Packers Fortunate To Face Vick Early


For the Green Bay Packers, who are coming off a 12-4 year and have their sights set on a Super Bowl run, there might be no better time to play an Atlanta Falcons team that went 7-9 last year than this weekend.

That's not because the Packers are hungry to avenge last year's only loss at Lambeau Field, although considering the 23-20 shortcoming prohibited them from holding homefield advantage throughout the playoffs that will certainly offer motivation, but because with each passing week Falcons quarterback Michael Vick is just one game closer to becoming perhaps one of the most dominant players in the NFL.

With home wins so crucial to postseason success -- see aforementioned 23-20 loss -- the Packers will happily take their crack at Vick now and let other teams deal with the lessons he learns along the way.

After playing backup to Chris Chandler as a rookie, Vick was officially named the team's starter during the offseason, the reins of the Falcons' franchise placed into the hands of a 22-year-old who stands 6-0 and weighs 215 pounds, with a cannon for an arm and the speed and agility of an ankle-breaking halfback.

If those traits aren't enough to frighten each and every one of the Falcons' opponents this season, the fact that Vick has a year of the offense under his belt certainly should be.

"I think he's as ready as you can have a second-year quarterback in this league," Falcons coach Dan Reeves said Wednesday. "There's no question you're not comfortable that he's going to do everything right, but I think he's going to make a lot of good decisions. That's what we're counting on."

Trying to defend a Vick-powered Falcons attack is a daunting task for any team. While the Packers are likely to go by the book and try and rattle the young quarterback with constant pressure, they'll do so knowing that every time they force Vick from the pocket they'll be playing with fire.

"He has an extremely strong arm and exceptionally quick feet," Packers GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "Obviously containing him (will be a priority). In our first three ballgames this year we have three quarterbacks who thrive on their ability to run outside the pocket, much like our quarterback does.

"We've practiced against that probably more so this preseason in practice than we have any other preseason or any other time I can remember. We have to be prepared for that. I think he's a creative quarterback, so that could be dangerous."

For his money, safety Darren Sharper would prefer that Vick be forced to beat the Packers through the air.

"I'd rather have him throw the football," Sharper said. "I'm more worried about when he gets the football in his hand and tucks it and tries to run, because quarterbacks in general tend to have a lot of space when they do decide to scramble with the football.

"He's like another running back, and you don't want to have any running backs with a lot of open field to work with."

Middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson on the other hand doesn't like the idea of Vick being allowed to unleash his lively arm.

"I think you can get caught up in his ability to run," Nickerson said. "A guy that's playing quarterback that can run a 4.2(-second) 40(-yard dash), that's going to raise a few eyebrows. But the thing that's impressed me about Vick is his arm strength. He's very accurate, he gets the ball down the field, puts it on the money, so he can make a lot of things happen."

For now Vick is still the young apprentice in the world of the NFL, but there's a definite sense that it won't be long before he's taking his opposition to school.

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