Home > NFL > Michael Vick might be better in 2011 than in 2010

Michael Vick might be better in 2011 than in 2010

The Philadelphia Eagles have not had a good season.  They’re 0-2 at home, and the only team they have beaten (St. Louis) is winless.  They managed to lose to an Atlanta team with only one other win.  The defense is the subject of lots of talk radio banter and plenty of television commentary.  They cannot tackle and cannot break tackles.

And the quarterback has taken quite a bit of heat for turning the ball over ten times in five games.  And while those interception and fumble recovery rates have taken the Eagles to a place that no team wants to be, those are also two categories bound to regress in the next two thirds of the season.  And when the extra turnovers dry up, Michael Vick will very obviously be doing one heck of a job in a bad situation in Philly.

Vick’s completion percentage and yards per attempt (and by logic, yards per completion) have held steady from 2010.  But where Vick has improved immensely is from the pocket: Vick has cut his sack rate in half, and has become one of the most hit quarterbacks in football instead of one of the most sacked.  It’s hurt in terms of interceptions: a couple of hits on Vick have turned into bad interceptions, but understand here that there’s an element of luck as well.  This isn’t Madden 2011, and Vick isn’t going to throw it right to a defender on every hit the entire year.  Vick had been picked off only three times in his first four games, but against the Buffalo Bills, three out of his four INTs were tipped or re-directed by a hit on the QB.  His rate of 4.1% INT/100 pass attempts is at the highest point it will be at the whole season.

Assuming Vick doesn’t compensate by taking more sacks (an obvious sign that he is regressing under the conditions), the Eagles are going to be left with a very high powered offense that hangs around near the top of the league in both rushing and passing efficiency.  And even with the poor luck Vick has had, his conventional passer rating is the highest of his career, with the lone exception of his charmed 2010 season.  But the periphrials aren’t any worse now than they were last year.  Vick is playing just as well.  And as the drop in his sack rate indicates, he might even be playing better.  But because of the ten turnovers and the fact that his recievers aren’t doing a good job after the catch, the Eagles offense has gone backwards.

The truth is: none of this is Vick’s fault.  If Vick was an MVP candidate last year, then he should be an MVP candidate this year.  Though if he was overrated last year (which is my position), is he now properly rated or actually underrated?  What the Eagles have here is not the Michael Vick from the Atlanta days.  They have the same player that directed a playoff run last year, but one who is not reaping any of the benefits of the league-wide offensive explosion, which as Brian Burke explains here, has been caused by an explosion in yards after catch, where YAC has moved to levels never seen before in the NFL.  The Eagles were already an entirely YAC-based offense in the past.

If you adjust for this environment, as well as a fluky turnover rate, Vick is actually outperforming himself from last year, at least through the air.  Vick sits in the top quarter of the NFL in terms of not taking sacks, something he had never achieved in his career prior to this.  And he’s done it without taking a hit in yards per attempt.  The guy has totally adjusted to having a worse offensive line and playing in a different passing environment.  And that adjustment is one that someone else besides Vick — namely the Eagles receivers and defensive unit — will have to demonstrate in order to save their season.

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