When Michael Vick last played in North Jersey, he was at the apex of his career renaissance. It was 2010, and Vick led an improbable fourth-quarter comeback over the New York Giants that helped the Eagles win the NFC East.
It was perhaps his last great moment with the Eagles.
Vick's career since that day has been marked by injuries and inconsistency. But one big difference between the 2010 Vick and the 2012 Vick has been a reshaped offensive line, both in terms of personnel and scheme. And the switch from Juan Castillo as offensive line coach in 2010 to Howard Mudd the last two seasons has affected Vick more than the quarterback previously revealed.
"Obviously, yeah. Just being honest and candid about the situation," Vick said Thursday. "Things changed dramatically. It is what it is."
Vick explained that he needed to learn protection schemes all over again, which was difficult to do coming off the lockout that wiped out the 2011 offseason program. When players returned, the Eagles introduced Mudd's unique style - one that produced considerable success during his decorated career - while trying to figure out which players fit and which didn't.
"We all kind of gradually worked our way into it until we got comfortable," Vick said. "I had to learn new protection schemes, verbiage. And we shuffled around a lot of players. So everybody had to start all over."
The offensive line changed dramatically from 2010 to 2011. Only Jason Peters remained in the same place. This was not necessarily a bad thing. The Eagles offensive line appeared productive last season, and Vick was sacked only 23 times in 13 games compared with 34 times in 12 games in 2010.
Beginning in 2011, however, Vick needed to take on more responsibility than he was used to - including making more protection calls at the line of scrimmage. One reason for optimism about the 2012 season was Jason Kelce's taking on that responsibility. (Kelce suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.)
When Vick was asked whether the changes contributed more to the difference between him in 2010 and what he has exhibited since, he admitted that was the case.
"Because Howard and Juan are two totally different personalities and two totally different schemes," Vick said. "And they like their own caliber of players. It was different. But we lost Juan to the defense, so I had to go with what I had to go with."
Vick also said he had fewer running options in 2011 compared with 2010, when he rushed 100 times for 676 yards and nine touchdowns. He rushed for 589 yards and one touchdown on 76 attempts last season, and he has 307 rushing yards and a touchdown on 57 attempts this season. These numbers can be misleading, because a quarterback's running attempts are sometimes broken plays, but Vick said there were more running options in 2010.
"We mixed it as much as we could, and Marty got it called, and it was successful for us," Vick said, referring to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. "But we just stopped doing it. I don't know if that's what Coach Mudd wanted to do."
Mudd's system did help protect Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and produced the most wins of any team in a decade in NFL history. But different approaches fit some players better than others - a look at the offensive linemen the Eagles let go since Mudd arrived is an example. When asked whether the protection schemes the Eagles used in 2010 fit his style of play better than those used in the last two seasons, Vick insisted they did.
"In hindsight now, looking back on it, absolutely, I think so," Vick said. "I know it was a different cast of players, as well. A majority of those guys are gone, shuffled around. It was a different group."