On Saturday night, I wrote the following, however obvious, with little evidence except for my eyes: Michael Vick's performance against the Jaguars brought "back memories of the 2010-11 Vick, the one that needlessly held onto the ball too long and bore the superhero cap one time too often."
After re-watching the game and slowing the tape down, I still held the same opinion of how Vick played. But as I mentioned in the column, there were other factors that played into the Eagles quarterback's shaky night. Vick wasn’t great against the Jaguars, but neither were his offensive line and some of his skill-position teammates.
He did have his moments, some that only Vick could muster.
Here are some visual examples of his night. All four plays highlighted came in the first quarter:
PLAY 1: FIRST SERIES, SECOND DOWN AND 16 AT THE EAGLES 36
On the third play from scrimmage, Vick got a pretty good look at what the Jaguars had in store to stop the Eagles' bubble screen game. You can't see the single safety deep in this screenshot, but he was there. The Jaguars corners were up close at the line and played man-to-man defense. Vick had the option to hand off, but the numbers weren't there with eight men in the box, including the other safety (6) that was eyeing Jason Avant, who was in motion.
Vick's first option was Avant out on the flat. But he quickly noticed that Jaguars safety Dwight Lowery sniffed out the screen. The Jaguars, meanwhile, rushed only four as the linebackers dropped into a zone. The Eagles offensive line had already given up a sack on the previous play, and now rookie right tackle Lane Johnson was having trouble with former Eagles defensive end Jason Babin (1). The pocket was collapsing on Vick and he started to get jittery.
Vick's second option -- tight end Brent Celek, who ran a seam route -- was open. But Vick, as he did at various points during the game, held onto the ball a smidgen too long. The pocket wasn't perfect, but Vick rushed with Babin baring down on him. He threw from an awkward position and the ball sailed over Celek's head.
PLAY 2: SECOND SERIES, SECOND AND TEN AT THE EAGLES 27
A series later, the Jaguars gave a similar look on second down. There was a single safety deep, the box was full and the corners were playing press-man. After the game, several of the offensive linemen talked about a look the Jaguars defensive line gave that they hadn't seen during the first two preseason games.
“This is the first team that we have played that has really slanted and angled the front, which kind of took us off of some of the double teams in the zone blocking scheme,” center Jason Kelce said. "Whenever somebody’s moving against a zone scheme or slanting you have to make a quick adjustment on your double-team blocking, on your angles."
You can see the slanting defensive tackle above near the blue arrow.
Kelce was probably thinking 'Uh-oh,' because the play was designed for the o-line to pull right. With the linemen all pulling right, running back LeSean McCoy -- if Vick handed off to him in the read option -- could either follow his blockers or cut back through the lane created by the zone blocking. With seven men in the box and six blockers, the Eagles didn't have favorable numbers.
Vick should have been able to neutralize an unblocked defensive end with the option, but there wasn't one, unless the linebacker was the "read" defender. But the linebacker held his ground. Kelce, meanwhile, was likely supposed to double up the slanting defensive tackle with Evan Mathis, but instead was off his assignment. McCoy did cut back toward the lane, but the holding linebacker (Paul Posluszny) dropped him after just a one-yard gain.
PLAY 3: THIRD AND EIGHT AT THE EAGLES 29
This was one of those no-no-no-yes plays that Vick sometimes makes look routine. The Jaguars were showing blitz with two stand-up linebackers at the line.
The Eagles, needing eight yards for a first down, sent three receivers on deep routes. Celek was the safety net over the middle. But the Jaguars confused the Eagles o-line again. "We need to get back and make the corrections," coach Chip Kelly said. "Sometimes early a couple twists got to us."
This twist -- the defensive tackle looped around the blitzing linebacker -- got Kelce.
But Kelce wasn't the only blocker to get beat. Four got beat -- including running back Bryce Brown -- and Vick was running out of time. He could have dumped it off to Celek, who probably still would have been dropped short of the sticks. But Vick somehow escaped from the mess and scrambled 16 yards for the first down. Defenses are going to man-up on Eagles receivers this year because of the short passing game, but on several occasions Saturday night, it created space underneath for Vick to run, which he took advantage of.
“They did a good job in coverage. They played a lot of man underneath," Kelly said. "I think [Vick] did a good job of making them honest and picked up yardage after they kind of did good early in coverage. If you do that then the quarterback can hurt you with his feet.”
PLAY 4: SECOND AND EIGHT AT THE EAGLES 47
This was one of the better all-around plays for the Eagles' first team offense, but it illustrated how Vick was holding onto the ball too long. The Jaguars were not set at the snap even after the Eagles burned a timeout. You could see the high safety running over top of DeSean Jackson's side, likely after trying to bait Vick to that side pre-snap.
The Jaguars rushed only four and the Eagles' line did its job, as it should, five on four. Vick probably already had it in his mind that he couldn't completely trust his line, but the pocket and his passing lanes were perfect (Or at least the lanes looked it. Hard to tell without the coach's film).
But Vick took way too long to release the ball, especially considering how open Jackson was after he faked the safety into thinking he was running a go route. Jackson, who was either the first or second option, actually finished his route and had to wait for Vick to get him the ball. When he caught it, he was surrounded and just flopped to the ground. Had Vick thrown it as Jackson went into his break, who knows how many yards he would have gotten after the catch.