Philadelphia Eagles: 4 Ways to Overcome Michael Vick's Inevitable Injury
Vick has been injured in both of his seasons with the Eagles, and at 31 years of age, is only getting older and more injury-prone. Considering that he has had a history of injury dating back from his Atlanta Falcons' days, it seems likely that Vick will again be injured in 2012.
However, most of Vick's injuries have not been major season-ending injuries, and Vick can be expected to miss only a few games. But how well the Eagles play in Vick's absence could have very real consequences, such as determining whether the Eagles make the postseason, win the division or secure a high seed.
Here are four ways that the Eagles can overcome Vick's seemingly inevitable injury...
1. Selecting the Right Backup Quarterback
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Perhaps, the most direct approach to surviving without Vick is to have a suitable backup quarterback. The Eagles attempted to accomplish this last season with Vince Young and failed horribly. But in 2012, the right backup is key to winning the majority of the games without Vick at the helm.
Whether the Eagles select Mike Kafka due to his experience in the system, Nick Foles due to his higher upside and talent or Trent Edwards because of his better overall experience, the Eagles must select the right man.
Andy Reid has been very successful in the past, identifying A.J. Feeley, Jeff Garcia and Kevin Kolb as successful backups.
The strong play of those backups were crucial to the success of the Eagles during the Donovan McNabb era, as McNabb was also an injury-prone player. He must find a way to replicate the success he has had with previous second-string quarterbacks for the Eagles to reach their full potential.
2. Establishing a Strong, Consistent Running Game
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Despite the inconsistent play of Vick in 2011, the running game was surprisingly effective. LeSean McCoy emerged as one of the best running backs in the NFL, and what was one of the Eagles' biggest weaknesses became a team strength.
Just as a strong running game has helped the pre-Brett Favre Minnesota Vikings remain in playoff contention, an effective Eagles running game can take a great deal of pressure off Philadelphia's backup quarterback.
Reid is a coach who prefers to pass more, but he may have to change his approach in the future. If he can develop the Eagles into a strong running game, they will be less reliant upon superb quarterback play to win games. And therefore, it would be easier to deal with Vick's absence.
3. Improving the Play of the Defense
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The Eagles have moved on from the Jim Johnson era to become one of the most offensive-based teams in the NFL. However, with a plethora of defensive talent added last summer, the Eagles seemed poised for greatness, as they would be combining their already potent offense with perhaps one of the league's best defenses.
It was not to be. Players were often confused by the new defensive schemes, and gaping holes at linebacker were too difficult to overcome. But now, with a full season and offseason to learn the system and with the signing of former Pro Bowler DeMeco Ryans, the Eagles have the potential to once again become a defensive team. The improvement was very visible in the final four games of the 2011 season.
If the Eagles were to capitalize on all of their talent and defensive potential, they could become one of the most complete teams in the NFL. That would allow the Eagles to succeed without scoring over 20 points per game. Such a team could survive without Vick for a few games of the regular season.
4. Getting off to a Strong Start
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Too often, the Eagles start the season slowly only to have to catch up in the second half. This was true to the highest extreme last season, where the Eagles started out 1-4 and never recovered. If the Eagles can start out strong, such as 4-0, an injury to Vick would not be as devastating.
A strong start would give the Eagles a great deal of momentum going into the middle of the season. And as the Eagles play their best football in the month of December, a mediocre performance in Vick's absence would not keep the Eagles out of the postseason, as they would still have time for a late run.
The best teams in the NFL are always consistent. While there are teams that finish the season strong to make the playoffs and then go on to win the Super Bowl, the most consistently elite teams are those that consistently start the season strong and end it strong.
If the Eagles establish that culture in Philadelphia, the specifics of who's leading the offense into battle on Sunday will not have as drastic of an effect on the team's chemistry.