ONE OF THE puzzles to be solved in this Michael Vick-as-pocket-quarterback business is exactly how Vick brought about such a seemingly profound change. The man is 30 years old. He came into this season a 53.7 percent career passer, with a 75.9 career passer rating, in seven NFL seasons.
Vick is putting up numbers this year - as a passer, not a runner - that he has never before approached. A 60.7 percent completion rate. Six touchdowns, no picks. A 110.2 passer rating.
No question, part of the reason is that Vick has feasted on terrible defenses from Detroit and Jacksonville the past 2 weeks. But the old Vick would have just run through those teams, especially the way he's been getting blitzed. This Vick is a little like the Donovan McNabb of several years ago: a lethal runner, but only when there is no better option.
Running aside, the Atlanta Vick never had the mechanics to throw like this.
"He's worked very hard at - each quarterback, you build a platform you've got to throw off of," Andy Reid said yesterday. "You want to make that as consistent as you can. If you move 3 feet to the left in the pocket or 3 feet to the right, you still want to have, in his case, his right shoulder in the same position. You want your knees bent the right way, and you want to be able to step into the throw, and so on.
"He's worked very hard on that, all way from his feet to his arms and shoulders. And what that does is, it increases your accuracy and consistency."
Reid isn't saying Vick was never introduced to these concepts in Atlanta. But Vick perhaps has embraced them here, as he has other things he once ignored.
"He's really cranked down on those [study habits] and we kind of have to kick him out of the building here; he's here all the time, and that's a good thing," Reid said. "I don't know if that's the way it was always in his career. And then, too, he has some pretty good receivers there to throw to. I'm not saying he didn't in Atlanta, but I'm saying he has some pretty good receivers that know the game, and he can put it out there and they can go get it."
DEVELOPING STORY LINES
* Sure looked to me as if Winston Justice gave up a sack to Sean Considine on Sunday. Now, DN readers know Winston from his columns as an earnest, kindhearted, charitable fellow, always striving to help his fellow man, but that's carrying it too far.
* The good news is, Shady McCoy is averaging 6.1 yards per carry. The bad news? Even in a blowout, he got just 11 carries Sunday, for 54 yards.
* Going into last night, DeSean Jackson ranked third in NFL receiving yardage, with 318 yards on his 13 catches, a league-high 24.5 yards per catch. He had the fewest catches of anyone in the top 10.
* Sav Rocca was the NFL's third-leading punter coming out of Sunday's games, with a 47.7-yard gross. His net is 41.1, which ranked sixth.
* Jeremy Maclin has equaled his rookie season touchdown total of four.
* Yeah, Donovan McNabb might find some open spaces in the Birds' defense. But keep in mind that the Redskins' "D" came out of Sunday ranked 32nd - dead last - in the NFL.
* Andy Reid mentioned special-teams penalties as a problem area, with five infractions whistled (two of them on DeSean Jackson on the same play, for blocking after signaling a fair catch and then for picking up the ball and running with it). There were only four that weren't on special teams.
The NFL's top red-zone team coming out of Sunday's games was, of course, your Philadelphia Eagles, with seven TDs in eight trips. David Akers, who hasn't attempted a field goal since the opener, was leaving the locker room as reporters arrived Sunday. Wasn't entirely clear he'd had to shower.
Andy Reid was asked about Michael Vick's red-zone magic yesterday.
"He's being very decisive right now . . . and he has that threat of the run, and also, we're able to run the ball a little bit better, from the running-back standpoint," Reid said. "That puts a little pressure on defenses."
That after all these months of being asked about facing Donovan McNabb when the Eagles play the Redskins, Kevin Kolb wasn't going to have to worry about it?
Memo to the national media descending on NovaCare for the breathless buildup to Sunday's game between the Eagles and the Redskins:
This idea of the Eagles having to play their former franchise QB might be new to you, but it really isn't to anybody here, including the players. Donovan McNabb was traded to Washington back on Easter. That was a while ago now. For reference, check the changing leaves on many of our area trees. We all knew this game was coming; the NFL didn't suddenly drop it in our laps last week as a surprise.
Yes, the crowd reaction will be interesting, and it will be quite strange to see the man who was the face of this franchise for 11 years take the field in an opposing uniform.
No, the prospect of playing McNabb does not hold his former teammates in thrall. For one thing, of the 22 Eagles who started Sunday's game in Jacksonville, only a dozen spent more than 1 year as McNabb's teammate. (And that number includes center Mike McGlynn, who never once snapped the ball to No. 5 in a game.) With Hank Baskett gone and Leonard Weaver on injured reserve, nobody taking the field this week for the Eagles was particularly close to McNabb. You'll find these guys are way more worried about their own seasons and careers than about Donovan or his legacy.
But, having survived a few of these extravaganzas in the past, we know there really is nothing we can do to stem the hurricane of hyperbole. We're all going to get wet.