Philadelphia Eagles: 7 Reasons Mike Vick Should Rebound in 2012

Cody Swartz@cbswartz5Senior Writer IFebruary 8, 2012

Philadelphia Eagles: 7 Reasons Mike Vick Should Rebound in 2012

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    Michael Vick’s MVP play at quarterback was supposed to be a key reason why the Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to run the tables in 2011. Dubbed the “Dream Team” in preseason, the Eagles had their sights set on nothing less than a Super Bowl championship after a spending spree that saw the team bring in six former Pro Bowlers.

    Vick regressed badly though in 2011, exhibiting many of the same characteristics that made him frequently criticized back in Atlanta. Vick was oft-injured, he was erratic and his accuracy suffered. Vick missed three games due to injury and turned the ball over an absurd amount of times when he did play.

    As a result, the Eagles vastly underachieved, finishing just 8-8 and missing the playoffs in a division in which nine wins would have been enough.

    Despite the disappointing season, there are many reasons in which both Eagles fans, and Vick fans can expect a rebound in 2012.

Fourth Quarter Defense

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    The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles played some of the worst fourth-quarter football any team has played in recent years.

    Five times, the team took a lead into the final quarter yet lost; four times it happened in front of the home crowd.

    As a result, this placed extra pressure on Michael Vick to get the job done. Against San Francisco in Week 4, the Eagles held a 23-3 lead, but when the defense gave up 21 unanswered second-half points, it was up to Vick to lead the Eagles back.

    It was different for Vick than it would be for a caretaker quarterback like Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers or Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets. For those players, they simply had to hand the ball off and let their running game shine and their defense protect a big lead.

    Vick is counted on to make plays and lead the Eagles back. Simply put, the Eagles won’t be as bad in the fourth quarter in 2012 because it almost can’t be possible.

    2011 was an aberration, an all-time awful year defensively, placing an extraordinary amount of pressure on Vick.

Full Offseason as Starting Quarterback

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    Don’t forget that Michael Vick still hasn’t had an entire offseason as the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback.

    In 2009, Vick was used sparingly, mainly in the Wildcat offense. He took over as the starter midway through 2010 when Kevin Kolb was hurt, and Vick played well enough to keep the job. He was hurt by the lockout for several months in the summer of 2011, which didn’t allow players to work with their coaches.

    Vick’s struggles in 2011 were significant, but an entire offseason before 2012 should be the best thing for Vick.

    He hasn’t seen a change in the offensive coordinator or head coach, and he knows the system extremely well. In the new passing NFL, Vick should be primed for a big season.

Another Year for Young Offensive Linemen

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    Two of the five offensive linemen for the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were rookies—center Jason Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins.

    Kelce started all 16 games and rated as a -14.6, according to Pro Football Focus, a website that grades each player on every play.

    This put Kelce 33rd out of 35 qualifying centers. Kelce received especially low marks for his pass-blocking abilities.

    At right guard, Kyle DeVan was awful, yielding two sacks and 10 quarterback pressures in just four starts before the team finally released him. Danny Watkins struggled vastly in his 12 starts, grading as a -8.4. He didn’t give up any sacks, but he gave up more than his share (23) of pressures.

    Every young lineman sees growing pains, and Kelce and Watkins were no exception. They should be better in 2012 though and by significant measures. The team liked Kelce enough to promote him to the starting spot above five-year starter Jamaal Jackson.

    Watkins was a first-round pick, and he is a big, physical player who should show a lot of improvement in year two.

Michael Vick Is Fully Healthy Again

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    Michael Vick spent 2011 as banged up as he’s ever been in his career.

    There was the concussion against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2, the hand contusion the following week and the dislocated finger the next week. In Week 11, Vick broke several ribs and ended up missing three games, during which the Philadelphia Eagles went just 1-2.

    Vick returns in 2012 after a full offseason in which he had sufficient time to heal. The style of football in which he plays the game is reckless enough that he is always a risk to get injured; few players in the league are as much of a risk on a consistent basis to get hurt as Vick. After all, Vick has played all 16 games in a season just once in his career.

    But he has played 15 games three times and even last year in the most injury-plagued season of his career, he still suited up for 13 contests. He’s tougher than people realize. How many quarterbacks would have played an entire game with a pair of broken ribs, as Vick did against Arizona?

    2012 will be a fresh chance for Vick to re-establish himself as one of the game’s best quarterbacks.

Bad Luck

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    Michael Vick had a ridiculous amount of bad luck in 2011.

    Against the San Francisco 49ers, Jeremy Maclin fumbled away the ball as the Philadelphia Eagles were driving for a score, resulting in a one-point loss for the Eagles. Had Maclin held onto the ball, the Eagles probably would have ended up scoring and won the game.

    The following week against the Buffalo Bills, Jason Avant was hit as he tried to secure a fourth-down pass from Michael Vick late in the game with the Eagles down by seven. The ball was flipped up in the air and subsequently picked off, taking away another opportunity from Vick to lead a game-winning drive. Earlier in that game was the now-infamous Ronnie Brown lateral; take both of these plays away, and the Eagles win that game and make the playoffs.

    Costly plays happen to every quarterback, but an unusually high number seemed to happen to Vick. The quarterback receives the credit for the wins and the blame for the losses, and Vick was criticized far too much for the Eagles’ poor season.

    By the simple law of statistics, 2012 should be a better year for Vick. He was extremely fortunate in 2010, as many of his should-be interceptions were dropped.

    With 2011 being his unlucky year, he’s due for a year right in the middle.

No Pressure to Be the Best

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    The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were picked by all to be the best team in the NFL.

    The team went on an offseason spending spree, acquiring big-name players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on defense, plus Vince Young, Ronnie Brown and Steve Smith on offense.

    Backup quarterback Young made the remark that the Eagles were like a Dream Team; the label then turned the team into a mockery when they started 1-4, blowing three fourth-quarter leads in a row.

    No one will be picking the Eagles to win the division in 2012, let alone represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. The New York Giants finished just 9-7, but they marched through the playoffs, knocking off the New England Patriots to be crowned world champions.

    The Dallas Cowboys just missed the postseason and have playmakers at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. The Eagles will be expected to finish with maybe eight or nine wins, but anything more will be a surprise.

    Being the underdog for a change should actually help the Eagles.

His Numbers Weren’t as Bad as People Think

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    People seem to think Michael Vick was an awful quarterback in 2011. He wasn’t awful by any means. In fact, he had one of his better seasons.

    Let me explain: From 2002 through 2005, Vick made three Pro Bowls by posting passer ratings of 81.6, 78.1 and 73.1. His passer rating this year was 84.9—the second-best total of his career.

    He threw for a career-high 3,303 yards even though he missed three games due to injury. His 59.8 completion percentage was the second-best total of his career. His 14 interceptions represented the highest single-season total of his nine years, but he also threw more passes than ever before. Vick was also sacked just 5.2 percent of the time—the best rate of his career.

    When it came to running the ball, Vick was as good as ever, even at 31 years old. His touchdowns were down (just one), but he averaged 7.8 yards per rush. His career average is 7.2. He ran the ball fewer than any other full season in the NFL, meaning he looked to pass more than he wanted to just take off and run. Even his 10 fumbles—although it’s a lot of times to lose the football—was on par with his seasonal averages.

    Football is a team game, but as anyone who follows the sport knows, the quarterback typically receives more than his share of the credit for a win and more than his share of the blame for a loss.

    After getting too much credit for the success of virtually every team he has ever been on, Vick was blamed too much for the Eagles’ downfall in 2011. Vince Young was awful, there were two rookies on the offensive line, the linebackers and safeties were as bad as any unit in the NFL, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo appeared lost out there on the sidelines, rookie kicker Alex Henery missed several key kicks and no one was helped by the lockout.

    That's why 2012 will be a bounce-back season, not only for Vick but the entire Eagles' team.