Eagles assistant coaches met with reporters today, and it didn't take very long to get to topic number 1 with quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson: reducing the 18 turnovers Mike Vick had in 2011.
Pederson talked about the double-edged sword that is Vick's athleticism and competitiveness on every snap. On the one hand, Pederson said, the Eagles want to use their quarterback's running ability to the fullest. On the other, Vick's mistakes often come from his believing too much in his own ability to make big plays, Pederson said.
"He gets caught sometimes doing too much, trying to do too much and that’s where he gets in trouble," Pederson said. "We eliminate those and keep him within our system and positive things are going to happen."
Turnovers might have been the biggest problem for the Eagles last year, though fourth quarter defensive collapses were also a strong contender. But while Andy Reid expected the defense to come together more slowly -- they had a new coach and many new starters -- the offense was supposed to carry the team. Vick and company moved the ball well, but too often gave it away right when they got into scoring range. Pederson made clear that he and Vick have spent ample one-on-one time this year going over every mistake from last season.
"For me not only to teach off of that but just to watch his expression, see how he reacts to the negative, and 'only ifs' and that’s the one thing in this game that you don’t ever want to sit at the end of the season and go 'only if'" Pederson said. "He’s learned from that. I think it makes him a better quarterback going forward, obviously. If we cut those two areas down, be more efficient in the red zone, don’t turn the ball over as much ... your chances of success obviously go up."
Vick's reaction to last year's mistakes?
"Obviously disappointment. Some if it was, 'what was I thinking?'" Pederson said. Some turnovers were out of his hands -- a few wild tips in Buffalo come to mind -- but "for the most part it’s just why? What was I thinking? Why did I do that and that’s the kind of thing that we missed a year ago in that offseason."
Pederson said the biggest difference for Vick's Pro Bowl 2010 versus his mistake-prone 2011 was having an offseason to work on fundamentals with his coaches leading into the season. After Vick got hurt last year, Pederson said, he returned with a renewed focus on reducing mistakes and the coach said it paid off with better play down the stretch. He's now hoping that another offseason of sitting with coaches, watching video and working on the basics, can translate into fewer mistakes once the real games start. The Eagles playoff hopes may hinge on Pederson being right.
We'll have more on what the coach had to say tomorrow in the Inquirer and here at Philly.com.