After getting out of jail for his role in a dog fighting ring, Vick was little more than a curiosity as he quietly waited his turn behind then-Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Donovan McNabb. When the Eagles shipped McNabb off to the Washington Redskins over the offseason, the common assumption was that Kevin Kolb — not Vick — would guide the Philadelphia offense.
But when Kolb was hurt in September, Vick took over the Eagles' offense, and all he has done is remind everyone that he remains perhaps the single most dangerous athlete in the entire NFL. Once thought to be a run-first sideshow act, Vick has evolved into an elite weapon, capable of shredding defenses with his legs or his arm. When he diced up Washington's defense a few weeks ago to the tune of six touchdowns — four passing and two rushing — Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden fawned over Vick like he was angling for the position of president in Vick's fan club.
The respect Vick has generated is not limited to the broadcast booth. His coaches and teammates have raved all year about how much he has improved as a quarterback. He leads all quarterbacks in votes for the Pro Bowl at the end of the season.
Now that respect has extended to the locker room at Valley Ranch.
"He's really accurate," Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins said. "He's making throws he wasn't making before. His deep balls are a flick of the wrist, and he's killing them. His arm is so strong he can overthrow people anywhere, but he's not doing it. He's really accurate."
Jenkins said that the Philadelphia offense has so much speed — starting with Vick, but also including the likes of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin — that the Dallas defense will have to take risks to try to keep the Eagles in check.
"It's going to have to be a ‘gamble game,'" Jenkins said. "We're going to have to go at him, because you don't want him to get too comfortable. When he gets comfortable, he knows he can throw and run, and when he's doing both, he's tough.
"Michael Vick is a different type of guy (compared to other quarterbacks). He's a running back playing quarterback, and he's getting more and more comfortable. We can't let him get out of the pocket — we've got to try to contain him."
Jenkins said he and his teammates are understandably encouraged by the team's improved play in recent weeks.
"The offense and defense are playing good enough," he said. "Peyton Manning had I don't know how many throws — 48? — and as good as he is, that was good for us. Our goal was to make them one-dimensional.
"We want to get the offense back the ball. They way they're playing now … they're high-powered."
Jenkins said much of the credit for the team's improved defensive play goes to new defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who took over as the team's top defensive coach after former head coach Wade Phillips was fired.
"A lot of it has to do with Coach Pasqualoni and the energy he's bringing," Jenkins said. "You just don't want to make a mistake.
"You want to be the guy he comes to and says, ‘you had a great game.'"
The beginning of every training camp can be dominated with analysis of "the new guy." If a team…