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Can Vick repeat success of 2010? Don't bet against it

I believe in Michael Vick.

I believe in his ability to post another season with a quarterback rating around 100. I believe in his improved practice habits and film review and decision making. I believe, most of all, in Andy Reid's ability to identify a quarterback, and if he is fully sold on Vick to the point of franchising him and, ultimately, giving him a long-term contract, then I am on board.


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Monday:
» XLVI things to look forward to this NFL season
» Must-see TV: Most-anticipated game of 2011 season
» Let's not inscribe Super Bowl rings for Eagles just yet
» For Patriots, Ochocinco, Haynesworth are risks worth taking

Tuesday:
» Who will be next 'elite' QB to join list of Super Bowl winners?
» Cowboys, Colts could be left out of the mix come playoff time
» Proliferation of spread offense has NFL defenses on the run
» Cutler's game, not attitude, must improve to take Super step

Wednesday:
» These five players have potential for breakout seasons
» Surprise stars from 2010 appear to have staying power
» Can Vick repeat success of 2010? Don't bet against it
» Star search: Who will rise from obscurity this season?

Thursday:
» NFL division power rankings: NFC North tops list
» Three reasons why things are again bleak in NFC West
» More than shtick, winning is what Jets' Ryan does best
» Five in, five out: Will NFL playoff parity party continue?

Friday:
» Who will pick first in the 2012 NFL Draft?
» Some rookie QBs could find themselves on the field soon
» Newton's special but he has a whole lot to learn
» Dominating Steelers defense won't fall off in 2011

But there are concerns, for sure. Can he stay healthy? Will the offensive line be where it needs to be? Will he be vulnerable to the blitz-happy strategy that teams seemed to be throwing at him in the second half of last season?

To me, those are the key questions that will define Vick's season and, ultimately, the Eagles' fortunes.

I was in Pittsburgh in Week 2 of the preseason for Vick's worst moments on the field since returning to the NFL. He was, frankly, brutal against the Steelers. He was forcing balls into high-traffic areas with, at one point, three Pittsburgh defensive backs within striking distance of the ball. He threw sideline touch passes in a quadrant in which only a safety could catch them. It was ugly.

But to hear Vick after the game, you knew that he knew exactly what he did wrong. Not being patient. Trying to make it happen on one particular play. Falling into old habits and forgetting the reads and progressions that Reid has hammered into his head. After all this man has been through, and as hard as he has worked to restore his career and get out from massive financial hardship and provide for his family (his recently signed six-year, $100 million contract should help), there is no doubt in my mind that the mental side will be just fine.

He has become a much more complete quarterback. And he remains an All-World playmaker. And with the ball in his hand, there is no one in the league more feared by defenders. He is utterly unpredictable.

But that's where the physical side kicks in. That's why he takes so many punishing hits. That's what could keep him from duplicating the success of a year ago. His protection, I suspect, will not be sterling. He is always going to have that instinct to take the ball upfield. Teams are more geared up to blitz him now.

If he does not learn to slide, if he does not use the sidelines as an ally, if he locks onto receivers, then things could turn for the worse.

But let's not forget all that Mike Vick has going for him. He has superb coaching. He has a running game that can be explosive. He and DeSean Jackson are a ridiculous duo. Vick has a monster arm and Jackson can run under the ball in a way that few people in this game can. Jeremy Maclin will be back on the field soon enough, and he can work underneath and attack defenders with yards after the catch. Brent Celek is a top-notch pass-catching tight end.

If the Eagles have a more balanced pass rush, and if their secondary is as good as it looks on paper, then the turnovers will come -- along with short fields and playing with a lead and all of the things that can make a quarterback thrive. If Vick finds a way to start all 16 games, then without a doubt he can eclipse last season's marks.

I fully expect him to be in the most valuable player conversation again this year. I believe 2010 was anything but a fluke. But we also have to assess quarterback play as a function of the overall team. Defenses are better prepared for Vick than they were at this time last year. He isn't surprising anyone this time around.

Talking to defensive coordinators, aggressive approaches will become the norm. And as long as Vick is connecting with Jackson for back-breaking bombs, then those same coordinators will be stewing in their sneakers. If the pressure causes Vick to turn the ball over himself, or if that offensive line can't hold up and we end up seeing a lot more of Vince Young than most projected, then the feel-good NFL story of 2010 won't have the same ending this time around.

But if you're making me guess, I'm not going to count Vick out. Compared to what he's already overcome away from the game of football, this is all relatively surmountable.

Follow Jason La Canfora on Twitter @JasonLaCanfora

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