'Flyswatters' keeping Vick's passes in line

"It's going to help me," Michael Vick said of the net device that sits on a staffer's shoulders.    DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
"It's going to help me," Michael Vick said of the net device that sits on a staffer's shoulders.    DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
Posted: August 06, 2013

Michael Vick locked his eyes on the receiver in a short crossing pattern. There was no pass rush because the Eagles were running only a seven-on-seven drill. So the quarterback seemingly had little to worry about as he uncorked a throw over the middle.

But Vick's pass grazed one of coach Chip Kelly's man-made obstructions - a black net perched on the shoulder of a staff member that acts as a substitute defensive lineman with outstretched arms.

The ball fell to the ground incomplete and Vick punched his fist through the air in disgust. It was the second time he had hit one of the "flyswatters" on Sunday, and since Kelly introduced the obstacles in the spring, he has been the quarterback who has hit them the most.

"The first day Chip put them out there I complained about it, complained about it, and he said, 'The more you complain, the more I'm going to keep it out here,' " Vick said. "I've got to deal with it and it's been helping me. And now I don't even pay attention to it."

Kelly started using the flyswatters at Oregon, he said, so that his quarterbacks would not get complacent during seven-on-seven drills when there aren't any linemen.

"There are going to be some linemen there, and if you continue to get in the habit of dropping the ball over there, it's not going to happen in a game," Kelly said of blocked passes.

The Eagles coach wants his quarterbacks to throw in lanes. Most do. When they don't, no matter the QB's size, the passes have a greater chance of being tipped or batted to the ground.

Vick is short for a quarterback. He's 6 feet, while the average height is generally in the 6-foot-3 range. Ideally, coaches want their quarterbacks tall enough to see over their linemen, but it's not a prerequisite.

Vick has averaged more batted passes per attempt than most quarterbacks. Last season, 8 of his 316 "aimed" throws (2.5 percent) were batted, according to ProFootballFocus.com. Nick Foles, for example, threw 4 of 238 "aimed" passes (1.6 percent) that were batted.

Kelly said he sees batted passes as a throwing-in-lanes problem, not a height one, unless you are abnormally tall for a quarterback. Drew Brees, who is listed as 6-0, had only 1.9 percent of passes batted down last season; at 6-5, Tom Brady was only slightly better at 1.4 percent.

"I think as far as sliding, finding lanes, up and over with the throws, it's going to help me," Vick said. "At some point, it's going to pay dividends for me. It's embarrassing when you do it in practice because it's not a moving target."

With the team's first preseason game approaching on Friday, Kelly said he had yet to decide on playing time for his quarterbacks. He said he would make a decision after Wednesday's scrimmage with New England.

Vick and Foles continued to split first-team snaps at practice.

"I don't think whoever starts on Friday will be the determined starter," Vick said. "I don't think Chip is that far ahead. We're not that far ahead."

Rookie Matt Barkley has yet to take a snap with the first- or second-team offense.

"You hope for reps and you hope for something like that," Barkley said. "At this point, you've just got to do the best with what you get."

Click here for complete coverage of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.

Contact Jeff McLane

at jmclane@phillynews.com.

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