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Haslett Sees a New And Improved Vick

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Jim Haslett spent a bunch of years devising defensive schemes centered on stopping Michael Vick.

He was coaching the New Orleans Saints then, and Vick quarterbacked the Atlanta Falcons.

Throw out the old lessons. These are different times, Haslett said Friday as the Redskins wrapped up their preparations to play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

"It's a little bit different because of the receivers they have in Philly. Michael never had receivers of that caliber, so it's a little bit different. And they have a great running back," Haslett said.

Vick throws now to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson had 1,153 receiving yards last season and nine touchdowns and Maclin, as a rookie, added 773 yards.

Contrast that with Vick's days in Atlanta, when the Falcons never had a 1,000-yard receiver and tight end Alge Crumpler led the club in receiving yards three consecutive years, topping out at 877.

Haslett was the Saints head coach from 2000-05. The Saints went 4-6 against the Falcons from 2001-05. Vick became the Falcons' full-time starter in 2002 and missed the first 11 games in 2003 with a broken leg.

One bit of wisdom will still hold.

While keeping Vick in the pocket is paramount, warning the players about the dangers of heavy pursuit can be counter-productive. Haslett recalls talking to the Saints defensive linemen about Vick and getting the wrong results from his counsel.

"I told them that the first time we played him in New Orleans, I said, 'Make sure you contain' and I had guys going like half-speed, looking at him. So there's a fine line in there and going to get him and being smart," he said. "One thing defensive linemen have to know, that they can never lose him in their eyesight. If they lose him in the eyesight, then you're wrong and then you need to get back in eyesight with him."

Vick leads the NFC in passer rating (110.2) and ranks second in the NFL. He has also rushed for 170 yards.

Given that he was out of the NFL in 2007 and '08 and threw only 13 passes last season for the Eagles, his return to form and improvement upon it strikes Haslett as a marvel.

"He's doing a great job for a guy that was gone that long, out of football, to come back and make the recovery and play at the level he's playing is unbelievable that somebody could do that," he said.

The Redskins rank last in the NFL in total defense and they're trying to fix a number of problems that Vick can only exacerbate.

"We're giving up too many pass yards and for different reasons – technique, responsibility, missed tackles. A lot of things," Haslett said. "We did a self-scout and it's kind of all over the place. It's a new defense, there's a lot of different things to it and they're going to have to learn all the little things as we go here."


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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