Instead of overloading Vick with the entire game plan and making him the starter early on, Reeves is giving the young quarterback six to 10 plays to study and perfect in practice, and then letting him run those plays in that week's game. In addition, Reeves wants to make sure that Vick gets to the line of scrimmage with about 15 seconds remaining on the play clock.
"We used to send the play out to John, and he'd have to absorb it, then call it in the huddle and go to the line," says Reeves. "By then four seconds might have been left on the play clock. He'd be in a rush just to get the play off. With Michael, he gets the play called and gets to the line with plenty of time to look at the defense and consider his options."
Vick is still rushing through his progressions too quickly, not giving his first and sometimes second receiver time to get open. Still, the Falcons think he has broken the habit he had at Virginia Tech of running at the first sign of pressure.
Building the Browns
Davis Follows Jimmy's Formula
The biggest misconception about ol' Trader Jimmy Johnson was that he was smarter than everyone else in the NFL when it came to evaluating college talent. Johnson, however, had his share of gaffes in nine drafts as coach of the Cowboys and the Dolphins. He was big on volume, though, because he knew that if he had a dozen picks in a seven-round draft, his chances of finding four or five keepers increased markedly.
New Browns coach Butch Davis was a Johnson assistant in Dallas, and he became a disciple of Johnson's philosophy. In the days before this season's final roster cut-down, Davis picked up extra fourth, sixth-and seventh-round selections in 2002 by trading five backups (most notably quarterback Ty Detmer, who went to the Lions for the fourth-round pick). Davis is not done. He's trying to deal underachieving starting wideout Kevin Johnson to the Saints, Chiefs or Eagles. Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb, who played with Johnson at Syracuse, has encouraged coach Andy Reid to acquire the Cleveland receiver, a second-round choice in 1999.
"Going through that experience with Jimmy gave me the confidence that this was the right way to build a team," says Davis, who took over in Cleveland after coaching the University of Miami for six seasons. "What I noticed in my first draft, though, was that picks have become like gold on draft day. You just can't get 'em. So we're trying to get the extra picks now."
Whistle While You Work?
At the Chiefs-Raiders game on Sunday, one replacement official shook the hand of Oakland wide receiver Jerry Rice and told him it was an honor to work one of his games. During the Chargers-Redskins game, Washington defensive end Bruce Smith complained to replacement ref Jim Sprenger about cheap shots; according to Smith, Sprenger replied, "You play, and I'll officiate. If you get hurt, you get hurt." In the Bills-Saints game, the replacements marked off four-and six-yard penalties.
Overall, the rule of thumb among the replacements during one weekend of preseason games and one Sunday of the regular season seems to be, When in doubt, call nothing. Last year an average of 12.7 penalties were flagged per regular-season game. In the final preseason weekend, the replacements averaged 9.6 penalties. On Sunday they averaged 9-9. "That's fine with us," New Orleans wideout Joe Horn said, after four infractions had been stepped off against each team in his game. "Let us play. They'll miss some, but they'll miss them on both sides."