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The Georgia Bullddogs' dynamic duo should be on NFL rosters at some point in the next 72 hours. Which will be the better pro? That depends on what kind of running back you're looking for.

22 Sep 2010

Cover-2: Simple Lessons

by Doug Farrar

As he so often does both on and off the field, Michael Vick has changed the coverage. We've moved from Cover-3 to Cover-2 this week in order to put down some exclusive analysis of the late-breaking Vick decision. We'll be back with more of a single-high safety look next week.

Suh Generis
Philadelphia Eagles 35 at Detroit Lions 32

The last time I wrote about Ndamukong Suh, he was destroying Texas' entire offense in the Big 12 Championship, beating the crap out of Colt McCoy, and ensuring his status as a top-three draft pick. Since then, he has integrated with the Detroit Lions team that picked him second overall,= and bonded with some people who could help him take the next step -- head coach Jim Schwartz, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, and veteran defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. At the Nike 7-on-7 tournament in July, I talked with Suh about the new learning process.

"I've been really close with Coach Cunningham, and it's been a lot of fun to learn from him," Suh said. "He's a great defensive guru, great defensive line coach. And I have another great coach in [defensive line coach Kris] Kocurek, who's young and used to play (he was a seventh-round pick of the Seahawks in 2001), and is now coming up in the coaching ranks very quickly. He understands what we need to get done, and he helps me out a lot. Just being able to bounce information off of them is tremendous ... it's definitely been a pleasure to work with Kyle. Learning from him, and with him being a Nebraska great, and the opportunity to just work out with him in the weight room. His work ethic is immaculate. Being able to learn the ropes with him is a great advantage for me. It's really a blessing."

After a preseason in which opposing offenses learned quickly that double-teaming him was the best way to avoid getting their quarterbacks killed, Suh picked up quarterback sacks in each of his first two regular season games. However, he did not get off to a great start against Philadelphia in Week 2 -- he was cut-blocked out of the first Eagles play (a five-yard run by LeSean McCoy) and drew an encroachment penalty the next time he lined up. In any early blocking scheme against Suh, the concept seemed to be to avoid taking him straight on. Instead, the Eagles' line worked to move him side to side and take away his forward momentum. He got a huge hit to his left side by right tackle Winston Justice on an 11-yard pass to Brent Celek from the Eagles' 29-yard line. The hit sent him pinballing across the line.

One thing that had me curious was that, for the first few plays, the Lions were not lining Suh up right next to Vanden Bosch, which prevented the defense from using the end-tackle stunts Vanden Bosch did so well with Albert Haynesworth in Tennessee. With 8:54 left in the first quarter and the Eagles on their own 40, the two finally lined up in the same side. The corresponding stunt put single protection on each defender after Celek left the line to run his route. Linebacker Julian Peterson, who had cheated up pre-snap, just missed a sack and got a roughing the passer call (blow to the helmet) for his trouble. The only thing I will say is that between that penalty and what happened to the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, I have no freaking idea what constitutes roughing the passer anymore. Judging from his reaction, neither did Schwartz.

The next play was the 45-yard Vick touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson, in which Suh got a great burst off the snap and used his hands to sift through a double team. For all the talk about his upper-body strength (which is incredible), Suh also has a great sense of fundamentals. Where he got locked up on that first five was with an inability to penetrate out of the three technique against those side blocks. Right guard Nick Cole and center Mike McGlynn aren't the most nimble fellows, but they were wide enough to come together and form a pretty solid wall that Suh found difficult to penetrate early on, especially on quick-developing pass plays or run plays away from him.

On the second drive, Suh started altering his tactics, engaging Cole and using rip-and-spin moves to get by him out of one-and three-tech looks. Those were devastating for Suh in college, and the increased competition level hasn't decreased their effectiveness. Suh started getting through the line and chasing Vick out of the pocket. He picked up his first half-tackle with 3:55 left in the first quarter, as McCoy tried to head left. Suh beat Cole to the inside, and headed left to help linebacker Zack Follett take McCoy down for a gain of one.

It was the first play of the second quarter that showed Suh's true potential in the game. Suh used his hands to get by Cole and McGlynn and ran right to trail Vick, who had bailed out of the pocket from his own 10-yard line on third-and 23. Suh caught up to Vick and pushed him out of bounds at the 22. In case you didn't catch that, I'll type it again: Suh caught up to Vick and pushed him out of bounds at the 22. I'm pretty sure 6-foot-4, 310-pound people are not supposed to be this fast. Again, a skill he displayed at the college level transferred smoothly.

Suh started to get more active throughout the second quarter, disengaging from a double team out of a wide three-tech to take Vick down with a nice downfield tackle with 5:16 left in the first half. In the third quarter, he showed that he can also blast off the line when shading the center, dropping Mike Bell for a loss of three yards early in the second half by getting around McGlynn's block. And on the second play of the Eagles' next possession, with 9:48 left in the quarter, Suh eradicated my sole concern about his game that was starting to pop up (the ability to take NFL linemen and beat them back head on) by engaging Cole, dipping to Cole's right, and getting around the guard for the sack.

It was always going to be difficult to write about Suh at his best in college, because describing what was actually happening sounded like the height of hyperbole. Explaining how he rag-dolled a 290-pound guard from a major college almost lost its luster after a while because it happened so often. But with his ability to take most aspects of his game so soon and so well to the highest level, Suh enters another realm where his actions and their effects are absolutely legitimate and without qualification. He's not going up against guys who will never make it in the NFL -- he's dealing with people whose experience at the pro level precede his, and he's already making some of them look pretty silly.

"A lot of people don't understand that when you're drafted so high, a lot of the time guys in that position have to come in and have to be 'The Man'," Suh told me in July. I don't have to come in and be 'The Man' on my team, especially on the defensive line. Because I have Kyle, and Corey Williams from Cleveland -- all veterans that have been in the game for years, and know what's going on. So I just have the luxury to come in and help them out, to help me out. I'm in a great situation."

I'll be revisiting Suh later in the season for two reasons. First, I want to see how he develops certain moves under the excellent tutelage of Schwartz and Cunningham. He does seem to lose power against bigger linemen when he's taking them head on, and I will be interested to see how he adjusts to that. The "turn-and-dip" on the sack was a very nice start. Second, Suh is just fun to watch, in the same way that any potentially dominant player is fun to watch early in his NFL career. You know you're seeing something special with Suh right now. You also know of the potential to see much more in the future. In a very uncertain business, this guy seems as sure a thing as there is.

Michael Vick, and the Clear Picture

The Friday night segments on SIRIUS NFL Radio with Adam Caplan and Jon Hansen should be required listening for any fantasy football junkie. When Greg Cosell, producer of ESPN's NFL Matchup and NFL Films game tape maven, jumps on for his spot to talk Xs and Os, the show is even more indispensable. Last season, I remember hearing Cosell make a startling prediction on that show that by the 2011 season, Michael Vick could very well be the Eagles' full-time starting quarterback. This was back when Vick was little more than a quick option whenever Philly's coaching staff wanted to get "creative" in a bad way. But as it turned out, Cosell was on point and ahead of just about everyone. With that in mind, I got him on the phone to find out what he thought of the team's decision to put the Kevin Kolb Evolution Project aside in favor of a guy who has been playing out of his mind so far this season.

What I've seen from Vick this season is a highly evolved version of the guy who used to run around the Georgia Dome and would sometimes resemble a traditional quarterback in just by his jersey number. The misplaced option quarterback wasn't a part of the new scheme. Now the Eagles' offense is about Vick being able to make consistent throws and running when the opportunity presented itself. There was a flash of this when he hit Celek deep over the middle early in the fourth quarter of Philadelphia's Week 1 loss to the Packers and another when he hit Jeremy Maclin at the end of that drive for a 19-yard touchdown. The Brent Celek pass was as pretty as it gets -- Vick dropped the deep ball to his tight end right on the money in the middle of three Green Bay defenders. And the Maclin pass was a low laser in the end zone. Those who are dismissing Vick's current standing as the result of a UFL-level Detroit defense should take a step back and watch what he did against 2009's fourth-best pass defense, and the second-best through two weeks in 2010.

After the decision was made, I tweeted that I believed the successful developmental project in Philadelphia wasn't Kolb -- it was Vick. Is it silly to say that a 30-year-old quarterback is a work in progress? Not under these circumstances, and Cosell agreed. He took it a step further by explaining his take on the roots of the decision.

"I believe this has more to do with Kevin Kolb than Michael Vick," Cosell said. "Kolb played so poorly through the preseason and in his first half of regular-season action, he almost could not compete -- you almost could not put him out there. I think that's why the decision was made. I was incredibly surprised at how poorly he played, because I went through his two starts last year, and I thought he looked like a poised, composed, decisive, accurate, aware quarterback. I had no qualms whatsoever in believing that Kolb would have a very solid season. But he looked like a rookie quarterback who was overwhelmed and overmatched."

As he so often does, Cosell put the situation most accurately in a single sentence: "Kolb was not getting a clear picture out there." To my less-informed eye, this had a great deal to do with the line's inability to pick up and adjust protections. I mentioned in the Suh portion of this article how the Eagles would sent Celek off line on plays that seemed as though they were designed to develop over time, despite the fact that the Lions were altering their blitz concepts. On other occasions, Detroit defenders were able to slip through gaps in unusually easy ways. I think that Vick was seeing the picture because he'd seen these types of things before, while Kolb was not used to the breakdowns.

The story that's lost in all the controversy is how well the Eagles' coaching staff has prepared Vick to do the little things all great quarterbacks do, and how well they transitioned their expectations from the quarterback who was falling out of step to the guy with the hot hand. Was this the first time Vick has received functional NFL coaching? Cosell said that it was, and it showed against the Lions.

"I thought Vick played the best game of his NFL career," he said. "Michael Vick was not a great quarterback in Atlanta -- he was a SportsCenter quarterback. Nobody in the NFL is a great quarterback because of the way they run. And in this game, there were opportunities where he could have run in response to pressure, and he did not. Perhaps the best example I can remember was the third-and-9 play in the second quarter, where he spun away from an unblocked defender to his right as the defender came from his blind side. He actually stopped, set his feet, and threw the ball to Riley Cooper. I mean, that was NFL quarterbacking. There was space in front of him, and the old Vick would have run. That may have been the single most interesting play that spoke to the new Vick. I'm not one who likes to make bold judgments based on one game, but he played the position the way it needs to be played to be consistent in the NFL."

The throw to Cooper came with 6:08 left in the first half. The Eagles went shotgun, twins tight on either side. Cooper ran upfield from the top of the right flank, and Vick had to bail out almost immediately after the snap as cornerback Alphonso Smith shot off the right edge, completely unblocked. This wasn't a "stop-drop-and-roll" kind of thing; Vick escaped to his right and didn't run at all. He eluded that tackle and immediately went back to reading his progressions. When I saw this, I understood why Cosell was so impressed.

The play that convinced me I was seeing a different Vick was the long sideline pass to Jackson with 9:21 left in the third quarter. This play was impressive because Vick escaped pressure after yet another protection breakdown and kept his eyes downfield while he was running. He saw Jackson open about 20 yards downfield, and he made the accurate throw.

"That's a critical element here," Cosell said. "Now, he's moving to pass, and not moving to run. That's a very important distinction. Even the long throw to Jackson on the two-minute drive, where he also stopped ... he had to get rid of that ball a little quicker because of pressure, but he still stopped and set his feet. That was a big-time throw, as well. Even the touchdown to Jeremy Maclin -- if I'm not mistaken, that was a zero-coverage blitz, and there was pressure he could see coming up the middle. But he stood in there and stepped into this throw. When have we ever said before that Michael Vick would look down the gun barrel and make throws?"

We haven't, and that's precisely because Vick was never asked to before. It was always my impression that, whatever they might say to the contrary, then-Falcons head coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp were rolling out game plans that could have been written on bar napkins and asking Vick to make up the difference. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg have taken the more balanced and evolutionary approach. While I would absolutely agree with those who see potential landmines all over the actual decision-making process, I can't do anything but praise the way the team has prepared Vick for this unexpected (to everyone but Cosell, apparently) second chance.

Programming note: The Vick news and subsequent analysis impacted my ability to analyze the Indianapolis Colts' defense against the New York Giants. I wanted to get a sense of how Indy adjusted to the historic day they allowed Houston Texans running back Arian Foster to put up in the season opener, but there wasn't time. I did talk to Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers about the two games earlier this week, and there's enough good stuff there to save for next week's Cover-3 after the Colts have taken on the Jacksonville Jaguars. So, stay tuned for that, as well as an update from another young pass defender who's finally starting to get the recognition he deserves.

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 22 Sep 2010

61 comments, Last at 04 Oct 2010, 4:15am by ThomasL


by Mike B. In Va :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 11:44am

Good read. As someone with no real stake in the Eagles other than liking the system they run, it will be interesting to see how this plays out. Since I didn't watch the game, some of the comments on Vick and his different pocket skills are very enlightening.

by qed :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 11:48am

I have no doubt that Suh will continue to be an impact player in his rookie season, but going up against Mike McGlynn and Nick Cole might not be the best test of a DT.

I think Cosell summed up the Vick move best: "I believe this has more to do with Kevin Kolb than Michael Vick". It's clear that the Eagles staff no longer believes Kolb will become a franchise quarterback. I think Vick is a good quarterback to have in a rebuilding year while you're developing your franchise guy, unfortunately the Eagles won't even have that guy on the roster until at least April. Reid and the staff had three years and several actual NFL games to develop and evaluate Kolb and they made the wrong choice this past offseason.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:08pm

Fine time to figure that out - after you pay Kolb $12 mil.

by Sean McCormick :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:31pm

I'm pretty sure that this doesn't equate to a vote of no-confidence for Kolb's entire career. I could be wrong, certainly, but I wouldn't read too much into it other than that Reid thinks Vick will give him a better chance to win next week.

by kamiyu206 :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:43pm

Actually, Andy Reid said he still believes Kolb will be a championship-caliber quarterback. But if he really thinks so, I think he should give him more than a single quarter of action before putting him on the bench. This decision will destroy Kolb's confidence for sure.

by qed :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:34pm

I don't think it means they suddenly believe Kolb is terrible, or that he won't develop into a "championship caliber" quarterback in the "hey-remember-when-Trent-Dilfer-won-the-SuperBowl" sense. But if Reid really thought that Kolb was likely to develop into a top-5 QB then Kolb would have been given a longer leash than this.

It's possible that Reid really believes that the 2010 Eagles have a real chance at an NFC championship or even a Super Bowl title, and that he's willing to put Kolb's development on hold to take that shot. It's also possible that Andy thinks his job is in jeopardy if the Eagles don't perform well this year. Neither one of those make sense to me, which is why I think it's more about Kolb's performance than Vick's.

by Southern Philly :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:43pm

"But if Reid really thought that Kolb was likely to develop into a top-5 QB then Kolb would have been given a longer leash than this."

This is why this move is so infuriating. If Reid does not think that Kolb can get the job done, then either A) he shouldn't have dealt McNabb, B) he's basing it off of 6 quarters of 3 pre-season games and one half against a top defense or C) he should have made Vick the starter from the get-go. Which ever option you chose, Reid's totally mishandled it.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:56pm

or worse yet, he's basing it in part on 4 quarters against what could at best be a bottom-quartile defense. Woo! Vick tore up the Lions! Woo!

It's true from what I've read that Vick did play much more like a NFL quarterback, but man, that's one game. Seems like a poor decision to me as well.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 10:08am

I'm not totally convinced, after watching the Bears game (didn't see them against the Eagles), that the Lions are a bottom quartile defense. I think they may be about league average.

Though it's certainly true that Michael Vick has always loved him some tight ends, and tight ends have always loved them some C.C. Brown.

As a LeSean McCoy fantasy owner, I'm all in favour of the Vick for Kolb move.

by Southern Philly :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 1:52pm

They're still terrible. Aside from Delmas, their secondary is horrible. CC Brown, who we all know is completely over his head. Chris Houston, who couldn't start for Atlanta's 5th worst pass defense. Jonathan Wade, who couldn't start for St. Louis. The line is certainly improved, but man, they can't cover anyone.

by Sisyphus :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 8:30pm

I don't see this as so much a condemnation of Kolb as a general verdict on the pass protection afforded by their offensive line. The line play is such that the quarterback has to be able to move quickly and effectively or he is going to get killed. Kolb just doesn't have the experience or athleticism to survive behind that line.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 11:58am

I'm sceptical towards Vick, but hearing praises like these certainly makes me reevaluate. I only saw him against GB, and I was not completely sober. I'll definately have to see for myself this weekend!

by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:02pm

I've always been a Vick fan, but more because he makes great television than because he was a great NFL quarterback. Michael Vick was a great option quarterback in Atlanta who was trying to survive the NFL. The fact that he did so, and even succeeded somewhat, is a testament to his athleticism.

He's still four or five years younger than Peyton Manning; if he starts usuing his athleticism to avoid being hit, rather than encourage it, he could be a great quarterback in the Randall Cunningham/Donovan McNabb mold. Which is a good thing for Philadelphia.

Of course, they had the ACTUAL Donovan McNabb until they foolishly sent him to Washington, a quarterback with a better-than-2:1 TD-INT ratio. It's one thing for Green Bay to let Favre go in the twilight of his career; it's quite another for Philadelphia to let McNabb go just as they were beginning to recover from the Post-Terrell Owens funk, when McNabb finally had actual receivers to throw to again.

Philadelphia should have traded Kolb; a team should ALWAYS trade an unproven quarterback in preference to a proven one. If the past few years have told us anything, it's that NO ONE can predict whether a quarterback will succeed in the NFL in advance.

If you have a franchise quarterback, you should keep them until they retire. Period.

by ammek :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:18pm

Green Bay didn't really let Favre go; he "retired".

Neither was he exactly at the "twilight" of his career: he was coming off his best season in a decade, and he's still going three years later. If Rodgers had been a flop à la Brian Brohm, while Favre was taking Minnesota to two divisional titles, the Packers' front office and coaching staff would have been run out of town.

by kamiyu206 :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:39pm

Scramble quarterback usually ages in not-so-graceful fashion. Perhaps it's because they use their athleticism as one of the main weapons, and they get beat up much more than pocket passers in their younger days.

McNabb is 34 year old scrambing quarterback. (Though he doesn't scramble much now.) He had lots of major/minor injuries. It's not hard to find out why Eagles let him go and chose a younger quarterback at this time.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:45pm

McNabb hasn't been a scrambling QB for years. You have to go back to 2006 to find a time when it was a significant part of his game. He had his 2nd & 3rd best statistical years as a passer in 2008 & 2009. So... your point is factually incorrect. He aged quite gracefully.

by kamiyu206 :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:01pm

I said he doesn't scramble much now. Also, I did not say he aged ungracefully until this point. But there is a possibility that he will not age well from NOW.

And you can see why. Since 2005, McNabb played full season just once. (in 2008) He suffered lots of injuries. His average games played during 2005~2009 is 12.6. Not an encouraging number for an aging quarterback.

Also, he did not have his 2nd & 3rd best statistical years as a passer in 2008 & 2009. In 2008, yes but in 2009? You can say his 2003, 2005, and 2006 or even 2007 were equal, or better than 2009.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:08pm

Fair enough. I was flipping through DVOA and I seem to have gotten the 2009 & 2006 numbers mixed up. Listen, I agree that moving on from McNabb made sense. But moving on from McNabb to... Michael Vick? That is an idea I just can't get behind.

by JoeHova :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 2:42pm

Are you sure that scramblers age ungracefully? I'm not sure I agree. Besides Vick, the 3 most famous scrambling QBs that I can think of are Cunningham, Young, and Tarkenton. All 3 made at least one Pro Bowl after turning 35. Young set career highs in yards and TDs when he was 37 and Tarkenton led the league in yards (also picks, to be fair) when he was 38.

by DW94 :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 4:05pm

Roger Staubach could be added to that list as well.

by kamiyu206 :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 10:53pm

I remember I've seen the research about this before, but I can't find it.

Cunningham played grand total of 64games from age 30 to retirement. It's 8games per season. Whether it's injury related or simply his teammate were better than him, it's not a good number. (For comparison's sake, he played 97games from his rookie season to age 29. It's 12.125games per season.)

Young played well till his old days, that's for sure but even he suffered some injuries that he did not have in his younger days. Though I admit he played well besides the injuries.

Tarkenton was durable and played well. Though his last 2 seasons weren't that good, but most quarterbacks regressed in their late 30's so it doesn't seem like a big deal.

Other notable scrambling quarterbacks you might've seen are Steve McNair and Daunte Culpepper. McNair suffered major/minor injuries from his 30's and he retired after his age 34 season. Culpepper was simply garbage in his 30's, when he lost Randy Moss and his rushing ability.

Yes, "Scrambling quarterbacks breakdown earlier than pocket passers" theory might me a myth, but logically I can see why someone claim this. They rely on their atheletic ability much so when they lose it, it's very hard to make it up. Also, scramblers usually get sacked much more than pocket passers, and it can lead to various injuries especially in their 30's.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:39pm

I actually think the most telling play for how Vick has changed was in the Packers game. The Eagles had 3rd and goal from the 4. Vick evades the rush, escapes the pocket, rolls out and throws an incomplete pass to DeSean Jackson - just barely off the mark. What was notable is that Vick almost certainly should have run it in, there was significant space for him to take off for the goal-line and it would have been more likely to score than the throw to Jackson.

However, Vick didn't seem to notice the space in front of him because he kept his eyes down the field the whole time he was scrambling. He was clearly more concerned with his reads and using his mobility to make a play down-field than simply using his legs to take off running. Sure, it was probably the wrong decision in that particular case (and not scoring a TD then is what ultimately put them in a position to lose the game)... but it was an encouraging wrong decision.

by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:47pm

That's a very good point -- the bad decisions he made for good reasons. Makes you wonder what he might be when (if) the new training wheels come off and he develops his instincts as to when to pull it down to the millisecond.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:42pm

Also, I didn't see Vick too much in Atlanta, but I don't think it can be understated how much he helps the running game. DVOA has shown significant increase in RB numbers in tandem with mobile QB's and seeing LeSean McCoy succeed proves it conclusively. Last year, McCoy looked like he had no business being on an NFL field and now he's leading the league in DVOA and is #2 in DYAR. It is unreal. I think any discussion of Vick's capabilities needs to take that into account.

by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:49pm

Another good point. I asked Greg about this, because it was my impression that that kind of mobility forces wider splits, as especially mobile spread quarterbacks tend to in college. He mentioned that the Lions' D-line, which tends to play wide anyway, was definitely affected by the threat of Vick out of the picket.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:00pm

I was just looking at McNabb in 2006 stats, which I think is really the only year he put it all together, when he had learned the lessons of how to be a real pass-first QB but still could led the league in QB rushing DVOA (and be #2 in DYAR.) That was the year he had the knee injury that he never really came back from as far as being a true Vick-type running threat. Anyway, the Eagles had the #2 rushing DVOA that year, it was the year that Westbrook really broke out, the Eagles had the highest offensive DVOA of the McNabb era... if the Eagles can get half of that out of Vick's presence, they will be in amazing shape. Seems possible considering the Eagles leading WR's in 2006 were Donte Stallworth, Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett. I think Jackson, Maclin, Avant might be a bit of an upgrade. Also Celek is better than L.J. Smith according to most metrics.

by the cat in the box is dead (not verified) :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:32pm

I always thought the traditional 'Fastest LB Spies Vick' thing was the source of all the improvement on RB play- you take the eyes of the quickest second-level defender off his run keys and onto the QB, and that's going to buy you a lot of half-steps and seams that otherwise wouldn't be there.

They were using that to full effect in the Detroit game- a couple of runs I saw, LeSean McCoy took the ball and Vick ran along outside him, as if it was an option play or for all the world like a rugby player backing his guy up and waiting for the offload pass in the tackle. I wouldn't be able to say that it had an effect, but it makes sense to me that if I was a Linebacker and saw both McCoy and Vick running at me full tilt, I'd hesitate at least a fraction of a second to make sure I knew who had the ball.

by qed :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:39pm

To get much value out of the Vick-improves-the-running-game phenomenon the Eagles would need to call more running plays. Will Andy and Marty change their offensive scheme to suit Vick? History says "probably not", but after yesterday's announcement I don't think that anything Andy Reid does for the rest of the season will surprise me. Maybe McCoy will be getting 30 carries a game, with 20 of them coming out of the I.

Or maybe we'll continue to see entire series of ace-3WR-shotgun.

by the cat in the box is dead (not verified) :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 3:58pm

To be fair, I've seen them run pretty effectively out of that personnel grouping and formation. They're never going to turn into the Titans, but they've been mixing in the run fairly effectively so far.

by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 12:52pm

I don't know if there's a better "their skill sets make each other way more scary than they would be apart" QB-WR combo in the league right now than Mike Vick and DeSean Jackson. You do NOT want Jackson running around the field while Vick's legs buy him extra seconds.

by jw124164 :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:02pm

If it's really just a matter of coaching fundamentals that has made such a difference with Vick, then Jim Mora should replace Bobby Petrino and/or Vick as the most hated man in Falcon's history.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:13pm

Well, I don't know how much you can blame them. Before Vick went to jail and was significantly humbled, he might very well have been uncoachable. There are plenty of stories of him straight-up ignoring his coaches in the Atlanta years.

Also, Reid has a long history of maximizing QB potential, with cast-offs and also-rans like A.J. Feely and Jeff Garcia (even Kolb last year) putting up great stats in limited playing time and leading the Eagles into the playoffs. I can't think of a coach who has gone to the playoffs as much with such a variety of QB's getting significant playing time - in a 10 year span he's had McNabb, Feely and Garcia all lead (that is, these teams weren't carried by the defense and running games) the Eagles into the playoffs by winning 5 or more games.

by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:17pm

Joe Gibbs is probably the best relatively modern comparison, I would think.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:19pm

As soon as I wrote that, I thought "Well, I'm no historian. I should just stick to what I know and I don't know pre-1990 football." But, yeah, Gibbs for sure. And I think Gibbs probably could've done something with Vick as well.

by dmb :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 4:17pm

Even post-1990, Gibbs had playoff teams with late-career Mark Brunell and Jason Campbell/Todd Collins at the helm, and had a dominant, Super Bowl-winning squad led by Mark Rypien.

by tuluse :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 5:03pm

Mike Martz too.

On the other hand, Jim Mora did horribly in Seattle, and Vick's best season was the year before Mora showed up.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 10:20am

And Shanahan - Griese and Plummer weren't exactly the world's greatest quarterbacks, but they both went to pro bowls in Denver, and both led playoff teams.

by Harris :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 5:05pm

I would disagree about Garcia. His primary job was to give the ball to Westbrook. Now, he did a fine job of that -- there was a significant groundswell for BWest to win league MVP that year -- but Garcia followed much more than he led.

Hail Hydra!

by t.d. :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:27pm

I wouldn't be shocked to discover that Mora isn't a very good football coach

by t.d. :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:17pm

I was thrilled that Suh fell to the Lions, because Lions fans deserve to root for great players.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:59pm

thanks! It's very early, but so far, it looks like the 2010 draft is paying great dividends ... what a change from nine years ago.

by kamiyu206 :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:37pm

Ok, if Michael Vick plays well throughout the season, how will fans react?

Will they say "See? Vick was good in Atlanta. He just lacked serviceable supporting casts then. You stat guys don't know nothing about football!"

or praising Andy Reid and Eagles coaching staffs for making Vick a different quarterback from his Atalanta days.

I doubt latter will happen.

by DavidL :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 2:12pm

I will react by deep-frying my hat and eating it with cheese.

by OneLeinart (not verified) :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 4:30pm

Speaking on the eating of hats, I wonder how Tanier is doing?

by bubqr :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:39pm

I'm ready to put money on the fact that Kolb is not as bad as the whole NFL seems to think right now. And find a bit funny that people are saying that 1 quarter and a half of play "doomed" Kolb, while they traded their franchise QB to let him start, and had 3 years to evaluate him. But hey.

I trust Andy Reid on that : Vick starting tells a lot more about Vick than Kolb.

by qed :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 1:43pm

I think it was the preseason play more than the Packers game that sealed it for Kolb. Andy Reid is putting the best spin he can on Kolb to keep his trade value/"confidence" high, why would he do anything else? It's not like Reid would gain anything by coming out and saying "Look, we now believe Kolb's ceiling is somewhere around Brad Johnson, we're not wasting time developing him when Vick gives us a better chance to win".

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 2:15pm

I dunno.

I'm of the oppinion that Reid has Kolb on the bench because hes afraid hes going to get killed behind that line. Vick is a much better fit for how bad the line is right now.

3 preseason games and a quarter of real game isn't enough time to go from "This guy is the Franchise QB", to "hes not starter material".

by CornerBlitz :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 10:57pm

This is a very astute observation; Philly's pass protection is not good, and Vick is less risky behind it. There are certainly more factors than Kolb's play vs. Vick's in this decision.


by Peregrine :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 3:05pm

For Falcons fans, and various Falcons message boards, it's deja vu all over again. How awesome. I really missed reading about this guy.

Philly fans, here's what you should expect if this experiment lasts for a while: there will be games when he is indisputably the best player in the stadium, and there will be games when you wonder what the heck he is doing. How you feel about rooting for the guy is a totally different matter. I'm glad he's somewhere else.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 3:08pm

You know peregrine falcons are the fastest animals in known existence. that's all i can think when i see your name.

by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 3:37pm

Maybe when everyone starts to wonder what the heck he is doing, Andy will pull a Kolb out of his hat. You know, to provide a spark

by ChaosOnion (not verified) :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 3:33pm

Vick can play behind the current Eagles O-line, Kolb cannot. He was unsuccessful in preseason with a suspect line and got concussed against GB. Until McGlynn gets his crap together and makes the right line calls against the blitz, Kolb is a sitting duck. If he gets concussed again, he will be out for the year.

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Wed, 09/22/2010 - 7:23pm

RE 20:

Denny Green comes to mind as well when recalling coaches who took several different qb's to the playoffs.

by BGNoMore (not verified) :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 9:58pm

Ah, I remember the good old days when you could get a Cover-3 every week, not just a Cover-2. This is just like when they down-sized the Snickers bar, except Farrar offers neither peanuts nor nougat. A good article, though.

My own take on Suh (lacking both width and breadth vs. Doug's) is of a physical specimen having initial impact mostly due to physical superiority. This is not to say Suh has no technique; he does, and Doug describes it very well above. No, what I see is the potential for vastly better technique which, when combined with Suh's physical gifts, will result in an Armageddon Machine that even James West would struggle with defeating.

I am less sanguine with Vick. Granted, in two games he has shown himself to be the most electric player in the league -- once he tucks the football. I've been impressed with many of his throws, delivering on the promise he showed us once upon a time of a strong, accurate arm situated atop an extraordinary athletic body. But he also showed me enough of the comically inaccurate throws that I am not a buyer. Yet.

by Doug Farrar :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 11:42pm

I must protest! Cover-2 still clocked in about 3,000 words, so the Snickers is of the same approximate size. I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'...

You put your finger on it -- I wondered how Suh would fare with certain techniques at the NFL level, because he was able to simply physically overwhelm a lot of guards in college. And now, the guards who don't have a lot of talent are at least big enough to make up for it. I have no doubt that he will find ways around those issues in time. Until then, it's fun to watch the eventual Suh explode once in a while.

by BGNoMore (not verified) :: Fri, 09/24/2010 - 7:56pm

You protest? Whenever you get hungry, all you do is protest. Frankly, thou dost protest too much. Please, eat a Snickers.

(P.S. I need your advice. Now that I have abandoned the Broncos, as you once did, how does one pick a new team to root for?)

by Doug Farrar :: Fri, 09/24/2010 - 10:35pm

Hmmm. Well, I grew up with the Broncos, and I now cover the Seahawks. That's like jumping out of the frying pan ... into a slightly larger, more oddly-shaped frying pan. I may not be the person to help you with this.

by Mr Shush :: Sat, 09/25/2010 - 12:32pm

I hear there's a decent little team down on the Gulf Coast run by a bunch of guys you may remember favourably from your Broncos days . . .

by CornerBlitz :: Thu, 09/23/2010 - 10:55pm

Maybe the real story behind dealing McNabb is that they couldn't have avoided finding out whether Vick or Kolb was the QB of the Future.

I criticized the Eagles for ditching McNabb as much as anybody, and I still think that his movement to a division rival was a bad call. But it's hard to argue with the logic that Philly had to find out what they had in Kolb AND in Vick. They had an embarrassment of riches at QB:

A) an established veteran who will presumably begin a decline sooner rather than later
B) a highly-touted (and highly paid) youngster who has shown flashes of brilliance as well as maddening inconsistency
C) an electrifying athlete who, apparently, could become a very good QB in the proper environment and with the proper priorities

I still think Philly is rebuilding somewhat, but Vick's play right now is not something that opposing defenses look forward to. He's showing that he can be a QB who can run, not a RB who can throw.

Good piece; I think it was a good call to devote the majority of this article to this analysis. Thanks.


by ThomasL :: Mon, 10/04/2010 - 4:15am

I would start Vick for the same reason given here: his athleticism give the Eagles more chances to win, while keeping Kolb healthy for the future, if needed. I disagree with those who are down on Vick - he's a much better QB after leaving prison and Atlanta, in no particular order.

I didn't think McNabb was as good as the press described, but definitely a playoff level QB. I believe that both Kolb and Vick can be Superbowl QBs, and that Vick can be that with the 2010 Eagles O-line. Think not? Think Rex Grossman.

And speaking of coaching geniuses, does Lovie Smith get any credit? Imagine taking a team to the Superbowl three years after hiring Terry Shea! Rex Grossman, out with a leg injury. Urlacher, out with a hamstring. Jonathon Quinn who was benched after looking like the worst backup quarterback ever, for a rookie Craig Krenzel, whose coach for the previous four years, Jim Tressel, is well-known for dynamic play-calling that takes full advantage of a QB's play-making and passing ability. And the Bears won their first three games with Krenzel as QB. TD passes to Berrian and Vasher. Second game - another TD pass to Berrian and a 41 yarder to Vasher. Third game - TD pass to Haynes. Krenzel's first NFL loss was to Indianapolis with Passing offense 69.1%. Fifth game - TD to McQuarters. Did I mention that Vasher, Haynes and McQuarters played for the Bears defense?

Then look at Krenzel's stats. Don't eat before doing this. Bears 2004 offensive DVOA -36.1%. Weighted offense -46.5%. Passing offense -51.2%.
Bears QBs:
Rex Grossman (injured, 1-2) DVOA -12.2%.
Jonathon Quinn (three games, 0-3) DVOA -64.6% (!)
Craig Krenzel (five games, injured, 3-2!) DVOA -83.9% (!) what's the record? This has to be worst ever for an NFL winning QB.
Hutchinson (four games, 1-4) DVOA -37.4%, almost respectable by comparison.

Are we sure the DVOA is on the QB and not the offensive coordinator?