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The All-Vick mailbag

I have received quite a bit of feedback from yesterday's post on Michael Vick's injuries. Thanks to everyone who commented, e-mailed, Tweeted, etc.

Some of you thanked me for pointing out that all four of Vick's reported injuries last season occurred while he was in the pocket. Others ripped me for "defending" Vick and his style of play.

And others posed questions/topics worth exploring further.

So, let's take a look at some of those in an all-Vick mailbag.

Q: He may have been in the pocket, but doesn't Vick get sacked more often than other quarterbacks because he holds on to the ball too long?

A: A fair question, but if you look at the plays where he got injured, Vick didn't really hold on to the ball long. On the concussion play against the Falcons, Jeremy Maclin ran a 3-yard slant, and the ball was out. Against the Giants, Vick ran play-action, set his feet and delivered one of his nicest passes of the season, over the safety's head and into Maclin's hands.

In the 49ers game, McCoy was only 1 yard past the line of scrimmage when the ball arrived from Vick.

And against the Cardinals, Vick got rid of the ball quickly, completing a pass 5 yards downfield to Celek.

So none of the four injuries were the result of Vick holding on to the ball too long. Overall, though, there are certainly instances when that happens.

J.J. Cooper of Football Outsiders keeps track of sacks that are caused by quarterbacks holding on to the ball too long. He breaks them down into three categories:

  1. Sacks that occurred in under 2.5 seconds.

  2. Sacks that occurred between 2.5 and 2.9 seconds.

  3. Sacks that occurred after 3 seconds or more.

The theory is that the offensive line is usually at fault for sacks that happen in less than 2.5 seconds. And quarterbacks are usually to blame for the sacks that take three seconds or longer.

Vick was sacked in under 2.5 seconds on 1.4 percent of his overall dropbacks, which was lower than the league average of 1.8 percent. That means the Eagles did a good job of avoiding those "quick sacks" where the quarterback has no chance.

Vick was sacked after holding on to the ball for three seconds or more on 2.8 percent of his dropbacks, slightly above the league average of 2.7 percent. Of the 47 quarterbacks who attempted at least 60 passes last season, 21 had a higher rate in the three seconds or more category.

In other words, Vick was basically in the middle of the pack on sacks resulting from holding on to the ball too long. Some quarterbacks who were worse: Cam Newton (3.5 percent), Tony Romo (3.2 percent) and Ben Roethlisberger (3.0 percent).

But what the numbers don't tell us is how often Vick held on to the ball for three seconds or more overall.

Football Outsiders keeps a stat called Houdinis, which measures how many times a quarterback escaped a sack. Vick led the league with 17. No other quarterback had more than 12. So, Vick very well might hold on to the ball longer than other quarterbacks, but those plays didn't result in sacks at a high rate. They might, however, have resulted in hits - either as he released the football or after he picked up yards with his legs.

Note: This section has been edited since it was originally published. Thanks to Derek, formerly of IgglesBlog, for clarifying a couple points from Football Outsiders.

Q: Even though the reported injuries took place while Vick was in the pocket, isn't it true that they could have originally been sustained on previous plays where he ran?

A: In theory, yes, this could have been the case. But let's look at the four plays I wrote about yesterday.

The first injury took place when Vick collided with Todd Herremans and sustained a concussion. It had nothing to do with previous plays. Same thing with the bruised hand he suffered against the Giants. That was a one-play injury. And the finger injury against the 49ers also occurred in a vacuum on that one play.

The broken ribs against the Cardinals, which caused Vick to miss the next three games, are more of a mystery. Andy Reid said the injury occurred on the second offensive play of the game. LeSean McCoy seemed to disagree, telling WIP that the injury happened late in the game. While Vick took a hit from Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington while in the pocket on the second play of the game, he also was nailed by linebacker Paris Lenon while scrambling for 7 yards in the fourth quarter. The second hit forced him to sit out a play.

I don't subscribe to the theory that Reid lied and said Vick's injury occurred early in the game to provide an excuse for his poor play. But it's reasonable to wonder whether the second hit played a part in him missing the next three games.

Q: So, you're saying that Vick's play was not an issue last year?

A: That is precisely not what I'm saying. The purpose of yesterday's piece was simply to show that the injuries he suffered last year were not a result of Vick scrambling, leaving the pocket or refusing to slide.

The fact that he was injured four times while throwing from the pocket reinforces the idea that he needs to work closely with Howard Mudd and Jason Kelce this offseason to make sure everyone's on the same page pre-snap. That's especially important now that the Eagles will often have Demetress Bell, not Jason Peters, going up against the opponents' best pass pass rusher on Vick's front side.

The other major issue last year (which we've been over a million times) was turnovers. Vick was picked off once every 30.2 attempts. Not all of those were his fault, but Vick made his share of poor decisions and was often careless with the football after he broke the line of scrimmage and took off to run.

As I've written about in the past, the pieces are in place for Vick to succeed in 2012. He'll have his first full offseason as a starter since 2006. He's got talented weapons at wide receiver, running back and tight end. And the offensive line has a chance to be pretty good. At the age of 32, if Vick can't put everything together under this set of circumstances, chances are it's just not going to happen for him.

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