I’m old enough to remember seeing Mike Vick play in college at Virginia Tech and later in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons. Whenever I watched him play, he seemed like the best player on the field. Well, as the saying goes, that was then and this is now.
Aside from a pretty awesome year for the Eagles after he returned to league from a stint in prison (yes, prison, if you don't know the story, Google it), Vick is a shell of his former self. Don’t get me wrong; he’s probably still faster than most of the QBs in the league and still has a cannon for an arm. But he no longer possesses that video game type of speed and lateral agility he had back in the day.
He was never the most polished pocket passer, but I want to show you a couple of plays from the end of last weeks Steelers/Rams game that I think could bode well for the Ravens in their Thursday night tilt with the Steelers.
Ball security still a problem
Vick came in towards the end of the 3rd quarter after Ben went down with an injury. On his first full series, (he ran one play on 3rd down after Ben got hurt), he was sacked and fumbled.
The sack was not Vick’s vault. His LG got clown-suited by Rams’ DE Robert Quinn and Vick had no time to react. Quinn knocked the ball away, but because Bell stayed in to block he was able to recover the ball. Maybe other QBs would lose the ball in this situation too, that’s not my point. My point is that if the Ravens’ pressure can get to Vick, he’s prone to fumble.
Still looks to scramble first, exposing himself to unnecessary hits
On the next play Vick leaves the pocket when there’s no pressure. Granted it was 3rd & 21, so the chances of picking up the first down were slim. That said, he had two potential receiving options. The passing window was pretty tight, but he had Heyward-Bey on an in–cut or could have checked it down to Bell short.
Instead he scrambles for almost no gain and actually takes a hit before going out of bounds. He could have even scrambled and then threw the ball out of bounds. If he scrambles like this against the Ravens and doesn’t get down or out of bounds, he may not make it through the game.
Stares routes down and forces the ball into coverage
On his next series, Vick almost throws an interception on 3rd down. The Steelers come out in 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE and 3 WRs) with Antonio Brown in the slot on the strong side of the formation (on this play, the side where the TE is aligned). Brown goes in what I call dummy motion. He motions towards the opposite side of the formation but only goes halfway then comes back to his original slot position.
Brown runs a slant but the cornerback (CB) has inside leverage the entire time. Vick isn’t under pressure and stares the route down. He basically throws the ball to the Rams’ defender but the throw is low so the CB is unable to make the diving interception.
As poorly as the Ravens’ secondary has played, they should have some opportunities to make plays on the ball with Vick under center.
Can the Ravens win?
Before I attempt to answer that question, I should add the following caveats:
This is a small sample, only 3 plays. Vick only played 4 series after Ben was injured. He came into that game without the benefit of a week of practice with the first team or a game plan designed for his skill set. Oh and don't forget, Antonio Brown and Leveon Bell are still really, really good!
So with those excuses (uh I mean caveats) out of the way, I think the Ravens will win on Thursday night if they do the following:
They’ll need to continue to play solid enough run defense to contain Bell and Deangelo Williams and I think Vick will give the secondary some turnover opportunities. I also think the offense will have to find a way to run the ball better and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone other than Steve Smith makes a big play or two (I’m looking at you Maxx Williams).