The good news for the Eagles is Michael Vick is expected to play on Sunday—at least that’s the consensus among reporters. Chip Kelly sounds far less convinced, although who knows how much of that is gamesmanship on the head coach’s part.
The bad news is Vick’s hamstring still may not be 100 percent by Sunday even if he does start the game. The four-time Pro Bowler hasn’t even tried running at full speed yet, nor will he until Friday. That begs the question how effective will he be against the Giants if he’s limited in any way?
It goes without say that running is a huge part of Vick’s game. After all, he is the NFL’s all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks. His 5,858 yards on the ground account for 21.5 percent of his career production.
More importantly, the rushing yards help sustain the offense when he struggles as a passer. In their Week 5 meeting against New York, Vick only connected on 6 of 14 passes for 105 yards before leaving the game late in the second quarter, but he was still able to lead the Philly’s offense to 16 points thanks in part to his 79 yards on the ground.
Unfortunately, Vick’s inefficiency as a passer has been more of a problem this season than some might realize, especially recently. His 90.6 passer rating doesn’t look bad, but that’s buoyed by strong performances in Weeks 1 and 2. In his last three games, that number drops to 66.3.
Against Kansas City, Denver, and the Giants, Vick completed 46.5 percent of his passes for 554 yards (7.8 AVG) with one touchdown and two interceptions. He ran 19 times for 219 yards.
Besides the production that would go missing, another potential issue is whether Vick can elude pass rushers in the backfield. If not, he’ll have to shorten the NFL’s longest release time, which is something many have been calling on him to do since basically forever.
The problem of course is even if Vick isn’t able to run around much, the Eagles don’t have many other options. Nick Foles’ status is up in the air because of a concussion, and even if cleared, he missed practice all week which he sorely needs after Sunday’s debacle. Matt Barkley didn’t win any new fans with his performance against Dallas either.
It certainly isn’t reasonable to put much stock in Barkley’s performance in that fourth quarter of action. A rookie coming off the bench cold for his first NFL game down by 14 doesn’t stand much of a chance most of the time.
Still, it’s hard to view him as Philly’s best option this week, and Vick was reportedly getting the majority of the first-team snaps in practice, so they certainly aren’t prepping Barkley as if he were making his first start.
Chip would not describe himself as comfortable with his situation at quarterback on Wednesday, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s hard to argue Vick is the same player when you take his mobility away, and even those rushing yards aren’t always enough on those days he can’t locate his rhythm in the passing game.
The Giants suddenly don’t look like pushovers either. They shut down Minnesota’s one-dimensional offense on Monday, and have been fairly competitive since getting off to an abysmal start. If they sense blood in the water at the Linc, it could be a long day for Vick.
That’s if he plays. Kelly said he expects Vick to play, but remained non-committal over the starting quarterback, leaving at least a shred of doubt about Vick’s availability. If the head coach doesn’t like what he sees on Friday, who knows—it could be Barkley being backed up by G.J. Kinne on Sunday.
Most likely, the Eagles will decide even a stationary Vick gives them a better chance to beat the Giants than a fourth-round rookie. It will be interesting to see how effective No. 7 can be if running isn't part of his game.