In the first practice at Lincoln Financial Field and in front of a couple thousand fans, the Eagles quarterbacks didn’t relish in the opportunity to take control of a competition for the starting job in Chip Kelly’s new offense.
With Nick Foles and Michael Vick vying for the top spot, rookie Matt Barkley getting serious reps in the now three way battle, and the option-reads and footwork being new to the quarterbacks, it was expected to be a fun battle to watch for the media and fans in attendence. But day one at the Eagles home stadium, the quarterback battle may be less of a battling competition and more on Chip Kelly picking his poison at the key position.
After watching Nick Foles’s career at Arizona and seeing him up close at the 2012 Senior Bowl, he didn’t receive glowing reviews on my scouting report. Among other issues, his upper and lower half of his body never seemed in sync, and unless he was utilizing a timing based offense, he was expected to struggle in progressing his reads at an NFL level.
Today, however, Foles looked more smooth, athletic in his drop backs, even transitioning fields well with his lower half. However, he still showed concerns of being too delayed in his reads, getting “sacked” (not a live practice) at least three plays, and maybe more depending on how things would have played out in game situations. He seemed to have the crispest passes of the quarterbacks, a good sign for his chances. But him being late on reads, making the wrong decision on safety/linebacker reads, and not having ideal foot speed, and it’s clear Foles didn’t seize any opportunity of gaining a leg up on the starting job.
As for Vick, he simply didn’t do much of anything to overly impress. His throws were hit or miss placement-wise, but seemed to get the most velocity of the three downfield and on out-routes. He missed a handful of throws when he was forced to roll out, and didn’t seem comfortable enough in working outside-in on his reads, as the offense seemed to be focused vertically on a majority of the “X” receivers routes.
Finally, Barkley looked the least confident in his progressions of the three quarterbacks getting 1st team reps, and certainly has the least arm strength of the trio. However, he looks surprisingly comfortable in the footwork required for the read option, looks far more athletic in his drop back and as he moves than Foles, and didn’t make any glaring mistakes today, despite not being overly aggressive downfield.
Dennis Dixon received some first-team work today, and did have one very nice vertical throw to DeSean Jackson for a touchdown. He also looked the most comfortable in read-option work, expected since he played in that offense (with Chip Kelly) at Oregon.
Based off of last season and this practice, my guess would be that the Eagles are hoping Foles seizes the quarterback job and they can move on from Mike Vick. Foles has made strides as a quarterback evidently, and despite him not having the athleticism to run everything Chip Kelly likely wants to do, he may best utilize the weapons in this Eagles offense.
If Foles is able to beat out last year’s starter in Vick, look for Vick to be forced elsewhere for quarterback work (Jets), Matt Barkley assume the number two spot, and Dennis Dixon making the roster as Chip Kelly’s option runner.
If Vick is clearly the better option for this team, he and Foles will likely continue to battle all year long, a situation Kelly doesn’t need in year one to have success in the locker room. Based on the team taking things very slow with Barkley in terms of his offensive role and development, I wouldn’t be shocked if he ends the regular season as the team’s starting passer, and could do very well in this offense.
I’ll be following this quarterback battle throughout camp, and it may take all of August to determine who the Eagles will vote as the winner in this battle. But after a Sunday practice where no quarterback was a winner, it hasn’t set up to be all that sexy of a competiton.
-Of the cornerbacks today, none of which were overly consistent, I felt Trevard Lindley made an impact on multiple occasions. Playing outside, he was physical with his hands in the short area, and stayed tight with active hands down the field. He was beat vertically once, but other than that, he had a solid overall day.
-Of the receivers, rookie Russell Shepard showed he belonged. He showed the initial burst and elusiveness to win out of the slot, he extended away from his frame to catch passes, and showed the natural body control to adjust in traffic. Along with his special teams ability, he looks like he’ll make the roster.
-Also at receiver, it was fun to watch Jason Avant and his route running. Always a strength since his Michigan days, Avant was more impressive than I expected, consistently getting free from defensive backs, utilizing active feet and staying in athletic position to accelerate after his route breaks well.