Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus wrote a piece for ESPN Insider today attempting to figure out exactly what might be to blame for Michael Vick's injuries. He generally exonerated the offensive line and found that Vick does take an inordinate amount of hits when he's running (as many as much bulkier QBs like Tim Tebow & Cam Newton), but one stat really jumped out at me.
Average time in the pocket. Only Tim Tebow (3.7 seconds) spent more time in the pocket than Vick (3.2 seconds) last season. And the rest of the top 5 reveals the problem. #3 Cam Newton (3.1), #4 Christian Ponder (3.0), #5 T.J. Yates (2.9).
All rookies. Guys who don't really know what to do with the ball yet. That's who holds onto the ball as long as Vick. Elsayed explains why this is such a problem.
Vick held onto the ball for an average time of 3.2 seconds, 0.4 seconds per play longer than the average NFL QB (2.8 seconds). This may not seem a lot, but with Vick dropping back to pass on 500 designed passing plays, his line spent an extra 200 seconds in pass protection than it would have for a standard NFL quarterback. In raw numbers, that's like spending an extra 71 plays in pass protection, greatly increasing the chances of giving up pressure.
That said, he does point out that Vick gets hit as a passer only slightly more than league average and notes he takes far more hits as a runner than average. But as we've seen, his injuries have come mostly from the pocket, so getting rid of the ball quicker would save him from more dangerous hits in the pocket, even if he doesn't change his running style at all.
The new body armor is nice and all... But getting rid of that ball will go a long way toward protecting Vick as well.