Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Stephen McGee is, if nothing else, modest. As the team prepares for Sunday's game at Philadelphia, McGee and fellow backup Jon Kitna have the daunting task of impersonating Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in practice.
"It's a challenge," McGee said, laughing, "because we really aren't talented enough to do a lot of the things he does."
Vick, of course, has evolved into a quarterback the likes of which the NFL never has seen before. He not only has a cannon of an arm, but he is one of the fastest — if not the fastest — players in the entire league. McGee has a good arm and took advantage of his mobility while starring at Texas A&M, but he harbors no illusions of having Vick-like physical gifts.
"He's so fast and has such a strong arm," McGee said. "He's always taking shots downfield because he can extend plays with his legs, and then when he gets free, he can throw it anywhere at any time."
That McGee, 26, is playing the part of Vick for the scout-team offense is one thing. Kitna, however, is 39 years old. He's not immobile by any means, but impersonating a speedster like Vick?
"(Kitna) is a lot more mobile than you would think," McGee said. "He's a really good athlete. Some of the guys have been calling him ‘White Mike' all week."
McGee and Kitna and the rest of the Cowboys can make all the jokes they want, but that doesn't hide the fact that Dallas is facing the most unique weapon that the National Football League has at its most important position. The Eagles, who spent the offseason seemingly signing every free agent on the market, have not yet lived up to the "Dream Team" label backup quarterback Vince Young — himself an offseason acquisition as a free agent — gave his new team. After opening the season with a victory over the hapless St. Louis Rams, the Eagles stumbled to four consecutive losses before knocking off the Washington Redskins Oct. 16 and then enjoying a bye week before welcoming the Cowboys to the City of Brotherly Love.
Several Dallas players said Wednesday that the Eagles' 2-4 record is not an accurate indicator of the talent the Cowboys will face Sunday night. In addition, Philadelphia coach Andy Reid is one of the NFL's elite coaches, especially when he has an extra week to prepare his team: during his tenure, the Eagles are 12-0 in games played after a bye week.
Vick gets a lot of attention for his passing, and with good reason: his big arm has helped make a star of wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
But the Philadelphia running game is better than most realize — a lot better. Thus far, the Eagles lead the NFL with an average of 170.0 rushing yards per game, and running back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 23 runs of 10 yards or more this season.
McGee said that while Vick is a dangerous runner, the perception that he is an undisciplined free wheeler is inaccurate.
"He throws the ball if it's there — he wants to throw it," McGee said. "They don't have as many designed quarterback runs as you'd think. He just makes them look good because he's so fast, he has a chance to pick up a lot of yards any time he takes off.
"A lot of his running is ad-libbing. He makes a lot of big plays, but a lot of the time, he runs as a last result … and he's certainly very good at it."
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