by Kevin McGuire
Playing the role of spoiler this weekend, the Philadelphia Eagles will welcome back starting running back LeSean McCoy to the offense, but are clearly heading in a new direction under center. Quarterback Mike Vick is also available to return from a concussion, but embattled head coach Andy Reid has listed him third on the team’s depth chart. Meanwhile, the Eagles prepare for their final home game of the 2012 season against Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
Vick’s future with the Eagles appears to be heading in the same direction as Reid’s, which would seem to mean he could be leaving town in some way after the season. Reid and Vick are each under contract for 2013 (Vick is signed through 2016) but if the Eagles make a head coaching change it is possible the team will look to move Vick or release him from his six-year contract worth $100 million. Despite being available to play, listing him third on the depth chart seems to suggest a message from above is making the call to evaluate rookie Nick Foles for the final two games. Reid did leave open the opportunity Vick could be moved from third string before Sunday, though.
“If we played today, he’d be the third quarterback,” Reid said Wednesday. “We’ll just see how things go. But right now, I just want to get him back in the swing and going here and make sure he’s good. Right now, he feels great, so we just want to make sure we keep it that way.”
Caution is the theme to much of what Reid is doing right now, as he potentially could be fighting for his job in the final two games. No mater the job security situation for the 14-year head coach, bringing McCoy back on to the field was an easy decision but raised a few eyebrows.
With the Eagles already eliminated from postseason play and the Reid era possibly coming to a close at the conclusion of this rough season, an argument could be made for protecting the franchise’s top offensive player coming off a concussion. But McCoy wants to play in the final two games of the season, risking potential harm.
“Why would I want to play? Why wouldn’t I want to play?” McCoy said after practice Wednesday. “They pay me to play this game. I love to play this game, so why wouldn’t I play? My teammates are out there playing.”
For McCoy, sitting on the sideline and being left to be nothing more than a cheerleader there for moral support was hard. Getting back on the field will be something he relishes against the Redskins, the team that handed him his concussion forcing him to miss time.
“I never usually miss games at all, especially practice. So it was definitely different,” McCoy said. “Plus, (I’m) just getting my wind back. Just listening to the plays and things like that, I felt real rusty today. But I’ll be back to normal.”
Rookie running back Bryce Brown has been taking over the majority of the rushing duties in the absence of McCoy and he has had his highs and lows in that time by rushing for solid yardage but also fumbling often. With McCoy back it is expected that the veteran back will take over the primary rushing duties this week and Brown will see about ten percent of the plays barring any other injury to McCoy.
“I’m going to keep a close eye on [McCoy],” Reid said Wednesday. “It won’t be a normal workload like you’d see during the season when he’s fresh. He’s coming off an injury. I understand that, so I’ll keep a close eye on him. He’ll work in as a starter and then Bryce has some valuable experience that he’s gained over the last few weeks so we’ll get him in there. Dion [Lewis], he’ll be up too, so he’ll have a chance if we need him there.”
Washington will also be hopeful of having their starting quarterback, 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and rookie Robert Griffin III, back on the field this weekend. Griffin III suffered an LCL sprain in his knee in a win against Baltimore two weeks ago, forcing him to miss last weekend’s win against Cleveland. In his place Michigan State rookie Kirk Cousins stepped in and led the team to an overtime victory against Baltimore and the road win at Cleveland. Reid is preparing his team for both rookie quarterbacks, just in case.
“We understand the quarterback situation,” Reid said in reference to the injury concern for Griffin III. “We’ll prepare for both quarterbacks. Both of them, obviously, are good players. You saw what Cousins did this past week against the Browns. He came in and ran the offense very efficiently.
“So, whether it’s [Griffin III] or Cousins, it really doesn’t matter as far as preparation goes. We’re going to prepare for them.”
Getting the Eagles’ defense thinking about both Washington quarterbacks in practice this week does present some concerns, as both quarterbacks run slightly different styles of offense. With RGIII on the field, the Redskins have potential to be a little more threatening with more options on the fly. Cousins gives the Redskins a little bit more of a balanced attack. Reid is well aware of this going in to game planning.
“They run the option a little bit more with RGIII than they do with Kirk, but their pass game really remains the same. It’s the same stuff. So, we’re prepared for that.”
The Redskins are tied for first place in the NFC East with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. The Eagles have long been out of the division hunt, but have an opportunity to play spoiler in the division in these final two games. The Eagles host Washington this weekend and conclude the dismal 2012 season on the road against the Giants next week.
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Kevin McGuire covers college football for Examiner.com and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter (@KevinOnCFB). His work can be found on Examiner.com.