After two stellar preseason performances against New England and Carolina, Michael Vick came into Saturday night’s preseason game as the starting QB. Since winning the competition Vick has said all the right things, but it was time to step onto the field and prove to his coach that he made the right decision.
At first glance, his performance left much to be desired, and Nick Foles’ great play made it look even worse. However, in order to make an accurate judgement we must look at all the factors that were at play.
The starting offensive line was playing together for the first time, and they struggled out of the gates. Jason Peters was near-perfect as usual, but none of the other four starters went without mistakes.
In this first play, the Eagles are running an inside zone read to the left, so Michael Vick is reading the DE coming off of the edge.
Vick makes the correct read as the DE crashes inside towards the LeSean McCoy, so he pulls the ball at the mesh point and runs toward the opening left by the DE. As long as Todd Herremans puts a block on his assigned linebacker, Vick should get an easy four or five yard run.
Unfortunately, Herremans overshoots his assignment and the linebacker is able to fill the C gap that Michael Vick was about to run through.
The loose linebacker forces Vick to cut back inside where there is little to no running room.
Vick is dragged down for a measly two yard gain. At first this play may look like a bad read by Michael Vick, but it was really just Herremans missing on his blocking assignment.
Here we see Michael Vick drop back into a clean pocket, with Lane Johnson getting good position on our old friend, Jason Babin.
Vick sees Celek on an out pattern that would have likely resulted in a first down, but Babin has thrown a nasty spin move at Lane Johnson and made the rookie look like, well, a rookie.
The pressure forces Vick to try and escape the pocket and he’s brought down for the sack. Lane will quickly learn that this is not college anymore, where the more athletic or stronger lineman will win the battle, but instead the more polished.
On a 3rd and long during the first quarter, Lane Johnson once again gets beaten by Jason Babin, this time simply not being quick enough to seal off the edge. Like a heat-seeking missile, Babin locks on to the QB as Brent Celek manages to get wide-open in the intermediate level.
Vick is forced to escape again, essentially taking Celek out of the play who could have been targeted for a potential first down.
Because the Jacksonville CB is watching and ready to pull back and stop Polk short of the first down, Vick decides that his best bet is to run it himself. He is forced out of bounds short of the first down, and although his decision to not dump it off to Polk can be questioned, this is not the point I am trying to make. If Vick were able to get the ball to Celek, the chance of getting a first down would have been higher than a pass to Polk or a QB run. Lane Johnson’s mistake is what lowered the chance of a first down more than anything else.
Later, as the Eagles are deep into Jacksonville territory on a 3rd and long, Vick drops back with the X and Z recievers going deep, and the slot reciever running a crossing route to the left. Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson double team the edge rusher, while Chris Polk steps up in the pocket to stop Jason Babin on a stunt in the A gap.
Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson are beaten by letting the rusher sneak in between them, and Evan Mathis is pushed back into the pocket all the way to the QB, something rarely seen with Mathis. The pressure forces Vick to get rid of the ball to his hot read, Celek, as he does not have time to let his deep routes develop. Celek is brought down short of a first down and the Eagles have to settle for a field goal.
The Eagles offensive lineman played up-and-down throughout Vick’s time on the field, but rarely put it all together to give the QB the time he needed. Although the interception was inexcusable, consistent pressure makes it much more difficult for the QB to consistently make the right decision. When Vick had time he made nearly every throw, except for two overthrows to Brent Celek.
Another obstacle Vick had to overcome was the playcalling. Whether it was to conceal the offense until the regular season, or to evaluate Vick under different circumstances, the offense we saw on Saturday was not what we will see come September 9th.
There was a drop off in both option and packaged plays, and Vick spent more time under center than usual. Chip was calling more passing plays for Vick than for Foles, and it showed. The RB’s are the strength of this offense, and they can take a lot of pressure off of the QB. While we saw Chris Polk and Bryce Brown march down the field for Nick Foles, we saw many first down passes for Michael Vick, which lead to 2nd and long, and then 3rd and long, and then a punt. (Andy Reid anybody?)
No matter how good of a QB you have, his success relies on the execution of the players around him. The team’s execution was simply better around Nick Foles than it was around Michael Vick on Saturday night. Some may question whether this is a leadership issue, and although I think this is a fair thought, the sample size is much to small to draw any valid conclusions from.
Although fans will tend to focus on the bad, you must also admire the good. Vick was very efficient and smart with his runs, ending with 7 rushes for 53 yards, and most importantly, 0 hits. Several of Vick’s passes, especially the Riley Cooper TD, Foles never could have made. These plays are the reason Michael Vick won the job.
Just like for the rest of the offense, this season will be a learning process for Michael Vick. Like Chip Kelly has said, the preseason is great for finding out what a QB does and doesn’t like. Before anybody jumps on Chip Kelly for making the wrong decision, let’s wait until September 9th, when every effort will be made for Vick to be put into the best position to succeed.