How Much Gas Does Michael Vick Really Have Left in the Tank?
Now nearing his 33rd birthday, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is attempting to win a starting job this offseason despite a growing list of past injuries, turnover problems and the adjustment to a brand new offense.
These factors prompt a question that Vick will need to answer over the next several months: Just how much is left in the tank of the former No. 1 overall pick?
As minicamps and OTAs continue on through June, it's unlikely that even the Eagles know that answer.
In fact, Vick's new contract situation in Philadelphia suggests the new-look Eagles were always going to take a cautious approach in finding out where Vick is at in his NFL career.
Originally signed to a six-year, $100 million deal in 2011, Vick was all but forced to accept a restructured deal this offseason. He'll now make just $3.5 million in base salary next season—with the chance to escalate his total earnings to $10 million through incentives, per ESPN's Adam Schefter—but the new contract is good for only one year.
After 2013, Vick is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
While Vick will still make considerably more money than Nick Foles next season, his spot atop the Eagles depth chart has been far from guaranteed.
Early on in offseason workouts, new head coach Chip Kelly has kept his word on the Eagles holding an open competition at quarterback.
And even if Vick has openly asked for a starter to be named before training camp begins, per Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly, it remains unlikely that Kelly is going to rush into such a decision before he sees his roster in pads. It's only fair that Kelly gets to see both his quarterbacks in a live game setting before deciding on who will start Week 1.
Understanding why the Eagles were so proactive in tearing up Vick's old deal in February and staging an open quarterback competition under Kelly isn't difficult to do.
Vick has struggled to stay on the field throughout his NFL career, and his growing number of concussions—which has rightfully evolved into one of the more concerning injuries in the sport—is reason enough to wonder how long the mobile quarterback has left in the game.
And even when Vick has been on the field, the results have been mixed at best—especially over the last two seasons.
However, injuries have been a problem for Vick throughout his career.
The No. 1 overall pick in 2001 has played a full 16 games just once in his NFL career, and in half of his seasons (five of 10), Vick has missed at least four games.
In just four seasons with the Eagles, Vick has missed a total of 17 games—including 15 because of injury (he was suspended two games to start the 2009 season). The injuries in Philadelphia haven't been localized, either: at least two concussions, two separate injuries to his quadriceps and ribs and a bruised thumb and hand.
Back in September of 2012, we ran through the many injuries Vick had sustained with the Eagles and how each happened. Some were via scrambles or designed runs, but most others were the result of poor play from the offensive line or Vick holding the football.
Even before last season, it didn't appear like there was an easy fix to Vick's injury problems. That hasn't changed a half a year later.
In Week 11 of 2012, Vick added another concussion to his list after being slammed to the turf by Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jay Ratliff. He suffered the injury on November 11—with the Eagles all but out of the postseason chase at 3-6—and he didn't play again until Week 17.
It took Vick nearly six weeks to clear the NFL's concussion protocol, which now includes an examination and clearing by an independent neurologist.
The November head injury marked Vick's second documented concussion of his NFL career, and obviously the more concerning of the two regarding his future.
While the Eagles clearly had the opportunity to be cautious with Vick's return during a lost season, an improved knowledge base surrounding concussions and their short- and long-term effects have made the injury arguably the most serious ailment in the game today.
Considering the length of time it took Vick to return in 2012, it's worth wondering what another significant blow to the head would do to his immediate career.
However, staying healthy is only half of the Vick puzzle. His on-field performance in recent years has dipped significantly.
In 2010, Vick energized a playoff run when he threw for 21 touchdowns against just six interceptions during 11 starts. The Eagles went 8-3 in those games as Vick posted the highest passer rating of his NFL career (100.2).
The wheels have mostly come off since.
Over 23 starts from 2011-12, Vick has completed less than 60 percent of his passes, with 30 touchdown passes against 24 interceptions. His constant battle with turnovers during that stretch also included 21 fumbles.
Partial blame for Vick's drop off falls on the offensive line, who has been ravaged by injury over the last two seasons. However, Vick actually endured more total sacks and was sacked at a higher percentage in 2010—his best season in Philadelphia—than both 2011 and 2012.
In the meantime, Vick has turned over the football at an astronomical rate while the Eagles have produced just 10 wins in Vick starts since 2011. In terms of on-field results, few quarterbacks have endured the roller-coaster ride Vick has over the last three years.
For aging veterans, such a combination of injury and Inconsistency is the wrong kind of recipe to be cooking up late in a career.
However, it's certainly possible that the introduction of Kelly to Vick's career could once again revitalize the quarterback.
A master of offensive tempo and an X's and O's genius, Kelly may eventually ask Vick to captain an Oregon offense that had few equals at the college level. Predicated on running the football and creating mismatches at every level of the defense, Kelly's innovative offense has the potential to get the best of Vick's unique skill set.
Vick, who turns 33 later this month, is still an electrifying runner of the football. While Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III have reintroduced the read-option game, Vick likely remains the most athletic quarterback in the game.
There's also very little doubt that Vick's arm isn't still one of the best in the game, possessing down-the-field strength and a quick release. Accuracy and information processing—especially once the hits start coming—have been the problems with Vick from a passing standpoint, not the physical limitations.
The Eagles also have dynamic playmakers on offense, from DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin on the perimeter to LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown at running back. The offensive line will also return former All-Pro Jason Peters, and first-round pick Lane Johnson figures to start at right tackle.
Will Michael Vick start more than 10 games for the Eagles in 2013?
In his first year, Kelly and his offense shouldn't be handcuffed by a lack of offensive personnel.
However, it's difficult to predict whether Vick will be capable of utilizing his skill set in the Kelly offense in 2013 or beyond.
Once the future of the Eagles franchise following the 2010 season, Vick has since dealt with a number of injuries—including the dreaded concussion—while also stumbling with his own performance on the field. With Vick's inconsistency on and off the field has come back-to-back disappointing seasons in Philadelphia.
Now, instead of basking in the glow of his $100 million contract, Vick has a one-year deal that screams "prove it."
It's on the soon-to-be 33-year-old quarterback to show Kelly and the Eagles how much he has left in the tank. Injuries and turnovers have Vick running on fumes, but Kelly might just be the injection of life Vick's career so desperately needed.
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