PHILADELPHIA » Michael Vick almost started his NFL career on the West Coast.
Vick was headed to the San Diego Chargers before the Atlanta Falcons acquired him in a last-minute trade a day before the 2001 NFL draft. Perhaps life would have been different for the four-time Pro Bowl quarterback if that deal hadn’t gone through.
Instead, Vick ended up a megastar in Atlanta, went to jail for his involvement in a dogfighting ring, lost everything, then started over with Philadelphia in 2009.
When the Eagles (1-0) host the Chargers (0-1) on Sunday, Vick gets his second career start against the only team that passed on him 12 years ago. The Chargers coveted Vick, but couldn’t reach a contract agreement with him. He beat them 21-20 in 2004.
So, they traded the No. 1 overall pick to Atlanta for the fifth overall pick (LaDainian Tomlinson), a third-round pick (Tay Cody), a second-round pick in 2002 (Reche Caldwell) and wide receiver Tim Dwight.
It worked out for the Chargers. Tomlinson went to five Pro Bowls, was a three-time All-Pro and was NFL MVP in 2006.
Three years after Vick, San Diego had the No. 1 overall pick again. This time, Eli Manning made it known he didn’t want to play in San Diego. So, the Chargers drafted Manning and traded him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers and two other picks who turned out to be linebacker Shawn Merriman and kicker Nate Kaeding.
Manning has two Super Bowl rings with the Giants, so it’s hard to argue he isn’t the best of the bunch. But Rivers or Vick? We’ll see who the better QB is Sunday.
Here are five things to watch for when the Chargers play the Eagles:
SHADY’S TOUCHES: LeSean McCoy ran for 184 yards on a career-high 31 carries in Philadelphia’s 33-27 win at Washington on Monday night. He seems poised to top his All-Pro performance in 2011, but coach Chip Kelly has to be wary of overworking McCoy. Bryce Brown ran nine times against the Redskins and could get even more action this week. Chris Polk didn’t touch the ball in Week 1.
"We’ve got to do a better job of rotating some of those guys," Kelly said. "We need to see Bryce a little bit more. We need to get Chris in the game. When you’re going to play that many snaps, you’ve got to make sure you don’t run your own team into the ground."
FINISHING STRONG PART I: The Chargers blew a 21-point second-half lead in a 31-28 loss to Houston on Monday night. They have to find a way to close out games or it will be a long season.
"We didn’t make the plays when we had to," coach Mike McCoy said. "Somewhere, somehow, we have to do a better job moving forward."
FINISHING STRONG PART II: The Eagles nearly blew a 33-7 lead and needed to recover an onside kick to hold off RG3 and the Redskins. A fast-moving offense that moved the ball at will in the first half struggled when things slowed down and it was run-out-the-clock time.
"We do a lot of things at such a rapid tempo," Kelly said. "We also have to learn how to practice playing it the other way really from a mindset standpoint, where we do everything 90 miles an hour, now you’ve got to go back to driving through the city streets."
GROUND ATTACK: The Chargers had just 80 yards rushing against the Texans, including Rivers’ career-high 18-yard scamper. Ryan Matthews carried 13 times for only 33 yards. They could have a tough time on the ground vs. the Eagles, who held Alfred Morris to 45 yards.
BRINGING IT: New Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis used a variety of ways to pressure RG3, including blitzing his cornerbacks. Cary Williams got one of Philadelphia’s three sacks and the defense had plenty of hurries.
"I think the best defenses are the ones that keep an offense’s rhythm guessing," Davis said. "The scheme is built to where any member of the defense can be blitzing at any given time. We have blitzes for every position — corners, safeties, nickels, dimes, mike backers."