Will Michael Vick be effective if he can’t run?

Will Michael Vick be effective if he can’t run?

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.

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

Joel Embiid finally struggles in Sixers' loss to Nuggets

BOX SCORE

Joel Embiid has been making the NBA look easy. Rookie of the Month honors, five double-doubles in 13 games, seven performances of 20 points or more … all having missed the last two years rehabbing from foot injuries.

Embiid, though, still is a player learning the league. Night’s like Monday’s lackluster showing are going to happen, even if it seemed unexpected against the struggling Denver Nuggets. 

“We’ve been used to seeing Jo have superhuman nights,” Brett Brown said after the Sixers’ 106-98 loss (see Instant Replay). “I thought Joel was down tonight.” 

Embiid tallied a total 16 points (5 for 15 from the field, 1 for 3 from three, 5 for 6 from the line) with four rebounds, one assist, a career-high five blocks, three turnovers and three fouls in 25:32. 

He had a quiet first half with six points (2 for 5 from the field) and one rebound in 9:21. The biggest struggle came in the third quarter. Embiid scored a single point off a free throw and shot 0 for 6 from the floor. By the end of three, he was shooting 18.2 percent. 

The big man said he needed to be better at passing out of the double team. He committed two turnovers in the third. 

“I wasn’t getting to my spot and I wasn’t getting what I’m used to getting,” Embiid said of the first three quarters. “I’m going to go back and watch the tape and see what I did wrong.” 

Embiid bounced back for another Embiid-like offensive effort in the fourth. He dropped nine points off an efficient 3 for 4 shooting in 7:31. Still, it wasn’t enough. 

“I made a couple shots,” Embiid said. “It didn’t help us win, so I don’t think it matters.”

Brown noticed Embiid rushing his game. He also thought Embiid’s balance was off, something the big man has been dealing with all season as he continues to find his legs. 

Embiid will not play in Tuesday's game against the Grizzlies. It is part of his work load management in which he does not play both games of a back-to-back. Expect him to hone in on game film until his next matchup, and get back on the roller coaster that can be a first year in the NBA. 

“It's just part of a young man's growth,” Brown said. “It just happens. I don't think we need to read too deeply into it. I think, in many ways, to expect from time to time not as good of a performance as we have been used to is fair enough.”

Best of NHL: Bryan Rust notches hat trick as Pens score 8 in win

uspresswire-penguins-bryan-rust.jpg
USA Today Images

Best of NHL: Bryan Rust notches hat trick as Pens score 8 in win

PITTSBURGH -- Bryan Rust had his first career hat trick, Sidney Crosby added his NHL-leading 17th goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins raced by the Ottawa Senators 8-5 on Monday night.

Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel each had a goal and two assists for Pittsburgh, and Matt Cullen and Justin Schultz also scored. The Penguins poured in six goals over the final 32 minutes after spotting the Senators a 4-2 lead. Matt Murray made 17 saves after coming in for an ineffective Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period.

Pittsburgh has won three straight overall and improved to 7-0-2 in its last nine against the Senators.

Matt Stone had a goal and two assists for Ottawa. Erik Karlsson, Mike Hoffman, Mark Stone and Dion Phaneuf also scored for Ottawa, which lost in regulation for just the second time in its last eight games (see full recap).

Capitals rally late for OT win over Sabres
WASHINGTON -- Marcus Johansson scored the tying goal late in the third period and got the winner midway through overtime to lift the Washington Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.

The goals were Johansson's third and fourth in his last five games. He has 11 for the season.

Jay Beagle added the Capitals' first even-strength goal in three games, as Washington snapped a three-game losing skid. Braden Holtby made 31 saves in the victory, the Capitals second over the Sabres in an 11-day stretch.

Kyle Okposo scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season to give the Sabres the lead in the second period. Zemgus Girgensons also scored early for Buffalo, and Robin Lehner made 30 stops for the visitors (see full recap).

Blue Jackets sweep series from Coyotes
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Sam Gagner had two goals and two assists to help the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Arizona Coyotes for the second time in three days, 4-1 on Monday night.

Nick Foligno and Zach Werensky also scored for the Blue Jackets, who won for the fourth straight time and ninth of their last 12. Columbus picked up its 500th win in franchise history in sweeping the two-game season series with the Coyotes.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 17 shots for Columbus.

Arizona backup goaltender Louis Domingue had 30 saves, two days after the Blue Jackets hammered starter Mike Smith with a franchise-record 60 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory in Phoenix.

Arizona struck first 9:28 into the game when Alex Goligoski fed a pass on a power play to Tobias Reider, who slammed it past Bobrovsky's glove side from between the circles (see full recap).