Inside the Ravens with Aaron Wilson

Monday, November 8, 2010

EAGLES QUARTERBACK PLAY VS. COLTS


QB PARTICIPATION: VICK - #7

SYNOPSIS

Michael Vick’s performance on Sunday vs. the Colts is significant of a Quarterback undergoing a positive transformation. From my perspective, it was never about Vick being a run-first or pass-first Quarterback, but rather the path to Vick’s NFL success was/is a perfect marriage of Vick’s abilities and an Offensive system, strategy, and play-calling rhythm that help him to find efficiency and greatness – all while keeping him injury-free. Withholding judgment re: the injury piece of the puzzle, the Eagles and Vick in 2010 are moving toward the best Vick can be.

At a minimum, credit Vick for this: whatever he was able to accomplish vs. the Colts in the passing game, he did so despite limited receiving options. The Eagles regularly used 6-man protection, with the fourth receiver often briefly checking for protection help before releasing. The Colts made this scenario more difficult for Vick by rushing only four defenders on nearly all pass plays and playing a mix of zone/man/combination coverages in the secondary.

Vick is clearly at his best in the pass game when sprinting to his left or taking very deep drops. Marty Mornhinweg/Andy Reid appear to believe this and vs. the Colts called plays that put Vick in a position to place defenders in a bind and/or were designed to give Vick ample time to make choices.

What Vick lacks in polished throwing mechanics and footwork is, at least partially, made up for through his superior arm strength. There are clearly some things Vick could do to become a more technically sound passer, but the need for that is somewhat masked by the velocity and tightness of so many of the balls he threw vs. the Colts.

The deep pass to DeSean Jackson on 3rd& 7 from the Eagles’ 4 yard line during the 1st Quarter was thrown to a two-deep shell, with underneath man coverage – and was thrown perfectly. Michael Vick is not yet elite by NFL standards, but is becoming a different Quarterback. He is developing an appreciation for angles in the passing game, acknowledging the value of protecting himself physically, and gaining a clearer understanding of the pro game and his place in it.

VISION

Vick has shown a much-improved ability to see the whole field, and did on one occasion complete an intermediate-level pass after recognizing 7 defenders near the LOS, pre-snap. Work remains in this area for Vick, however, as he also demonstrated a willingness to “give up” on crossing routes early when he had decent protection - see 3rd& Goal midway through the 2nd quarter - choosing instead to run the ball.

An area for continued improvement for Vick will be his tendency to lock in on an intended target too long after deciding to throw the ball. The good news is that this is a different issue from those Quarterbacks that insist on waiting too long for their favorite WR to get open. Vick simply needs to trust his decisions and throw the ball sooner. Vick and the Eagles almost paid for his failure to do so on 2 & 10 with 10 minutes left in the 4th Quarter, when the quarterback locked on to Jeremy Maclin and misfired badly on a ball almost intercepted by Colts’ LB Philip Wheeler.

MOVEMENT & POCKET PRESENCE

Physically, Vick looked the best he has since his return to the NFL, in terms of running ability – his legs were live. His ability to escape pressure allowed him to avoid sacks.Vick demonstrated the maturation that he has experienced when, on the Eagles’ first possession of the 2nd Quarter (3rd& 9 from the Eagles’ 33), he recognized (pre-snap, I believe) 7 Colts defenders at the LOS with two deep Safeties. After allowing a pass rush pocket to develop, Vick stepped up and ran left-to-right through the vacated LB-depth area and out of bounds for a 24 yard gain. Mission accomplished: 1st down gained, Quarterback untouched and healthy, and the seed planted in the minds of the Indianapolis secondary that they must help in run support, as Vick is still a threat to take off at any moment.

Also worth mentioning vs. the Colts was Vick’s reaction to the only full blitz action he saw all day. On 3rd& 4 at the 50 yard line late in the 3rd Quarter, the Colts showed a 7-man pass rush vs. a 7-man protection scheme. Vick dropped and quickly saw a huge running lane to his left, which he attacked for a 32 yard gain.

ACCURACY

This is Vick’s most pressing area in which he can improve. He showed some flashes of great precision (see his TD pass), but was also inconsistent. The quarterback floated several balls, and was simply off-target on a couple of others, including a stay/stop route to DeSean Jackson on 2nd& G from the Colts’ 7 midway through the 2nd Quarter. The Eagles had the play blocked on the edge, but because of the throw’s location (low) Jackson had to reverse field, resulting in a loss of 7 yards.

DECISION-MAKING

Overall, a pretty solid area for Vick vs. the Colts. Vick was wise in not forcing balls against a defense that routinely dropped 7 defenders in coverage. The quarterback had a couple of throwaway balls and escaped pressure via the run on several plays.

Vick’s only error in decision-making with game-changing implications was the near-interception thrown to Gary Brackett on a screen pass on the last play of the 3rd Quarter.

NOTES

-Despite the added pass protection on Sunday, Vick too often was flushed from the pocket and forced to make plays on the run or throw the ball away.
-Vick is such a threat to run the ball, he would be wise to carry out backside fakes after handing the ball off in the run game. His presence alone away from a play can slow down pursuit by backside LB’s and Safeties.

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