NFL Soup|Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Did the Kansas City Chiefs Expose Michael Vick? 

The Philadelphia Eagles were a bit of a sensation only three weeks ago. They opened up the season in spectacular fashion, as Chip Kelly‘s new offense took the league by storm by going up 33-7 on the Washington Redskins and holding on for the win. Michael Vick and co. followed that up with a second straight 30+ point effort in week two. That one ended in a loss to the San Diego Chargers, but Vick put up a career high in passing yardage and the sky appeared to be the limit for this Philly offense.

The came their Thursday Night Football matchup with ex-coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. And suddenly we have to consider the possibility that this new-age offense with Kelly and Vick and the gang may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Then again, we also have to consider that this Chiefs defense really is as nasty and effective as it appeared through the first two weeks.

The facts tell us it’s one of the two. Vick and the Eagles were very impressive through the first two games. Their opponents weren’t defensive stalwarts, but Philly still put up 63 total points and Vick was a statistical machine, putting up three total scores in both games (two on the ground).

Vick was also very efficient, throwing zero interceptions and only losing one fumble (that arguably wasn’t even his fault), while completing over 60% of his passes in both games.

The came his week three battle with the Chiefs. At the first sign of trouble, in his first game against an even borderline solid NFL defense, Vick seemed to unravel.

His timing was off early. He was inaccurate. He missed open receivers. He over threw guys on deep balls. In the end, he threw two interceptions, could have thrown 1-2 more, took a whopping five sacks and lost a fumble.

In addition, the formerly efficient Vick completed just 43.3% of his passes.

So, what does this tell us? Right away, it tells us the obvious: that not a whole lot has changed. At 33, Vick can be a precise passer and put his cannon of an arm and elite athleticism to great use when the matchup is fair and he has time and little pressure. But the second the pocket breaks down or he’s forced to make decisions and read defenses from within the pocket (due to elite coverage), he just isn’t a top-level quarterback.

It’s beyond clear that Andy Reid knows Vick’s short-comings. He had Vick as his starter in Philly for three years. Even though he tried desperately to make Vick a quarterback he simply isn’t, he could at least see that Vick is not a pocket quarterback. When pressured in the pocket, he folds. His awareness is remarkably off for a guy who is so mobile, as well.

But the trick was to get Vick to read and deliberately make decisions, instead of naturally react to pressure and formations with his arm and legs. When Vick is natural in and out of the pocket, his play is sublime. But when he’s forced to think about the play, he breaks down. As we saw on Thursday night, the latter happened much more than the former.

Now the real question: what does this mean going forward for Vick and the Eagles? Possibly nothing, and possibly everything. I don’t mean to take such an “on the fence” approach, but that is the reality. This performance could simply be a result of Kelly being out-coached. It could be the Chiefs’ defense being a legit, elite unit. It could be Reid knowing Vick and Vick being forced into the type of play he’s just not that good at. And it could be all of those things.

Long-term, it could mean the Eagles aren’t that much different than they were for the last two years. It could mean Vick has a better offense to roll with against weaker opponents and fantasy football owners will enjoy his production about 60% of the time. But it could also mean Vick turns back into that turnover machine when he faces tougher opponents.

After all, at 33 years old, it’s pretty difficult for Vick to change the color of his stripes now, isn’t it?

About the author: Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts heads the fantasy football division of NFLSoup. In 2012, Roberts finished 16th overall in Fantasy Pros expert fantasy football rankings. In addition to running the fantasy football section of the site, Roberts contributes to NFL Soup’s NFL Draft coverage and breaking news reporting. Follow Kevin on Twitter @NFLSoupKevin