Michael Vick made his Eagles debut at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday night during the Eagles' 33-32 win. While he only participated in six plays, all in the first half, we did get a glimpse of what he might become this season. Here are 10 key things we learned.
1. Don't read much into Vick's perfect stat line. Vick was 4-for-4 for 19 yards, but two were right-handed shuttle passes to rookie running back LeSean McCoy, one was a bubble screen to DeSean Jackson.
Vick's best play was a 13-yard strike to Hank Baskett. Vick looked like he was about to take off during the play, but he stayed in the pocket, read the field and zipped it to Baskett. Vick definitely appears to have plenty of arm strength, although the coaching staff didn't let him air it out.
When Vick came to Philly, he said he was eager to learn from the coaching staff that helped turn McNabb into a Pro Bowler. They'll likely try to help him become more of a pocket quarterback. It should be very interesting to see if he gets more opportunities to throw in Philadelphia's next preseason game and if he can remain patient.
2. Vick didn't look fast on his one running attempt. On a designed play, Vick ran left and got past Jaguars defensive end Derrick Harvey. But Vick, who said he was at "70 percent" on his road back to where he was athletically, didn't have that second gear to get by the second wave of defenders. To be fair, the Eagles line didn't block effectively on the play, and Vick was a bit off balance.
"He's still got that speed," Harvey said. "But I was close enough to trip him up just enough and make sure he didn't get anything going."
3. Vick was welcomed warmly in Philly. Vick received a standing ovation from the Lincoln Field crowd when he came in on the second play of the Eagles' first offensive series. The cheering continued throughout the night.
"I can't explain the feeling," Vick said. "It was unbelievable the way I was embraced and the warm welcome I received. It actually made me screw up one of my reads. I wanted to please the crowd and I actually made a bad play. I came back from it, but it was awesome."
Only a handful of protestors made the trip to stadium. That might change when Vick plays in a regular-season game, but the animal-rights activists weren't going to trek to South Philly in rush-hour traffic for a preseason game. The NAACP showed up to support Vick and was mobbed by the media, but the group's appearance made little real impact
Knowing Philadelphia fans, they'll support Vick as long as the team is winning. If they lose, and Vick is part of the reason, they'll start bombarding local radio station 610 WIP to ask why they bothered bringing in a player with so many issues.
4. The Eagles offense looked out of rhythm when they worked in Vick. When Vick came in, everything slowed down and the players focused on running the right play. That's not much of a surprise, considering the coaching staff has had just two weeks to get used to their new quarterback. That herky-jerky feel may not end up being a problem. The Colts' offense is stop-and-go with all of Peyton Manning's directions at the line, and they do alright. But starting quarterback Donovan McNabb didn't seem to like it.
"When you're trying something new, it's important that you get into a rhythm first and then try to work it and work it in there in the offense," McNabb said. "I thought we did some great things that presented some pressure to the defense, but at some point you have to get into a rhythm and get things going down the field and move the chains."
Philadelphia did move the ball relatively easily in the series they didn't use Vick. If McNabb is on his game, it's not clear how inserting Vick will help the flow of the offense.
5. The Eagles are much more concerned with the offensive line than the quarterback. Philadelphia has committed $100 million to an offensive line to protect McNabb. They haven't been on the field all together yet and have had no chance to build chemistry. Left tackle Jason Peters, right guard Stacy Andrews and center Jamaal Jackson played on Thursday, but left guard Todd Heremans and right tackle Shawn Andrews were out. McNabb wasn't sacked on Thursday, although the Jags did get close several times.
Shawn Andrews drew some attention away from Vick today in Philly because of his bizarre YouTube video. The injured former first-round pick rapped an original called "Getting My Michael Phelps On." With Andrews' history of emotional problems, few are convinced he can stay focused for an entire season, even if he does recover fully from back surgery.
6. The Eagles have a lot of playmakers. One of the reasons no one thought Philadelphia would sign Vick is their group of skill players. The receiving corps still lacks the big, Terrell Owens-type No. 1, but DeSean Jackson is poised to have a breakout season and Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, Hank Baskett and Jeremy Maclin all appear ready to contribute. Maclin had his most impressive preseason game with four catches for 53 yards, and showed his ability to run after the catch.
Brian Westbrook was a late scratch, but reportedly the Eagles were just being cautious. Playing their star running back would have made no sense, since keeping Westbrook healthy is a top priority. McCoy saw a lot of action, and was adequate (11 carries for 31 yards and a touchdown), even though he dropped a lateral that was thrown behind him that resulted in a Jacksonville defensive touchdown
7. The Eagles may have put something in opposing coach's heads. Even before they signed Vick, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told me at training camp that he was particularly excited to try out different sets this season, including a lot of four-receiver looks. When Vick was in, the Eagles' offense certainly had a University of Florida spread feel to it. At the very least, Philadelphia wants opposing coaches to waste some time thinking about Vick.
8. Don't expect any NFL players to criticize Vick. I spoke to several Jaguars after the game and they all support Vick. "I didn't want him to do well tonight, but I'm rooting for him to come back and be the old star he was," Jaguars defensive end Reggie Hayward said. "He served his dues. It will be good for him and good for the NFL if he plays well." The players sounded almost rehearsed. They've all been asked about Vick before. But Vick's first game didn't seem like a huge deal to them. "I just didn't want to end up on a highlight reel with him running by me tonight," Jaguars safety Rashean Mathis said.
9. Defenses are aware of how much Wildcat buzz there is. The Jags didn't seem out of whack when the Eagles put in Vick. "We all keep hearing about the Wildcat and how everyone's going to run it this season," Hayward said. "But it's something we work on in practice. I don't think it's going to cause problems. We don't want what offenses do to dictate the way we play defense."
10. The Jaguars, and other NFL teams, may have a bit of Vick envy. When Vick was reinstated and the debate over who would sign him began, Jacksonville was high on everyone's list. Just not owner Wayne Weaver's. They would never admit it, but just maybe the Jags are rethinking that a bit after tonight.
The Eagles drilled Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard multiple times on Thursday night. He had to leave the game once with a "neck burner" after Akeem Jordan leveled him. Garrard also threw a bad pick to Philadelphia's Asante Samuel, which might indicate he won't return to his turnover-free form from two seasons ago. Vick wouldn't beat out Garrard for the starting job, but he'd be a nice luxury to have on the bench if Garrard got hurt or continued to regress.
The Eagles have been a tactical, business-oriented team under owner Jeffrey Lurie. Few people would put it above them to sign Vick hoping he'd translate into a second-round pick in next year's draft. They're paying him $1.6 million this season and $5.2 million in 2010. If he continues to show signs of being a competent quarterback, that's a great price for a starting quarterback next season.