Paul Domowitch: Hard to tell where Vick fits in to Eagles' plans
BETHLEHEM - This is what we know about Mike Vick right now.
We know he's in considerably better shape than he was a year ago at this time when he still was trying to repair the damage done to his body from 18 months of eating prison chow.
We know that, even at 30, he's still one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the league, as evidenced by his 50 rushing yards against Jacksonville Friday night, which included an impressive 10-yard touchdown run and a 20-yard scamper at the end of the first half.
We know he's still got a cannon arm, albeit one that is too often inaccurate.
What we don't know is where exactly he fits into the Eagles' 2010 offensive plans.
Andy Reid signed Vick last summer for two reasons. One was a compulsion to play Father Flanagan to the ex-con quarterback. The other was that he was intrigued by the possibility of using Vick as a Wildcat or spread-option weapon.
As it turned out, Vick wasn't much of a weapon. Between the time it took for him to get back in shape after his nearly 3 years away from football, and a late-season quad injury, he only touched the ball 37 times in 12 games. The numbers weren't particularly impressive. He rushed for 95 yards on 24 carries, and completed just six of 13 passes for 86 yards.
Last year, Vick was essentially a disposable weapon. While he spent much of the year as the backup quarterback on game day so that he could be used in the Wildcat and spread-option formations, he was, in reality, the team's No. 3 signal-caller behind Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb. When McNabb missed two games early in the season with a fractured rib, Kolb replaced him.
So Reid had the luxury of being able to use Vick as much or as little as he wanted. If the guy got hurt, it was no big deal.
But with the April trade of McNabb to the Redskins and the decision by Reid and general manager Howie Roseman not to bring in another veteran quarterback, it could be a very big deal this season if Vick gets hurt.
It could be a big deal because he is the team's No. 2 quarterback now in every way. If something happens to Kolb, for better or worse, Vick would be the guy who replaces him.
So, will he be a backup, a Wildcat guy, or both?
I've never been a big fan of Vick's as an NFL quarterback. While he's always been fun to watch when he tucks the ball under his arm and runs with it, if you maintain your rush lanes and keep him chained to the pocket, like Jim Johnson's defense did in the 2004 NFC Championship Game, he's just another guy.
That said, he does have 68 career starts and 1,743 career pass attempts, which is 68 starts and 1,743 attempts more than the only other quarterback on the Eagles' roster, rookie Mike Kafka.
Which raises the question: Will Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg be reluctant to use Vick much in the Wildcat this season for fear of him getting hurt?
"I'm not worried about that," Reid said. "I have no problem putting him in there in the Wildcat."
Mornhinweg echoed those sentiments last week.
"I would expect Mike to be a little bit bigger factor with our football team this year," he said. "Last year, he came in, he hadn't played in a couple of years. We got him before practice, after practice, trying to get his athleticism back up.
"I thought he was close to being back, close to 100 percent, and then he got that quad [injury] about two-thirds, three-quarters of the way through the year, and that hampered him a little bit. So, as long as he's healthy, I would think he'd be a little bit bigger factor [than last year]."
For Vick, getting his athleticism back up hasn't been a problem this summer. He spent most of the offseason working out at the Eagles' NovaCare training facility, which is a much better place to train than a federal prison, and reported to camp in excellent shape. That's been evident in camp and it was evident in Friday night's preseason opener against Jacksonville.
"Night and day from a year ago," he said. "It feels great to be in this position where I can move the way I want to without thinking. Just doing. It's a blessing."
Vick has no idea how much he's going to be used this season as a Wildcat weapon. In fact, he suggested yesterday that Reid may use him, but not necessarily out of the Wildcat.
"It's a matter of what I can do and how I can help this football team," he said. "It's up to them. It may not even be [in] the Wildcat. It could be in just a pro-style offense or the West Coast system. It's not necessarily a Wildcat deal. You're going to mix it in, maybe, maybe not."
Against Jacksonville, Reid sent Vick in the game on a second-and-2 at the Jacksonville 20 on the Eagles' second possession. He didn't run the Wildcat. Kolb went out of the game and Vick took a direct snap from center Mike McGlynn. He hit tight end Brent Celek with a 6-yard completion and a first down, then was replaced by Kolb.
That could be an indication the Eagles plan to replace Kolb with Vick in some short-yardage or red-zone situations. Or not.
With Vick, there are two concerns for the Eagles if they use him a lot this season. One is the risk of losing your No. 2 quarterback to injury. The other is turnovers.
Vick fumbled twice Friday night, losing one of them. He also threw an interception. The Eagles' turnover count already figures to go up this season with the switch from McNabb, who has the third best interception percentage in NFL history, to Kolb, who is more accurate than McNabb, but also much more willing to throw the ball into tight spots. They don't need Vick adding to it.
"I thought he did a good job," Reid said of Vick's 11-for-17, 119-yard performance against the Jags. "Are there some things he needs to get better at? Absolutely. And he'll be the first one to tell you turnovers kill you in the National Football League, and you can't do that. He realizes that. But I thought he handled himself well. He was able to get out of danger."
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