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Ten-Point Stance: Is Vick declining, or have NFL defenses solved him?

by | NFL Insider

Around professional football, in the offices of some scouts and the minds of some defensive assistants, something is happening that has gone mostly unnoticed, these people say: NFL defenses have adjusted to Michael Vick.

This sounds almost preposterous, but some in the sport believe that his struggles in Cleveland were not an aberration.

"No one is scared of Mike Vick anymore," one scout said.

Wait. What?

This is the theory that more than a few people in the league are talking about behind closed doors. It goes like this ...

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The league has changed drastically since Vick entered it over a decade ago. The speed of defenses, even in that short period, have gotten faster. While Vick, because of injuries, has slowed slightly. Along the way, defenses have gotten much more effective at defending scrambling throwers. The way to beat a defense that does well against running quarterbacks is to move the pocket and throw with accuracy on the run. It's what players like Aaron Rodgers have done to eat defenses alive, and yes, Rodgers, in many ways, is a scrambling quarterback.

Vick, the theory goes, still cannot throw with great accuracy on the run, or if the pocket shifts. So if teams crowd the line of scrimmage to prevent him from scrambling, Vick still has difficulty making defenses pay with accurate throws.

Now, there is no true way to determine if this theory is accurate. Statistics can be manipulated to bolster or counter this argument. However, based on what I've seen, and what people I trust tell me, Vick's accuracy when under duress has declined. He threw four interceptions against a sorry Cleveland team. That says a great deal.

Doesn't mean it will stay that way, but if there is some truth to this theory it could be a long year in Philadelphia.

2. The four Saints players suspended by Roger Goodell will meet with him, maybe as early as next week. The odds remain that Goodell will listen to the players and then stick to his original suspension timetables.

One source close to the situation outlined another possibility. Goodell has always wanted the Saints players to sit with him and explain their side of what happened, but none did. The players believe Goodell would have ignored them. The NFL maintains privately that talking to Goodell can lead to a reduced suspension, as was the case with Vick and Ben Roethlisberger during their troubles. Goodell wants players to respect the process and his authority.

It's remotely possible (emphasis on remotely) that the four players speak to Goodell and if the meetings don't get too heated, Goodell listens, then reduces their suspensions.

If this happens, the NFL could avoid further court action. It would basically be a settlement. Both sides could claim victory as well. The players would say Goodell backed down and the NFL would claim it reduced suspensions only because the players spoke to Goodell as he wanted all along.

3. Locked-out game official to me: "This lockout could go on for a bit more because our belief is that the NFL wants to break our union." I don't totally disagree with that. One of the undercurrents of this lockout is the NFL's belief that game officials think they're bigger than the game itself. I don't totally disagree with that, either.

4. One more note on officials. The head linesman from the Eagles-Browns game on Sunday did his thing and then went home to Oklahoma. Where, according to a Deadspin writer, on Wednesday night he was the referee for a seventh-grade football game. At a loss for words ...

5. The show Hard Knocks was riveting this season with the Miami Dolphins. Maybe the best Hard Knocks ever. It could also be the last.

The reason many teams avoid Hard Knocks is because they fear what secrets are being broadcast. Much of the footage is heavily edited, but there are things that can get by even the most censoring eyes. That appears to be the case with the Dolphins. Houston defensive end J.J. Watt told media that cover the Texans that he picked up the Dolphins snap count from watching the show. Then when they played Miami on Sunday, he used that knowledge to get a jump on rushing the quarterback. While Watt was careful to say that he can pick up snap counts from watching preseason games as well, this is still not good for the show. It will scare the hell out of teams already terrified of having Hard Knocks cameras in the locker room.

6a. Champ of the week: Tom Brady. Lost in the celebratory aspect of Robert Griffin III and Peyton Manning was Brady's victory. He has gotten so good that his extraordinary play is now considered pedestrian.

6b. Chump of the week: Mario Williams. A non-factor against the Jets, and then he practically blamed his poor play on the replacement refs. Weak.

6c. Tweet of the week: from tweeter Bill Voth -- "Confused why so many are going crazy about ref from #Browns/#Eagles working a 7th grade game ... Probably wanted a step up from Weeden."

7. As of now, there is no interest from teams in signing Terrell Owens or Chad Johnson.

8. Keep this in mind about Adrian Peterson: When I visited Vikings camp this summer, coaches were insistent that Peterson would be used cautiously. At the beginning of the season, I was told, expect to see very little of him. But something interesting happened. Peterson healed far faster than anyone thought, and Peterson, I'm told, constantly lobbied the coaches to start in the season opener. The coaches relented and Peterson was excellent.

9. Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on the perception that receiver Mike Wallace is selfish: "Mike is such a team player. I know people think he's being selfish, but it's not that way at all. He's an awesome team player ... any time Mike is on the field, he commands two eyes, whether it's the cornerback and the safety, there's always going to be someone keeping an eye on him. Mike gets frustrated sometimes when he's not getting 100 yards a game, but I tell him that's the ultimate compliment when you're being double- and triple-teamed, because that means they're scared of you. Mike brings that to this team."

10. Same. Ol'. Raiders.


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