Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/20/12

Michael Vick has been sacked 4 times this season, yet 16 other quarterbacks have been sacked more than him.  Among the top 5 are Andy Dalton (10), Jay Cutler (9), Ben Roethlisberger (8), Aaron Rodgers (8), and Matt Cassel (8).  However, the number of punishing hits Vick has been taking without getting sacked has been more noticeable than the stats display as a sprawled out Vick on the ground has become a common occurrence in every Eagles game.  Part of the problem stems from the fact that Vick holds the ball for too long, sure, but, it would be tough to argue that the offensive line has not looked overwhelmed and porous this season, and, with the season-ending knee injury to center Jason Kelce, along with a hamstring injury suffered by King Dunlap, the Eagles will have to quickly regroup and reformat the line once again.

On Tuesday confirmation that Jason Kelce has suffered a season-ending knee injury was given to the Eagles, meaning the offensive line has lost a key player who played all 16 games at the center position in his rookie campaign last year.  Initially, the diagnosis of Kelce’s injury on the field was a knee sprain, but, after doctors performed a magnetic resonance imaging scan Monday, they reported that Kelce suffered a partial ACL tear and a full tear of the MCL in his right knee.  After undergoing arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday, though, the doctors uncovered the fact that he had a significant tear in his ACL, too.  An MCL injury typically takes four to six weeks to heal, but an additional ACL injury means he will be lost for the season.  He will have surgery in three or four weeks and then spend about 10 months recovering. 

Replacing Kelce will be Dallas Reynolds, a 28-year-old offensive lineman who has spent the last three years on the Eagles’ practice squad.  Two plays after the Eagles put Reynolds on the field in the third quarter against the Ravens, Mike Vick threw to a wide-open Jeremy Maclin for a 23-yard touchdown pass, and, with Reynolds in the game, the Eagles scored the 17 points that eventually gave them a 23-24 win.  Those are all commendable stats, sure, but the question resides with how well he will be able to pick up opposing teams’ defensive schemes.  The Eagles gave Kelce added responsibilities in picking up blitzes and reconfiguring the line before snaps this season while, at the same time, they lessened Vick’s responsibility because Vick struggled to read defenses effectively, especially blitzes, last season.  As they put more of the weight on Kelce’s shoulders, then, that weight will once again have to be redistributed, without warning.  How Reynolds responds could make or break the Eagles, who are now 2-0 for the first time since 2004, a year in which they made it to the Super Bowl.  The signed veteran Steve Vallos, who has played a 16-game season once in 2008 with the Seattle Seahawks, to the team, and he will take Kelce’s spot on the 53-man roster.  He will be the backup to Reynolds, who will make the start against Arizona.

The initial fracturing of the line occurred after Jason Peters tore his Achilles not once, but twice in the offseason, and, afterwards, the Eagles quickly signed Demetress Bell.  Bell, however, could not acclimate himself well enough to Howard Mudd’s system of blocking, so King Dunlap stepped in and started both regular season games.  Bell did not even dress for the Week 1 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, and, instead, Dennis Kelly, the Eagles’ fifth-round draft pick, suited up.  Last Sunday, though, Dunlap pulled a hamstring, and Bell stepped in for him, while Kelly did not suit up, and the confusing rotation at left tackle continued to swivel around like a carousel.  Ostensibly, replacing Jason Peters continues to be a daunting task, and the Eagles could use a consistent starter who can play at least half as well as Peters.  Nonetheless, the Eagles, like many other teams in the league, are forced to make due with what they have.  Even though Bell turned some heads with his performance in relief of Dunlap, Andy Reid has stated Dunlap will be the starter if he fully recovers by Sunday.  The offensive line will have to quickly regroup and hope the pieces fit together.              



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