BEREA: When quarterback Michael Vick first came into the NFL, he was known more for his feet and making things happen on the run than for his passing. His position as the all-time leader among quarterbacks with 5,219 rushing yards proves as much.
But in his NFL reincarnation, Vick, an 11-year pro, has worked hard to make his passing game just as lethal. Last season with the Eagles, he set career milestones in passing attempts (423), completions (253) and yards (3,303).
That heady combination makes Vick one of the toughest quarterbacks in the league to defend and makes for a tough matchup for the Browns’ young defense.
“He’s a superstar in the league,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “He can have a bad play, [another] bad play and then boom! It’s a touchdown. That’s what makes him extremely dangerous. He can do it with his feet from outside the pocket and he throws the ball extremely well. I don’t think you can underestimate … and you have to be able to do this as a quarterback in this league. … He can beat you with his arm in the pocket.”
Shurmur served as assistant coach for the Eagles from 1999 through 2008. That was before Vick arrived, but the veteran quarterback still left an impression on Shurmur.
“He arrived on the scene in Philadelphia after I left, but I’ve admired his heroism, his style of play since he’s been in the league. He’s a very, very dangerous guy,” Shurmur said.
Browns defensive back Dimitri Patterson practiced against Vick with the Eagles before coming to the Browns. But Sunday will be the first time he’s gone against him in a game that counts.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Patterson said. “Good challenge for us, good challenge for our secondary, good measuring stick.”
Patterson saw up close and personal the things Vick can do that most quarterbacks can’t.
“He extends plays very well, and that’s an element of conditioning that you don’t know how you’re going to respond to until you’re in it,” he said. “That’s something that we’re gonna have to have at the top of our mind going into this game.
“I know he’s a good player. I know he threatens the defense in so many ways. He’s an all-around athlete who gives you a lot of problems. You have to be very disciplined to be successful against him.”
When Browns cornerback Joe Haden was growing up, Vick was his favorite player. Now a defensive standout, Haden’s job Sunday is to help make sure Vick doesn’t carve up the Browns’ defense.
But what Haden used to admire — Vick’s scrambling ability coupled with his big arm — now keeps defenders like him up at night.
“It stresses [corners], knowing you have to stay on top of your receivers,” Haden said. “His ability to extend a play is like [Ben] Roethlisberger, but [Vick’s] a lot faster. Him being able to extend plays and then throw it as far as he wants — if he runs a comeback and you’re on the comeback, he’ll just turn around and turn up field — you’ve got to make sure you’re ready for that.”
Vick missed the last two preseason games with bruised ribs, but Haden doesn’t think it gives the Browns an edge.
“No, he’s a pro,” Haden said. “It doesn’t take too much for him to get back out there and make it happen.”
Heading into the first game of the season, Vick said he’s right where he wants to be.
“Conditioning wise, I’m in great shape,” he said. “I feel that even though I didn’t play too much in the preseason, the games I missed, I was very in tune with the game plan and felt like if I were able to play, I would have went out and been effective.”
Browns veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown played with the Eagles during Vick’s first season in Philadelphia in 2009 before he was traded to the Browns.
“I still think he’s a guy that’s electrifying,” Brown said. “You don’t know what you’re gonna get — he can scramble and buy time in the pocket and then hit you with that play.”
So what’s a Browns defender to do in an effort to keep Vick in check?
“You’ve just got to go into the game thinking that the play is never over,” Brown said. “You just have to be ready for a full-field cover every single play.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and the Browns on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/browns.abj.