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Key To Eagles’ Season: It All Depends On Vick

(credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

(credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Michael Vick will play the 2012 season wearing a custom fitted Kevlar vest. It’s supposed to be bullet-proof, but will it make Vick instinct proof?

Vick has shown a predilection for holding the ball too long, and the times he does take off, tends to slide head first. That fact may never change. It’s a part of him, like an appendage. He’s also shown an inability to read blitzes after nine years in the NFL. That is also a part of him. Those whirling, fun days of Vick taking off on busted plays for 30 yards through a maze of defenders appear to be near over, too.

The 2012 Eagles’ season rests with 32-year old Michael Vick. The Eagles could have one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL, and one of the best in team history. But without the engine that drives them for 16 games, the Eagles will be a team in trouble this season.

That’s the pressing question: Can Vick stay healthy for a full season?

The last time Vick played 16 games was the 2006 season when he was with the Falcons, his last season in the NFL before he went to prison.
The Eagles were 8-8 in 2011 because they turned the ball over 38 times, second-highest total in the NFL and were minus-14 in the turnover/takeaway ratio. Vick was responsible for 18 turnovers himself (14 interceptions).

Can that change?

What certainly helps is LeSean McCoy, the best running back in the NFL. When he’s able to reach the corner, there may not be a more dangerous runner in space. Outside the tackles, McCoy rushed for a league-high 547 yards and seven touchdowns. It doesn’t help losing All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters (torn Achilles) for the season. Many of McCoy’s runs came left, creased off behind Peters.

Ask yourself this: Can King Dunlap or Demetress Bell come even close to what Peters did sealing outside running lanes for McCoy?

Vick may have his own problems. Once considered a threat as a running quarterback, Vick stepped back last year, especially inside the red zone. In 2011, Vicks rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown in 11 opportunities inside the 20. Compare that to 2010, when he accounted for 87 yards and nine touchdowns in the red zone.

Juan Castillo is back as defensive coordinator. Is this experiment a positive? Or could it cost Eagles’ coach Andy Reid his job?

During the pre-season, the Eagles seem to still be making the same mistakes defensively as they made last year. The defensive line could be the best in the NFL, rivaling the New York Giants.

The linebacking corps should be fun, chiefly watching the development of rookie outside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. But was off-season pickup DeMeco Ryans hiding a few things during the pre-season, because he’s yet to show what he is supposed to be. Akeem Jordan is a wildcard at weakside linebacker, able to be a playmaker, though during some plays, disappearing.

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are two of the best cover guys in the NFL, but there are serious questions about free safety Kurt Coleman and strong safety Nate Allen.
So what could happen this year?

The Eagles could start the season 3-0. Cleveland is horrible, Baltimore at home is winnable, and visiting Arizona and its unsteady quarterback situation make the Cardinals an easy mark.

Then things get interesting with a visit from Eli Manning and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, a visit the following week to Pittsburgh, and hosting physical Detroit in Week Six could leave the Eagles at 3-3 for the Week Seven bye.

This team is built to work off leads. Without a lead, the Eagles’ defensive line can’t tee off on quarterbacks, and will be exposed against the run. Without a lead, McCoy can’t work his magic and grind down the clock.

Hopefully, Castillo has learned a thing or two about maintaining leads—fourth-quarter leads. Hopefully, there will be no more visions of 2011 when Arizona’s John Skelton threw for 166 yards in the fourth quarter, or four blown fourth-quarter leads at home established a new NFL mark.

Those images suddenly slipped away in all of this year’s shimmering prognostications.

Throw away all of the superfluous junk. The 2012 season is as simple as this: Vick’s health. A healthy Vick, circa the 2010 version, could spell a 12-4 or 11-5 finish sitting atop the NFC East. An unhealthy Vick, which seems more likely considering this pre-season and the past two seasons, could turn 2012 into a hugely disappointing 7-9 finish and out of the postseason for the second-straight year.

Here’s a lean toward history: Eagles 7-9.

NFC East
NY Giants 11-5
Cowboys 9-7
Eagles 7-9
Redskins 6-10

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