Vick's goals for 2012: Consistency, efficiency
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- The differences are subtle. He still has that rifle left arm, still dances around to buy time, still fires the football through traffic and finds receivers in stride.
He’s still Michael Vick. He’s just hoping he’s a more consistent Michael Vick. One that doesn’t take undue risks, one that’s careful with the football, one that finally realizes his limitless potential.
If he has his way, people won’t believe what they see this year from No. 7.
“Hopefully, hopefully,” he said. “It’s my job to show them [the] difference.”
We won’t really know until the regular season begins whether Vick has been able to transform himself into a more efficient but just as explosive quarterback. He knows if he can cut down the turnovers, the Eagles are going to have a very good chance to win a lot of games.
He’s been talking about it since the end of last year. All these long, hot days at Lehigh, he’s been trying to put it into action.
What will the biggest difference be in the 2012 Michael Vick compared to the earlier versions?
“I think just the ability to manage the game,” he said in an interview after practice on Wednesday. “Whether we’re in no-huddle, whether we’re in two-minute, whether I’m getting blitzes ... just being poised and making good decisions is going to be the difference maker.
“The game sometimes is easier than practice. Sometimes practice can be harder than the game because you’re working on so much, you’re focusing on so much, you’re trying to do a lot and sometimes it can kind of get difficult, but this season I expect to be more poised and have fun out there playing the game of football.
“Last year, I would say around this time I was about 25, 30 percent comfortable with what we were doing,” he said. “Now, I’m about 90 percent. The other 10 percent is just learning.”
Vick loves throwing the deep ball, and the deep ball will always be a part of any Marty Mornhinweg offense. The Eagles threw long with Kevin Kolb, they’re certainly going to throw deep with Vick.
But what Vick wants to eliminate is the low-percentage deep ball. The ill-advised bomb into traffic. What he’s learning to do now is take the underneath pass when it’s there. Take the safer throw once in a while.
We saw signs of it late last year, when Vick won his last four starts.
The goal is to find that consistency and efficiency while still being as dangerous as ever. And doing it for 16 games.
“I think he’s just being more cognizant of ball security and learning how to check the ball down,” Jason Avant said. “I think the best play for us sometimes is checking it down.
“The check down gives us an opportunity to play another down, rather than forcing one in there or trying to make the heroic play and also to alleviate him [from] having the ball in his hands too long, where he’s forced to have to make a play and get hit. It’s all those things.
“Check downs are paramount. The best in the league know where the check downs are. Sometimes, a three-yard gain is the best gain you can get on a play. Sometimes you come out and the defense ... is better than the play that we have, and to get three yards and to play second and third down is a great gain in some situations, rather than having a sack, getting hit or having a throwaway.”
Vick wasn’t that bad last year. Only five quarterbacks in franchise history have had a passer rating higher than his 84.9 mark.
It’s just that the interceptions and fumbles killed him.
As he increases his knowledge of the offense -- and remember, this is the first full off-season he’s had as a starter since between the 2005 and 2006 seasons in Atlanta -- those turnovers should decrease.
“That should be the case,” he said. “I’m pretty good with the ball. If the ball gets tipped, some things happen and those are things that are out of your control, but the turnovers should go down. We each got to protect the ball as an offense and a unit and it starts with me.”
Mornhinweg often says it takes three or four years for this offense to truly click for a quarterback new to the system.
“I’m in Year 3 [as a starter], and it’s all coming together,” he said. “We do a lot in this offense and it just takes a lot of work, a lot of time, a lot of repetition and seeing different looks.”
Avant said Vick doesn’t have to be Superman. He just has to be himself.
“Well, he’s a big-play guy,” Avant said. “In a lot of years he’s been in the league, other offenses he’s been in, especially with the Falcons, if he didn’t make a big play they didn’t have a chance to win. That’s not the case with this team. He doesn’t have to go out and break a million tackles for us to win.”
Vick is now 32, and generally 32-year-old quarterbacks don’t have career years. But Vick is hungrier than he’s ever been, more motivated than he’s ever been. His work habits, which were once mocked, are now legendary.
All the things he wasn’t in Atlanta, he is now.
“It’s unfortunate I didn’t have what I have now, but that was just the situation that was created,” Vick said. “If it was meant to be, God would have placed those people around me to help me progress as a quarterback.
“Not to say I didn’t back then, but there are certain levels and certain foundations that you’ve got to set. The bigger the foundation, the higher the peak, and we’re just trying to build the foundation here, and I’m certainly thankful that I’ve had an opportunity to come and do it differently and have fun doing it.”E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com