Saturday, August 2, 2014
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Mike Check: Evaluating Vick vs. the Rams

We're back with another year of Mike Check, MTC's weekly feature that closely examines Michael Vick's play.

Mike Check: Evaluating Vick vs. the Rams

Eagles QB Michael Vick ran for 100 yards on eight carries, if you take away the kneel-downs at the end of the game. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Eagles QB Michael Vick ran for 100 yards on eight carries, if you take away the kneel-downs at the end of the game. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

We're back with another year of Mike Check, MTC's weekly feature that closely examines Michael Vick's play.

For those new to the blog, this started out as What about Kolb? last year, but quickly needed a new title.

As always, let's start with the pass distribution:

  Targets Catches Yards Drops
DeSean Jackson 11 6 102 2
Jason Avant 7 3 40 0
Jeremy Maclin 3 1 20 0
LeSean McCoy 3 2 15 0
Brent Celek 3 1 13 0
Owen Schmitt 2 0 0 1
Dion Lewis 1 1 -3 0
TOTAL 30 14 187 3

Vick looked for Jackson more than any other receiver, targeting him 11 times. You might see 12 targets in other box scores, but Vick was clearly throwing the ball away on one pass, and Jackson just happened to be the closest receiver, so I didn't count that one. The official box score also has Vick down for 32 attempts, but one of those was a spike to stop the clock at the end of the first half.

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The one bomb to Jackson down the far sideline was a clear drop. The one in the end zone was a tough catch, but I still marked it as a drop. Probably could have gone either way there. Schmitt was targeted twice. The first attempt to him in the flat was not a great throw, but he still should have caught it. Avant, meanwhile, was unable to keep his feet in bounds on a throw to the sideline. And there was also a botched screen attempt where Vick just threw the ball into the ground.

So while Vick's stat line shows a 43.75 completion percentage for Vick, I just described seven plays where he really was not at fault for incompletions. I like stats as much as the next guy, but we need to make sure to always put them in context. That easily could have been more like 60.8 percent, had some things gone his way.

Having said that, Vick was not as accurate as usual, and Jackson made a great play on the 41-yard catch that really had no business being complete. I thought Vick and the offense struggled to get a rhythm early, but then settled down.

The Eagles ran a league-high 47 running back screens last year, according to Football Outsiders, but towards the end of 2010, it sure seemed like they had less success. That was the case here too as the Rams were able to sniff out the Eagles' screens for the most part. McCoy finished with just a pair of catches for 15 yards.

Maclin played 58 snaps, the most of any Eagles receiver. So much for easing him in, huh? He was targeted only three times.

Riley Cooper and Steve Smith played seven and five snaps, respectively, but neither was targeted.

AGAINST THE BLITZ

This will be the most important part of the feature all season. How often will defenses blitz Vick, and will he be able to burn them when they send extra defenders?

Here's what Vick's numbers looked like against 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 pass rushers. The number in parentheses in the first column is how often the Rams sent each.

Pass Rushers Comp. Att. Yds. Rush Att. Rush Yds. Sacks
3 (2) 2 2 31 0 0 0
4 (22) 7 17 99 5 63 0
5 (10) 4 9 51 0 0 1
6 (2) 1 1 6 0 0 1
7 (3) 0 0 0 3 37 0
8 (3) 0 2 0 0 0 1
TOTAL (42) 14 31 187 8 100 3

The Rams blitzed Vick (defined here as sending more than four defenders) on 18 of 42 dropbacks, or 42.9 percent of the time. On those plays, Vick was 5-for-12 for 57 yards (4.75 YPA) and a touchdown. That translates to a QB rating of 94.8. All three sacks came when the Rams sent extra pressure.

Those numbers don't sound so bad, but there were issues. The Rams sent seven or eight defenders six times, and Vick failed to complete a pass in those situations. He took off and ran three times, twice threw incomplete and once was sacked.

Vick had issues when the Rams blitzed their defensive backs, and specifically their corners from the slot. That goes back to last year when the Vikings and Antoine Winfield got to him so many times. On the Eagles' first possession, the Rams sent six, including two defensive backs off the edge, and Vick was sacked.

On the sack/fumble in the red zone, the Rams sent eight defenders after Vick, and the Eagles kept seven players in to block. Obviously, that meant one defender was unaccounted for, which happened to be Quintin Mikell. The Eagles had three receivers in their routes, meaning each had one-on-one coverage. Jackson lined up in the slot and beat his man to the inside, but Vick didn’t get rid of the ball on time. It looked like that’s where he was about to go when Mikell crushed him, but Vick was too late.

On the third sack, the Rams sent two defensive backs from Vick's blind side with a zone blitz. They only rushed five, but Vick couldn't escape cornerback Justin King.

On non-blitz throws, when the Rams rushed three or four defenders, Vick went 9-for-19 for 130 yards (6.84 YPA) and a touchdown. That translated to a QB rating of 87.6. He made several good, patient, accurate throws from the pocket. The 11-yard slant to Jackson required good timing and perfect placement, both of which Vick executed.

As a runner, Vick's real numbers were eight carries for 100 yards, when you take away the three kneel-downs. He took off and ran on three of the 18 plays when the Rams blitzed, picking up 37 yards and averaging 12.3 yards per carry. The other five rushes were when the Rams sent four. On those plays, Vick picked up 63 yards on the ground and averaged 12.6 YPC.

THIRD DOWN, RED ZONE

The box score shows the Eagles were 8-for-13 on third down, but that includes the kneel-down at the end of the game.

Vick was 7-for-8 for 70 yards and a touchdown on third down. That translates to a QB rating of 153.1. He targeted six different receivers on third down, and five of them had catches that moved the chains (Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Celek, McCoy).

Vick also picked up a first with a 19-yard run. He was twice sacked on third down.

Meanwhile, the Eagles converted two of four red-zone opportunities into touchdowns. In the first quarter, Vick found McCoy for a 7-yard score. Before that, though, he made a poor decision trying to force one into Avant with a lot of defenders in the area.

In the second, Vick was sacked and fumbled. At the end of the first half, they settled for a field goal as Jackson couldn't hang on to the ball in the corner of the end zone. And he made an outstanding throw to Jackson for the 6-yard touchdown.

Jackson had only four catches for 8 yards in the red zone last year, but came through with the score in this one.

Overall, Vick was 2-for-4 for 13 yards and a pair of TDs in the red zone (not including the spike).

SUCCESS BY DISTANCE

Here's a chart of Vick's throws by distance. I used the same ranges that Football Outsiders uses so we'd have a point of reference. Short is 5 yards or less. Mid is 6 to 15 yards. Deep is 16 to 25 yards. And Bomb is more than 25 yards. These are measured from the line of scrimmage to the point where the ball is touched, hits the ground or goes out of bounds.

  Completions Attempts Yards
Short 5 12 40
Mid 6 9 66
Deep 2 6 40
Bomb 1 3 41

A pretty good balance here by Vick. The Eagles definitely took shots downfield. Jackson's charted targets were interesting. The Eagles tried to get him the ball in a variety of ways; he had four short targets, three Mid targets; two Deep; and two Bomb. He obviously hauled in the only Bomb completion of the game with the 41-yarder.

Vick's numbers on the intermediate routes are encouraging as he completed 6 of 9 for 66 yards.

OVERALL

Let's start with the good. Vick was the single biggest reason the Eagles won the game. He made plays with his arm and his legs, wowing everyone once again with his skill and athleticism.

In many respects, this was a throwback game. Did Vick show great ability in reading the defense, recognizing the blitz and getting the ball out of his hands quickly? Not really. He was OK, but certainly had some issues.

The running numbers tell us a lot. Andy Reid and company would never tell Vick to stop running. It wouldn't make sense. Vick's legs bring an added weapon that no one in the league has. His 17-yard run against a fatigued Rams defense in the third quarter was huge.

But there are times when taking off and running doesn't always work. We'll go back once again to that Vikings game. Minnesota blitzed Vick 31 times. On 10 of those plays, he didn't even get a pass off. They resulted in five sacks and five runs, none of which picked up more than 8 yards. In the first three quarters of the second Giants game, Vick was blitzed 14 times. He was sacked three times on those plays and carried just once for 1 yard.

One of the biggest keys to Vick's continued growth will be choosing the right time to run. On one play in the second quarter, the Rams sent seven at Vick, a huge running lane opened up and he took off for a 19-yard gain. On a 3rd-and-10, Vick took a deep drop and found himself 13 yards behind the line of scrimmage as he got away from a Rams defender. The Eagles had three receivers in pass routes, and the Rams had seven defenders in coverage. Vick had nowhere to go with the ball and somehow took off and picked up 19 yards and a first down.

Those were the good runs, the ones that demoralize a defense.

But there was another play in the second that didn't work out as well. The Rams rushed seven, while the Eagles kept Celek, Schmitt and McCoy in to block. Vick probably had time to wait for Jackson or Maclin to get open, but he took off and was tackled after just a 1-yard gain.

Overall, it's tough to read too much into Vick's Week 1 start. He was playing behind five offensive linemen who had never before been on the field together in a game. He had a rookie center snapping him the football. And he had a No. 2 wide receiver who had missed the entire preseason.

Vick did what was necessary to put points on the board and get the Eagles the win. Going forward, as he and his teammates get more comfortable, and as the Eagles face some tougher defenses, we'll see how he progresses in some of the other areas I mentioned above.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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