Forget about the embarrassment of the 2011 season. This team can’t possibly be as bad again.
Each player had a full off-season to work with his position coach. There were no holdouts. Multiple stars received offseason contract extensions. There are no free agent acquisitions looking for a one-year stint to improve their career. Even the incompetent defensive coordinator has had an offseason–his first, actually–to learn the Xs and Os of coaching an NFL defense.
The purpose of this upcoming series is to rank the 10 most important players to the 2012 Eagles. These players were chosen for a number of reasons. Obviously they are all talented starters. But it’s also worth looking at the backups. If this player goes down for the year in week three, who will step up and perform?
As all of my lists go, this one will begin at the bottom and work its way to the top.
1. Michael Vick
You were expecting Kurt Coleman?
The 32-year old Eagles’ quarterback is the most important player on the team. I think you could ask three million people and they would all agree.
Here’s all you need to know…
The Eagles are 18-14 in the regular season since 2010.
They are 3-3 when Michael Vick misses a start due to injury (San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, and Tennessee Titans in 2010, and New York Giants, New England Patriots, and Seattle Seahawks in 2011). They are 0-3 when he is knocked out of a game due to an injury (Washington Redskins in 2010 and Falcons and Giants in 2011). They are 0-3 when he suffers an injury and attempts to play through it for the rest of the game (Minnesota Vikings in 2010, 49ers and Arizona Cardinals in 2011). They 0-1 when he replaces an injured quarterback and finishes the game (Green Bay Packers in 2010). And they are 0-1 when he rests at the end of the season because a playoff seed is locked up (Dallas Cowboys in 2010).
That’s a 3-11 record when Vick doesn’t play or doesn’t play the full game or plays injured.
That means the Eagles 15-3 when Vick starts a game healthy and finishes the game healthy.
15 wins. 3 losses.
That’s Patriots and Packers territory.
The three losses came against the Chicago Bears in 2010, the Buffalo Bills in 2011, and the Bears again in 2011. In those three losses, the Eagles scored 26, 24, and 24 points. No quarterback should need to apologize for averaging 24.7 points per game in three losses.
In the Eagles’ victories, the team has scored an average of 32.47 points per game. That’s elite.
In all 18 games, the Eagles’ offense scored at least 20 points. That’s a pretty impressive streak.
Now let’s look at how many points the Eagles score when Kevin Kolb has started, when Vince Young has started, when Vick has been knocked out of the game, when Vick has rested, and when Vick has played through injuries.
That’s a just pedestrian average of 19.57 points per game, with fewer than 20 points in eight of the 14 games. That’s not going to win many football games, especially with a defense that has been average at best over the past two seasons.
When he’s on, Vick’s combination of passing and running is unstoppable. Who can forget the 59 points he scored against the Redskins in 2010 or the miracle 21-point comeback against the Giants late in the 2010 season?
Even with his struggles passing the football last year, the Eagles still racked up a monster amount of yards, including more than 400 in six of the first seven games.
Expect Vick to turn in a career year in 2012. He’s playing for his job, as is head coach Andy Reid. I don’t think he’ll play at the MVP level he did in 2010, but he’s not going to be as bad as he was in 2011.
Somewhere in between is what most expect. I’m predicting about 3500 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, with close to 500 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.
But if he goes down for an extended period of time, the Eagles are in trouble. Rookie Nick Foles played very well–extremely well–during the four preseason games but he hasn’t seen any real action yet. Veteran Trent Edwards managed the offense well during the preseason but he’s never proven himself during 32 career starts.
No, these Eagles will go as far as Vick takes them. If he goes down for the year in week three or four, the season is over.
But if he can play all 16 games, the Eagles will not–I repeat–will NOT miss the playoffs. They’re too good.
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. You can follow Bryn on Twitter by clicking here and here. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.