Originally created 08/11/01

Education continues for young QBs



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The education process for Michael Vick and Chad Pennington will take center stage Saturday night at Giants Stadium.

Other than coming out of the game healthy and getting a look at backups and fringe players seeking a spot in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets have one thing in mind. Both want their young second-string quarterbacks to show progress.

For Vick, the top pick in this year's draft, that means building on what he achieved last week, when the Falcons lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-16. In five possessions, Vick was 5-of-7 for 75 yards and ran twice for 12 yards, including a 9-yard bootleg. He was sacked once.

"Keeping him in the pocket, we'll continue to work on that," Falcons coach Dan Reeves said. "I think he's doing a great job seeing things on the field. His poise is extremely good. He makes good reads and good throws. When he gets over the first snap, he's fine.

"I think he'll still have butterflies. You get them in every game you play. I just hope he continues to gain confidence."

While Vick is the backup to Chris Chandler, he figures to see most of the action this preseason. You don't trade up for the first overall draft choice and then have him languish on the sidelines in games that don't count.

And for Vick, the preseason games are extremely important.

"I don't care where we're playing," he said. "It could be somewhere in Europe. I just want to get better every day.

"This is my first road game. It happens to be in New York. I've been there before and it's a great city. But I'm going there to learn, not to have a good time."

Facing an established veteran and an athletic rookie should help the Jets, coach Herman Edwards said.

"It's good for the defense and it will test us, because we want to be a fast defense and we'll see if we can handle these guys," Edwards said. "Chandler is a very accurate quarterback and can throw the long ball well. There is no defense he hasn't seen.

"Vick has a lot of potential and obviously can run. It is not over with him when you have people covered. He is one of those unique guys who can get into the end zone if he runs and you take a bad angle."

Pennington, the third of New York's four first-round choices in 2000, will play about half of Saturday's game. Vinny Testaverde, clearly the No. 1 quarterback, will start.

Pennington, who brought his playbook on his honeymoon in March, has been inconsistent in training camp. Some days, he picks apart the defense. On others - as on Thursday, when Damien Robinson victimized him - he gets picked off for touchdowns.

"He shouldn't think it could get picked off," Edwards said of Pennington, who appeared briefly in one game as a rookie. "He shouldn't be thinking, 'I don't want to make a mistake.' Just throw it and let the receivers make the play."

Pennington thinks any on-field action is helpful.

"There's a definite sense of urgency because I am the backup quarterback now," he said. "You see how things are for quarterbacks in the NFL. The backup eventually plays in crucial situations.

"So I've got to use the preseason, make the most of it and establish my confidence and the confidence of my teammates. If I go in, they have to be confident there'll be no dropoff between me and Vinny."