As you are likely aware by now, Vince Young will make his second start in an Eagles uniform today, the level of competition becoming significantly better in round two. We're talking Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and the New England Patriots -- winners of three Super Bowls over a four-year span. As I heard on sports talk radio over the holiday weekend, Sunday's opponent is the true gold standard in the NFL over the past decade.
VY is up to the task though. The Birds' faithful largely remain skeptical about Young's ability to quarterback a pro football team, many of them specifically questioning his talent as a passer. However, he has an opportunity to put such notions to rest versus a Pats defense that ranks 32nd in the league when it comes to defending against aerial attacks.
All things being equal, New England faces more passing attempts than most clubs. They have one of the league's most prolific offenses, which means their opponents are frequently playing catch-up, or need to chuck it just to stay in the game. The Patriots have faced the fourth-highest total of attempts, but their opponents' passer efficiency rating ranks 14th, which is still better than the majority.
Still, they are by no means great, plus they're banged up. The Pats are without CB Devin McCourty, their first-round pick in 2010, and SS Patrick Chung. They released starting safeties Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders from a year ago. Some of the names that will be on the field in the defensive backfield are CB Kyle Arrington -- who may have seven interceptions, but was little more than a camp body for the Eagles a few years ago -- and SS Josh Barrett, a seventh-round pick by the Broncos out of Arizona State in 2008.
It's a tad thin to say the least, but shifting the focus back to Young, he certainly stands to capitalize. The rush to conclude he isn't a stellar passer is strong, yet there is plenty of evidence that's not exactly the case. Initially it seemed VY got better as last Sunday night's game against the Giants went on, but the statistics actually confirm that was the case.
Young completed 83% of his passes in the second half at the Meadowlands, going for roughly two-thirds of his yards and the game-winning score. He shook off the rust and led the offense an 18-play, nearly nine-minute drive in the fourth quarter. Of course, it was only one game, but naturally I wasn't surprised. The idea Young isn't a decent passer was debunked pretty easily over the summer by some of our own research.
Young had greatly improved during his final two seasons in Tennessee. All his vital numbers were better -- completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns-to-interceptions, even winning. He was already taking the next step in a career marked with achievements such as a Rookie of the Year award and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Why the VY experiment ultimately failed there is complicated, but it wasn't necessarily performance based.
And when you compare the level of talent from there to Philadelphia, it's no contest. They didn't have an explosive down-field threat like DeSean Jackson, nor a tight end capable of posting a 1,000 yard season like Brent Celek. They didn't have quality depth like Jason Avant or (ugh) Steve Smith, or much emerging talent like Riley Cooper (that should be good for a laugh). The most Vince Young ever had was Chris Johnson when the runner was still blowing through opposing defenses.
Eagles fans need to forget the wonky delivery, the antics that caused him to lose his previous coaching staff and locker room, and understand that Young has never had an opportunity like the one he's getting here, in a huddle supposedly bursting at the seams with talent. Whether or not they can actually beat the Patriots is anybody's guess, but if they don't, it probably won't be for lack of Michael Vick. Young is an able passer, and he'll have an ample number of chances to showcase that this week.