Vick's passing percentage an encouraging sign

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns Monday night, earning the NFL's sixth-best passer rating.
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns Monday night, earning the NFL's sixth-best passer rating. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: September 13, 2013

If a five-month quarterback competition and two-game preseason audition were not enough evidence that Michael Vick earned the Eagles' starting quarterback job, his performance in the opener should serve as validation.

The dizzying pace with which Vick executed and his 54 rushing yards - including a 36-yarder - were impressive, but Vick's passing might have been most praiseworthy. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns and did not throw an interception.

Vick's 112.6 passer rating was sixth best in the league. The only quarterbacks ahead of him were Peyton Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Drew Brees.

Coach Chip Kelly has said since the spring that he looks for accuracy from his quarterbacks, so Vick's completion percentage is especially noteworthy.

Twenty-three other quarterbacks topped 60 percent passing in Week 1, and half the league's passers finished above 60 percent last season. But Vick has only once been a 60 percent passer in his career, so it's a reasonable benchmark for him in 2013. Vick said it's where he wants to be this season.

"It usually says that you're going to the right spots with the ball, doing the right things," Vick said. "Trying to keep it somewhere near there, and hopefully it'll be that way through the course of the season."

Vick is 26-18 as a starting quarterback when he completes at least 60 percent of his passes. He is 31-26-1 when he is below 60 percent.

During Kelly's four seasons as Oregon's head coach, his starting quarterback's completion percentage ascended from 58 percent to 61.5 percent to 62.2 percent to 68.5 percent.

Vick was not infallible, and there were some passes on which he appeared to miss - whether it was an open player in the flat who was not thrown the ball or open targets that he overthrew. But his full effort was one of his best in recent memory, especially compared with his last two seasons, when he threw interceptions in 15 of 23 starts.

Vick completed passes to six players on Monday, including seven to DeSean Jackson. All were in the first half. Vick attempted just four second-half passes, which will likely be abnormal. In fact, his 25 attempts were relatively low if the Eagles hover around 80 plays per game.

The Eagles emphasize that the game plan changes week to week, and Vick did not want to speculate whether he anticipates a higher volume. That could affect his percentage. Of the 40 career games when Vick has thrown at least 30 passes, he has completed at least 60 percent just 16 times. But he has never played in an offense like this one, so past metrics might not count for much.

"It's all based on what [Kelly] sees, and recognizing what the defense gives us," Vick said. "I like throwing the football. I like running the football."

Vick can only do that if he stays healthy. One of the story lines this week is the number of hits Vick has taken. He officially was sacked three times and hit seven times in the pocket Monday night, but that does not include running plays or read-options when the defenders still hit him even though he didn't have the ball. Then there were the blocks that Vick threw, which the coaches already talked to him about avoiding.

"I talked to him during the game, after the game, on Tuesday," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "The one thing that I admire about Mike is something that we've all seen: He's extremely tough. He's very competitive, and when the game is going on, he reacts to things like you want a football player to react."

Vick said "it was good to get hit" because he wasn't tackled much in the preseason, and it prepares him for future games. But he must avoid the knockout hits that he has been susceptible to in the past.

Objectives Vick has - whether it's throwing 60 percent or playing 16 games - must be balanced with the competitive zeal that kept him in Philadelphia and helped him win the starting job.

"I'm a football player at the end of the day," Vick said. "Not just a quarterback. A football player. I'll do whatever it takes to win."


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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