It made for a good sound bite, but is it really a good sign? That’s the question I’d be asking myself about Michael Vick if I were Chip Kelly.
Here’s what Vick said after playing very well in his second audition for the starting quarterback job:
“I’m having fun playing football and I fell in love with the game again, and I am thankful for that. You’ve got to play this game with intense passion and purpose and I thank Coach Kelly for what he has done for me. And that’s just giving me that confidence that I felt like I was losing at some point in my career.”
That was instantly interpreted in Philadelphia as a sign that Vick is reinvigorated after two very bad seasons as the Eagles' starter. And Vick certainly sounded sincere when he said it.
Thing is, he sounded sincere when he said similar things in 2010 and 2011 and 2012. Then, he was crediting Andy Reid with saving his career, teaching him how to prepare properly and proclaiming that he finally, really grasped the level of commitment necessary to be an elite NFL quarterback.
Vick’s performance has been as inconsistent as his sense of confidence and commitment, which is why Kelly should be concerned. Vick looked every bit as sharp and effective -- maybe more so -- when he flashed greatness in 2010. He was never quite that player again as Reid’s tenure unraveled in 2011 and 2012.
“When things don’t go well and everybody’s pointing the finger at you, it can hurt your confidence,” Vick said. “You could be one of the best players in the league and sometimes outside sources can maybe waver your feelings or emotions.”
A franchise quarterback can’t let that happen. It’s in the job description. Vick’s heart-on-his-sleeve candor is compelling, but it may not be the message Kelly wants to hear.
The coach will choose between Vick and Nick Foles based on production on the field, not in news conferences. But he pays attention to everything, and he should be aware that Vick is consistently inconsistent in both venues.
• There is more going on than a QB competition, of course. The biggest concern after the preseason opener was on the other side of the ball. New defensive coordinator Bill Davis’ squad appeared to be in shambles.
It was much better Thursday night. That wasn’t Tom Brady and the Patriots, which no doubt helped. But it was Cam Newton, who hung 30 on last year’s shambles of an Eagles defense. With the bar set that low, it was enough to see solid tackling, decent coverage (at times) and occasional pressure on the quarterback.
“Guys just calmed down,” inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “It was their first-game jitters, got that out of the way. Guys were calm going into it and confident in what they would be able to do.”
“I think we tackled a lot better,” outside linebacker Connor Barwin said. “There was a lot of gang-tackling. Guys filled the gaps. When you do not let them get into the open field, it is a lot easier to tackle.”
• Davis is still trying to figure out which players fit where in his modified 3-4 scheme. The good news was that Mychal Kendricks -- an outside linebacker last season as a rookie -- was able to get penetration from his new inside linebacker spot.
“We were trying to take advantage of their protections and get Mychal some pass rushes, seeing what we have there as a blitzer,” Davis said. “We had a couple of opportunities to send him, so we did.”
The defensive line was a weak area last year, partly because of the doomed Wide 9 scheme the Eagles used. This year, it looks like there is some quality depth.
“Because they’re not rotating offensive linemen, if you can keep bringing in waves (of defensive linemen) at them, I think in the long haul it’s going to pay off,” Kelly said. “Because it also makes (the starters) fresher in the fourth quarter.”
• It will be a season-long pastime, watching for new twists from the innovative Kelly. Maybe the most interesting so far was a four-tight end set he deployed on a third down. All four -- Brent Celek, James Casey, Zach Ertz and Clay Harbor -- was split wide, two on each side. With the defense spread out, the Eagles ran the ball for a first down.
What was more interesting was Kelly’s reasoning. He is testing to see what defensive coaches do at this level.
“You look to see how the defenses match up to you,” Kelly said. “It’s a matchup game at this level. Sometimes you can put defenses in some binds."