Eagles

Vick wants to start, but should stay with Eagles

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Vick wants to start, but should stay with Eagles

He’s a confident guy. You wouldn’t expect him to say anything else.

When the season ended, Michael Vick was asked the obvious question. He replied with the obvious answer. If some people are uncertain about Vick’s future as a starting quarterback in the NFL, he isn’t among them. Vick said he feels “great” and that he still has “a lot of time to play in this league.” “I feel like I can still start in this league,” Vick insisted.

Vick has repeated the refrain several times since then. When recently asked by NFL.com whether he believes he’ll be a starter in Week 1 of the 2014 season, Vick didn’t hesitate.

"Absolutely," Vick said. "I can't see no other way."

When free agency begins a little more than a month from now, Vick is determined to make himself available to any team that might have a starting gig available. There has already been speculation that Tampa Bay and the New York Jets could be interested. Could be. Might be. Maybe.

Even if those organizations want Vick, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’d be good situations for him. He could go elsewhere and start. It’s possible. It’s also possible that he could sign with another team and end up holding a clipboard. If Vick re-signs with the Eagles – something he said he wouldn’t rule out – he won’t be a starter, but he will know exactly how he fits into the dynamic.

Vick should stay. The Eagles should want him to stay. It would make sense for both sides.

He has gone 20-21 with the Eagles (including playoffs). He’s currently sixth in franchise history in passing yards.

Whatever you thought of Vick before he came to town, it’s hard to find fault with how he conducted himself thereafter. After being released from prison, he worked with the Humane Society to educate children about dog fighting while also supporting a federal bill that would make it a felony to bring kids to dog fights. He donated $200,000 to renovate a community football field in Philadelphia. He also adopted a dog for his family after being legally cleared to do so.

There are surely people who will never forgive him for what he did. Vick knows that. But there are also people who spend regular time with him, and they speak about him in a much different manner. Even after he lost his job to Nick Foles, Vick commanded the locker room. He was a revered figure. He could have backed away from Foles. He didn’t. He could have been icy. He wasn't. He handled it as a professional. He was supportive. Maybe it was all an act – but if it was, he delivered an expert performance.

Maybe it was also an act when Chip Kelly gushed about Vick after the season. But there, again, was a believable delivery.

“I love Michael Vick,” Kelly said when asked what it was like to coach the quarterback. “I mean, that guy is awesome, and I think how he handled a very difficult situation, because of Nick's success, I don't think that ‑‑ that's not any indication of Michael's non‑success, and I think from what we've asked him to do since I got here, he's done everything.

"Unfortunately he got hurt, and that gave an opportunity to another guy, and I think sometimes for a lot of people, you put yourself in those shoes, that's hard to wrap your arms around because it's not like Michael was wrong and that Michael got benched. It was just a unique situation, and I think how he handled it, how he helped Nick through the process, it just tells you the type of person he is and the type of teammate he is, and I think that didn't go unnoticed by me, and I appreciate everything he did my first year here.”

You can’t fault Vick for wanting to start. He’s 33 years old. He’ll be 34 in June. He has only so many seasons left before he’ll be forced to put down the helmet for good and pick up some other interest.

The odds for next year’s Super Bowl are already out, and they’re not terribly long for the Eagles. They have a shot to contend next season, and their chances would be better with a quality backup – one who’s been in the organization for a while and knows how he fits. It’s not a starting job – but it’s not nothing, either.

Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

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Unselfishness at core of Eagles' balanced, lethal offense

You look at the stats, and nothing jumps off the page. No running back on pace for 1,000 yards, no wide receiver on pace for 1,000 yards. Heck, even the all-world quarterback hasn't thrown for more than 211 yards in his last three games.

No 100-yard games by a wide out or tight end. Only one 100-yard game by a running back, and that was two months ago.

Four different guys have led the team in rushing, three different guys have led the team in receiving, 11 different guys have scored touchdowns.

Heck, in the win over Dallas Sunday night, the Eagles' longest catch wasn't by one of the speedy free agent wide receivers, and it wasn't by Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins or Zach Ertz. It was by rarely used 11th-year tight end Brent Celek, who turns 33 in January.

You want Pro Bowlers? This is not the offense for you. You want guys to score you a ton of fantasy points? This is definitely not the offense for you. 

You want a Super Bowl contender? Welcome to Philly, where head coach Doug Pederson has found a way to get a bunch of players used to being the guy to suppress their egos and do whatever's necessary to help the team.

LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year. Jay Ajayi was a Pro Bowler last year. Alshon Jeffery has been a Pro Bowler and was fifth in the NFC in receiving yards per game over the last four years. 

They're used to being stars. They like being stars. They get paid to be stars. And they've all put their egos aside to be part of something special.

Pederson's greatest accomplishment this year has been to get everybody on the roster to buy into the notion of setting aside personal goals to help the team win football games.

These are guys with big-money incentives and tremendous pride in their numbers. They want to be considered the best at what they do. And they want to put up numbers that land them that next big contract.

But Pederson has them all locked into something bigger, something greater. That game in Minnesota in 2 ½ months.

"The bottom line is winning the game," Pederson said. "Bottom line. I don't go into a game saying, ‘Jay, you've got to get 100 yards rushing. LeGarrette or Alshon, you've got to have 100 yards receiving.’ 

"It doesn't work that way. We don't design the offensive plays to work that way. If it happens, great. Alshon a couple weeks ago had an opportunity to be our first 100-yard receiver this year.

"It's just the guys just want to win, and it doesn't matter who's hot in the game. Our quarterback is so prepared and well-prepared, knowing exactly where to go with the ball in the passing situations. We ask him to do so much in the run game. And it's all part of the process, and these guys have bought in 100 percent, and they prepare that way. 

"You see it on game day. They're just all making plays and they're all contributing right now."

The Eagles are an NFL-best 9-1, and a win at home Sunday against the lowly Bears gives them nine straight wins, which would tie a franchise record set in 1960 and matched in 2003.

Their last four wins have all been by double digits, they're averaging 32 points per game, and they're on pace to score the 15th-most points in NFL history.

And they're doing it without anybody on pace for a 1,000-yard season and with just one 100-yard game by a receiver or running back.

Every coach talks about unselfishness, but Pederson genuinely has these guys living it and breathing it.

Why does it work?

"Because we all want to win," Blount said.

And it works because the quarterback is the most unselfish guy of all and legitimately doesn't care about anything other than getting a win.

"Winning is contagious, and the guys feed off of that," Pederson said. "And so it really doesn't matter who makes the play. It's just at the end of the day, just find a way to win the game."

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

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USA Today Images

Eagles DE Derek Barnett wreaking havoc as sacks starting to pile up

With each passing game, it's starting to become clearer and clearer why the Eagles used their first-round pick on Derek Barnett. 

The rookie defensive end is beginning to wreak havoc on opposing offenses. 

"This guy is very disruptive, explosive," head coach Doug Pederson said. "He's another one of those unselfish guys. He just wants to win and do whatever he can to help the team win."

Barnett, the 14th overall pick in April's draft, had two sacks and a forced fumble in the Eagles' 37-9 win Sunday night over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. 

In addition to Barnett's two sacks (he forced a fumble on one), he also applied pressure and hit quarterback Dak Prescott on two of his three interceptions. 

It seemed like Sunday was probably Barnett's best NFL game so far. The 21-year-old humbly didn't go along with that assessment. 

"I think I did some good things, but I need to do a better job in the run game," Barnett said. "I didn't do that well in the run game. At the end of the day, we won. That's all that matters. We got a victory and let's all go back to Philly." 

After failing to record a sack in his first five NFL games, Barnett now has 4.5 in his last five games. He is second among all NFL rookies in sacks this season. 

He's already eighth on the Eagles' rookie sack list and could move up that list quickly. Two more sacks would put him third behind just Reggie White (13) and Corey Simon (9.5). 

Sacks sometimes come in bunches. 

"I just think they're coming now," Pederson said. "I think he's getting comfortable in the role. He's developing. He's understanding the game. He studies tackles, he studies his opponent. He's developed a couple of different moves. It's just his willingness. It just clicks for any player. They start to come. I love where he's at right now too." 

Even before the sacks started coming, Barnett was quietly getting pressure. Now, he's getting pressure and finishing the plays. 

Barnett played 51 percent of the Eagles' defensive snaps Sunday and is closing on the 50 percent mark on the season. While he hasn't been widely talked about as a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, he could make a case quickly if these numbers keep piling up. 

More importantly, he could offer the Eagles a dangerous pass-rusher as they make their way down the stretch and into the playoffs.

And he's doing it with the same traits that made him attractive to the Eagles in the first place. 

Remember just after he was drafted, when vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas raved about Barnett's "excellent" ankle flexion? 

Well, check out Barnett's bend on his fourth-quarter strip sack: 


 

He bent around the left tackle and came at Prescott horizontally. 

He did it earlier in the game on the Rodney McLeod interception: 

 

And remember how much everyone praised his high motor and compete level? 

Check out his first-half sack. He willed his way to a sack and wouldn't let Prescott escape. 

Sunday was Barnett's second career two-sack game; they came less than a month apart. And it looks like there are plenty more sacks in his future. 

"They're starting to come in slowly but surely," Barnett said. "Everybody says to pass rush, you have to keep on rushing. You can't get down. You're going to be in your little slumps and stuff. You have to keep on grinding through it. It's eventually going to break."