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Michael Vick Was Good for the Eagles in 2013
The Michael Vick era ended in Philadelphia with the 2013 season. The injured Vick was replaced by Nick Foles, who proceeded to put together one of the best QB seasons in recent Eagles history. This article is now a time capsule of how things looked at the beginning of that season.
A new era of Philadelphia Eagles football has begun. Andy Reid, who coached the team for 14 seasons, has moved on to Kansas City after posting a 4-12 record in 2012. The new Eagles head man is former Oregon coach Chip Kelly. One of Kelly’s most critical tasks is deciding who his quarterback will be.
Kelly’s Oregon teams were famous for the very productive, up-tempo, speed, speed, speed offense he ran, and which he is bringing with him to the NFL. Having the right QB is critical for success in that system, and the big question for Kelly will be: is Mike Vick that man?
After a magnificent 2010 campaign, the dismal past two seasons with Vick as the starter have left a lot of fans doubting that he can still be productive in Eagles green. With backup Nick Foles and new acquisitions Dennis Dixon and Matt Barkely gunning for the starting job, Chip Kelly has options at the QB position. Will Michael Vick be at the top of Kelly’s depth chart when the season starts? Or, as many predict, will he not even be on the team?
I think there are at least five good reasons to expect Michael Vick to be the Eagles’ starter at QB in 2013.
1. He’s Still Got the Speed
Mike Vick, who will be 33 on June 26, is the oldest man on the Eagles’ roster. He may also be the fastest. Vick proved that by “dusting” running back LeSean McCoy in an informal 40 yard race during mini-camp. The 24 year old McCoy, one of the fastest runners in the NFL, had been teasing Vick for weeks, calling him the “old man” of the team, and challenging him to a race. At first Vick laughed it off. But he finally got tired of it, and asked head coach Chip Kelly for permission to race. With permission granted, the contest was on. The result was chronicled in tweets from teammates who witnessed the event:
Tight End Clay Harbor tweeted, “The rumors are true… Vick dusted McCoy in the 40yd dash.”
Defensive End Clifton Geathers commented in his tweet, "Never seen a QB beat a runner back by 4yards until today Vick is a fast as mug.”
McCoy, in his turn, jokingly tweeted that Vick “cheated,” while still acknowledging that Vick was “Top 3 fastest man on the TEAM.”
Actually, I don’t think this race was a joke at all. More than just demonstrating he still has the speed that has marked his entire career, Vick’s answer to McCoy’s challenge almost certainly enhanced his status as the leader of the team.
2. He’s Still Got the Arm
Former Eagles QB and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski considers arm strength a critical factor in a quarterback’s success. It’s a quality Mike Vick has demonstrated throughout his career, and that doesn’t seem to have changed. ESPN’s Dan Graziano says of Vick, “He still has the arm strength, the speed and the athleticism to offer the Eagles something at the quarterback position that no other team in the league has.”
Head coach Chip Kelly has taken note. In an interview on WIP in Philadelphia Kelly commented, “He can throw the ball, it comes off his hands.”
On the other hand, one of Vick’s major competitors for the starting job doesn’t yet measure up in that area. Fourth round pick Matt Barkley, out of USC, has been impressive with his accuracy. However, as NFL.com's Albert Breer notes, “the gap in arm strength between Barkley and Mike Vick was glaring.”
3. Chip Kelly Doesn’t Blame Vick for Last Season
The last two seasons haven’t been good to Mike Vick. Over that span he is 10-13 as a starter, had 24 interceptions against only 30 TD passes, and missed 11 games due to injuries. In the 2012 season Vick had career lows in yards per carry and rushing yards per game. Yet new Eagles coach Chip Kelly doesn’t think Vick is principally to blame.
Kelly looks back to Vick’s outstanding 2010 season, and sees no reason why the veteran QB can’t still perform at that high level. He notes that the Eagles’ offensive line was decimated by injuries last season, and asks:
Which Michael Vick do you have? The guy in 2010 who is the comeback player of the year and is running all over the field making great decisions? A lot of that because he’s clean in protection, he’s not getting hit immediately after he’s getting the snap. The one thing, when I watched the film and I saw Michael last year, you just kind of almost felt bad for him, is you lost four lineman to season ending injuries…
There’s no quarterback in the NFL, there’s no quarterback in any level of football that can function when you are missing four of your offensive lineman. So a lot of things that happened when you watch the film last year, it isn’t all Michael’s fault.
The Eagles’ offensive line is expected to be much improved over last year, especially with the return of tackle Jason Peters, who missed all of 2012 with an Achilles injury. “There is a comfort level when you are playing quarterback when Jason Peters is your left tackle,” Kelly says.
Michael Vick should be a much more comfortable quarterback in 2013 than he was in 2012.
4. Chip Kelly’s Offense Matches Vick’s Skill Set
A big element of the offense Chip Kelly ran at Oregon, and which he is now bringing to the NFL, is the read option. It’s a fast-paced, spread attack that puts a premium on the quarterback’s speed and quickness.
In recent OTAs (Organized Team Activities) Vick and former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon showed themselves adept at running the read option offense. Since Vick is a much more experienced QB and better passer than Dixon, and the other QBs seeking the starting job, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley, have some catching up to do in this area, Chip Kelly’s commitment to running the read option would seem to give the advantage to Michael Vick.
5. the Up-Tempo, Quick-Decisions Offense Actually Improves Vick’s Chances of Making Good Decisions
The biggest knock on Michael Vick over the past two seasons has been that he got hit more than necessary because his slow decision-making caused him to hold on to the ball too long. The offense Chip Kelly is bringing to the Eagles is an up tempo, no-huddle attack that depends on the quarterback making quick and accurate decisions about what to do with the ball. Many observers doubt Mike Vick can handle it.
But not ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski. In fact, the former Eagles QB thinks the new offense actually plays to Vick’s strengths.
What kind of season will the Eagles have in 2013?
The offensive design is intended to create numerical mismatches at the point of attack. So, unlike the previous Eagles offense under former coach Andy Reid, in Kelly’s system there is neither the time nor the need for the quarterback to go through a complicated sequence of reads to determine where the ball should go. He knows where the expected mismatch should occur, and the options he must choose between will be right in front of him as he approaches the point of attack.
"It's going to force predictability on the side of the defense," says Jaworski. "You almost know what you're going to get. ... So I think the less volume is going to help Michael."
It’s Vick’s Job to Lose
Head coach Chip Kelly has made a point of insisting that there is an open competition for the starting quarterback job, and that all the contenders start off equal. That may be so. But it’s also true that to this point, both on the practice field and off, Mike Vick has been the first among equals. With the experience, athleticism, and high-level skills he brings to the table, there's a good chance that when the dust of training camp and the preseason settles, Vick will simply be first.