Could Michael Vick remain in Philly beyond 2013—as a backup?

Could Michael Vick remain in Philly beyond 2013—as a backup?

Suppose Nick Foles plays well enough over the final six games in 2013 that the Eagles aren’t pigeonholed into drafting another quarterback. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but it’s not automatically the top priority going in.

Between Foles and Matt Barkley, Philadelphia has two quarterbacks under contract for next season. Most teams carry three, so assuming the Eagles don’t draft one, they need to sign a free agent—and who would be better suited for the job than Michael Vick?

Seriously. Vick already knows the system. He still has a cannon where his left arm is supposed to be, he can still run around and make things happen when he’s healthy. He was having an okay season until it was derailed by a hamstring injury. He’s proven he can win games in the NFL. He’s a great leader—underrated in fact. He’s perfect.

Even if the Eagles were interested in re-signing him, most people expect Vick to depart for a chance to catch on as a starter somewhere else. Well, what if nobody is willing to offer that opportunity to a 34-year-old quarterback entering his 12th season? That doesn’t sound far-fetched at all when you frame it like that.

And even if Vick is able to land a another starting gig, what does that situation look like? Who's to say the Eagles don't provide the best opportunity to make an impact in the NFL?

If Vick is going to be a backup somewhere, why not with the organization that helped him revive his career? Why not with Chip Kelly, whose offense fits Vick’s skill set? Why not with an up-and-coming franchise that appears poised to make some noise over the next few years?

Vick could potentially be coming on in relief during a playoff game somewhere down the road if he plays his cards right.

The four-time Pro Bowler has proven time and time again that he can accept the backup role. You know that he wants nothing more than to be out on the field leading his team to victory, but he’s never once complained about being on the bench. Not when he was behind Donovan McNabb, not when he was behind Kevin Kolb, and not now that he’s likely stuck behind Foles.

Actually, it was Vick’s response to Foles’ ascension that got me thinking he could return. The 11-year veteran has been nothing but supportive of all of his teammates, including the 24-year-old kid taking his job. Vick vowed on Tuesday that he wasn’t going to become a distraction. Via Jeff McLane of the Inquirer:

DO YOU STILL THINK THAT YOU'RE THE STARTER?

I don't know. That's not something that I'm thinking about at this point. The last thing I want to be is a distraction to this team. I'm just working hard to get myself healthy.

BUT HAVEN'T YOU SAID THAT YOU'VE ALWAYS CONSIDERED YOURSELF A STARTER?

I do consider myself a starter, but if coach has a viable explanation or good reason for why it should be anything different, I got to understand that. He's the coach. I'm the player. One thing about it, I'm confident in my abilities. We all know what I can do when I'm out there. I'm just an asset to this team as long as I'm here.

Vick also told Martin Frank of The Delaware News Journal that’s he’s “proud” of what Foles has accomplished. He’s not content to merely take on the role of cheerleader, either.

Vick has seen that improvement, and he plans to help Foles improve even more.

“Whatever I can do to help him, that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

Perhaps a bigger issue than Vick wanting or not wanting to return is whether the organization would leave room for him. Regardless of whether it’s in round one or seven, if the front office intends to draft a quarterback, there goes that roster spot. And if they like what they’ve seen from Barkley, they may not want to block a developing young player with such a high-profile backup.

If the Eagles have their eyes on the Super Bowl in their short-term future though, they would be wise to keep a veteran backup in the fold. We’re four months away from the opening of free agency, but it’s hard to envision there could be a better option or fit.

Of course, there’s a lot to sort out before any of this becomes a reality. Foles needs to make the organization feel comfortable sticking with him through next season at least, and backup or starter, Vick shouldn’t have any trouble finding work this spring. Just don’t rule out the Eagles as the employer.

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Worst loss of the year for excuse-less Sixers against Magic

Another new feeling for the rebuilding Sixers: The bad loss with no excuse. For at least one and possibly multiple seasons, there was no real such thing as an inexcusable L, because they were so never the favorite going into any game that their excuse could almost always be "the other team was better." But four wins and one transcendent player into this season, the Ballers actually do need an excuse for dropping a home game against a subpar team by double digits. And if they had one last night in their 105-88 loss to the Orlando Magic, they weren't telling the rest of us.

Really, this game couldn't have been teed up much better for Philly: We were home, well-rested after Wednesday's weird-ass cancellation, against a 7-12 team we nearly beat early in the season, who were on the second night of a back-to-back after ceding a tough one to the Grizzlies -- and we had Joel Embiid for up to 28 minutes. If this one was to be a laugher by early in the fourth quarter, you'd almost have to assume that it'd been the Sixers who put it to bed early. 

Instead, the Sixers slumped horribly from the field in the first quarter, missing bunny after bunny and plenty of open jumpers, as they dug themselves a hole they were never quite able to climb out of. Philly kept it manageable and D.J. Augustin and Nik Vucevic caught fire for Orlando in the third quarter, and the game was suddenly in Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot territory before we could even process what was happening. 

Of course, you can't blame Embiid for this one. Though JoJo was a little out of sorts defensively on this one -- and personally, I really wish he'd stop trapping five feet outside the arc, it may cause panic in the Magic's ball-handlers but it really seems to compromise our own half-court D -- he still finished with a resounding 25-10-4 with three triples, and for the first time in his young career, 0 turnovers. (I coulda swore I saw at least one, but so says the box score, anyway.) Just another game for the Process, though the Sixers (for some reason) needed him to be immaculate last night, and he was merely phenomenal. 

Less phenomenal were the rest of the Sixers' shooters. Our bench in particular was absolutely putrid, going a combined 0-12 from three, with Nik Stauskas's streak of consecutive games with a three snapped at 15 after his scoreless, 0-6 performance. (Five assists for Sauce, at least.) Jahlil posted a dominant stat line of 16 and 13 (on 8-10 shooting) but was again hapless on defense, ending a team-worst -19 for the night. And Dario Saric's slumping continued with a 1-5 shooting outing with no rebounds or assists, likely his worst game of the season. 

It was a surprisingly listless effort from a team that should have looked much sharper, and the most positive non-Joel-related thing to be said about it is that it's (sort of) nice to finally have expectations high enough to have them let down. It'll be a lot harder for Philly to let down tonight against the Celtics, without JoJo, against a pretty good and mostly healthy Boston team. But that's five losses in a row already for the improving Sixers, and it'd be nice to cut off that streak soon, before it starts threatening double digits -- we could certainly do with being done with those for the forseeable future.

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

No longer feeling like a rookie, Wendell Smallwood more comfortable as lead back

As the Eagles prepared to face the Green Bay Packers last week, rookie Wendell Smallwood readied himself for a big role.
 
Then he got just nine carries. 
 
It wasn’t that those carries went elsewhere, it was that the Eagles got away from the run game early in the 27-13 loss to the Packers despite being down one score for most of the game. Ultimately, he had half of the team’s carries. 
 
On Friday, head coach Doug Pederson said the disparity in play-calling didn’t have anything to do with having Smallwood as the lead back instead of Ryan Mathews. 
 
“Not really,” Pederson said. “Again, that's something – when I go back ask evaluate after the game – it's something I have to consider more of: Did I run the ball enough or throw the ball enough or not enough or did I do it too much, one way or the other. 
But no, that did not dispel anything, run or pass.”
 
For the second straight week, Mathews is out with an MCL sprain, which means Smallwood is preparing for a bigger role in the offense again. That could also mean his second career start in as many weeks. 
 
Having gone through this process last week has made this week even easier. 
 
“I think I'm very comfortable, more than I was last week,” Smallwood said. “I kind of knew I was going to have a lead role, kind of thinking about a lot, how to play better and take on the load that I was probably going to get. So this week, I think it was kind of natural for me, not really worrying about it.”
 
Smallwood, who was a fifth-round pick out of West Virginia, has 66 carries for 290 yards and one touchdown this season. Smallwood's average of 4.4 yards per attempt is sixth in the league among rookie with at least 60 carries this season. He also has the most rushing yards of any Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 
 
While the Eagles would probably have preferred to use Mathews more this season, the veteran has played just 53 more snaps than Smallwood. 
 
Does Smallwood even feel like a rookie anymore? 
 
“Nah, definitely not, definitely not,” he said with a smile. “Probably after Week 3 I stopped feeling like a rookie. And guys tell me all the time, 'we need you to play, we don't need you to be a rookie right now.' So kind of forced not to be a rookie.”