It has been an excruciating three weeks for Michael Vick working his way back into this position. A hamstring injury suffered when the Eagles played the Giants at MetLife Stadium cleared the way for Nick Foles to take over the reins at quarterback, and Foles piloted the team two quarters plus one drive in the win over New York, then played virtually flawlessly to beat Tampa Bay and then got nothing going in three quarters of action last Sunday in the loss to Dallas before he was sidelined with a concussion.
Which cleared the way for Vick to be here. So where is he? Vick has been healthy enough to practice these last couple of weeks, but he hasn't been game tested. He's likely to play on Sunday -- it says "probable" on the official injury report issued Friday by the Eagles -- but how close will Vick be to the dynamic, multi-dimensional player who forces defenses to respect his legs as much as his arm?
We're going to know when Vick knows. That's the twist here, and the reality is the head coach Chip Kelly and the offensive coaching staff will have to navigate through the uncertainty, which digs deep at many levels. Assuming there are no setbacks between now and 1 p.m. on Sunday, Vick will get the call to start at quarterback. He's going to have his motor revving higher than at any time since his last action, three weeks earlier against the Giants.
Vick has tested his hamstring in the program overseen by the team's athletic training staff, and there is every bit of confidence that he's going to be fine, and that he's going to have the same explosive ability as he had prior to the injury, and that there won't be any lingering effects from the injury and the rehabilitation he has had since.
What happens when Vick sees a corner open and green grass in front of him and the opportunity to run for a big gain is there? How does Vick deal with a New York pass rush that is going to want to test him with a series of blitzes and challenge his ability to keep a play alive with his legs? Does Vick have the stamina in his legs to plant and push and have a strong base throwing the football for 60 minutes?
The Eagles have given Matt Barkley more reps than he's had all season, just to make sure the rookie is up to speed should Vick falter. It is an unsettling situation, and it's going to be interesting to see what plays are called by Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Do the Eagles lean more heavily on the running game, something they couldn't get going the first meeting against New York's big and strong defensive interior?
Kelly needs Vick to have enough mobility to move out of the pocket and throw on the run and plant on that back foot and drive through his throws, and the coaches are going to watch very closely how Vick's velocity, accuracy and mechanics hold up through the entire game.
It isn't just about taking off and running for Vick on Sunday. Yes, he has to offer that option, because that's part of his game and part of what makes Vick so special at the position. When a defense prepares to play Michael Vick, it prepares for his legs, too.
Vick isn't going to be 100 percent healthy for the Giants. Hamstrings take a long time to heal, and three weeks just isn't the ideal scenario here. But three weeks it is, and three weeks it will be -- again, probable is the key word here -- for Vick.
He can't allow any lingering doubt about the injury to exist. There can be no favoring the leg, or compromising his core stability in and out of the pocket.
We're going to find out just how healthy Vick's hamstring is when the game begins and the Eagles line up in the shotgun and Vick takes his first snap. I don't think Kelly is the kind of coach who is suddenly going to be conservative. He wants to attack New York's defense. To do so, Kelly needs Vick to be Vick, or as close as he can be on a chilly (projected high temperatures, high 50s) day at Lincoln Financial Field in a game the Eagles enter with uncertainty at the quarterback position.