BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- We’ve heard that Michael Vick needs to avoid injury so often and from so many mouths that it’s become almost a staple answer when assessing the Eagles' chances this season.
The Eagles are equipped to make a Super Bowl run, but if Vick can’t stay healthy …
But Howard Mudd looks at Vick from a perspective unique to most. The Eagles offensive line coach, in many ways, is responsible for keeping the quarterback clean. It’s his guys that are tasked with shielding Vick from pass rushers.
“Don’t let him get hit, don’t let him get hit,” Mudd said. “That’s a mantra we have.”
But Vick isn’t your typical quarterback, and he certainly isn’t in the mold of Peyton Manning, who Mudd had to protect for over a dozen years in Indianapolis. Manning is statuesque. Vick can’t stand still for more than a few seconds.
The Eagles don’t want Vick to abandon his natural instinct to run when either his first few receivers aren’t open or the pocket breaks down. But they do want him to be more judicious when taking off downfield.
“He wants to and works really hard to overcome his instinct, when a little something goes wrong, to take off,” Mudd said Monday after the first practice of training camp. “Just take off and create something. So he’s working really hard to do all these things that everybody’s writing about – to go take care of himself so he doesn’t get hurt.”
Mudd, who is now in his 36th year as an NFL offensive line coach, said that he appreciates that Vick is highly motivated to succeed. But that drive often leads to the 32-year-old quarterback wanting to be Superman (Vick has the superhero’s emblem tattooed on his arm) and trying to do too much.
“I would wish that he doesn’t think that he has to take on more than his part,” Mudd said. “Don’t do it. Don’t get hurt. And if somebody’s loose he knows that if he’s got problems -- like up front because the pocket collapses -- he knows those guys are getting coached very hard.”
Mudd admitted that it probably took most of last season for Vick to feel comfortable with his offensive line. The interior of the line was completely new with rookies Jason Kelce and Danny Watkins at center and right guard and veteran Evan Mathis at left guard. Todd Herremans also moved from left guard to protecting Vick’s blindside at right tackle.
And Mudd had brought to the Eagles a new blocking scheme in which the offensive linemen are more aggressive and don’t drop in pass protection. By the end of the season, Vick appeared to be more at ease in the pocket. In the last four games he only scrambled nine times.
“Michael’s getting ‘it’ at the end of the year in the sense of delivering the ball, knowing who’s not blocked,” Mudd said. “Because that happens and you think, ‘Gee, well that’s pretty elementary.’ But there are a lot of quarterbacks that don’t know when they get hit and they just start running.”