Nearly one year later, a full season as a Philadelphia Eagle under his belt, Michael Vick is in a different place in his football life. He is now, thanks to the trade of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins, the Eagles' No. 2 quarterback. He is, at this very moment, expected to back up Kevin Kolb in 2010, and in the fallout of the team's quarterback shuffle, Vick could see his role increase relatively substantially.
Will it? We don't know for sure. But after a season in which Vick threw 13 passes and ran 24 times, there really is nowhere to go but up, up, up on the relevance ledger. Kevin Kolb indicated during his two starts in 2009 that he had no problem with using Vick as a change-of-pace quarterback, even though Vick was active to play only against Kansas City (he had one carry for 7 yards in his Eagles debut).
The Eagles aren't planning to trade Vick, so it will be really interesting to see what they have in store for him this season. For his part, Vick should be a completely advanced quarterback. He has had a full year, and then some, to completely immerse himself in the offensive scheme. From that standpoint alone, Vick will be heads and shoulders better than he was last year.
Vick, though, has his body back. That may be more important than anything. He is a football player again. The Vick we saw early in 2009 was a step slower than he had been in his previous football life, and his instincts for the game were clearly rusty. He was not the aggressive, edgy running threat. The clock in his head, a must for any quarterback, just wasn't right.
As the year went along, though, Vick improved. He had better command of the passing game. He converted third downs. He became an option in the red zone.
A quad contusion against San Francisco in December marred Vick's progress, and he was not the same the rest of the season.
Now he is in the off-season conditioning program and looks and feels great. And in year two of his Eagles career, Vick is mature enough to realize his situation, one that requires another heaping dose of patience and nurturing. Vick wants to be an NFL starter. The Eagles appear intent on keeping him as a backup to Kolb, and Vick seems OK with that scenario.
The next step for the coaching staff is using Vick's abilities to the maximum.
You get the sense with all of these weapons, all of this speed, that the Eagles could run their variation of a spread offense if they wanted. Kolb tore up college football operating out of the shotgun during his days at the University of Houston. Could the Eagles interchange Kolb and Vick in that look, and add a cool wrinkle to the scheme?
Or maybe the Eagles could continue with Vick inserted into the offense in the red zone, where his dual-threat abilities caused problems for defenses last year. Maybe Vick could play a whole series at a time here and there, just to keep defenses guessing.
Certainly, it could be more of the same as it was in 2009, when Vick played more against certain teams and less against others.
This is the time to ponder the possibilities. The Eagles have Kolb and they have Vick and they are either going to acquire a veteran along the way or invest one of their 11 draft picks on a young quarterback to groom. Vick is, in a lot of ways, a wild card that the Eagles used off and on and maybe could have gone to more in his first season here.
Without McNabb, the offense takes on a whole different personality. For 11 seasons, the scheme revolved around McNabb. With Kolb and Vick, the Eagles can go in any direction they want. This isn't a suggestion that the Eagles will become a more run-oriented team, but there is certainly the opportunity to do so should Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg choose to go that route. They have this wonderful talent in Vick, and now they actually have a full off-season to devise ways to incorporate what he does more into the offense.
Trading McNabb means a lot of different things within the offense, most of which we don't know. The coaching staff tweaks the X's and O's each day, keeping in mind the personnel here. Well, Vick is here. And he is staying here, barring a surprise move. The Eagles didn't have the luxury of planning Vick packages last year until the season was right on top of them. Now they have an entire off-season. What does that mean for the offense? What does that mean for Vick?
Didn't you expect more time for Vick last year? The Eagles made that bold move to sign him and then they used him sparingly. What was the deal? Why not use the guy?
Clearly, the Eagles saw that it took some time for Vick to knock off the rust, and just when he was getting into his groove, the quad injury set Vick back.
What happens when the man enters the season with all the confidence in the scheme, and he has his quickness back, and the Eagles see a player with game-breaking speed and electrifying moves? How much will the coaches use Vick?
I'm dreaming here, I know. When the Eagles signed Vick, I had so many visions. I remember asking Mornhinweg in the NovaCare Complex cafeteria if Vick could catch a pass and he said, "Yeah, sure. Michael can do anything on the football field." I actually thought the Eagles would use him more. It was disappointing seeing Vick play a snap here or there, but it was understandable. When you have DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant, the preference is to get the ball in their hands.
But now the picture is different. Vick has bumped up the depth chart. What that means in the big picture is something to track as the season creeps closer.