Jan 29, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Free agency is right around the corner, and the draft will be here before you know it. With the Philadelphia Eagles’ offseason in full swing, we’re examining where the roster stands at each position, counting down based on team need. Check out the previous installments on tight ends and running backs.
It’s amazing to me that there are still people out there who think the Philadelphia Eagles should unload Nick Foles at the very first opportunity, either because he doesn’t fit Chip Kelly’s system or flat refusal to believe he could be this good.
Apparently quarterback is an easy position to upgrade in the NFL, even when it is the league’s most efficient passer. Didn’t you get the memo?
Let’s humor the anti-Foles crowd though and actually examine these theories.
First, the “system” claim—how many times does Chip Kelly have to say he doesn’t have a system, that he coaches to the personnel on the roster? It’s fallen on deaf ears, unfortunately, because there is this continued insistence the Eagles find a mobile quarterback.
Sure, Kelly’s offense is heavy in read-option concepts, and defenses don’t necessarily respect the threat of the QB keeper with Foles back there. Then again, it didn’t matter. LeSean McCoy still led the NFL in rushing. Philadelphia’s offense still ranked No. 2 overall.
In fact, Foles was 12th among all signal-callers with 221 yards on the ground himself. He may not be fast, but he runs with the football just fine.
This whole obsession with so-called running quarterbacks escapes me in the first place. Time and time again throughout history, it’s the quarterbacks who throw the pigskin the best who have the most success in the pro ranks. Ball-carrying is always a secondary skill.
Then there are the plain non-believers who believe Foles’ 2013 was a fluke or not as good as advertised, when in many ways he was the best passer in the league last year.
No QB threw for more yards (9.1) or touchdowns (.085) per attempt last season. No QB in NFL history has ever posted a better touchdown-to-interception ratio (27/2). Foles’ 119.2 rating was the third-highest of all time behind only Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning.
Those numbers don’t happen by accident. The kid can play.
Is Foles the long-term answer under center for the Eagles? Probably. Under league rules, drafted players cannot sign a contract extension until they’ve completed three seasons in the NFL, essentially giving the organization another year to evaluate exactly what it has in the 24-year-old. That means the Birds could still decide not to go down this road with Foles at a later date.
But even if he takes a step back next season—which some regression to the mean is likely—Foles has already demonstrated he’s a starting quarterback at this level. Teams aren’t in the habit of replacing young, prolific passers with unknowns.
My advice: get used to No. 9 in the backfield. I’m not sure what it is that has some fans so down on him, but
Who’s No. 2?
Michael Vick is set to become a free agent in March and he wants to start, so the only way he will conceivably be back is if nobody is willing to give a 34-year-old with two career playoff wins that opportunity. Frankly, that is a distinct possibility.
2013 fourth-round pick Matt Barkley is on the roster, and appears to be in line for the No. 2 job behind Foles. Barkley performed better in his rookie year than the numbers suggest (30/49, 300 YDS, 0 TD, 3 SCK, 4 INT, 3 FL). He was able to move the offense in stints, and his arm strength looked vastly improved from training camp.
Even if Barkley follows the natural trajectory though and moves up the depth chart, most NFL teams carry three quarterbacks. This is where things get interesting, because the Eagles have a number of options to go about filling that need.
This seems the unlikeliest, but there is another quarterback on the roster. Signed last offseason as a camp body, Kinne was brought back to the practice squad in October and has been hanging around ever since.
And undrafted player out of Tulsa in 2012, Kinne will spend the summer with the Birds again. The team appreciates his willingness to do whatever is asked of him, including practice on special teams. Can he play though? Eh…
The simplest thing to do probably is just sign some veteran competition for Barkley. If Barkley is ready to take over, he should be able to win the job rather easily over practically anybody from this year’s crop of free agents signal-callers.
Ideally, it would be somebody with upside, but those types of player are lacking. San Francisco’s Colt McCoy is one of the few available under 30 with any pedigree to speak of. A third-round pick by the Browns in 2010, McCoy has never been given much of a chance in the NFL.
The Eagles could be in a position to take a flyer on disgraced quarterback Josh Freeman as well. The ‘09 first-round pick was cut by Tampa Bay mid-season in a messy divorce and quickly scooped up by the Vikings to no success. But if Philadelphia was able to rejuvenate Vick’s career, why not Freeman’s?
One of the more intriguing prospects on the board for Philadelphia is Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. Though a tad undersized at 6’1”, Boyd boasts tremendous mobility, which many believe makes him a logical choice for Chip Kelly’s offense.
At one point very early in the process, Rob Rang for CBSSports.com was mocking Boyd to the Eagles in the first round at No. 12 overall. Obviously, they’re no longer looking QB in the first round, but then Boyd is no longer considered a first-round pick, either. Questions over accuracy are causing him to fall.
Boyd could easily fall to day three of the draft, which is fourth round or later—the perfect time to start considering going quarterback. Rang compared him to Russell Wilson in his scouting report.
COMPARES TO: Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks — Like Wilson, Boyd will have to fight through the stereotype of short quarterbacks to earn his chance in the NFL. But he possesses the other athletic traits needed and showed improved decision-making and leadership traits in 2012.
If Vick is unable to find the right fit in free agency, I would love to see him back in Philadelphia on a one-year deal. That would give the coaching staff another year to evaluate Barkley, while giving the club the most explosive backup quarterback in the game.
Imagine this scenario: it’s the NFC Championship, and Foles goes down. Terrible. It’s Vick off the bench though, and the defense hasn’t game-planned for a true dual-threat under center. Advantage: Eagles.
Of course, how much can the team really learn about Barkley by blocking him on the depth chart? And it may be pure fantasy to think that Vick might not find work.
However, should retaining Vick become an option for the Birds, it’s all right with me.
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