Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick's Many Hits Make "Roughing the Passer" Tough

Jack HarverCorrespondent IISeptember 29, 2011

Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick's Many Hits Make "Roughing the Passer" Tough

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    Michael Vick made more waves in the media than usual after injuring his hand in the Philadelphia Eagles' Week 3 loss to the New York Giants.

    This time, though, the story wasn't the usual controversy surrounding his hot-footed reputation or his statistics, but Vick's own assessment of his pass protection and the referees.

    "Every time I throw the ball, in all of my highlights and just watching film in general, every time I throw the ball I'm on the ground," Vick noted.

    "[I'm] getting hit in the head and I don't know why," he said.

    "I don't get the 15-yard flags like everybody else do. [sic] But hey, I'm not going to complain about it. I'm just making everybody aware of it. Hopefully, somebody will take notice."

    Whether you believe Vick is discriminated against or not—the man himself recently backed off the issue—it's hard to argue that he doesn't get hit. Philadelphia's .240 PASH translates to a knock almost once every four dropbacks.

    And whether that's Vick's fault for pushing the concept of a "pocket" to the extreme with his mobility, or an indictment of his retooled offensive line, it means those hits are less likely to stand out.

    While elite quarterbacks like Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (.111 PASH) and New England's Tom Brady (.103) stay upright so often that we notice every grass stain on their jerseys, the sight of Michael Vick peeling himself off the turf seems almost normal.

    Out of all that contact with the defense, it's tough picking one bump to call "roughing."

Week 3: NFL Quarterbacks Getting Hit Significantly Less in 2011

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    Outside of Philadelphia, meanwhile, the NFL as a whole has made a significant stride in pass protection.

    In Week 3, quarterbacks took only 74 sacks and 143 hits on 1,223 dropbacks.

    That .177 PASH means passers were safe over 80 percent of the time.

    For the season, they've been sheltered to the tune of .199, dipping under the one-in-five benchmark for the first time after getting .205 protection in 2010.

    It's not an isolated event, either: Nineteen teams are currently better than average in terms of PASH, and only seven teams allow a hit more than once every four attempts.

    When a quarterback does go down, it makes headlines. Injuries to Vick, Dallas' Tony Romo and St. Louis' Sam Bradford—and, for Chicago's Jay Cutler, the fear of injury—dominated football talk in the early going this year.

    Maybe that's because, on the whole, their position is so safe.

NFL Predictions: Tarvaris Jackson, Andy Dalton Show Flaws in PASH Forecasting

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    Through three weeks, we've been tracking PASH as an indicator of wins and losses.

    Despite a 28-19-1 record to date—which, let's be honest, is better than some of you are doing in the office pool—it's time to abandon that pursuit.

    After Week 3, the top 10 teams in terms of PASH are 21-9. That includes the winless Kansas City Chiefs (.148) and, thus far, vindicates the idea that good teams keep the passer's shirt fairly clean.

    But it's not something they necessarily do every week (half of those 10 have posted at least one below-average PASH week), and, as Seattle's Tarvaris Jackson and Cincinnati's Andy Dalton best illustrate, it's not always necessary.

    Sunday afternoon, the Bengals fought tooth-and-nail to defend Dalton (.091), only to watch him complete barely half of his passes, throw two picks and produce only two field goals in a losing effort.

    Later in the day, Jackson was practically left for dead under center for the Seahawks (.429), but beat the Arizona Cardinals on an 11-yard run in the fourth quarter.

    Maybe PASH only matters for passers worth protecting.

Oakland Raiders Took Charge in Week 3, Cincinnati Bengals Look Safe in Week 4

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    Last week, the Oakland Raiders were put on notice ahead of their Week 3 tilt against Rex Ryan's New York Jets.

    But after their stellar .071 pass protection in a 34-24 win, it's time to apologize.

    Let's acknowledge, too, that there are many ways to skin the pass rush cat—and shoving the ball down the Jets' throats on 32 runs for 234 yards, with 171 and two scores from Darren McFadden, ranks among the best.

    Turns out it's tough to put a passer on his back when you're playing on your heels.

    Heading into Week 4, the Cincinnati Bengals (.187 PASH, .183 daPASH) have a favorable matchup with the Buffalo Bills, whose league-worst .103 DPASH belies their 3-0 record.

    If Andy Dalton can't muster up some offense while getting hit less than once every 10 dropbacks, Cincinnati should keep "quarterback" on the ol' shopping list next April.

Detroit Lions Got Shellacked in Week 3, Buffalo Bills Facing Key Test in Week 4

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    This picture of Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Minnesota's Brian Robison is significant, and not just because it manages to hide all trace of Robison's long, flowing locks.

    Before the Lions visited the Vikings last week, Stafford hadn't been tackled with ball in hand in 2011.

    After leading the league in pass protection through two games with .082 PASH, Detroit regressed to the mean—and hard—by allowing five sacks and eight more hits in Week 3.

    Stafford stayed upright when it mattered most, completing a key pass to Calvin Johnson in overtime to set up a game-winning field goal. But Minnesota's pass-rushing combo of Robison and Jared Allen abused the Lions with speed off the edge.

    The sight of tackles Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus swinging and missing in front of Stafford should have Detroit fans fearing for their quarterback heading into a Week 4 date with Dallas' .271 DPASH.

    Looking ahead, it might be the Buffalo Bills' (.115 PASH, .140 daPASH) turn to take a fall. Buffalo's three wins have come against teams ranked in the bottom half of the league for DPASH, but the Bengals (.240) have been tough on quarterbacks thus far.

    Like the Raiders last week, the Bills' ability to hold tight in pass protection against stiffer competition will be a litmus test of their quality.

Quarterly Report: All 32 NFL Teams' PASH, DPASH Reviewed in Upcoming Week 5 Post

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    So much for the highlights.

    Hopefully, three weeks' worth of PASH observations, predictions and analysis have given you some insight into how this stat can color what you see on the field.

    Now, it's time to get down to the nitty gritty.

    By this time next week, we'll have consumed one-fourth of the 2011 NFL season. Armed with weekly and year-to-date PASH and DPASH data, it'll be useful to take a look at how each team's pass protection has been doing.

    With a knock on wood for Vick's hand, Romo's lung, Bradford's finger and Jay Cutler's spot on the endangered species list behind those five turnstiles the Bears call an offensive line, let's adjourn 'til then.