Updated, 2:30 p.m. ET
You would have to trace back more than five years to find the last time WLB Bart Scott, head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine prepared to face a Michael Vick-led offense. It was Nov. 19, 2006, in Baltimore when the Ravens smothered Vick’s Falcons, 24-10, as the gifted quarterback was sacked five times and held to 82 net yards passing.
So, Madbacker, how do you slow Vick down?
“Just making sure you set edges on him and you’re able to take away the lanes because he’s an explosive athlete,” he told me. “You have to play team defense. You can’t go out and try to be Superman yourself and try to make a play and leave your teammates at risk, shooting up the field and giving him running lanes and throwing lanes.
“You have to play disciplined and play the defense the way it’s supposed to be played and try to keep him in the box,” he added. “If you allow him to get on the edges, he can make plays either running the ball or throwing the ball. When he’s out in space, he’s tough to get.”
The Jets are a well-coached group because Ryan’s message is hammered home to everyone. Scott is 31 and in his 10th pro season, but listen to 22-year-old rookie DL Muhammad Wilkerson break it down.
“You have to take good angles,” he said of Vick. “You have to have some kind of technique when you’re rushing the passer like Mike Vick. He’s definitely mobile, so you have to keep him in the pocket. You don’t want him to escape outside. You’d rather him rush to where he escapes inside to your other teammates.”
Scott had seven tackles in that ’06 meeting, but he was limited to special teams duty when the Ravens and Falcons squared off on Nov. 3, 2002. Vick and the Falcons captured a 20-17 decision in Atlanta, but his numbers were less than ordinary. He was sacked three times and intercepted once while being held to 115 net yards passing. The Falcons, who benefited from a defensive TD, got minus-5 yards rushing from their speedy QB on seven carries.
It’s hard to believe Vick, now in his third season in Philadelphia, is 31 years old. His struggles in 2011 have been a microcosm of the 5-8 Eagles. After completing 62.6 percent of his passes for 3,018 yards with 21 TDs and just six INTs in 2010, No. 7 is completing 59.4 percent of his throws for 2,401 yards with 12 TDs and 12 INTs.
“He probably has another 10 years to play,” Scott said. “What I’ve seen from him is the maturity of a person, as a man, which has translated to his maturity on the football field: the understanding and trusting of his teammates more, allowing his teammates to make plays instead of always trying to make plays with his feet, the understanding that a lot of the times he can use his ability to buy time to get larger chunks by throwing the football than running the football.”
Vick remains a threat on the ground as evidenced by his 8.1-yard average, but he doesn’t have a rush TD after totaling nine in 2010. The most dynamic offensive weapon for the Eagles has been RB LeSean “Shady” McCoy, an explosive performer who’s rushed for 1,172 yards and 14 touchdowns and added 310 yards and three TDs receiving.
“His ability to cut laterally, to stop on a dime … he’s tough mentally and physically. He’ll stick it up in there, but the running scheme doesn’t allow people to see that a lot,” Scott said. “But he’s not afraid, he’s not timid and he’s a guy at some point, watching him play and watching him carry himself, may have been doubted by his size. He kind of walks around with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.”
“He’s got good speed. He can hit the edge and take it to the house,” Wilkerson said. “He’s very elusive out in the open field, so he’s another one we plan on taking good angles with and making sure he runs back to the defense flowing to the ball. We’ll pretty much handle it from there.”
The Eagles might be ranked fourth in total offense, but points win games. The Birds are in the middle of the pack at 15th with just 22.8 per contest and the Jets don’t plan on sitting back and playing tentative.
“Just because Vick can run and they have all these good athletes doesn’t mean we’re going to be hesitant with our defensive schemes,” said Big Mo. “We’re definitely still going to bring pressure and do all the things we’ve been doing for the season.”
Rex Ryan reported at today’s final news conference of the week at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center that only one 11 players on this week’s injury report is not probable for the game at Philly. That player is CB-ST Marquice Cole (ankle), who is out and will not make the trip down the New Jersey Turnpike.
Among the 10 “probable” players is DT Mike DeVito, who has sat out four of the past seven games with two different knee injuries.
“It’s great to have him back,” Ryan said. “He was having a huge year for us, and now to have him back, the other guys can now back up, but they’ve had a lot of playing time and you’re getting better depth and getting better. Marcus Dixon’s done a tremendous job for us, especially recently. I love the way he’s playing and the way Mo [Muhammad Wilkerson] is playing. It’s a good group.”
The Eagles after today’s practice are listing DE Darryl Tapp as doubtful and four players as questionable — WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring/shoulder), T Todd Herrremans (ankle), DT Cullen Jenkins and QB Vince Young (ankle). All four questionables practiced full. Remaining full-go and probable for Sunday are seven players, including QB Michael Vick (ribs) and CBs Nnamdi Asomugha (knee) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (ankle).
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Bart Scott, Michael Vick, Mike DeVito, Philadelphia Eagles, Rex Ryan
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