The Full X's and O's Breakdown of the Philadelphia Eagles' QB Battle
There's a lot of uncertainty right now in Philadelphia, where the Eagles have brought in a new head coach, a new scheme and a new quarterback.
Chip Kelly left the University of Oregon to become the Eagles' head coach and usher in an innovative offense that's heavily reliant on reading defenders after the snap and making quick decisions. Those two characteristics, interestingly enough, are the exact two that all of the quarterbacks on his roster have issues with.
The veteran Michael Vick is the likely favorite for the job because of his mobility, but he missed extensive time last season, giving Nick Foles a shot at the job.
Foles is a talented passer who has a strong arm and underrated mobility, but he is only going into his second year.
Meanwhile, fourth-round selection Matt Barkley is the opposite of Foles but throws with the best anticipation of the three.
But what all do they really offer to Kelly's up-tempo offense?
To begin, Vick is the most talented quarterback on the roster, possessing rare physical gifts that suit Kelly's offense.
He can run the ball unlike any other quarterback, having the ability to outrun angles and shred defenses if forced out of the pocket. He makes it very difficult for defenses to play aggressively because they have to play with discipline in order to contain him.
When Vick combines his mobility along with his very strong arm, he can be very problematic for defenses. There's no better example of it than his 88-yard touchdown pass against the Washington Redskins in 2010.
Vick was under center for the first play of the game, and the Eagles had "12" personnel on the field, consisting of one running back and two tight ends.
When the play began, Vick opened to his right and looked like he was going to hand the ball off to LeSean McCoy on a stretch play. He didn't, instead keeping the ball to himself and rolling out to the opposite side. Simultaneously, wide receiver DeSean Jackson ran a post route in the deep middle of the field, where Vick would throw a strike after setting his feet for an 88-yard pass.
That's the kind of play that could be devastating for defenses next season if Vick is the starter. The potential for Vick to pick apart the league like he did the Redskins has always been there, but he has yet to reach it.
One big reason he hasn't reached it is because he doesn't dissect defenses well before the snap, consequently making mistakes after the snap. He's thrown too many backbreaking interceptions during his career because he was confused by a defense or didn't see a blitz coming. He's also been prone to fumbling (11 last season) when rushing.
If he continues to make mistakes, he won't be for long in Kelly's offense despite his immense talent.
Like Vick, Foles has issues after the snap. He doesn't always make the best decisions and is quick to check down. Although this means he doesn't turn the ball over, it also means he doesn't make enough big plays. And to make a living in the NFL, big plays are a must.
Foles has the arm to make all the necessary throws to keep the playbook wide open, which will be beneficial in the new offense when Kelly looks to take shots downfield. An instance of this came on his first career touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10.
He was in a shotgun set with a trips set to his left, where two receivers and one tight end were lined up. The play was three verticals, an Andy Reid staple and a play that should be an ideal throw for Foles if he can step up in the pocket.
At the snap, he took a three-step drop and was faced with pressure from his left. The pressure was picked up quickly, so he had time to climb the pocket and make the throw. He didn't though, rather choosing to escape past the right hash and make a very impressive throw across the middle of the field and to the end zone, where wide receiver Jeremy Maclin hauled in the pass.
The throw was jaw-dropping because of how much ground it covered. Many quarterbacks struggle to make these types of throws, even if their receiver is wide open, but Foles had enough velocity.
In addition to having a strong arm, Foles is also smart and does a good job of getting the ball out quickly when he needs to, another must in Kelly's offense.
But as noted earlier, Foles tends to check the ball down too much, as I've written before. It's an issue he had throughout college and one that appeared last season too. In his defense, he was a rookie and was still learning how to read the game, but he's going to need to improve dramatically in this area of the game.
Last but not least, Matt Barkley, the shock fourth-round selection of the 2013 draft. Did you see that one coming? I didn't.
Surprising or not, Barkley's now an Eagle, and he's a very interesting fit for the offense. He's arguably the least mobile and has the weakest arm of the three, but he's perhaps the best fit for the offense because he can get the ball out quickly and efficiently.
He does an excellent job of getting rid of the ball quickly and accurately, putting his receivers in position to make plays after the catch.
That's what will be needed most in Kelly's passing offense, which will rely heavily on screens and slants—something that Barkley has a lot of experience with from his USC days, as one can see throughout the game against Syracuse.
Despite his accuracy, anticipation and quickness throws, Barkley had uncharacteristic issues with decision-making last season.
He made many questionable decisions, not all of which were intercepted but could have been. He also had a tendency to hold the ball loosely when under duress, frequently resulting in fumbles. That can't happen in Kelly's offense, especially considering how up-tempo it is and reliant on ball security.
That tempo could ultimately be a problem for Barkley because the pace is so frantic and he doesn't deal with pressure well. Despite that, if he plays well in training camp and preseason, he has a very good chance of starting under center in Week 1.
Kelly has somewhat of a quarterback conundrum because not one of them is an ideal fit for his offense right now. His offense is at its best when he has a mobile quarterback, one who can take full advantage of the alleys that open up on zone reads.
Who is Chip Kelly's best option?
If Kelly's going to look for a dual-threat quarterback, Vick is his best option. But Vick isn't exactly trustworthy with the ball, making him a significant question mark.
On the other hand, Foles doesn't make enough big plays despite his arm talent because the game tends to be too fast for him.
The same could be said for Barkley, who is perhaps the best fit for Kelly's offense despite being a limited athlete. He has plenty of experience throwing the ball quickly and accurately.
One thing's for sure: The Eagles' quarterback battle will be one of the most interesting this offseason, and it will dramatically shape Kelly's offense this season.
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