Many of Vick’s teammates saw him go through a magical stretch in 2010, a spell of mediocrity in 2011 and an outright disaster in 2012.
Now he’s in a new offense, playing for a new coach. And even though Vick is 33, his teammates believe Kelly’s scheme is tailor-made for the veteran QB to succeed.
“The biggest thing with Michael Vick is, when you say his name, when you see him in the lineup, when you prepare for him, is the running ability that he has,” said LeSean McCoy. “In this offense, we do tons of running, as far as the quarterback and the running back, so you never know who has the ball. And we’re going at such a high tempo/pace in the offense that Mike can throw it, he can run it.
“This offense, it fits him so well. He can be so deadly. There’s times where we watch tape and he hands the ball off to me and then he’s going around with his fake and he’s taking two guys with him until they realize that he doesn’t have the ball. When that happens, you take less defenders out of the box where you don’t have to block ‘em.”
There’s no doubt that Vick’s running ability will benefit McCoy. The Eagles ran plenty of read-option plays against Carolina. When Vick hands the ball off, the unblocked edge defender has to freeze and respect his ability to take off.
There are also the run-pass options that we’ve written about extensively.
“With the reads and all those types of things, Mike is a very dynamic player with the ball in his hands,” said Jason Avant.
“Having the opportunity to do things that we haven’t done in the past in this offense as far as just normal football player natural things that we do since little kids. In the old systems, in traditional systems, it’s by the book. Here, it gives the football player the autonomy at times. And that’s gonna bring out the best in all football players.”
Added Evan Mathis: “There’s just a lot of opportunities for the quarterback to show their athleticism in this kind of offense. There’s a lot of choices for the quarterback. There’s some plays we run that are options, and if you have a quarterback with the speed that Michael Vick has, then some of those plays can end up being pretty dangerous.”
Vick skeptics will point out that having the ball in his hands the past two years hasn’t worked out great. He’s thrown 24 interceptions and fumbled 21 times in his last 23 games. If those issues aren’t addressed, it won’t matter how dynamic Vick is.
“I think this offense, we try to make it easier for the quarterbacks, running enough and passing to stay balanced,” McCoy said, arguing that the scheme would help the turnover issue. “As you can see, the last couple preseason games, we showed balance. I think that doesn’t put so much pressure on the quarterback to throw the ball as much, which causes turnovers. So I think we’ll have enough balance, running the ball and throwing the ball, that minimizes the chances of having turnovers.”
Another factor to consider is Vick’s standing in the locker room. Mathis described him as “a natural born leader” and said “all the guys look up to him.”
DeSean Jackson agreed.
“He honestly teaches us a lot of things on and off the field, things he’s gone through,” Jackson said. “I’ve been saying that since Day One. It’s almost like a big brother figure in that locker room. Just really motivates us and tells us things that the average teammate or the average older brother probably wouldn’t tell us. But he cares [about] us and he sees the future bright for our careers here in Philadelphia.”
There have numerous stories written in the last decade about Vick changing his methods, on and off the field. Some have proven to be true; others have not.
Jackson, however, said he’s definitely noticed differences this offseason.
“Oh man, he’s eating better, he’s eating healthy, he’s eating salads,” Jackson said with a laugh. “I can go on and on. He’s staying after practice. He’s staying in the meeting rooms. He’s one of the first guys in the building, one of the last players to leave the field and things like that. He’s really, from Day One when Chip Kelly came in this offense, he’s really grasped an understanding of what it is that he’s gonna have to do as far as reads… things like that to really be able to throw defenses off-guard.
“With him having a year left on his contract… he kind of always just stressed that, like, ‘I’m gonna do what I can on this last year. What happens is gonna happen, but I think it’s gonna be a great shot.’ He wants everybody to know he still can play this game at a high level.”