Michael Vick Brings Major Challenge To Detroit Lions' Defense

Dean Holden@@Dean_HoldenAnalyst ISeptember 16, 2010

The less of this the Lions see, the better.
The less of this the Lions see, the better.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

That I have any respect or esteem whatsoever for Michael Vick makes me really angry at myself.

It's not what you think, though. Even before his—ahem—"legal issues," I had very little respect for him as a quarterback. Quarterbacks, I thought, did not get paid to rush for 150 yards per game while hitting receivers in the shins with the football on crossing routes.

Strong arm? Sure. Mobility? Definitely. Accurate passer with good decision-making skills? Not even close.

Problem is, I see the Lions' defense in one eye, and in the other, I'm reasonably sure I see Vick licking his chops like a dog eying a piece of meat.

Er, I mean, like some other, definitely herbivorous animal, with which nobody in the NFL has any legal history, eying the plant that they like to eat. Peacefully, with no bloodshed.

It's not that the Lions' defense is terrible. It has been in years past, but it was indeed able to hold a Mike Martz/Jay Cutler offense scoreless, save for the opening drive, and the final two minutes of each half.

The problem is, it's still full of some holes, and those holes are exactly where they need to be for Vick to have one of his classic "outrun his passing total" performances.

This is something I brought up after the preseason game against Pittsburgh, and I (along with many of you) dismissed it rather quickly, because hey, it was just preseason. But I told you then to remember that performance, in which Dennis Dixon scrambled his way out of trouble—and subsequently for a first down—too many times to count.

Against the Bears, my fears were only confirmed. Jay Cutler, a quarterback known neither for his scrambling ability nor his elusiveness, was frequently flushed out of the pocket. That's a good thing, it means the line was getting pressure.

The bad news is that when flushed out, there was nobody around, and he repeatedly tiptoed over to the sidelines for a good chunk of positive yardage.

Now, from that scenario, eliminate Cutler and insert Vick, and I think you'll see what I mean.

Consider the Lions' strengths and weaknesses as a defensive unit.

The defensive line is extremely strong. However, in many cases, it showed that it was able to get pressure, but not wrap up the sack. That will actually force Vick to scramble, even on some plays when he plans to stay in the pocket.

That will mean a linebacker, perhaps Landon Johnson or Zack Follett, will be forced to step in and stop him.

If you have Follett and Vick isolated on the right hashmark (assuming Follett was left to spy and is expecting him), who, honestly, do you believe wins that match-up?

Now, the Lions do hold one important advantage here, and it's not one you'd expect. Whether you know it or not, the Lions are strong in safeties. Particularly the run-stopping kind.

C.C. Brown's coverage skills are certainly not going to scare any quarterbacks off, but he showed he can come up and lay a hit. If Louis Delmas, Brown, or even Randy Phillips keep an eye on Vick, I actually trust them to make a good open-field tackle more than any other unit.

But then, that means I'm relying on safeties to stop the run, so I hope Vick's errant arm is just as vintage as his active legs.

The last time the Eagles and Lions met, they put 77 points on the board between them, Kevin Curtis had 221 yards receiving, and Jon Kitna was still the quarterback with the most passing yards.

With two backup quarterbacks taking the field against two banged-up defenses, an angry Lions offense with something to prove, an Eagles quarterback with a job to win, and what should be a raucous sellout crowd for the home opener at Ford Field, we could be looking at another statistical nightmare just like last time.


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