No matter what angle you take when trying to gauge how the Philadelphia Eagles will do this year, Michael Vick is still the key to their success.
His performance, and perhaps more importantly, his health, will ultimately be the most influential factors in determining if this train reaches the final destination or if it becomes un-tracked and derails.
The topic of Vick remaining healthy has been a much talked-about subject all offseason. For the Eagles to succeed, he knows he needs to be on the field.
He knows it, Andy Reid knows it, the fans know it…hell, even the President of the United States knows it.
But the eternal question is: Can he stay healthy for a full season?
As I’m sure you’re aware, that’s only happened once during the nine seasons in which he’s played in the NFL.
Last season, Vick missed three games and couldn’t finish two others as he collected a myriad of injuries including a concussion, bruised hand and broken ribs. In 2010, he missed four games due to a rib cartilage injury.
The good news is that Vick has never suffered a dreaded season-ending injury and has more-or-less been hampered only by numerous nuisance-type injuries. The biggest injury of his career was in 2003 when he broke his leg prior to the season, though he did play in the final five games.
The bad news is that he’s now 32 years-old and is coming off of two consecutive battered-and-bruised seasons.
A mix of good and bad news is the Eagles’ offensive line. That group really began to gel the last half of the season in 2011 and with four out of five guys returning for their second season, they should be even better.
Continuity is key for a good offensive line.
Unfortunately, the best player on the line, Jason Peters, will miss the entire 2012 season. His replacement, Demetress Bell, has lasted all of six snaps as the starter and has now been replaced by former seventh-round pick King Dunlap.
Therefore, there is currently some instability at the left tackle position and we’re less than a month away from the games that count.
Will Vick trust his protection from the left side? Granted, that’s not his blind side but he could be more apt to take off running if he even thinks there could be a break-down in protection.
In other words, if he doesn’t trust that side, he’ll be more antsy every time he drops back to pass…even before the ball is snapped.
Vick’s health history is also the prime reason the coaches need to choose their backup quarterback wisely. And even that is now up in the air.
With Mike Kafka having a questionable performance in the first preseason game and now being out with a broken hand, it leaves a rookie and a journeyman picking up the slack.
As things stand right now, I’m not overly confident in the backup QB situation. I was content with Kafka after seeing him in training camp but his game against Pittsburgh left me with some concerns.
And now he won’t get a chance to quell those concerns because he can’t play.
In any case, if Vick goes down for an extended period of time — or God forbid, the year — it won’t matter who is backing him up because that will pretty much kill the 2012 season.
This team will go as Vick goes, plain and simple. If he plays up to his ability, the sky is the limit. He just needs to play smart and — what’s that refrain again? Oh yeah — stay healthy!
However, with his age, uncertainty at left tackle and his ingrained habit to run, Vick is still a high risk for injury.