Michael Vick gets the start for the Eagles this Sunday in Detroit. Let’s take some time today to discuss how you prepare for Vick from a defensive perspective and what we should expect to see from Jim Schwartz and the Lions at Ford Field.
Know the offense
Andy Reid runs a west coast system in Philly. That means to alert for the deep ball in between the 40’s and prepare for inside breaking routes that are thrown between the hash marks and the numbers. You should know where the ball is going to go on Sunday and the routes you are going to see: Hi-Lo Crossers, Hi-Lo Triple In, Options, Spot Route, etc. The routes Reid has been running for a decade. The secondary should be ready to drive downhill and make some plays in the passing game. Don’t get beat by Vick in a route scheme that you know is coming from the Eagles pre-snap alignment.
The Lions can't allow Vick to break contain and get into the open field.
Vick is very effective when he sees man coverage. The reason is simple: defenders have their backs to the QB. And, as we saw last week against Green Bay, when Vick can’t get the ball to his primary read, he is going to try and make a play with his legs. Yes, the Lions will play some man coverage, but in third down passing situations, why not play Cover 2, Cover 6 (quarter, quarter, half) and some Cover 3? Rush four and drop seven into coverage. This way the secondary and linebackers can drop to their landmarks and keep their eyes on the QB. If Vick breaks contain, pursue to the football, make a tackle before the sticks and get off of the field. Make him beat you throwing the ball down the field by taking away his ability to create explosive plays in the run game.
Confuse the quarterback. It happens in every defensive game plan, but we are talking about a player who has very limited reps in this offense in regular season game situations. Try to bait Vick into making poor decisions with the football. Show overload pressure to one side of the field and run zone defenders into coverage at the snap of the ball. The ball has to come out quick and you may be able to steal one or two. And, more importantly, it can turn him into a conventional quarterback who has to set his feet and make an accurate throw by taking away his athletic ability.
Defensive ends have to play with rush contain. What that means is that they have to work up the field and not allow Vick to step underneath the tackle or escape pressure and get to the outside of the defense. Tough responsibility for DEs who like to use the up and under move or get caught rushing too high up field and creating open space for Vick to tuck the ball and run. Best bet is to use the bull rush and only disengage with the offensive tackle once Vick has committed to running the ball. Not as easy as it sounds, but it has to be done.
Exotic Plays/ Packages
You know they are in the game plan. Don’t be surprised to see the Read Option out of the gun, QB Draw and some exotic looks in the red zone. As a defensive player you have to prepare for situations that you don’t see on tape—and it is a guarantee that Andy Reid has installed something different in the game plan for this week. Just because Vick is the starter doesn’t mean that those gadget plays are thrown out in the trash. Play with technique, fundamentals and read your keys. That is how you defend exotic looks.
Use the sideline, play to your pursuit and don’t allow Vick to have a two-way go with field to work with. Against an athletic QB, don’t let him covert on a broken play. Vick doesn’t want to go through his entire route progression, because he doesn’t have the patience. He wants to tuck the ball and run—especially in the boot game where he becomes the best athlete on the field. It sounds simple, but it isn’t as easy as it looks. I have been there—and this guy made me look like a fish on a playoff stage.
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