In his season opener against the Washington Redskins, Michael Vick appeared to be in prime condition when he threw for two touchdowns and 203 yards. While it wasn’t his most spectacular performance, Vick looked comfortable and instinctually poised in Chip Kelly’s new high-octane offensive approach. With that being said, Vick has been known for putting up exceptional numbers in the beginning of the regular season. In last year’s season opener, Vick threw for over 317 yards and two touchdowns. While he did throw four interceptions in that same game, he was still able to move the ball effectively and prevented the Browns from having great field position throughout the majority of the game.
Although Vick has had moments of brilliance and prestige, he has likewise displayed moments of poor decision-making and inconsistency. In his last three years with the Eagles, Vick has been fairly average as passer with his completion percentage usually hovering around 60%. Along with that Vick has the agility and vision to run confidently when the situation calls for it. However, in the last for years Vick’s running capabilities have decreased dramatically has he continues to age while being beaten to a pulp by countless defensive linemen. In 2010, Vick’s swiftness and speed were nearly unprecedented as he rushed for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. Sadly, this was the peak of Vick’s running capabilities as his overall rushing yardage decreased to 589 in 2011, 332 in 2012 and in 2013 he only rushed for 54 yards on the season.
While a quarterbacks overall reliability and skill isn’t necessarily predicated on how well they run with the football, for an athlete who’s illustrious career has been shaped around how he maneuvers with the ball in his hands, not being able utilize that attribute any longer comes as an alarming concern. Without the ability to rush the football consistently and effectively, Vick will regress to being a one dimensional passer with average ball skills at best. Even if Vick still has gas in the tank in terms of his running prowess, he’ll still have to compete with the likes of RGIII, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, all of whom have made a name for themselves because of their dual threat rushing and passing capabilities.
Eventually, Vick will succumb to the punishment that he has been forced to absorb thanks to a paper-thin offensive line. Although the Eagles addressed this issue admirably when they drafted offensive tackles Lane Johnson from Oklahoma in the 2013 NFL draft, it might be to little to late in Vick’s case. Even with Chip Kelly’s new offensive philosophies that are catered to Vick’s fast paced playing style, it still won’t be enough to transform Vick into a prolific passer, especially at this stage in his career.
As a result, the starting quarterback position will have to fall to one of two eager candidates; Nick Foles or Matt Barkley. Initially, it would seem Foles would be the first choice given his experience with the Eagles last season as Vick’s replacement. While he didn’t blow anyone away, Foles proved to be fairly accurate (completed 60.8% of passes) which was coupled with decent passing yardage for only competing in seven games. However, Foles also proved to be a liability as he threw five interceptions and fumbled the ball five times as well. On top of that, Foles was a finicky runner and could muster only 42 total yards in the seven games he participated in.
While Nick Foles may have more professional experience than Matt Barkley, Barkley proved to be a collegiate success in his own right when he played for the University of Southern California. Even though Matt Barkley had a fairly underwhelming senior season, his junior year is what made him top prospects if he had decided to enter the draft in 2012. He completed 69.1% of his passes for over 3,500 yards and 40 touchdowns. Although Barkley never had much success running the football, his stoutness and hand cannon of an arm allowed him to dominate defenses with ease and precision.
When all is said and done, Michael Vick is on the tail end of his career and can’t be expected to emulate his previous years of success for much longer. Inevitably, either Barkley or Foles will have to step up for Vick at some point this season while being able to effectively acclimate themselves to Chip Kelly’s innovative offensive approach. While Vick’s future as a solid quarterback may appear to be bleak, the outlook for the Eagles other competitive young passers is brighter than ever.