Only 15 weeks ago, Sunday's tilt between the Jets and Philadelphia was billed as a potential Super Bowl preview. While the Jets are currently in control of the final wild card position in the AFC, the Eagles have suffered through a season of disappointment and are on their last breath, sitting at 5-8 in the NFC East.
Records aside, The Eagles still boast one of the most talented groups in the league. Their offense is loaded with game-breaking ability and is led by veteran QB Michael Vick.
Today, there was no doubt what the focal point will be for the Green & White defense.
"Contain Michael Vick," said CB Darrelle Revis. "We can't let him beat us over the top in the pass game and on the ground when he runs the ball."
The problems Vick presents have baffled defensive coordinators since he entered the league in 2001. He combines uncanny scrambling ability with a rocket arm, making for a true dual threat at the quarterback position.
"There's only one of those guys in the league," said head coach Rex Ryan. "He's explosive, he's a 4.4 speed guy, and he can throw a strawberry through a battleship."
Battling through injuries for most of the season, Vick has not had his typically dominant season. He has thrown 12 touchdowns and turned the ball over 15 times. Most surprising may be the fact that he has rushed for an average of 8.1 yards per carry yet has not run for a single touchdown all season.
Despite his numbers, Vick is still a game-changer. Coupled with the athleticism that surrounds him, the Eagles present a dangerous offensive arsenal.
"I think the overall goal for us is to get 11 guys to the ball," said DT Sione Pouha. "He can make number one and number two miss, and numbers three, four and five. But it would be hard to miss 11 guys if we all got to the ball."
With the pass rush coming off a season-high five-sack performance against the Kansas City Chiefs, Pouha and his line mates will be the first responders to the Vick emergency. Pressuring him is important, but lose containment and you run the risk of him running wild.
"He can do both," said Pouha. "He's dangerous at both points. Obviously, it's a big concern for me because I'm not that fast."
In order to acclimate the line to the speed and agility of Vick, Ryan introduced a new drill specifically for this week's matchup. During positional drills, the coach used three of the Jets' shiftier defensive backs to mimic Vick while the defensive line tried to contain him.
"You know Vick, how athletic he is," said DB Isaiah Trufant, one of the Vick impersonators. "They just wanted to get used to the repetition of his speed, and learn angles to take to cover his scrambling ability."
At 5'8" and 170 pounds, Trufant is the shortest and lightest player on the Jets roster. Combined with his speed and cutting ability, he makes for a difficult target.
"I've seen it done in the past," said Trufant. "If you're going against a quarterback with speed and shiftiness like that, you want your defensive linemen to get reps against that in practice. During the regular part of practice, you may not be able to get that kind of work."
Over his career Vick has exhibited superhuman qualities, and there may not be a way to stop him.
"Contain him if you can," said Revis. "He is the best scrambling quarterback this game has probably ever seen. The guy is unbelievable. That's the only thing you can try to do and see if it works."