Wednesday, August 27, 2014
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State of the Eagles Roster: Quarterback

The Eagles held their first OTAs this week, and they will practice throughout the next four weeks. After those practices, Chip Kelly will have a better idea of the Eagles roster. But there’s a lot that will happen between now and then.

State of the Eagles Roster: Quarterback

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (left) and Nick Foles. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick (left) and Nick Foles. (Matt Slocum/AP file photo)

The Eagles held their first OTAs this week, and they will practice throughout the next four weeks. After those practices, Chip Kelly will have a better idea of the Eagles roster. But there’s a lot that will happen between now and then.

To get you up to date, The Inquirer is spending two weeks assessing where the Eagles stand at each spot. We started on Monday with offensive line.  Tuesday was wide receiver. Wednesday was tight end.

Here is the state of the quarterback position:

Projected starter

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QB1: Michael Vick (6-feet, 215 pounds), age 32, 12th season

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone talked about the quarterbacks for once?

Other than the changes under Kelly, no topic has received more discussion this offseason than what will happen at quarterback. The most significant action at the position occurred in February, when Kelly and the Eagles decided to bring Vick back to Philadelphia. Vick restructured his contract because he specifically wanted to play for Kelly, and now he’ll get a chance – maybe his last chance – to earn a starting quarterback job.

I put Vick here with the first team because he’s been the first quarterback in taking snaps, although he’s splitting time with Nick Foles. This is a legitimate competition, and it could stretch all the way through the preseason. But it seems Vick’s job to lose.

Vick’s motivation this season cannot be overstated. He’s noticeably bigger and enthused about the offense. For Vick’s critics, it’s easy to say this is excitement he’s expressed in the past. That is true. But there are three things working in Vick’s favor this season when compared to last season:

1)    He’ll run more. I spoke to Vick last season about why he was running less, and he noted there were fewer design runs. He said the intention was to keep him healthy. The problem is what separates Vick from others is his running ability. If he’s the quarterback in Kelly’s offense, he’ll get a chance to run or at least be more of a threat to run. And he’ll be better for it.

2)    He has a better offensive line. One of the problems that plagued Vick last season was the health of his offensive line. Jason Peters is a premier left tackle, and King Dunlap and Demetress Bell are nowhere near that category. He lost Jason Kelce in the second week of the season, too, and Kelce was counted on to make calls at the line of scrimmage.

3)    The up-tempo style might help him. Vick did not play especially well last season, but his best performance came when the Eagles were in a no-huddle offense. Look at the Sept. 16 win over the Ravens. The Eagles played a no-huddle offense in parts of that game, and Vick threw for 371 yards. He noted how he much he enjoys that fast-paced style. It could be advantageous for him this year.

Of course, there are also concerns with Vick. The first one is he must stay healthy. He’s proven to be injury prone, and he won’t be the quarterback if he’s hurt. He also doesn’t have the grace period to get injured during the preseason like he did last season, because Kelly needs to see him in this system. So health is one major factor.

Vick also must take better care of the ball. His turnovers were a major problem for the Eagles, and they weren’t the fault of the offensive line. It was forced throws, not covering the ball well enough, or questionable decisions. That plagued the Eagles, and he cannot afford to play with such carelessness.

Finally, there are other quarterbacks here, so that rope might not be very long even if he does win the job. Foles or Matt Barkley could quickly replace Vick if he gets injured or struggles, and that could spell the end of his Eagles career.

It will be an interesting seven months for Vick. He’ll have every chance to win this job, and his future in Philadelphia will be determined by how well he plays – or if he plays at all.

Second team

Nick Foles (6-6, 243) 24, 2nd; Matt Barkley (6-2, 227), 22, rookie

Foles has a lot of support in Philadelphia, and he’s splitting first-team reps with Vick. Foles will have the chance to earn the starting job, and there is much to like about him. First, he played in an up-tempo offense at Arizona. Even though he didn’t run often, he has experience with a similar pace to the one Kelly likes to use.

Next, he’s big and tough. He played behind poor offensive lines in college and last year with the Eagles, and he was willing to take pressure. He’s also still improving, so the product seen last year is not the apex of his career. Even though he’s not a scrambling threat, Foles significantly improved his footwork in the pocket last season. That means he’s more adept at moving around and throwing on the run than one might think at 243 pounds.

Last season was valuable experience. Foles threw for 1,699 yards and completed 60.8 percent of his passes, both of which were notable figures for six starts as a third-round pick. On the flip side, he was 1-5 as a starter and had more turnovers than touchdowns. He won’t be judged based off last season with Kelly. The question will be whether he can beat out Vick (and Barkley, for that matter), and how well he takes to Kelly’s system. But one encouraging sign is that the Eagles could have easily dealt Foles this offseason, but Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman made the decision to keep him. That should encourage Foles supporters, because it shows the Eagles wanted to see him.

As for Barkley, I put him in this tier because he can also win the starting job. It’s not the most probable scenario, but he can do what Russell Wilson did in Seattle last season and blow away the competition. Barkley is accurate, which Kelly will like. He’s a quick learner, so I expect him to be up to speed with the offense come training camp. And he’s also someone who the Eagles insist they rated in top 50 in this year’s draft, which would indicate they think he’s worthy of a first or second round pick. A quarterback in those two rounds is usually expected to become a starter at some point.

Barkley did not take any reps with the first-team offense in Monday’s practice. I’m curious to see if it stays way through OTAs and mini-camp. Like all rookies, he needs to work his way up the depth chart. Lane Johnson didn’t even line up with the starters on Monday. But the stage doesn’t seem too big for Barkley, although there’s no way of knowing how he’ll truly adjust until playing in games.

Others

Dennis Dixon (6-3, 215), 28, 5th; G.J. Kinne (6-2, 234), 24, 1st

Before the Eagles drafted Barkley, I thought Dixon would be the ideal third quarterback. Kelly knows him, he has experience, and he could help with the offense and be an emergency option. That seems the role for someone who couldn’t make an active roster the past two seasons. But teams don’t usually keep more than three quarterbacks on the roster, and unless the Eagles cut Vick or trade Foles before the season, there just won’t be a spot for Dixon. He’s a similar player to Trent Edwards last season, albeit with less starting experience. Despite Dixon’s experience in Kelly’s offense, he does not seem an option for the starting job at this point.

As for Kinne, the best-case scenario for him would be if the Eagles decide to keep a quarterback on the practice squad. At this point, he’s another arm in camp. There’s already a roster crunch as it is, and he doesn’t figure to factor into that mix.

Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

About this blog
Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
Zach Berman Inquirer Staff Writer
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