Eleven turnovers in five games have put the responsibility of the 2012 season squarely on Michael Vick's shoulders, fairly or not. You see the hurt when Vick makes a mistake on the field and slams his helmet on the team bench on the sidelines as he sits down to review the previous series. You feel the pain when he meets the media and is asked every which way but loose how he can better protect the rock.
Vick knows he has to be better. He's working at it. He has made nice strides this season in several phases of his game. There haven't been as many tipped passes, an indication that Vick is sliding in the pocket more and creating passing lanes. He hasn't taken a lot of huge hits of late, and has been cognizant of getting down on the ground and running out of bounds and of throwing the football away.
The Eagles' version of the no-huddle offense, which comes in three varieties, has quickened the tempo of the offense and basically eliminated the delay-of-game penalties and wasted timeouts because of a dwindling clock.
There is progress.
There are also concerns, specifically the difficulties Vick is having with ball security. A look back at Vick's career says that he's always had some looseness handling the ball, and there have been some interceptions and some fumbles, and much of that has been a by-product of the game Vick plays. He was always the playmaker in Atlanta and he had the ball in his hands all the time and he was the one who needed to elevate the offense.
That six-game period of turnover-free football that Vick enjoyed for the Eagles in 2010 is the standard to which he must again reach. It's a lofty goal, one that seems so far away right now given the alarming rate at which Vick has turned the ball over through five games.
But I believe in greatness, and I believe in Vick.
This is a work in progress, and this is not going to result in perfection. Somehow, some way, Vick has to take what he does in the fourth quarter, when he plays error-free, precise football, and apply it to every phase of his game from the opening whistle. Is it a matter of concentration or urgency or focus or ... what is it?
We don't know. Nobody really does. But you can be sure that Vick is thinking about it night and day and he's intent on correcting his mistakes and leading what should be a very good Eagles team to a lot of wins in 2012.
Maybe this is foolhardy thinking brought on by a day of contemplation and the understanding that we have a lot of season ahead and that, well, it's better to be optimistic than otherwise. No doubt I'm going with the positive view here.
More than that, though, I believe in Michael Vick having seen him every step of the way since he became an Eagle. I don't know what he was like before he came to Philadelphia, but since he's been an Eagle Vick has been the most cooperative, pleasant, positive and real person I have ever dealt with at that position. That is not to knock any of the fine men who have quarterbacked the Eagles for the last 25 years; rather, it is to applaud Vick and the way he approaches every facet of his job and a life that has been turned 180 degrees around from where it once was.
The process now is much more compressed. The Eagles don't have a whole lot of time between games to work on Vick's ball security, but they run drills at practice and are very aware of his need to shore up that part of the game. Andy Reid isn't going to have live drills where Vick has the football and has to run through the defense and hold on against defenders trying to rake the ball free.
Really, a lot of it, most of it, is on Vick. He has to win the mental battle. Maybe it's a like a second baseman in baseball who suddenly can't make the throw to first base with a runner speeding down the line. It's a mental thing combined with a very physical act that happens at an incredibly high rate of speed.
The sense here is that Vick still has it in his head that he has to be the focal point of the offense at times, like when he's running and he sees the goal line and he lunges for the end zone and ... Or when he's breaking free out of the pocket and sees a lot of green in front of him and opens up and suddenly there are hands ripping and clawing and tearing the football out of his clutches.
Anyway, time is precious. The Lions, desperate for a win and fresh off of their bye week with an aggressive, attacking defense, come to town on Sunday. Vick has to be at his best for the Eagles to reach the bye week at 4-2. Count me in as one vote as a Vick Believer. He's not going to be perfect, and he's going to make us scratch our heads from time to time, but Vick is going to tighten up his game, reduce the mistakes and get the offense, ranked 31st in the NFL in points scored, back on track right in the nick of time to get the Eagles pointed back in the right direction for the remainder of 2012.