Michael Vick: 4 Improvements Eagles QB Must Make in the 2011 NFL Preseason

Gerard MartinCorrespondent IAugust 15, 2011

Michael Vick: 4 Improvements Eagles QB Must Make in the 2011 NFL Preseason

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    Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles have announced their intentions for the 2011 NFL season quite specifically.

    Nobody stood up at a press conference and put the NFL on notice, but the amount of money that Philadelphia threw around during the frenzied free-agency period spoke louder than words possibly could have.

    Largely because of Vick’s re-emergence, Philadelphia has gone all-in for 2011.

    Andy Reid has brought together an immense collection of talent, with potential Pro-Bowlers at almost every position. But even with all of that talent assembled, all of the Eagles’ eggs ultimately rest in the Michael Vick basket. No matter how many Jason Babins, Ronnie Browns and Nnamdi Asomughas join the squad, the reality remains that without Michael Vick, Philadelphia isn’t going anywhere.

    Vick was outstanding during the 2010 NFL season, but he wasn’t perfect. There’s no questioning his talent, but there are parts of Vick’s game that could still use some refining.

    This projects to be the best team that Vick has ever led and the pressure is squarely on his shoulders to make sure that they reach their goal.

    As he leads the Philadelphia Eagles through the 2011 NFL preseason, there are four specific parts of his game that he must improve in order to lead the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

Take Fewer Hits

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    For the good of his team, Michael Vick needs to learn how to protect himself.

    His ability to scramble has helped to land him squarely within the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Unfortunately, it also lands him on the bench from time to time.

    Every quarterback is going to take hits and sometimes those hits will lead to injuries. But whenever possible, Vick needs to avoid contact.

    Vick’s ability to slide and step out of bounds will be just as important as his ability to read a defense.

    Vick’s aggressiveness is part of what makes him such a fantastic player, but he needs to learn that diving for an extra two yards against Cincinnati in October isn’t worth it. It’s tough to ask a player like Vick to dial back his aggression, but he needs to do everything he can to stay on the field.

Use Brent Celek

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    If the dream team is going to really come together, Vick will need to take full advantage of all of his weapons.

    Last season, Vick struck up a great relationship with DeSean Jackson. Jackson learned how to react when Vick freelanced outside the pocket, which led to huge plays for the Eagles.

    Working with Jackson, Vick mastered the spectacular in 2010.

    In 2011, he must learn to master the mundane. With the Eagles, that means building up his relationship with Celek.

    Brent Celek built a great relationship with Donovan McNabb, leading to a career-high 76 catches in 2009. When Vick (and occasionally Kevin Kolb) took over in 2010, Celek’s production cratered. He caught only 42 balls and just wasn’t consistently a part of the Eagles game plan.

    Some of this change is due to a difference in styles, but that’s no excuse for not taking full advantage of a talented player like Celek. A truly great quarterback shouldn’t require his teammates to conform to the way he prefers to run an offense. A truly great quarterback should tweak his own style to ensure that he brings out the best in his teammates.

    Vick was a step below other stop quarterbacks in 2010 in terms of converting first downs at just over 35 percent, yet over 50 percent of his connections with Celek moved the chains.

    Building a strong rapport with his tight end will go a long way toward bringing Vick’s overall conversion rate up among the league’s elite. Even just a few more catches for Celek in key situations could be the difference that leads the Eagles to Indianapolis.

Adjust to New Defensive Schemes

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    Michael Vick took the league by surprise when he came in off the bench in Week 1 against Green Bay.

    Sure, all of Philadelphia’s opponents knew that Vick was on the roster, but Kevin Kolb had been announced as the starter. Perhaps even more importantly, nobody (not even the Eagles) knew exactly what Vick was capable of at this point in his career.

    As he proved last season, Vick is capable of just about anything. He torched nearly every defense in his path on his way to the best season of his career.

    However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

    As the year came to a close, Vick’s numbers weren’t coming easy. He continued to put up yards and lead the Eagles to victories, but the mistakes began to build. After going without an interception for the first seven games of his season, Vick tossed six picks in his last five starts.

    Going into this year, Vick will have to deal with a slate of defensive coordinators who now have a full season of film on Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagle.

    Certainly, Andy Reid will have a few new schemes cooked up to keep his offense moving, but Vick will have to improve his ability to adjust on the fly.

    Michael Vick took the NFL by storm in 2010, but this year, he’s not sneaking up on anybody.

Close out Games

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    Regardless of how much talent the Eagles amass, they will undoubtedly end up in some tight situations late in games and they will undoubtedly count on Michael Vick to lead them to victory.

    Unfortunately, Vick’s performance in these situations trailed off considerably in 2010.

    In the last two minutes of a half, Vick’s quarterback rating dropped from 100.2 to 85.1. Though most teams would happily take an 85 QB rating, that kind of drop off is a bad sign for Vick and the Eagles.

    Even worse, Vick threw three interceptions in just 52 attempts in the last two minutes. He threw only three interceptions in his other 320 pass attempts.

    Vick clearly declined as a passer in crunch time; as a runner, he was even worse.

    During the last two minutes of a half, Vick’s yards-per-carry average declined from 6.8 to 2.2 and in his 17 carries in those situations, Vick scored exactly zero touchdowns.

    Though Vick delivered enough highlight-reel plays and eye-popping stats to outweigh the totality of his mistakes, in a playoff situation, one poorly timed mistake could bring everything crashing down.

    Perhaps more than anything else, Vick must improve as a closer before Philadelphia can take the next step.