Wednesday, August 20, 2014
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Mike Check: Evaluating Vick's play

How did Michael Vick play against the Bears? And what can we expect from him tonight against the Texans? Here's an in-depth look.

Mike Check: Evaluating Vick's play

Michael Vick threw his first interception of the season last Sunday, and the Eagles went 1-for-5 in the red zone in their 31-26 loss to the Bears.

Here's the breakdown of how he performed, with a look ahead to tonight's game against the Texans.

As always, let's start with pass distribution.

  Targets Catches Yards YAC Drops
Jason Avant 9 8 83 33 0
LeSean McCoy9867590
Brent Celek735050
Jeremy Maclin6447170
DeSean Jackson422652
Riley Cooper212950
Clay Harbor222770
Jerome Harrison11440
TOTALS 40 29 333 135 2

Let's start with the guy everyone is talking about today: DeSean Jackson. And a quick look at his numbers, on a per/game basis, compared to last season. I took out the Falcons game (since he played only one quarter) and the Titans game (where he was inactive). Jackson missed a game last season also.

  Catches Yards Yds./catch
2009 4.1 77.1 18.6
2010 3.78 71.5 19.4

As you can see, there really hasn't been a huge dropoff. To put things into perspective, if Jackson catches seven balls for 127 yards tonight against the Texans, he'll be on pace for exactly the same number of catches and yards per game as 2009.

He's fourth in the league with 19.4 yards per catch, and Jackson has nine receptions of 25 yards or more, also fourth.

Does that mean there's no reason for concern? I'm not saying that. Jackson had two drops last week and has three in the past two games - all in the red zone. And if it's true that he's overly concerned about his contract and brushing coaches off, well, that's obviously an issue.

But let's just keep in mind that his overall numbers and projections can change dramatically on a week-to-week basis.

Moving on, Vick threw three balls away and spiked one. That's where the difference comes in between the number of targets I have listed and his overall attempts (44).

Avant and McCoy were Vick's most-targeted receivers. Avant is quietly having an extremely productive season. Barring injury, he is a sure bet to set career highs in catches and yards. He's averaging over 60 yards receiving in his last six. Nice job with yards after the catch against Chicago.

I thought McCoy really had one of his better games as a receiver. He took a 9-yard loss on one pass play in the red zone, or those numbers would be even higher. On the season, nearly 87 percent of the passes thrown McCoy's way have been complete. Obviously, those are almost all right near the line of scrimmage, but it shows that the Eagles don't need to run him 20-plus times to get him the ball and utilize his talents.

Harbor has three catches in the last two games and did a good job on the 24-yard completion. Overall, Vick spread the ball to eight different receivers.

He missed on a pair of throws to Celek, and was off on some other throws, but the Eagles' receivers did a good job of helping him out, aside from the two Jackson drops.

Tonight: Expect Jackson to get a couple deep looks early. If the Texans play their safeties back, Avant could have another productive game. And I know I've been saying this for awhile, but there are opportunities to Celek. If Vick can hit on those throws, and if Celek can hold on, the Eagles can give defenses another weapon to worry about down the stretch.

THE BLITZ, PRESSURE, SHOTGUN, ETC.

This is the most time-consuming post I do all week, but it's also the one where I tend to figure out the most about how teams are defending the Eagles.

A couple weeks ago, the Giants decided to blitz Vick on more than 38 percent of his dropbacks. The Bears blitzed on 10 of 52 dropbacks (19.2 percent). And they rushed four or fewer on the first 15 called pass plays.

Vick's numbers actually were pretty good against the blitz. He completed 5 of 8 attempts for 100 yards when Chicago brought extra pressure. And four of those five completions went for 20 yards or more. It was quite a different story from the previous week when Vick completed just 6 of 15 passes for 56 yards against the blitz.

In the pocket, Vick was 28-for-41 for 281 yards. Out of the pocket, he was 1-for-2 for 22 yards.

From the shotgun, he completed 23 of 31 for 258 yards. Under center, he was 6 of 12 for 75 yards.

On play-action throws, Vick was 4-for-7 for 61 yards.

Tonight: It's easy to assume that the Giants and Bears did a decent job of containing Vick with their schemes. But the key is, they had talent and good-enough athletes to do what they did. I think it's more about personnel than scheme. I'm not sure there's a strategy the Texans can employ to bottle up Vick, given the players they'll have on the field. Look for him to hit on some big plays downfield if Houston tries to blitz him.

THIRD DOWN, RED ZONE

This is where the Eagles' offense has really had issues in the last couple weeks. Against Chicago, the Birds were 4-for-13 (30.8 percent) on third down, and in the last two weeks, they are 7-for-27 (25.9 percent).

Vick had the ball in his hands on 11 of those third downs, and the Eagles converted three of those attempts. He was 4-for-6 for 31 yards on third down. But a key here is Vick didn't even get a pass off on five of 11 of those plays. He was sacked twice and had runs of 1, 6 and 11 yards - none of which netted a first down.

The Eagles went just 1-for-5 in the red zone. Vick was 5-for-12 for 16 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He was also sacked once and had a 1-yard run.

Negative plays killed the Birds in the red zone. On their second trip, Vick was sacked by Julius Peppers. On the third trip, he was picked off on a deflected pass after Todd Herremans got beat. And on the fifth trip, McCoy had a 9-yard loss on a pass play.

Tonight: It's unfair to pin the red-zone woes on Vick. Jackson dropped two balls, and the offensive line really came up short inside the Bears' 20. If the line can provide protection in the red zone, I think you'll see Vick's red-zone numbers go back up to where they were earlier this season. Maclin has been the Eagles' best red-zone receiver, but again, Celek has done well down there in the past. Houston has the league's 29th-ranked red zone defense.

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 19 24 139
Mid 6 10 90
Deep 3 5 74
Bomb 1 1 30

I was surprised to see that Vick was 4-for-6 on throws that traveled 16 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. But there was clearly a difference last week from earlier this season.

He did not attempt a pass that traveled more than 25 yards from the line of scrimmage until the Eagles' final offensive play that went to Celek for the 30-yard touchdown. And of those six Deep/Bomb throws, three went to tight ends. Vick targeted Maclin on a Deep/Bomb throw just once, and same for Jackson. The completions were to Jackson, Harbor, Celek and Cooper.

Tonight: Even if the Texans do play their safeties deep, I think Jackson and Maclin can get behind them. Expect the big-play offense to return.

OVERALL

When Vick has time to sit back in the pocket and survey the field, he's still making mostly good decisions and good throws. He needs to do a better job on third down, but his teammates need to help Vick in the red zone.

The interception was actually kind of flukey since it was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Vick has made many worse throws this season that were not intercepted.

But a bigger issue to me is his ball security when facing pressure or running. Vick fumbled three times last week. The Eagles were just fortunate to recover all of them. He needs to do a better job of taking care of the football in those situations.

Vick has shown good touch on short passes. And he's been outstanding for the most part on deep balls to the wide receivers.

The one throw it seems like he has yet to master is that pass to the tight end between the linebacker and safety. A couple weeks ago, Vick missed Harbor. And last week, he missed Celek. Scheme against Vick figures to change week-to-week, but it sure seems like he'll face that Cover 2 with the deep safeties a lot the rest of the season.

Overall, I don't think we've seen a "formula" for containing Vick. Despite going 1-for-5 in the red zone and turning the ball over, the Eagles scored 26 points against a defense that's giving up just 15.6 per game.

Tonight: Look for Vick and the offense to hit on big plays early and often. As long as they take care of the football, the offense should score in the 30s and have a lot of success against the Texans.

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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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
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