While no NFL team likes to see their starting quarterback go down, there seems to be a collective silence that can be heard throughout Philadelphia every time Michael Vick takes a hit. That’s because the 11-year veteran has finished a complete set of 16 games only once during his entire career and enters every season as a likely candidate to get injured.
This makes the Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback position one of the most critical parts of the team, and similar to last season, may very well determine whether or not the Eagles make the playoffs in 2012.
Last year, we saw a list of Pro Bowl-caliber signal-callers that included Vick, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub suffer from untimely injuries that thrust their respective backups into contests that had playoff implications.
If Vick’s injury woes were to repeat themselves during the Eagles’ quest to Super Bowl XLVII, the burden of carrying the team would fall to either third-year pro Mike Kafka or third-round selection Nick Foles. The other quarterback currently on Philadelphia’s roster is Trent Edwards, who sat out all of 2011 and is likely to be cut during training camp.
Recent reports out of OTAs have noted that Kafka has been taking the No. 2 reps and has looked much stronger and more aggressive than recent years.
Last year provided the Northwestern alumni with his first pro-game experience and ultimate advantage over his rookie competition. After Vick had been knocked out of their Week 2 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, head coach Andy Reid decided to sub in Kafka over former Pro Bowler Vince Young.
Kafka rewarded his coach’s trust by completing seven of nine passes for 72 yards on the game’s final drive, and if it weren’t for a fourth-down momentum-killing dropped pass by Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles may have started off the season 2-0.
Ironically enough, it was due to their poor regular season performance that provided the Eagles with a preferred draft position, which in turn, allowed them to acquire Foles.
For those who didn’t watch him at the University of Arizona, Foles ran a refined version of the spread offense, but still took the heavy majority of his snaps under shotgun. The rookie proved to be extremely accurate on short and medium throws, but struggled with the long ball.
Since the Wildcats relied heavily on wide-receiver screens, short slants and short curl routes to advance the ball, an argument can be made that his stats were inflated due to yards after the catch.
Foles has decent pocket presence, but has yet to prove that he can make the necessary reads that come along with any pro-style offense. He lacks slight-line speed and doesn’t escape the pocket well at all.
Against his elder competition, Foles remains as the only guarantee of a roster spot, but is also the most likely to receive no playing time (just like Kafka during his first year). If Reid goes on to decide to keep all four quarterbacks, that’s where it might get interesting, as Edwards has 37 games of NFL experience, compared to Kafka’s two. Would Reid trust the guy with more game experience, or the guy he drafted and molded, as his closer in a late-game situation like that?
With that problem in mind, it still seems as though Kafka will carry on the perception as the Eagles’ backup quarterback into training camp and onto the regular season. If he were called upon to spot-start for No. 7, I expect him to be poised and capable enough to keep the team competitive.
After all, who could be better suited to fill in for Michael than Mike?
Follow me on Twitter @JasenShen.