Vick entering 2003 stressing the fundamentals
June 25, 2003
By: Matt Zenitz
Michael Vick eyes the secondary for someone to pass to; he can't find an open receiver so he takes off, breaks several tackles, and ends up in the end zone on an electifying 46 yard touchdown run to beat the Vikings [30-24] in overtime. This run capped off an explosive 173 yard rushing performance in week 13 of the 2002 NFL season. In the process, Vick not only breaks a 51 year old NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback but he also captures his first NFC offensive player of the week honor.
Vick, 22, wowed people all season with his mix of dazzling runs, unbelievable arm strength, and eye-popping scrambles to elude the pass rush. In his first season as a starter, Vick led his Atlanta Falcons into the second round of the playoffs, posting a (9-6-1) record during the regular season. Atlanta ultimately suffered a [20-6] loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But along the way, Vick ran for 773 yards and 8 touchdowns, while almost gaining a phenomenal 7 yards per carry. Vick passed for an additional 2936 yards and 16 touchdowns, while posting a 2 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio.
"I go out there to try and help my team win football games. I don't really think about what I'm doing as I do it. I've always admired guys like Steve Young who were able to create. I don't know if my style is all that new, because Steve had that same type of style," said Vick, who enjoyed his first pro bowl selection in 2002.
In 2003, Vick looks to build on his rising super-star status, while at the same time becoming more of a pocket passer. To help Vick with his progression, Atlanta has assigned Mike Johnson with the task of quarterback coach. During Johnson's tenure in San Diego as quarterback coach, Doug Flutie enjoyed career highs in passing yards, passing attempts, and completions. Johnson puts Vick through a number of drills to better his development as a passing quarterback.
"We do a series of drills trying to better his balance, and trying to get him to get used to his true throwing form. Its no different than baseball, when the pitcher steps to the mound, you want him to release the ball the same every time," explained Johnson.
According to Johnson, Vick has made tremendous progress during the off season, but still has more he wants Vick to improve on.
"Personally, Mike knows he needs to improve in some areas. All he wants to do is get better, and he is excited about having a new coach," said Brian Finneran, who led Atlanta in receptions and receiving yards in 2002.
During the off season, Atlanta added depth to its receiving core, with the acquisitions of Peerless Price and MarTay Jenkins. Last season with the Bills, Price established new career highs in receptions (94), receiving yards (1252), and touchdowns (9). This season, Price looks to add that same kind of explosiveness to an Atlanta receiving core that did not have a 1000 yard receiver in 2002.
"Peerless is a good talent, he has a good work ethic, and he has been one of our harder workers in the off season. He will really help Mike's game a lot this year," said Johnson.
The Atlanta Falcons, as a team, seem ready to build off a season in which they ranked 14th in the NFL in total offensive yards.
"Weapons wise, we're stacked all across the board. Having T.J [Duckett] and Warrick [Dunn] really opens up things for Mike and the passing game over the middle," said Atlanta tight end, Alge Crumpler.
Vick and the Falcons are coming into the 2003 season with high expectations, after coming onto the scene in 2002. Vick seems ready to lead this organization to the next level, which would be a Super Bowl.
"Obviously, the expectation of every player and coach is to win a Super Bowl. I want to do all that I can to get my team closer to that goal. As the leader of this team it is my job to step up and show them the way," said Vick.