Only Michael Vick can stop Michael Vick.
That’s the picture being painted of the four-time Pro Bowler, whose Jamie-Foxx-in-Any-Given-Sunday style of play has garnered more criticism than praise as he enters a gut-check season in his career.
While his knack for the spectacular in the open field has always dropped jaws and provided glimpses of what a truly superior athlete can do, Vick became more and more aware in 2011 that his fragile 6’0", 215-pound frame doesn’t exactly lend itself to taking constant licks from salivating defenders.
More importantly, his reckless style of play hasn’t translated to success in the win column or preserved his body throughout the season, which is essential when the games reach playoff and Super Bowl intensity.
How many times have we seen teams dance around the .500 mark only to squeak into the playoffs, all of sudden get healthy, play with a new-found fire in their belly, and steal the Super Bowl. Success in the NFL is much more about waiting for the right time to peak than it is about going all out to get a few inches for a first down on second and five.
Vick’s need for success almost goes beyond a simple championship.
He plays for a franchise craving a championship like Andy Reid craves Cheese-wiz. Philadelphia football fans have felt the sting of being a bridesmaid to their steel-toed boot neighbors Pittsburgh for years, so no added pressure or anything right?
Oh, and there’s the whole still-needs-to-redeem-his-legacy-after-the-dogfighting-debacle. That may be old news to some people, but you can’t act like it’s still not playing a huge motivating factor in Vick’s mind.
Injuries served as the primary postseason axe when it come to Vick’s fantasy failure last season. His three-game absence down the stretch of last season cost the Eagles dearly. They lost two of three important games and would have gone 0-3 had it not been for a great defensive showing against the New York Giants in Week 11.
His late game departure against the Atlanta Falcons kept the Eagles from jumping out to a 2-1 record and his inability to finish the team’s first game against the New York Giants cost the Eagles another win. Those two occurrences could very well have been the difference between an 8-8 and 10-6 record.
But, sometimes you win and sometimes you learn. 2011 was just as important as 2010 for Vick.
He understands now that he can’t play with the same kind of reckless abandon that he has played with in years past. Not only that, but 2012 is Vick’s first full offseason as a clear-cut starter with the Philadelphia Eagles. From a chemistry standpoint, he’s had more time to gel with his young offensive line and receiving core.
He’s also got a more experienced defense backing him up that added a few valuable pieces during the offseason, mainly at linebacker in DeMeco Ryans. This defense is simply too talented to repeat last year’s disappointing output, and should help Vick stay on the field more to rack up the points in 2012.
As important as a year of experience playing together is, Vick’s fantasy value is predicated on his ability to stay healthy, which is something he’s vowed to work on during training camp. Vick has even gone as far to promise he’ll be healthy for the entire season, preaching increased awareness of what down it is and waiting to get the yardage needed on the next play instead of taking a hit.
We’ve seen Vick do damage in the pocket before, and he’ll be more disciplined with that in 2012. He also rushed for just one touchdown last year, which by law of averages is almost certain to not happen again. He’s currently being drafted in the fifth round in most mock drafts, a very good value considering how a few seasons ago he put up the single best fantasy football performance of all time.
He’s gone from underrated, to overrated, to underrated again. He’s still a No. 1 fantasy option and odds are he’ll rebound in 2012.