While the Eagles finish their offseason program with 10 organized team activities and a three-day mini-camp, The Inquirer will reset the team’s 90-man roster and look at each position heading into July’s training camp. We have already looked at offensive line, tight ends, defensive line, outside linebackers, and wide receivers.
Nick Foles (6-6, 243); 25, 3rd season
There is no longer a quarterback controversy. Nick Foles is entrenched as the Eagles’ starting quarterback. After a Pro Bowl season, the question now is how good can Foles become – and how much are the Eagles willing to pay him? (More on this in a second.)
Foles’ 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in 13 games (and 10 starts) last season showed how well he can fit in a Chip Kelly offense. He was efficient, made all the throws, and maintained the tempo. Foles even showed his athleticism by rushing for 221 yards and three touchdowns. He left the field in the postseason with a lead. For a player who was competing for a starting job just one season ago, Foles’ second year was a major development for the franchise.
So what’s next? It’s hard to expect another 27/2 season. It’s realistic to expect a few more touchdowns, and you should expect more interceptions. Kelly said Foles will have a better command of the offense in his second year, and can refine the technical aspects of the position. Foles works on his footwor each day; it has been a constant emphasis since coming into the NFL.
He no longer has DeSean Jackson, but the Eagles have enough offensive weapons and Kelly has enough ingenuity for the offense to survive. Foles can throw the ball quicker than he did. He averaged 3.11 seconds to throw the ball, second longest amongst starters, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s not a prerequisite for success – Seattle's Russell Wilson held onto the ball longer, and he won the Super Bowl – but it’s one way to refine Foles’ game this season.
He also must stay healthy. Foles has now missed time due to injury in three of the past four seasons. They have not been major injuries, but he needs to remain on the field. It will be something else to watch in 2014.
Of course, the overall product is impressive. The Eagles have a player who could be their franchise quarterback. That would come with a hefty price tag, though. Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford, and Colin Kaepernick have all received lucrative contracts this offseason. Foles, Wilson, and Andrew Luck are among those eligible for extensions after this season. Paying a quarterback in the $17-$20 million range eats a considerable amount of the salary cap, so it will a major decision with long-term implications. How Foles performs this season will be a persuasion – in either direction.
Projected second team
Mark Sanchez (6-2, 225), 27, 5th season
The Eagles signed Sanchez to be the backup quarterback. Although he is competing with Matt Barkley, they did not guarantee him $2.25 million this season to be the third-stringer. And he should be the backup – Sanchez has 62 career regular-season games, so he has the experience that could be helpful if Foles gets injured. Sanchez needed to prove that his shoulder was healthy enough to throw after missing last season because of labrum surgery. He has not been limited at all this spring, which is a positive note for the Eagles.
Sanchez has his critics, but the Eagles could do worse at backup quarterback. He has 68 touchdowns and 69 interceptions. He's only been a 55 percent passer. Perhaps working with Kelly and the Eagles’ coaching staff can help. Maybe he never gets into a game this year. But look for Sanchez to beat Barkley for the No. 2 job.
Matt Barkley (6-2, 227), 23, 2nd season; G.J. Kinne (6-2, 218), 25, 1st season
Barkley was taken with a fourth-round pick in 2013 and had a forgettable rookie season. He was not fully healthy last offseason, so the team did not see him at his optimum. He entered into difficult situations during the season, which helped lead to an ugly statistical campaign: no touchdowns, four interceptions. Still, that was the product he left on the field. He did not convince the team’s brass he could be the unchallenged No. 2 quarterback this season.
Barkley needs to have a good summer. Kelly likes him. He has a quick release and he understands the system. But the arm strength will not wow you, and he must show whether he has starter-caliber skills. If he does, the Eagles might be able to ship him for a draft pick next offseason or go into 2015 with him as the backup. If not, Barkley will be fighting for a roster spot at this time next year. The next few months will be critical.
Kinne has tools that the Eagles like, but he has an upward climb if he wants to make the roster. It’s unlikely the Eagles would cut Barkley or Sanchez. So unless there is an injury, Kinne will be auditioning for another team during the preseason or spending another year on the Eagles practice squad.