Paul Domowitch: A glimpse of life without Vick

Michael Vick winces after injuring his hand during the second quarter of Eagles-Steelers preseason game.
Michael Vick winces after injuring his hand during the second quarter of Eagles-Steelers preseason game. (DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 10, 2012

OK, WHO had the second quarter of the first preseason game in the when-will-Michael-Vick-get-hurt pool? Twenty minutes. That's how long it took for the nervousness over the possibility of Life Without Mike to turn into genuine panic.

On a third-and-8 play from his own 22 with 9:57 left in the second quarter of Thursday night's 24-23 preseason win over the Steelers, Vick heaved an incompletion over the head of tight end Clay Harbor. During his follow-through, he slammed his throwing hand into the back of center Jason Kelce's helmet.

Vick came off the field holding the hand, clearly in pain. But Eagles Nation managed to exhale a little later when it was announced that a halftime X-ray of the quarterback's left thumb was negative.

"It was just a thumb contusion," coach Andy Reid said. "By the end of the game he was fine. He hit the top of the thumb in the nerve area and it was numb for a little while. But he was gripping the ball fine at the end of the game."

Vick said he expects to be able to practice Saturday when the Eagles return to Lehigh. "The finger wasn't as bad as I thought," he said.

Vick played just two series in the Eagles' first preseason game. He completed three of four passes on those two series, but for only 6 yards, and was sacked once. The Eagles went three-and-out on both series.

The feeling of most, including Reid, is that Vick needs to stay healthy this season if the Eagles hope to make a Super Bowl run. Reid has mentioned on more than one occasion that the quarterbacks for all four of last season's conference championship combatants - the Giants' Eli Manning, the 49ers' Alex Smith, the Ravens' Joe Flacco and the Patriots' Tom Brady - didn't miss a start in 2011. If you needed more reason to worry about Life Without Mike, you got it on the Eagles' very next offensive series when Vick was replaced by his projected season-opening backup, Mike Kafka.

On a second-and-21 at the Pittsburgh 39, Kafka faked a handoff and spun to his right, only to find Steelers linebacker Brandon Johnson breathing in his face. Kafka turned to his left and threw a hurried pass in the direction of rookie running back Bryce Brown. But it never reached Brown. Al Woods, a 307-pound defensive end, stepped in front of the pass and returned it 53 yards to the 4-yard line.

Kafka, like Vick, played just two series. He was 5-for-9 for just 31 yards.

If anyone offered some comfort over the possibility of Life Without Mike, it was rookie Nick Foles. The third-round pick out of Arizona entered the game in the third quarter and showed off his strong arm, throwing long touchdown passes to fellow rookie Damaris Johnson and Mardy Gilyard.

His 70-yard scoring pass to Johnson with 8:01 left in the third quarter was impressive. He stepped up to avoid a rush, started to run, then heaved the ball 46 yards in the air to a wide-open Johnson, who caught it at the Pittsburgh 28 and ran untouched into the end zone.

On the very first play of the next possession, Foles hit Gilyard with a deep ball for a 43-yard touchdown. Gilyard was closely guarded on the play by cornerback Curtis Brown, but Foles' throw was right on the money.

Foles, who played the entire third quarter, completed six of 10 passes for 144 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished with a 143.8 passer rating.

Kafka and veteran Trent Edwards were supposed to battle for the backup job in training camp. But Edwards never was a factor. He struggled in the spring OTAs and minicamps and has gotten limited reps in camp. He has dropped to No. 4 on the depth chart. Edwards, who has 33 career starts, didn't enter Thursday's game until the fourth quarter, when both teams had their bottom-of-the-roster players in the game.

To his credit, Edwards played well, completing 12 of 20 passes for 106 yards and throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jamel Hamler, who, like Edwards, almost certainly won't be on the roster when the Eagles open the season against in Cleveland on Sept. 9.

It will be interesting to watch Foles' development after his impressive performance against the Steelers, and see if he starts to get more practice reps at Lehigh. He clearly has a stronger arm than Kafka. But for all his physical assets, including a sturdy 6-6, 243-pound body that looks impressive in the pocket, he's still a rookie whose college team won just four games last season. Unless Kafka plays really poorly during the rest of training camp and the preseason, he likely will hold on to the backup job, with Foles opening the season as the team's third quarterback.

"Everything's open," Reid said when asked if Kafka definitely will be the season-opening backup quarterback. "I keep it wide open at all positions."

But that could change with more performances like Thursday night. How that might affect your nervousness over the possibility of Life Without Mike remains to be seen.

"I thought Nick did a pretty good job," Reid said. "He was a little bit slow, a little bit hesitant on his first couple of throws. But he did a real nice job on that pass to Damaris. He got out of the pocket and kept his eyes downfield. That was good to see."

Said Foles: "I was just moving and saw the safety go with Mardy [Gilyard]. So I knew we had a downfield shot. I just wanted to throw him a ball he could adjust to. I underthrew it a little bit, but he made a nice play.''

Asked whether he has given any thought to the possibility of beating out Kafka for the backup job, Foles said, "It's one game. I'm just going to work every day and trying to get better. I'm learning from these guys and they're helping me along the way.

"I still have a lot of work to do. That's the coach's job [to decide the backup to Vick]. My job is to learn from these guys."


Contact Paul Domowitch at pdomo@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @PDomo. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read his blog at www.eagletarian.com.

 

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