Can improved preseason be Vick's key to success?

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Can improved preseason be Vick's key to success?

September 3, 2013, 9:00 am
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Michael Vick went 28 for 38 for 383 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a 101.1 passer rating in three games this preseason. (USA Today Images)

He took 12 snaps. Got sacked on one of them, got hurt on two of them. Threw seven passes for 11 yards. Ran once for five yards.

And that was Michael Vick’s 2012 preseason.

It was marked by missed practices, scary injuries, in-game cameos and a 19-day layoff between his final preseason appearance, Aug. 20, against the Patriots in Foxboro, and his regular-season debut, Sept. 9, against the Browns in Cleveland.

So maybe it shouldn’t have surprised anybody that after an injury-plagued, largely ineffective preseason, Vick embarked on an injury-plagued, largely ineffective regular season.

“Honestly? Yeah, I think it did affect me, a lot,” Vick said, referring to last year's preseason. “It takes a while to get adjusted, and yeah, I’ve been in the game a long time and I’m a veteran and I know what it feels like to be in the game, but sometimes there’s really no way of simulating that -- the game-type atmosphere.

“So I learned something. I definitely learned a lot from last year’s preseason and what I need to do to get ready.”

Here’s all you need to know about Vick’s 2012 preseason:

He was 3 for 4 for six yards on Aug. 9 against the Steelers at the Linc before leaving the game with a thumb injury. Eleven days later, he went 1 for 3 for five yards against the Patriots in Foxboro before leaving the game with a rib injury serious enough to require X-rays.

And that was it.

“Would I like him to have some more reps?” Andy Reid said back then. “Would he like more reps? Yeah, I'm sure both of us would like him to have more reps.”

But he never got them, and Vick went into the season cold.

In the opener against the Browns in Cleveland, his first pass went for minus-six yards. His eighth snap, he fumbled. His eighth pass was intercepted. By the time the game was over, Vick had thrown a career-high four interceptions and fumbled twice, and even though the Eagles beat the Pat Shurmur-coached Browns, 17-16, it was an ungainly performance by Vick.

And his struggles continued.

Three weeks into the season, Vick had six interceptions and three touchdowns and had been sacked nine times.

He looked exactly like a quarterback who hadn’t had much of a preseason.

His six INTs were the most by an Eagles quarterback after three games since Mike Boryla had eight three games into the 1976 season. Vick's passer rating after three weeks was 66.2, which ranked 29th in the league.

“I feel like I was still doing some good things last year, but it took a while to get that feeling,” Vick said. “By the time I got into my groove it was Week 5, Week 6, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and then I got hurt and it was over.”

Vick is absolutely right. About a month into the season, he started on a very consistent stretch.

From Week 4 against the Giants to Week 9 against the Cowboys, he completed 61 percent of his passes with eight TDs and just three INTs. His passer rating during that six-game stretch was a solid 87.6 -- 12th-best in the league during that span.

The Eagles were 3-6 at that point, but it was mainly because of poor play calling, an ineffective defense and a decimated offensive line. Vick wasn’t playing up to his 2010 level, but he wasn’t playing badly. He wasn’t the reason the Eagles were losing.

Then, in a mid-November loss to the Cowboys at the Linc, Vick suffered a concussion when he was slammed to the ground by Jay Ratliffe.

He didn’t play again until the last day of the season in an ugly loss to the Giants at the Meadowlands that ended Reid’s 14-year coaching tenure in Philly.

But looking back at last year, it’s clear that Vick didn’t really have a terrible year. He had a terrible start that can be traced back to his drastically curtailed preseason.

Which brings us to this year.

Where last year, he threw seven passes all preseason, this year he threw 38. Where last year, he got just 12 snaps all preseason, this year he got 75.

“My approach was definitely different this year, and I’m glad it was,” he said. “My mindset was different.

“I think last year my mindset was just that I was taking the preseason for granted. And I think it definitely hinders you come the start of the regular season.”

Vick will make his fourth straight opening-day start for the Eagles on Monday night when they face the Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

It will be their first game under a coach other than Andy Reid in 15 years, since a 20-10 loss to the Giants at the Vet on Dec. 27, 1998.

Their quarterback that day was Koy Detmer.

Vick, 33, will be the Eagles’ oldest opening-day quarterback since 35-year-old Ron Jaworski started against the Giants in 1985.

He hasn’t played a full season since 2006, the only time in his career he’s played 16 games, but Vick is confident the new coaching staff, an explosive offense and a beefed-up offensive line will lead to a big season.

And he’s confident the best preseason of his life will also have a lot to do with it.

“The approach now is that I was going out there and was mentally preparing to play a full game and just be mentally and physically into it,” he said. “It helped. I think last year it hurt me.”

Vick said he never really took preseason games all that seriously before, and his career numbers bear that out.

In his first 10 NFL seasons, Vick threw just eight touchdown passes and 14 interceptions for a 62.9 passer rating in 27 preseason games.

This preseason, he was 28 for 38 for 383 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for a 101.1 passer rating. And one of the INTs was a Hail Mary at the end of a half.

“I played a lot,” he said. “I played a lot this preseason. Just got into that groove, got comfortable. It was just a different feeling than other years.”

Vick finished the preseason by playing three quarters against the Jaguars in Jacksonville a week ago Saturday. He got 45 snaps over eight series, the most he’s ever played in a preseason game, even going back to his days with the Falcons.

“That last game, probably more than anybody knows else in this locker room, I know that that was one of the most important and valuable games of this season,” he said.

“Because the atmosphere was great, the competition was great, and we had to dig deep a little bit. That atmosphere was exactly what we needed to get going into the regular season. It was exactly what I needed.”

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