FOXBORO -- Andre Carter has seen firsthand the sort of damage Michael Vick can do.
Just over a year ago, Vick and the Eagles completely destroyed Carter and the Redskins -- the quarterback completed his first 10 passes, had the Eagles in front 35-0 early in the second quarter and finished 20-of-28 for 333 yards with four touchdowns. He also added 80 yards and two rushing scores in Philly’s 59-28 blowout of Washington.
“That Monday night game? How would I describe it?” Carter asked after practice on Thursday. “It’s like I’m playing Madden for the first time, and I’m playing against a guy that’s played Madden for 10 years. They already got their team and everything lined up, got their offense lined up and I don’t know what the heck they’re doing.
“And all I want to do is press the reset button and I can’t. I’ve got to ride this thing out for four quarters. That’s pretty much how embarrassing it was that game.”
While there’s still a question as to whether or not Vick will be able to play on Sunday when the Patriots meet the Eagles in Philly -- he told reporters coming out of the locker room that he’s feeling “good” and is “getting better” after suffering two broken ribs against the Cardinals on Nov. 13 -- New England knows it’ll have its hands full with whatever quarterback the Eagles have under center.
Vick is more inconsistent than he was last season -- after throwing just five picks and a career high 3,018 yards last year; he already has 11 interceptions this season. But at the same time, his legs provide him with an ability to keep a play alive when things start to break down.
However, his rib injury could mean the Eagles turn to Vince Young as the starter for the second consecutive week. Young overcame three interceptions last week against the Giants and threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 2:45 left.
No matter who will be out there for Philadelphia, this week in practice, Patriots backup Brian Hoyer and third-stringer Ryan Mallett have been the one trying to give New England’s starting defense a taste of who might be under center for the Eagles.
“We try to get it with the quarterbacks running around, whether it’s Ryan Mallett or Brian Hoyer running around some,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “Some of their plays are conducive to that -- their bootlegs plays and roll out plays and things like that, where it’s just part of the play.
“But there are also other plays where we tell them if it breaks down to scramble around. Of course we can’t simulate his speed and athleticism; I don’t think anybody really can, but we can at least build an awareness of it and try to simulate it the best we can, but it’s not quite the same.”
Hoyer has earned kudos from Belichick before for his ability to run New England’s scout team and give the starting defense a reasonable facsimile who what it might face in that week’s game. At practice this week, he was one of a handful of players who was wearing a black jersey, meaning he was selected as one of the team’s practice players of the week. (Hoyer, a righty, was honored for playing the role of Kansas City’s southpaw quarterback Tyler Palko.)
Hoyer said he’ll meet with the defense at the start of the week to try and get some sort of idea as to what they’ll be looking for.
“It’s hard to replicate the speed, but just the way you move around a little more than I usually would,” Hoyer said when asked about playing the part of a Philadelphia quarterback. “Obviously, they’re more mobile quarterbacks, but I think they throw the ball well, too, so we’re trying to emphasize that they’re not just going to run around. I’m going to sit back there and try and throw it too.
“If I go through and I don’t see it wide open, then I might try and scramble around and make the defense try and work a little bit more.”
Last season aside, if there’s one Patriots defender with a great chance to get after either Vick or Young, it’s Carter. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder, in his first season with New England, leads the team in sacks (he has accounted for nine of the 23 the Patriots have produced this season, which is tied for sixth in the league), as well as quarterback hits (19). In addition, according to Pro Football Focus, he’s also tops on the team in quarterback pressures with 20.
Carter believes that no matter the quarterback, pass rushing boils down to a simple formula.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about four men rushing and getting there and getting to the quarterback,” Carter said. “As long as everybody is on the same page and trying to rally to him -- which is of course, not easy, because quarterbacks are crafty and sometimes they’ll gain some. But you just can’t be tentative.”