Philadelphia Eagles  

 

This is the Michael Vick we remember -- only better

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We're only six quarters into the second act of The Michael Vick Experience, but the reviews of the sequel have already exceeded the buzz of the original.

While many expected Vick to provide an electrifying reel of highlight plays as the Eagles' "Wildcat" triggerman, he has surpassed expectations by playing at an all-star level as a conventional quarterback.


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Vick has compiled an impressive 105.5 passer rating while connecting on 63.9 percent of his passes for 459 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for 140 yards and provided a handful of jaw-dropping plays while evading the rush in the pocket.

Vick's effect goes beyond the numbers, as the Eagles' offense has responded to his presence on the field. The Eagles have erupted for 52 points in Vick's six quarters and produced a flurry of big plays that has sent shockwaves throughout the league.

You would expect a Vick-led offense to produce plays as a result of his athleticism and improvisational skills, but the Eagles are getting outstanding production in the passing game with him at the helm. He has already completed six passes that have covered at least 20 yards, and his two completions over 40 yards rank only behind Philip Rivers among league leaders.

Vick, who's never been known for being a conventional passer, has cleaned up his footwork and mechanics under the watchful eyes of Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. Although Vick has one of the strongest arms in the league, he would often fail to use his legs in his throws. The "arm-only" throws would routinely sail over the head of his receivers on short and intermediate tosses. That's not the case this season.

Vick has been more consistent with his balance and body control prior to making his throws, and he has dramatically improved his accuracy on his throws of all ranges. Though he hasn't completey eliminated the inexplicable ground balls to wide open receivers, he has been far more accurate on his routine throws, and that has pushed his completion percentage over 60 percent for the first time in his career.

It's obvious that the Eagles have worked with Vick on his decision-making in the pocket. He has shown better patience waiting for his plays to develop and resisted the urge to try to create a big play on every down. You can see it in his 58 consecutive passes without an interception. Vick has avoided some of the careless turnovers that previously plagued him during his tenure in Atlanta.

Vick currently ranks fourth in the league in passing efficiency (105.5) and has posted back-to-back games with a passer rating over 100 for only the second time in his career.

Even with this improvement as a passer, Vick's ability to be dangerous with his outstanding athleticism makes him one of the most dangerous playmakers at the position. The ninth-year pro has gotten his legs back after struggling to regain his form last season following an 18-month stint in the federal penitentiary for his involvement in a dog fighting operation.

Vick looked slightly overweight while serving as a part-time player and only provided flashes of the sensational running skills that helped him become one of only three quarterbacks (Steve Young and Randall Cunningham the others) to amass 4,000 rushing yards in a career. However, Vick has looked trim and fit this season, and the improved conditioning has helped him recapture some of the explosive athleticism that made him such a dynamic weapon as a dual-threat quarterback.

That athleticism has been essential to the Eagles' success the past two weeks because Vick has been able to mask some of the offensive line's woes in pass protection. Though he has been sacked eight times in a game and a half of action, he has avoided several unimpeded rushers in the pocket, turning those potentially negative plays into big ones.

Usually it takes evaluating at least four games to make solid assessments on the talent of a player. But this is different. The Michael Vick Experience brings about an energy and excitement that casts conventional wisdom to the side.

Though only six quarters represents a little more than a trailer, this sequel has blockbuster written all over it.

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