Would Eagles Proceed with Vick Beyond 2010?

Would Eagles Proceed with Vick Beyond 2010?

Some weeks there just isn't much to say about the game. The Eagles dominated a listless Jaguars squad in every phase of the game on Sunday. The defense limited Jacksonville's only legitimate weapon, allowing the front four to tee off on the quarterback, while Michael Vick played mistake-free football, only taking the big plays that were there to be made. The result was never in doubt.

We're not going to learn a whole lot about the Eagles from dissecting this one. The fact is they should have won with ease, and did. Vick is supposed perform against defenses that don't have the personnel to cover his array of weapons, much less pin him down. This week will serve as a better example of his progress as an NFL quarterback.

Until then, let's humor the Vick crowd.

Michael Vick just played, in my opinion, his best game of the season so far. His completion percentage wasn't as high this week as the previous two, which might be a warning he will regress closer to his career average in that department. However, he seemed much more decisive with the football. He got rid of the rock faster, and he was willing to turn it loose down the field when the match-ups dictated he take a shot. There were no turnovers, nor was he ever really in danger of coughing it up.

Again, this is the Jaguars we're talking about, so we probably shouldn't get too excited. Still, with the exception of a handful of harmless incompletions, Vick appeared to have come a long way as a passer in a relatively short timespan. If this trend continues—a big if—how does that impact the state of the Eagles' quarterback situation for the future?

It may seem like a stupid question, but even if Vick sustains a Pro Bowl level of production throughout the course of the season, there is an inherent risk in giving him a long term contract. For starters, the man remains on probation. As we witnessed during the off-season after a shooting took place at his birthday party, even the slightest involvement by Vick in criminal activity will prompt an investigation, and could easily land him back in prison, or at least suspended by the league.

Had his role in a despicable dog fighting ring been the extent of the quarterback's wrong-doing through the years, this might not be as much of a cause for concern. Unfortunately, Vick has turned up on the wrong side of the law with some frequency. There's no reason to draft a list in this space, but those incidents, although in the past and many of them alleged, can't be treated as irrelevant or like they never happened at all.

Do I believe Michael Vick is a changed man? That's not really important. The reality of his situation is it only takes one miscue before he has everything taken back: one drink too many before getting behind the wheel of a car; one joint or dime bag left lying around; one physical altercation. These are not a stretch for any professional athlete, much less Vick. The difference is he might not get another second chance.

What's the back-up plan then?

The Eagles are walking a thin line with Vick. Kevin Kolb was either going to be a good NFL quarterback, or he wasn't, and the front office would simply move forward as everything unfolded.

If Vick continues to shred opposing defenses the way he did in Detroit and Jacksonville, can the Eagles make a commitment to an athlete with a sordid past at one of the most important positions in professional sports?

Conventional wisdom seems to scream, "No," but I think we may be way beyond that.

Flyers-Blackhawks 10 observations: Have yourself a day, Ivan Provorov

Flyers-Blackhawks 10 observations: Have yourself a day, Ivan Provorov

It was the Ivan Provorov show at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon when the Flyers took down the NHL-leading Blackhawks, 3-1 (see Instant Replay).
 
The orange and black are now on a season-best four-game winning spree and have climbed past the Capitals for fourth place in the Metropolitan Division.
 
Let’s delve into the game with 10 observations.
 
1. Remember this? When Provorov tripped over his own two skates in Chicago? It was a bit of an embarrassing moment for the 19-year-old. It resulted in an easy Blackhawks goal and, in many ways, served as Provorov’s rookie initiation as he finished a minus-5. Well, you can forget all that. The Flyers’ young, prized blueliner, who entered with one goal in 25 games, showed Chicago his true colors Saturday by ripping off two markers in 31 seconds of the second period. Good for him.
 
2. Brayden Schenn was extra demonstrative after extending the Flyers’ lead to 3-1 in the second period. Can you blame him? The 25-year-old had just one goal in his last 17 games. Schenn has been up and down the lineup, playing on all four lines and at both wing and center. He looked good here with Travis Konecny, who delivered a surgical pass to set up Schenn.
 
3. Patrick Kane had a secondary assist but that was all as the Flyers kept him mostly quiet. Kane, a four-time All-Star and last season’s Hart Memorial Trophy winner for NHL MVP, had 24 points coming in, good for seventh in the league.
 
4. Steve Mason was good in net. He’s now won three straight, a span in which he’s stopped 90 of 95 shots.
 
5. Aside from a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty by Nick Cousins in the third period, the Flyers played with great discipline. Chicago wasn’t awarded any power plays until there was 6:31 left in the game. The Flyers forced the Blackhawks to beat them at full strength and they couldn’t.
 
6. Cousins, Chris VandeVelde and Michael Raffl all tallied an assist apiece. The Flyers outshot Chicago, 30-27, and had just seven giveaways.
 
7. The Blackhawks’ opening goal was a nice one. Artem Anisimov adeptly eluded a sliding Provorov in front of the crease and fed Artemi Panarin for a one-timer. Mason had no chance. Panarin, as you may know, beat out Shayne Gostisbehere for last season’s Calder Memorial Trophy given to the NHL’s top rookie. The 25-year-old has nine goals and 22 points this season.
 
8. Unexpectedly, Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford underwent an appendectomy at a Philadelphia hospital Saturday, putting Chicago in bind. Second-string netminder Scott Darling received the start, but the Blackhawks needed an emergency backup. Enter the pride of Temple, Eric Semborski, a 23-year-old from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, who played club hockey for the Owls. Chicago inked him to an amateur tryout, essentially for one day. He was seen in warmups wearing a Temple mask, which sported “Philly Proud” and “Temple Tuff.”
 
 9. Chicago came in 13-3-2 since Oct. 28. However, the Blackhawks overall are 6-6-1 on the road compared to 10-1-2 at home. The Flyers did catch a break as Chicago was without Crawford and three-time All-Star Jonathan Toews (back). Still, a really good win for the Flyers against a team that was atop the NHL.
 
10. Wondering if there were any “woo” chants in the first home game since Jakub Voracek blasted fans for it? Well, only a select few had the audacity to try it but the woos never gained steam. Fans are past it.

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 1

Instant Replay: Flyers 3, Blackhawks 1

BOX SCORE

The Flyers now have a legitimate win streak going.
 
They defeated the Chicago Blackhawks, 3-1, in a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Wells Fargo Center for their fourth straight victory (see 10 observations).
 
It’s the longest win streak of the season for Dave Hakstol’s club.
 
Rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov scored twice in the second period just 31 seconds apart to erase a 1-0 deficit and put the Flyers ahead. The Flyers scored three goals on their first four shots that period.
 
Chicago has now lost 13 consecutive regular-season games in Philadelphia. The Hawks last won here in 1996-97, when the building opened as CoreStates Center.

Steve Mason (26 Saves) made his third straight start in goal for the Flyers, while Scott Darling was a late sub in goal for Chicago given Corey Crawford’s emergency appendectomy surgery. 
 
Notable goals
Artemi Panarin’s one-timer from the left circle in the first period saw all five Flyers on the opposite side of the ice. 
 
Twice is nice
Provorov’s first goal was high shot above the left circle. His second goal came from the high slot low toward the left post on Darling.
 
What-a-pass
Travis Konecny threaded a puck between two Blackhawks to Brayden Schenn’s stick to set up the Flyers' third goal in the second period.
 
Inconclusive
In an effort to help Mason, Provorov had his glove hand over the puck in the Flyers' net and cleared it out. Replays were inconclusive. All you could see is Provorov moving his glove hand and the puck squirting out … but from where? It should have been a goal, but if the video doesn’t show the puck in the net, even if logic suggests otherwise, it’s not a goal. 
 
Goalie report
Mason didn’t face the kind of shot challenges that Darling did, but he did a very good job of slowing things down and forcing faceoffs by covering up shots in the paint rather than attempt to keep pucks alive.
 
Power play
The Flyers had their pickings on their first opportunity and the Hawks’ lowly 30th-ranked PK units did nothing but rely on Darling to make saves.
 
Penalty kill
Chicago didn’t have a full power play. It got an abbreviated one in the third period, when the Flyers were called for too many men on the ice during a power play, which is rather incongruous when you think about it.
 
Father and sons
The Flyers' annual event began Saturday, as players’ fathers watched the game here at the Wells Fargo Center. The fathers will travel with the team to Nashville for Sunday’s game as well.
 
Scratches
Defenseman Nick Schultz (healthy) and Radko Gudas (ill); forwards Boyd Gordon (back spasms), Sean Couturier (left knee) and Scott Laughton (healthy); goalie Michal Neuvirth (left knee).
 
Up next
This is a back-to-back situation for the Flyers. They leave after the game for Nashville, where they will meet the Predators on Sunday at a rare playing time of 6 p.m.