How teams attacked Vick in 2011

Eagles QB Michael Vick can burn blitzing defenses with his legs. (Matt Rourke/AP)

As part of the research for my article on Michael Vick in the 2012 Eagles Almanac, I took a detailed look at how teams defended him last season.

Here's a look at how many pass rushers defenses sent at Vick. Of course, there's always some guesswork involved, but the numbers came from charting every snap where Vick dropped back to pass - sacks and scrambles included.

No. of Pass Rushers Percentage of Plays
3 or fewer 9.9%
4 54.7%
5 24.9%
6 8.3%
7 or more 2.2%

If we count a blitz as any play in which the defense sends more than four rushers, Vick was blitzed 35.4 percent of the time last year. More often than not (64.6 percent), defenses stuck with four rushers or fewer.

How did Vick perform against different numbers of pass rushers? Here's a look at completion percentage and yards per attempt:

No. of Pass Rushers Comp. % Yards Per Attempt
3 or fewer 77.5% 11.8
4 57.8% 7.4
5 64.1% 8.9
6 52.8% 4.9
7 or more 42.9% 3.1

Rushing three was not the way to defend Vick. The Eagles’ offensive line was able to protect him in those situations, and the team’s pass-catching weapons can still get open, even with eight defenders in coverage. Vick was 31-for-40 for 470 yards when teams rushed only three.

When teams rushed four and dropped seven into coverage, Vick’s numbers were pedestrian. He completed 57.8 percent of his passes and averaged 7.4 yards per attempt.

Vick’s numbers against five rushers look great – 64.1 completion percentage and 8.9 yards per attempt – but he was sacked quite a bit on these plays. Vick was sacked 8.1 percent of the time when defenses sent five rushers his way; that number was only 2.6 percent when defenses rushed four. In other words, just one extra rusher made a huge difference.

The numbers against six or more rushers were not good. Vick completed just 22 of 43 passes (51.2 percent) for 199 yards (4.6 YPA) on those plays.

Overall, against the blitz, Vick completed 60.3 percent of his passes and averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. He completed 60.7 percent of his non-blitz throws and averaged 8.1 yards per attempt.

Looking ahead to 2012, I would expect teams to choose their spots with the big blitzes of six rushers or more. If the Eagles send their receivers deep downfield, and Vick breaks the line of scrimmage, those plays can lead to huge gains and are risky for opposing defenses (think back to the comeback game against the Giants in 2010).

The best way to defend Vick is probably with four or five pass rushers. A lot of this comes down to the play of the Eagles' offensive line. Teams were not effective at sacking Vick without sending extra pressure last year. That could change if Demetress Bell doesn't adequately fill in at left tackle for Jason Peters, or if Danny Watkins doesn't improve at right guard in his second season.

But by sending four or five, defenses force Vick to go through his progressions, and they protect themselves in the event that he takes off and runs.

Anyway, this is just part of what I focused on in my (long-winded) analysis. I also covered Vick's injuries, sacks, turnovers, passing targets and more. As I mentioned yesterday, the Eagles Almanac is chalk full of good information and well worth your time as we count down the days to Lehigh.

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