Eagles quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson saw Michael Vick re-ignite his career with a Pro Bowl season in 2010. He also witnessed Vick go through the ups and downs of 2011.
When asked what the difference was between the two seasons, Pederson didn't hesitate to answer.
"Honestly, I think it was the offseason," Pederson said with 100 percent certainty referring to the lockout. "We couldn't sit and actually watch the film."
In 2010, Vick became the second quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 3,000 yards, rush for at least 500 yards and finish with a quarterback rating of at least 100. The only other quarterback to do that is in the Hall of Fame - Steve Young. Vick was the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year and second in the Offensive Player of the Year vote.
Last season, Vick increased his passing yardage total to a career-best 3,303 and rushed for 589 yards. However, Vick threw eight more interceptions and had just one rushing touchdown compared to nine in 2010. Vick's quarterback rating was 84.9 last season.
With the team struggling at the start of last season, Pederson thought Vick was trying to do too much on the field which resulted in the mistakes and turnovers.
"You just stay within the play, stay within yourself. Know your own strengths and limitations," Pederson said. "You let this system work and defenses can't be right. That's just the bottom line.
"If he just stays within himself, understands the progression and the timing of the play, he's going to do the right thing with the football most of the time."
Vick missed three games last year because of a rib injury. He returned to lead the Eagles to wins in each of the final four games of the season. During that stretch, Vick had seven touchdown passes against three interceptions. He had a quarterback rating of 100-or-more in the last three games, which was the first such streak as a starter in his career. He also had just 11 rushes for 54 yards, the lowest four-game output of his career.
Pederson noted that Vick's performance in the final four games was what fans could have seen all year with an offseason of work.
"You don't want to ever take (away) that natural ability that he has to run. Now, he's not getting any younger either, and he understands what he can and can't do. Do we design runs specifically for Mike? Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't. Our running game took off last year and that helps our passing game and it also takes some heat off of him as it does with any quarterback, but especially a guy like Mike because he has that ability to run," he said. "We don't go into the game planning runs for him, everything is natural, and it's an instinct thing for him. If we can keep him healthy and keep him in the pocket and do the things you ask him to do, we'll do that, but nothing is really designed for him."
With the Organized Team Activities set to start on Tuesday, Vick will embark on his first full offseason of practices as the team's starting quarterback. What Pederson and the rest of the coaching staff will focus on most is reducing the turnovers and improving the efficiency in the red zone. Vick was 32-of-61 (52.5 percent) for 202 yards with 13 touchdowns against four interceptions (71.9 quarterback rating) inside the 20-yard line in 2011. In 2010, Vick threw only one red zone pick and had a passer rating of 94.6.
"I've had to chance to sit down with Mike one-on-one by ourselves and watch the good and the bad. For me, not just to teach off of that but just to watch his expression and how he reacts to the negative and 'only ifs' because that's the one thing in this game that you don't want to do is sit back at the end of the season and go, 'only if.' So, he's learned from that and I think it makes him a better quarterback going forward," Pederson said.
"If we cut those two areas down and not turn the ball over in the red zone and of course the interceptions, the chances for success obviously will go up."
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