Can Michael Vick Rescue the Eagles Season?

He was superb in September, but the stakes are much higher in the second half of the season

Now that your lawns are tidy, the costumed invaders have been sent off with their quarry and the countdown is on to the Phillies’ April 1, 2011 season opener, it’s time to refocus on football.

The Eagles’ bye week served as an unofficial halftime to the ’10 season and gave Michael Vick an extra seven days to recover from the chest injury that sidelined him for three games. He returns Sunday to spark a team that remains very much in contention in the rotten NFC and perhaps save a season that threatens to slip away under a cascade of youth and injury. [SIGNUP]

To get there, the Eagles need Vick to excel. It’s one thing to be dynamite against lame opposition in September and another to do the job when there are expectations. Vick is back, healthy and in charge again. Let’s see if he was a fleeting sensation or a leader for the long haul.

Vick lines up Sunday against the Colts with a significant burden on his shoulder pads. Watching the Eagles during his absence, it became clear that this is a highly imperfect team, with weakness throughout the lineup and precious few top-shelf performers at its disposal. During his truncated period as a starter, Vick demonstrated the kind of electric play that can energize and even carry an undermanned outfit. With nine games remaining, and the Eagles still in the hunt for both a division title and a wild-card spot, Vick is now in position to rescue the season.

Think about it. Against Tennessee, Kevin Kolb had the kind of game everybody expected we would see from him on occasion. Kolb is a youngster, so he is bound to have a bad outing or two. Well, he had one in Nashville (26-of-48, 231 yards, 1 TD, 2 int.) and the Eagles lost. Of course, blaming the defeat on Kolb is silly, since the defense showed little heart, especially in the fourth quarter, and if Mike McGlynn hadn’t blocked the wrong man on a handoff to LeSean McCoy in the fourth quarter, the Eagles would probably have won.

But they didn’t, and that means the QB’s performance is magnified. Or at least it should be, given the behavior of fans and media the past 10 years. Kolb didn’t get the job done, and his argument for full-time possession of the starting job was refuted. It’s Vick’s team now.

He sure seemed ready for that role during his two full games at the helm. He was dazzling against the Lions and Jags, and if he had enough attempts, Vick would have the highest passer rating (108.8) in the NFL. But two-plus games don’t make a season, and Vick returns this Sunday against the Colts with plenty of questions.

For instance, does he have the stamina, focus and commitment to be great for a full season? Vick was something else in those two games, but the NFL grind hasn’t hit him yet. Neither have any roadblocks. Will Vick be able to be so free and productive in must wins against quality opposition, especially if the Eagles’ shaky offensive line continues to play inconsistent football?

There is also the question about his attitude. When the Eagles played Atlanta, Vick showed up less than an hour before gametime. Although Andy Reid said he had given Vick, who was to dress as the emergency quarterback, permission to be late, two NFL executives said (in exchanges reported in this space a day later) that was unheard of, especially for a player who was expected to be in uniform.

Further, Vick was kept in the locker room throughout the game, even though he was a couple hits away from being needed. Reid said he didn’t want Vick to be exposed to injury on the sideline, a flimsy explanation if there ever was one. If Vick came to the stadium late because he was upset at being kept from the lineup – or at least the backup position – that’s a red flag for the man who is supposed to be the team’s leader.

Finally, there is the style of play issue. Even though the NFL is doing everything it can to protect offensive players – and its bottom line – from angry defenders, a running QB is quite an attractive target, fines be damned. Vick has already sustained one injury while on the move. There is no doubt opponents will seek to punish him as much as possible in the coming weeks. Eagles fans must hope he can withstand the abuse.

Although a pre-season analysis of the schedule led us to believe the “second half” would be much more rigorous than the opening seven games, that is not the case. The Eagles have two games left with the awful Cowboys, one with the Redskins, who now appear to have a QB controversy, and a visit from the 2-5 Vikings. Even matchups with the Bears and Texans aren’t so scary. In this season of NFL mediocrity, the playoffs are a quite realistic goal.

Hero time starts for Michael Vick at 4:15 Sunday. Let’s see what he has.


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