Eagles Training Camp Preview Part 3: Can Vick Overcome Time to Win the Super Bowl?

Eagles Training Camp Preview Part 3: Can Vick Overcome Time to Win the Super Bowl?

With rookies and selected veterans set to report to Lehigh University in 12 days, we are gearing up for the 2012 football season by examining the three most difficult questions facing the Eagles. First we asked whether Michael Vick can stay healthy, then if he can cut down on turnovers. Finally, can he become the caliber of quarterback necessary to lead his teammates to the promised land?

When he arrived in Philadelphia three years ago, few people imagined Michael Vick would be in the position he is today. Heck, starting quarterback for the Eagles seemed farfetched, let alone the career year he had in 2010, the lucrative multi-year contract he signed in 2011, leading up the clothing line he released on Wednesday. Seriously.

It's not just the nearly two years he spent behind bars though, which would have been more than enough for anybody to come back from, especially in pro football. Before Vick went away though, his stock had never been lower. In six seasons in Atlanta, Vick never developed beyond a glorified sideshow under center, somebody who could beat defenses with his feet, and occasionally his arm, but never his mind. The Falcons had just missed the playoffs in two straight seasons, and the shine was wearing off.

The unexpected part was Vick actually learned to play a little quarterback when he got here. He spent his first season with the Birds in '09 getting back into playing shape and working on mechanics. By the time he took over for Kevin Kolb, Vick was a completely different player. Still not polished, mind you, but this wasn't the one-read-then-take-off hybrid of old. Suddenly he demonstrated patience in the pocket as he went through his progressions.

And yeah, he could still take it to the house himself, too.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, Vick did not take another step forward last season. He's still better than ever, but that's not necessarily good enough to win it all. Now he's 32, and at a stage of his career where plenty of QBs would have peaked already. Is there still time for Vick to improve to the point where he can be mentioned in the same breath as the elites -- and more importantly, win a championship -- or is it simply too late for any of that?

Vick obviously has the talent join that company, and we've even seen it with our own eyes for stretches. Hall of Fame quarterback and ESPN analyst Steve Young went so far as to describe Vick's six-touchdown performance against the Redskins two seasons ago as "One of the most defining games at quarterback I've ever seen." Vick was 20 for 28 passing with 333 yards and four scores, and added another 80 ticks on the ground while punching two more into the end zone.

But we've witnessed the flip side of the coin as well, and all too often at that. Vick is still very much in the midst of learning his craft, which is a problem at his age, and especially his experience level. He played the game seemingly on instinct alone for so long -- going all the way back to his days at Virginia Tech, in high school, on the playground -- one must wonder if he can ever completely reconcile his style with what the NFL demands of the position: reading defenses, making quick, decisive decisions with the ball, and playing the game under control, just to name a few.

What Vick does have going for him this year is he finally has a full offseason to prepare like a starting quarterback, his first since '06. When he came back into the league, the Eagles mostly kept quarterbacking off of his plate, utilizing him primarily in Wildcat formations. The following season, Kolb was named the starter, taking all the first-team reps after Donovan McNabb was traded. In 2011, with Vick finally the man, a lockout wiped away offseasons programs, leaving only a hectic training camp to ready up.

While nobody wants to use the lockout as an excuse, those OTAs and mini-camps are meaningful, especially to developing players. Quarterbacks have the opportunity to get with coaches, who are installing their schemes for the upcoming season, then go out and test drive the offense. That went missing last year, and the prior season Kolb took the majority of the snaps.

Plus, the coaches really piled on Vick last season when they put him in charge of calling out protections at the line of scrimmage. Ordinarily that falls on the center, but with rookie Jason Kelce awarded the job, the team felt the responsibility was best left to Vick. By all accounts, Kelce is ready to handle more of the load this season, which should allow the quarterback to focus on doing his job -- delivering the football to open receivers.

Finally, this will be year number four in the Eagles' west coast offense for Vick, which is often cited as the length of time it takes a quarterback to truly grasp the system. He's put in the work, and has more than enough experience. This is sink or swim.

Unlike our previous two questions however, there isn't really any research that proves or disproves Vick has what it takes to continue his ascension, and trying to cite examples through NFL history would be futile. There has never been another player like this, whose career has taken a trajectory like Vick's.

We know he can stay healthy, even though we don't know whether or not he will, and we know he can cut back on turnovers based on what he's done during his career. Whether or not you think he can be something greater than what he is now -- a Super Bowl winning quarterback -- that is subjective.

The only thing we know for sure is if the Eagles have any shot at winning it all this year, that's what Vick has to become.

Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

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Late goal lifts Penguins over Sharks in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

PITTSBURGH -- To their credit, the Sharks regrouped after a miserable first period at Consol Energy Center in which it looked like they might get run out of the building.

It wasn’t enough, though, as Nick Bonino’s late third period goal pushed the Penguins to a 3-2 win in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

On the game-winner, Brent Burns lost his stick and couldn’t prevent Kris Letang from finding Bonino in front of the net with Paul Martin defending the slot. Bonino flipped it through Martin Jones at 17:27 of the final frame.

The Sharks went to the power play with 2:09 to go, but couldn’t tie it up.

Game 2 is in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

The Penguins dominated the first period, only to have the Sharks completely turn the tables in the second, resulting in a 2-2 tie after 40 minutes.

The Penguins had the Sharks on their heels for virtually the entire opening frame, outshooting San Jose 15-4 and scoring a pair.

The first came at 12:46 of the first. On a rush, Justin Schultz’s shot from the high slot hit the glove of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and rookie Bryan Rust was there to smack in the loose puck.

Just one minute and two seconds later, the Penguins upped their cushion. Sidney Crosby tracked down a loose puck in the corner ahead of Justin Braun, calmly played the puck off his backhand and whipped a cross-ice pass to Conor Sheary. Another rookie, Sheary whizzed a wrist shot past Jones’ far shoulder.

It was evident early in the second, though, that San Jose had regrouped, as Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski both had good looks at the net. They broke through on an early power play courtesy of Tomas Hertl, who curled in a pass from down low off of Olli Maatta at 3:02.

Pittsburgh withstood a continual push from the Sharks for much of the period until Marleau’s late score. After Couture outworked Maatta deep in the offensive zone and pushed the puck to the point to Burns, Marleau secured Burns’ rebound and wrapped it around at 18:12.

Burns had two assists, and made a strong defensive play with about three minutes left in the first, backchecking hard and lifting up Carl Hagelin’s stick on a breakaway.

Special teams

The Sharks were 1-for-2 on the power play, on Hertl’s second man advantage goal of the playoffs. They are 18-for-65 in the postseason (27.6 percent).

Pittsburgh went 0-for-3, generating five shots on goal. The Pens are 15-for-67 overall (22.3 percent).

Marleau was whistled for an illegal check to the head of Rust in the third period, sending the 24-year-old to the dressing room for a brief stretch.

In goal

Jones and Murray were each making their first career starts in the Stanley Cup Final. Jones took the loss with 38 saves, while Murray stopped 24 San Jose shots.

Lineup

Sharks forward Matt Nieto remained out with an upper body injury.

Pavelski saw his seven-game point streak (5g, 5a) come to an end. Pittsburgh’s Chris Kunitz increased his point streak to six games (3g, 4a).

Up next

The Sharks are 5-11 all-time when losing Game 1 of a playoff series, but 1-0 this year as they came back to defeat the Blues in the Western Conference Final.

Teams that win Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final have gone on to win the championship 78 percent of the time (59-18). The last team to win the Cup after losing Game 1 was the 2011 Bruins.

NL East Wrap: Matt Harvey gets back on track in Mets' win over White Sox

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NL East Wrap: Matt Harvey gets back on track in Mets' win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000 (see full recap).

Pete Mackanin on deciding Ryan Howard's playing time: 'I think about it all the time'

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Pete Mackanin on deciding Ryan Howard's playing time: 'I think about it all the time'

A day after he made comments in Chicago that alluded to the trimming of Ryan Howard’s playing time against right-handed pitchers, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin sat at his desk, surrounded by reporters, and was pressed for 10 minutes on the issue of his declining, expensive and struggling first baseman and franchise icon.

Howard, of course, was penciled into the lineup in the cleanup spot against righty Tanner Roark for Monday’s 4-3 loss to the visiting Washington Nationals (see game recap).

A question of was barely out of a reporter’s mouth when Mackanin quickly interjected a “hell yes.”

It’s the hardest decision - what to do with the struggling Howard - he’s had to make in his brief time managing the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I think about it all the time,” Mackanin said.

“That’s the hard part of this job. It’s not just running the game, it’s handling the players.”

For now, Mackanin said, he hasn’t felt the need to talk to Howard about it. Howard, who sat Sunday for the second time in eight days against a righty, said Sunday he was unaware his manager was intending on reducing his playing time against righties (see story).

Once a platoon situation at first base, it appears the Phillies are going to take a longer look at rookie Tommy Joseph against right-handed pitchers in the near future.

“If I was going to sit (Howard) on the bench and he wasn’t going to play anymore, I’d have that conversation,” Mackanin said. “I think what I said was pretty obvious.”

“I didn’t say I was going to bench Howard.”

He didn’t Monday. Howard had good numbers against Roark, something he didn’t have against Sunday’s starter for the Cubs, John Lackey. So it looks like Mackanin’s decision will be based on matchups.

In his second at-bat Monday, a second straight strikeout on the night and 12th in his last 22 at-bats, Howard was way late on a 93-mph fastball on the outer half of the plate.

But he looked much better in his final two at-bats of the night.

In the bottom of the sixth, he drove a Roark changeup to the warning track deep in right-center, but Ben Revere closed quickly and made the catch.

In his last at-bat, after Maikel Franco led off the ninth inning with a double, Howard jumped on a first-pitch fastball from Jonathan Papelbon and drove a double to the gap in left-centerfield, scoring Franco and putting the tying run in scoring position with no outs.

Those two swings were the ones Mackanin said Monday afternoon he “knew” were there. He later corrected himself and said it was more of a situation of “hope.”

Howard went 1 for 4 on the night. His May average is now .106.

“He needed to come through with a big hit and that was a huge hit, put the tying run at second base,” Mackanin said. “It was good to see.”

The Phillies are slated to face a righty in their next six games before facing Jon Lester and the Cubs at home next Monday. Joseph, who is hitting .278 with three home runs in his first 36 Major League at-bats, figures to get the start in the majority of those.

It’s a decision Mackanin says he’s going to make on a day-by-day basis.

He was asked if the front office, which is also in a tough spot and may have to do something soon, gave him any input on what to do.

“They don’t tell me who to play and when to play them,” Mackanin said. “I know that they want me to mix in Joseph against right-handers so that he doesn’t stagnate. That’s pretty much all I go by right now.”

A suggestion from upstairs isn’t unprecedented. It has already happened before during the young 2016 season.

“They asked me to - as bad as (Tyler) Goeddel looked early in the season - they asked me if I could try to mix him in a little more,” Mackanin said. “I said sure. I did, and he started hitting better. So now he’s playing more. Here we go, if you want to play more than you gotta hit.

“There’s nothing set in stone.”