Michael Vick locked his eyes on the receiver running a short crossing pattern. There was no pass rush to worry about because the Eagles were running only a seven-on-seven drill. So the quarterback seemingly had little to worry about as he uncorked a throw over the middle.
But Vick’s pass grazed one of the Chip Kelly’s man-made obstructions – a black net perched on the shoulder of a staff member that acts as a substitute defensive lineman with outstretched arms.
The ball fell to the ground, incomplete and Vick punched his fist through the air in disgust. It was the second time he hit one of the “fly swatters” on Sunday, and since Kelly introduced the obstacles in the spring, he has been the quarterback to hit them the most.
“The first day Chip put them out there I complained about it, complained about it, and he said the more you complain the more I’m going to keep it out here,” Vick said. “I got to deal with it and it’s been helping me. And now, I don’t even pay attention to it.”
Kelly started using the fly swatters at Oregon, he said, so that his quarterbacks wouldn’t get complacent during seven-on-seven drills when there aren’t any linemen.
“There are going to be some linemen there and if you continue to get in the habit of dropping the ball over there, it’s not going to happen in a game,” Kelly said.
The Eagles coach wants his quarterbacks to throw in lanes. Most do. When they don’t, no matter the size, their passes have a greater chance of being tipped or batted to the ground.
Vick is short for a quarterback. He’s 6-foot, while the average height is generally in the 6-3 range. Ideally, coaches want their quarterbacks tall enough to see over their linemen. But it’s not a prerequisite.
Vick has averaged more batted passes per attempt than most quarterbacks. Last season, 8 of his 316 “aimed” throws (2.5 percent) were batted, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Nick Foles, for example, had 4 of 238 “aimed” passes (1.6 pct) batted.
Kelly said that he sees batted passes as a throwing-in-lane problem, not a height one, unless you’re abnormally tall for a quarterback. Drew Brees, who is listed as 6-foot, had only 12 of 618 “aimed” passes (1.9 pct.) batted down last season while 6-5 Tom Brady was only slightly better with 10 of 683 (1.4 pct)s.
Vick improved in 2012. In 2011, 14 of 384 “aimed” attempts (3.6 pct.) were batted and in 2010, it was 11 of 373 (2.9 pct.).
“I think as far as sliding, finding lanes, up and over with the throws, it’s going to help me,” Vick said. “At some point, it’s going to pay dividends for me. It’s embarrassing when you do it in practice because it’s not a moving target.”
With five days until the first preseason game, Kelly said that he has yet to decide on how repetitions between the quarterbacks will be split when the Eagles host the Patriots. He said he would make a decision after Wednesday’s scrimmage with New England.
Vick and Foles continued to split first team snaps at practice. Asked if there has been any separation in the quarterback competition, Kelly said that he thought “today they all played really well.”
“I don’t think whoever starts on Friday will be the determined starter,” Vick said. “I don’t think Chip is that far ahead. We’re not that far ahead.”
It’s still over a month till the Eagles open the season, but rookie Matt Barkley has yet to take a repetition with the first or second team offense. While Kelly has been adamant that there isn’t yet a depth chart, Barkley seemed to notice where he stood in the pecking order.
“You hope for reps and you hope for something like that,” Barkley said. “At this point, you just got to do the best with what you get.”