur recognizes “there is more build-up” for the contest.
“There’s more conversation about it, but we, as coaches, play them one at a time,” Shurmur said. “It’s very cliché, ‘Play them one at a time and add them up at the end,’ but I’ve been in Philadelphia where we didn’t win the opener and we were in the playoffs. I’ve been there when we won the opener and had an average year. It’s awful nice to win the first one because everybody wants to get on a roll, but the way you approach it is, you play your fanny off in the first one and try to win the game.”
VIEW OF THE TEAM
Shurmur was asked if his team was “better” than it was a season ago and he was quick to answer that question Wednesday.
“Everybody has their opinions about my team,” Shurmur said. “I love my team and I can’t wait to see them compete. That’s where I’m at and we’ll see where we’re better. We’re going to find out. This is the time of year where we put our reputations on the line and we go out and we compete. At the end of the game and the end of the season, we’ll see where we’re at.”
As the three permanent captains for the Browns this season, five-time Pro Bowl left tackle
This week, the three captains selected tight end, and former Eagle,
For road games, the fourth game captain will call the coin toss.
“I think they chose wisely,” Shurmur said. “When you’re looking for players on your team, you’re looking for guys that are passionate, productive and durable and he’s been all those things. He plays on special teams, plays on the line of scrimmage and in the backfield on offense and he’s a tough guy. As a coach, I’m pleased with their first selection for the week.”