Friday, October 1, 2010 8:30 AM
By Rich Tandler
In the space of 15 days, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick went from being a substitute who came in to run gadget plays to being the starter and earning NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors for September. He is now in the proverbial you cant stop him, you can only hope to contain him class of players. The Redskins will need to contain him if they are going to come out of Philadelphia with a win on Sunday. Here are five things that they must accomplish in order to beat Vick and the Eagles. 1. Get pressure but keep him from running Football is not a game of moderation, but that is what is called for from the front line of the defense. You have to pressure Vick, but if you are too aggressive and allow him to get past you, he will take off and tear off a long run in a heartbeat. Youre kind of in a catch-22, said defensive end Vonnie Holliday. You cant just sit back on your heels because hell make you look silly. Youve got to still get after him; be aggressive. Most NFL quarterbacks are very efficient when given time to throw. Vick is deadly in such situations in part because of the presence of speedy, elusive wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Given enough time, at least one of those two will be able to shake free, and if Vick is left undisturbed, he will find the open man and unleash a powerful, accurate throw. Late in the first quarter of a scoreless game against Jacksonville, the Jags rushed three, with a fourth coming in on a delayed rush. Vick dropped back, scanned the field and saw that Jackson had slipped just past his defender. The throw was perfect and Jackson was able to scamper down the sideline to complete a 61-yard touchdown. Sometimes getting pressure isnt enough.
He still can throw it while being sacked, off of his back leg, said cornerback Carlos Rogers. One such play came in the third quarter against Jacksonville. Vick faced pressure up the middle and he had to throw off of his back foot. He still managed to drop a rainbow into Jacksons arms about 40 yards downfield. One way to get Vick off balance is to get him moving so that he has to throw across his body.
You have to flush him out to one side, said former Steelers coach Bill Cowher. If its a three-man rush, overload all to one side. Id try to flush him to the defensive left, his right, so if he throws the ball its going back across his body. The danger of chasing him out of the pocket is that he may just keep on running.
Hes averaging over seven yards a carry, said Mike Shanahan.Thats unheard of in the National Football League. Rogers said that Vick uses his feet like other quarterbacks use the short pass.
A lot of quarterbacks, if the first or second read isnt there, hes going to drop the ball off to the running back, he said. Vick is his own check down; hell take off and run. Staying in rush lanes and being aware of where Vick is at all times is important.
If weve got guys out of whack, if we have big gaping holes, thats not good, obviously, with a guy like Vick, said Adam Carriker. Weve got to rush with discipline and rush with vision. 2. Get physical with the receivers As halftime of the Jaguars game approached, the Eagles were leading 7-3 and driving. From the Jacksonville 21, they went into a maximum protection scheme, sending only Jackson and Maclin out into patterns. The Jaguars rushed five but Vick still had plenty of time. The receivers got off the line free and both had time to execute double moves. Vick fired a strike to Maclin, who had completely shaken his hapless defender, just over the goal line. That put the Eagles in the drivers seat at 14-0. Sticking with Jackson and Maclin is easier said than done. Getting physical is one way to try to keep them in check. They both don't want no physical contact, so that's one of the key things, said Rogers. In some of our packages were going to be jamming the receiver, but also keeping an eye on him. Whatever the down and distance is, he has the ability to scramble and get the yardage. Were going to have guys watching him, but were also going to have to put our hands on these receivers. Every week they get a 40, 50, 60 yard touchdown. Jackson has only 12 catches but hes leading the league in yardage. Jackson actually has 13 catches for 318 yards, a jaw dropping average of 24.5 yards a catch. "DeSean gives you so many things, that kind of freelance," Rogers said. "Maclin is straight; he's a route-runner. 3. Use a spy One method that teams use to contain a mobile quarterback is to put a spy on him. This is a player who will mirror the quarterback sideline to sideline and move in to make the stop when he takes off. Often a team will employ an athletic linebacker in this role. That wont work against Vick. If you put a lineman or a linebacker on him, they have no chance, said Rogers. The one Redskin who would seem to be ideally suited to the task of spying Vick is safety LaRon Landry. He has the speed and killer instincts necessary to do the job. Perhaps not wanting to give away any strategy, Rogers smiled when asked if Landry would be the primary spy, and said that he would be one of many spies. LaRon, us the cornerbacks, there is going to be a lot of people, Rogers said. We have different packages where different guys are going to look at him. Its going to be a mixture of everything. Whoever spies him will have to be patient and resist the temptation to get the big hit on Vick. If someone tries for the kill shot, he is likely to end up with an armful of air as the elusive Vick can sidestep such an attempt and bolt downfield. The better method would be to hold him up and wait for help from the rest of the defense. "It takes a team to contain him and corral him," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. 4. Force long drives With Vick, the Eagles have become a big-play team. Through three games they have 14 plays of 20 yards or more. Their longest scoring drive of the year came against Detroit when they covered 89 yards in 4:38. Their longest possession against the Jaguars ran nine plays, 5:06, but that ended up with a turnover on downs. Vick is not going to dink and dunk his team down the field. If you can keep him from making a big play, there is a good chance Eagle drives are going to fizzle out. That means a lot of zone coverage and the defensive backs keeping everything in front of them. This job is made a big more difficult since one of the DBs will be taken out of coverage to spy Vick. 5. Keep him off the field Vick cant hurt the Redskins while hes sitting on the bench. Simple math will tell you that the fewer plays he runs, the fewer big plays he can make. This means the Redskins must improve their abysmal third-down conversion rate of 18.2 percent in order to sustain drives. And although the Redskins were able to breathe some life into their running game last week against the Rams, it would be better if they could get some consistent five- and six-yard runs in addition to breaking an occasional long one. That should make for shorter third down situations and probably an improved conversion rate. Donovan McNabb also could help the situation by dialing up a few big plays of his own. McNabb has completed 12 passes of 20 yards or more, giving him two more such plays than Vick has. The Redskins quarterback also has completed three passes of 56 yards or more compared to one for Vick.
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Rich Tandler has beenfollowing the Redskins since 1966. He has written three books on theteam includingGutCheck,TheGloryDaysofCoachJoeGibbs Washington Redskins1981-1992. Fordetails on this and on Richs other available titles, visitwww.RichTandler.com.