Les Bowen: Eagles working on fixing Vick's fumble woes

Posted: October 12, 2012

DOUG PEDERSON is the guy who deals most directly with Michael Vick, the coach who has the most hands-on role as the Eagles try to straighten out a quarterback whose turnover problems threaten to derail their season.

"We make it a point of emphasis. We don't want to overcoach it," said Pederson, the Birds' quarterbacks coach. "We don't want to make it the focal point, because we've got so many other things - we want him to play the position . . . He's got to learn to hang on to the football. It's Mike and the ball. And he's got to do that.

"We talk about it. We slow [turnover plays] down on film if we can . . . He's been working on it, really, all season . . . You work on it in practice and you go to the next one. It's up to the individual, whether it's a receiver, whether it's Mike, a back - they've got to hang on to the football."

Heading into the final game before the bye, Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field against the Detroit Lions, this isn't the situation Pederson or the rest of the offensive coaching staff envisioned when the season began. Among teams that have played five games, only Jacksonville, with 65, has scored fewer than the Birds' 80 points. The main reason is Vick's six interceptions and five lost fumbles.

"I don't think you have to coach the position any differently [when points aren't coming]. You stay aggressive, and that's our mentality, whether it's run or pass. I don't think you have to change to suit what's happening," Pederson said. "We know we have to hang on to the football. It's the prize. The football's the prize, and we've got to hang on to it. Part of our red-zone problems the last couple of seasons has been the turnovers. We get it addressed, you'll start seeing the point total go up."

In fact, the last Eagles team to score at this low a rate was the one Pederson quarterbacked, in 1999, which managed 57 points through five games.

"We're a lot more explosive today," said Pederson, whose best offensive option in '99 was handing off to Duce Staley (325 carries, 1,273 yards). Torrance Small led the '99 Eagles with 49 catches for 655 yards. "We have the ability to score a lot more points than we did back then . . . because we weren't as explosive, teams played us differently."

Pederson said the '99 Eagles didn't see soft safety coverage "unless it was third and a mile."

The Eagles came into 2012 thinking they had a big-play offense, but the way the West Coast system works, Pederson said, "you take what the defense gives you." So far, that has been mostly underneath, partly because of deep safeties, partly because of the Eagles' offensive-line injury problems, which have made the pocket a thrill ride. The early picks - all six thrown the first 2 weeks - didn't support a long-strike emphasis, either.

Pederson said he thought the 12 reps Vick got in the preseason had a big impact on his early lack of sharpness. He said he talked to Vick about having an "aim small, miss small mentality."

"It's a target with your eyes," Pederson said. "You pick out a spot, whether on air or on your receiver's body, and you just narrow your focus to that spot . . . If you're going to miss, you're going to miss slightly off one way or the other, but you're going to be on that target somewhere. By training your eyes that way, you can pick up your target, and put the ball right where you want it to go."

This approach, Pederson said, "has had a lot to do with Mike, just disciplining his eyes, getting his eyes in the right spot."

Vick agreed.

"It's something we try to focus on at moments when we need it the most," Vick said Thursday. "It's just about keeping everything in perspective . . . I was forcing plays; we all saw it."

What is it like working with a QB who became one of the NFL's biggest superstars, went to prison, came back, and now faces a season that will determine whether he continues as the starter here?

Pederson said Vick is "very quiet, a very shy kind of individual, but he's full of energy when he's out here on the football field. He brings that every day . . . He's great in the meetings, very attentive. He's gotten to the point where he's helpful not only to the younger quarterbacks but to the offensive line, the backs and the receivers."

Vick said he appreciates the fact that Pederson, 44, played the position in the NFL, for 12 seasons. Veteran backup Trent Edwards said Pederson reminds him in that regard of Alex Van Pelt, his QB coach in Buffalo, who had backed up Jim Kelly for the Bills.

"I just think his approach to coaching has a very player-friendly aspect to it. I don't think he ever overcoaches, either - he knows how the position is supposed to be coached and played . . . I think he has a good feel for how it should be done, and I think he's going to be doing this for a long time," Edwards said.

Rookie quarterback Nick Foles said Pederson "understands our mind-sets and what we're seeing."

Foles said Pederson, who grew up in Washington state but went to college at Northeast Louisiana, and began his coaching career at a high school in Shreveport, "has that Southern-guy thing . . . What you see is what you get."

Contact Les Bowen @ bowenl@phillynews.com

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