The prevailing wisdom when facing Michael Vick used to be that you wanted to keep him in the pocket and have as many defensive backs in coverage as possible. Heaven forbid he somehow was able to get outside the tackles and make a play on the run. Contain and control. This year, though, opponents have changed the way they go after the Eagles.
"I think most teams are just attacking him," Osi Umenyiora said after watching how the Eagles' three previous opponents -- the Browns, Ravens and Cardinals -- structured their defenses. "They're just blitzing, blitzing, blitzing and they get to him as often as possible and that seems to be the game plan . . . Teams are like, 'If he's going to beat us, he's going to beat us,' and they're going to just try to attack him as best that they can, and they've been pretty successful doing that."
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Wherever would they get such an idea?
Likely from the Giants, who were one of the first teams athletic enough and courageous enough to send extra pass rushers after Vick and find some success in doing so. It didn't always work, of course, and the Giants wound up losing to the Eagles the first time they employed such a philosophy. That was in 2010 in Philadelphia, when Umenyiora barely missed a pitch from Vick to LeSean McCoy and safety Antrel Rolle seemed to be blitzing on just about every snap. It took a while for that approach to gain popularity, but it certainly seems as if other teams are mimicking what the Giants originated.
So far be it from them to fiddle with their own blueprint.
"I can't say I started that trend," defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said, "but I think it's a good trend."
The Eagles are 2-1, but Vick has been mostly curtailed. What's more important is that he's been sacked nine times and hit 28 times, the most in the NFL. The Eagles allowed 72 quarterback hits in all of 2011. If they remain at their current pace of licks on Vick, he'll be whacked 150 or so times.
Sometimes he holds the ball too long. Sometimes running backs and tight ends are not picking up the blitzes. Much has been made of the Eagles' injuries on the offensive line. But Fewell said it's been a combination of issues for the Eagles.
"I don't think there's one cause of it," he said. "People have just been able to get through and hit him this year."
The Giants expect to continue that. The Eagles, of course, want to limit it as much as possible. Coach Andy Reid said he's sticking with Vick as his starting quarterback, but he won't be able to do so if Vick is injured.
"I just have to keep fighting, keep pushing and keep trusting in my guys," Vick said of absorbing so much punishment. "As long as God allows me to get up, each and every snap I'm going to give it everything that I have."
The danger of such an aggressive mind-set is that it leaves a defense vulnerable in other areas. It becomes a gamble, as the Giants learned on that McCoy play in 2010. The way to tilt the odds is to make sure Vick is disrupted.
"They're a big-play offense," Fewell said. "When you look at them, they have a lot of playmakers and they can spread the ball around a lot. But people have been pressuring them more than what we see when we watch [other] opponents. They normally don't pressure [the Eagles] as much. And they've been able to get home."
Umenyiora just smiled a you'll-see-on-Sunday smile when asked if the Giants will continue with that trend.
They could always go in the opposite direction. Play more passive? More laid-back?
"I can guarantee you we're not going to be that," Umenyiora said. "That's a guarantee."