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.

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

Best of NHL: Flames edge Coyotes in OT for fifth straight win

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dougie Hamilton scored 1:09 into overtime, Chad Johnson stopped 27 shots and the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 on Thursday night.

Mark Giordano scored for the Flames in a chippy game filled with big hits and multiple fights.

Hamilton capped a fast-paced overtime by deking Arizona's Mike Smith with a forehand before flipping in a backhander. Calgary has won five straight and eight of 11 (8-2-1).

Max Domi scored before leaving with an upper-body injury and Smith stopped 33 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost six straight and 11 of 14 (3-7-4).

Arizona captain Shane Doan became Arizona's all-time assist leader and is the fifth player in NHL history to own his team's records for games played, goals, assists, points, game-winning goals and power-play goals (see full recap).

Crosby, Penguins roll over Panthers
SUNRISE, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby got his 18th goal and added an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins over the Florida Panthers 5-1 on Thursday night.

Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Carl Hagelin also scored for Pittsburgh. Matt Murray made 28 saves.

The Penguins have won four straight and five of their past six.

Jaromir Jagr scored his 755th career goal, and Roberto Luongo stopped 25 shots for the Panthers. Luongo allowed three goals on Pittsburgh's first five shots.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe, who replaced Gerard Gallant on Nov. 28, made his home debut. The Panthers have lost five of six under Rowe, but managed a point in three of those losses (see full recap).

Price loses cool as Habs beat Devils
MONTREAL -- Carey Price lost his temper after being bumped twice in his crease and made 19 saves to help the Montreal Canadiens beat the New Jersey Devils 5-2 on Thursday night.

Torrey Mitchell scored twice and Phillip Danault, Artturi Lehkonen and Max Pacioretty also had goals for the Canadiens in their return from a five-game trip.

Adam Henrique scored a goal and set up one by Taylor Hall for New Jersey, which ended a two-game winning streak.

Montreal had a season-high 49 shots on Cory Schneider.

A wild first period included three goals, four goal reviews and Price's meltdown (see full recap).