Eagles' Vick needs to pass up the run

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

OF COURSE, it will not be hard to find the idiot in this column if Michael Vick gets clobbered on Sunday against San Diego and breaks a rib, or something. The idiot will be the writer. It won't be the first time.

That said, the issue here is not that Chip Kelly's offense puts Vick in harm's way any more than any other offense. On the contrary, it can be argued that this can be the safest offense in which Vick has ever operated, provided he buys in - and that acknowledges the option runs that Vick will be required to complete.

The issue today, the issue forever, is that Vick puts himself in harm's way more than he should. But the drumbeat is already beginning, the drumbeat that Kelly's offense is not going to work, and that he is going to get his quarterback killed.

The latest to go this way is Charley Casserly, the former NFL general manager who now makes a living talking about the game. After the Eagles' season-opener/eye-opener on Monday night against Washington, this is what Casserly said the next day on NFL Network's "Around the League Live":

"We saw Vick limping around. Vick's not gonna last. He's running the ball in this offense, he's not just handing it off."

The good people at ProFootballFocus.com chart quarterback hits, among other things. Last year, in about 9 1/4 games, Vick was hit 120 times, about 13 times per game - assuming, that is, that pretty much all of his runs, except for the kneel-downs, result in some kind of contact.


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In this year's first game against Washington, the same people doing the charting said that Vick was hit . . . 12 times. If you consider how many more plays the Eagles are running in this offense, Vick is getting hit much less frequently on a per-play basis. And if Vick would learn to settle for some more of the easy screen passes that seem to be available pretty much always in this offense, the number of hits in the pocket would be lower.

Yes, he is going to run some. Yes, he will get hit. But the number does not have to be inordinate, and a lot of this remains in his control. Forget the sliding business, which is a complete lost cause at this point - even Kelly acknowledges the futility of this argument with Vick. If he would just find the sideline before getting hit even twice more per game on his runs, it would make a real difference. It was on a near-the-sideline hit against Washington that Vick tweaked his groin and showed the limp that Casserly talked about.

To repeat: This is a lot more about the quarterback than it is the offense. Take the downfield blocking on run plays. That is all him and nobody else. Yesterday afternoon, Vick acknowledged, "It was Monday night. Figured I'd show off a little bit."

He laughed. You get the sense that the coaching staff was less amused - that while they admired the sentiment, it's just dumb.

"I talked to him during the game, after the game, on Tuesday," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "I think it's important - the one thing that I admire about Mike is something that we've all seen. He's extremely tough, he's very competitive, and when the game is going on, he reacts to things like you want a football player to react. Now, we don't want him lead-blocking on sweeps, and so we told him, 'Don't do that.' So we assume he won't."

What's the old saying? When you assume . . .

Or, as Vick said, if he's in the same situation, and "if I'm standing there, I'm not going to let my teammate get hit."

He said, "I'm not just a quarterback. I'm a football player."

Which brings us pretty much full circle. On a murderously hot September day, only about 36 hours after the end of the Monday night game, the Eagles were back on the field in shorts and helmets for practice. Vick said the groin was a non-issue, that "it was just sore for the moment." He said the practice was supposed to be a walkthrough but that guys started running around and it ended up being a full practice.

They are a very happy group right now and Vick is their leader. When he talks about his style of play, and the hits, he says, "I think I can make it through." It is the way he has always thought, regardless of the coach or the offense.


Email: hofmanr@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @theidlerich

Blog: ph.ly/DNL