NFL Philadelphia Eagles

Can the Philadelphia Eagles Really Count On Michael Vick to Stay Healthy in 2012?

Heading into the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Eagles believe that they are a Super Bowl team.

In fact, they’re doing an awful lot of talking about it. It was franchise quarterback Michael Vick who announced that he thinks the Eagles could develop into a dynasty. The majority of the fan base and media rushed to defend Vick, but I think his comment was worse than backup quarterback Vince Young’s dream team comment.

The offense looks to be just as dominant in 2012, with a happy DeSean Jackson and a fully healthy Jeremy Maclin. The big loss was dominant left tackle Jason Peters, who suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in an offseason training drill in March, but the rest of the Eagles’ line is significantly above average.

The defense should be significantly improved, with the addition of former Pro Bowl linebacker DeMeco Ryans, a healthy Nate Allen at safety, and no drama at the cornerback position, with Asante Samuel now in Atlanta and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as a starter where he belongs. The Eagles also added dominant pass-rushing defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, speedy strongside linebacker Mychal Kendricks, defensive end Vinny Curry, and slot cornerback Brandon Boykin in the draft.

But the big question for the Eagles always comes down the quarterback position. First, the Eagles need Vick to play consistently throughout the year, but more importantly, they need him to remain healthy.

That’s something that he hasn’t been able to do in either of his two years as the starting quarterback in Philadelphia.

In 2010, he suffered rib cartilage damage, which cost him three games, and in 2011, he broke his ribs, which also cost him three games.

It’s not looking any better for this season either.

In both preseason games that Vick played, he was knocked out with injuries.

Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he suffered a bruised hand and a thumb contusion after his throwing hand collided with the helmet of center Jason Kelce after throwing a pass.

Against the New England Patriots, he suffered a rib contusion after he was drilled by defensive end/linebacker Jermaine Cunningham.

He’s already been ruled out until the beginning of the regular season, despite playing in just 12 plays and throwing seven passes this preseason.

If you look at the play against the Patriots where he was injured, you’ll notice that he scrambled around in the backfield before launching a desperation deep pass that fell incomplete, and then he got clobbered. That’s a hit that Vick has to be able to avoid taking. You watch Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, or any of the other great quarterbacks, and they won’t ever take a hit like that. They’d take the sack.

Vick is an unbelievable athlete. He’s probably the best athlete to ever play the position of quarterback, with the possible exception of former Eagles and Minnesota Vikings great Randall Cunningham. But he’s not quite as athletic as he thinks he is. He can’t escape a play where he has two defenders blitzing him and no room to run. The problem is that he thinks he can, and sometimes he does, but a 12-yard gain instead of a nine-yard sack is not risking a potential injury that would kill the Eagles’ season.

That’s what Vick does every time he takes a hit. He risks the entire Eagles’ season.

He promised to slide coming into this season, largely because he was asked to do so by President Barack Obama. But on his first rushing attempt of the season, he executed a headfirst slide. That’s nice, but every other quarterback in the league slides feet first to avoid injury.

Vick is not going to learn. He’s not going to change his style of play. He’s a playmaker and he will always be one. He’s always going to take hits that leave the entire fan base wincing and wondering if he’ll be able to get to his feet.

He’s always going to get hurt, in every season he plays, for the rest of his career. There’s just no way that the Eagles can count on Vick to stay healthy. It’s just not possible.

Last season, Vick was knocked out of two games, missed a play with a dislocated finger in a third, played a fourth with broken ribs, and missed three more while his ribs healed. That’s seven times in 16 games (or six, if you choose not to count the game with the dislocated finger).

Vick’s injuries are almost always not as serious as they initially look.

In week two of last season, he collided with offensive tackle Todd Herremans and it looked like he suffered a concussion. But he was not concussed and he managed to play the following week against the New York Giants.

But he was knocked out against the Giants, when his non-throwing hand collided with the helmet of defensive end Chris Canty after throwing a pass. Everybody thought Vick’s hand was broken and he would miss about a month, until it was revealed that his hand was just badly bruised.

He played again the next week. That would be the San Francisco 49ers game, where he missed a play with a dislocated finger, yet returned again to finish the game.

And there’s the Arizona Cardinals game, where he broke his ribs on the second play of the game but played all 60 minutes. He shouldn’t have though, as he played one of the worst games of his tenure with the Eagles, although the Eagles still likely would have won if wide receiver DeSean Jackson had not been benched.

With Michael Vick, you’re lucky every time he makes it out of a game alive. You really are. I do not believe he is capable of making it through a 16-game season without suffering an injury, and if he did, he’d probably get hurt in the postseason.

The Eagles are Michael Vick’s team, but as long as they are his team, the backup quarterback position is always going to be the most important backup position on the team. Whether it’s rookie Nick Foles or third-year player Mike Kafka, the Eagles will likely need three to four starts while Vick is injured that could very well decide the fate of the season, as it did in 2011.

This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.