Eagles Wake-Up Call: Examining the Vick Theories

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael VickThe most recent Michael Vick injury has brought about several theories and opinions about what exactly is going on with the Eagles starting quarterback.

Here are some arguments I’ve heard, along with thoughts on what’s valid, and what’s not.

Argument: Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg should stop trying to change Vick.

My take: Normally, this is referring to the idea that the coaches are trying to get Vick to be a pure pocket passer and not run with the football. That’s simply not the case. Let’s look at where Mornhinweg and Reid have been. Mornhinweg was the 49ers offensive coordinator from 1997-2000. In 1998, his quarterback, Steve Young, ran 70 times for 454 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. He also completed 62.3 percent of his passes, throwing 36 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Meanwhile, during Reid’s most successful years, his quarterback was Donovan McNabb. McNabb averaged 429.2 yards rushing per season from 2000-2004 as the Eagles reached the playoffs five times, the NFC title game four times and the Super Bowl once.

The point is that Reid and Mornhinweg want Vick to use his legs. They just want him to be smart when doing so, and they want him to be able to make plays from the pocket when they’re available. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, 24 percent of the Eagles pass plays last year had the quarterback out of the pocket on a bootleg, rollout or scramble. That was the highest percentage in the NFL. Part of that was Vick’s improvisation. But much of it was by design with the coaches trying to take advantage of his athleticism.

Argument: Vick has always been injury prone. That’s just the way it is.

My take: The stat you’re going to hear non-stop is that Vick has started 16 games just once. That’s true. And considering he was drafted in 2001, on its surface, that seems alarming. But we can always twist numbers to support our arguments. What if I told you that in five years as the Falcons starting quarterback, Vick played 15 or 16 games four times? That sounds pretty good, right? Well, it’s true.

And by the way, Vick averaged 114.5 rushing attempts in those four seasons where he stayed relatively healthy.

The point is not that Vick should run more, or that blaming him for the injuries is misguided. He’s 32-years-old and trying to learn to play the position in a way that was foreign to him until last year. But the injuries were not as big a factor earlier in his career as some may have you believe.

Argument: Vick’s injuries occur because he’s reckless.

My take: Let’s be clear: Vick absolutely needs to do a better job of protecting himself. Anyone who argues otherwise is not paying attention.

But let’s also remember that all six of his injuries in the past two seasons (four in 2011, two in the preseason) have come while he was in the pocket. Not one occurred while he was running downfield (although you can certainly argue that those hits take a toll throughout the course of a year). All six also occurred on plays where he attempted a pass. Three were the result of Vick taking big hits: from Daryl Washington in the Cardinals game, from Chris Canty against the Giants and from Jermaine Cunningham Monday night.

The other three were somewhat flukey: bumping into right tackle Todd Herremans against the Falcons; Justin Smith of the 49ers hitting his finger; and Vick slamming his thumb against Jason Kelce’s helmet in the first preseason game.

The first three had to do in part with Vick’s decision-making – knowing when to get rid of the football, knowing when to take off and knowing when to just take a sack. They also had to do with the Eagles’ offensive line, running backs and tight ends suffering miscues in protection. Those are the plays that Vick and the offense need to avoid.

I’m not sure there’s anything anyone can do about the second three.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Cullen Jenkins and Reid have talked it out after Monday night’s dustup. T-Mac’s got details here.

Tim took a break from Foles-Mania and let me write about the rookie QB. It looks like he’s got a legitimate shot to win the backup job.

Brandon Boykin could be closer to stealing the nickel corner position from Joselio Hanson.

Reid says Michael Vick will be ready to go for the opener.

And finally, a game review of the Eagles’ offense from Monday night.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Asante Samuel is not listed as a starter on the Falcons’ depth chart, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. And the former Eagles cornerback is sticking to his preference of playing the left side:

“Of course, that is where I made my living,” Samuel said. “All my production came from the left. It’s going good. It’s a new thing for me, switching back and forth, trying to get my mojo right. All is good. The coaches are going to do what they think is best.”

Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul sat out practice Wednesday because of back spasms, according to NJ.com.

“It’ll end up being precautionary based on what he had to do today by not letting him work,” Tom Coughlin said. “He would have practiced and played, but the medical people kind of said this would be the best way to go so that we ensure going forward that he’ll be okay.”

And be sure to check out Tommy Lawlor’s Eagles-Patriots game review on IgglesBlitz.com. Always like seeing what Tommy picked up on that I missed while re-watching.

COMING UP

The Eagles will have a mock game (closed to the media) and then head west to Cleveland. We’ll have plenty of content throughout the day, including a look at new secondary coach Todd Bowles and a new 53-man roster projection.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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