Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp Preview: The Quarterbacks
Welcome to the start of a series where I break down and preview the Philadelphia Eagles training camp, position by position. There is a lot of uncertainty heading into the Eagles camp, mainly because of the shiny new head coach and his big ideas, but there is also a lot of optimism heading into camp.
The quarterback position is no different. Michael Vick is the star, but he hasn't panned out like some thought he would after a fast start in 2010. Nick Foles is a young player to watch, but his deep ball really held him back last season (that in everything else that went wrong in 2012). Matt Barkley is another over-hyped product out of USC or an absolute gym rat that can't fail in this league depending on who you talk to. Dennis Dixon knows Chip Kelly the best and has two Super Bowl rings (the latter is a very misleading stat). Finally, G.J. Kinne is the long shot of them all to make this or any NFL roster. He appears to be a camp body and nothing more.
So who comes out on top this summer? Nobody knows. That is the great thing about a new head coach, especially someone as innovative and welcoming to open competition as Chip Kelly is. You started 16 games last season? That's great, but you don't have a leg up on anybody. All 53 spots will be earned. Previous success will determine absolutely nothing at camp.
Should be a blast to see how this all unfolds.
The national media will tell you over and over not to expect anyone else to start at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Well, until he gets hurt. Are they right or is this a case where they just don't know a whole lot about Matt Barkley or Nick Foles just yet?
Michael Vick has been a sack and turnover machine over the last 2 1/2 seasons. He has that play-maker attitude where he trusts his speed and arm strength far too much at times. Sometimes he makes an elite play, other times he makes crucial mistakes.
In the Chip Kelly offense, it isn't about athleticism for the quarterback, it's about "Repetitive Accuracy." Basically a quarterback has to be able to make short and intermediate throws with great accuracy over and over and over again. The key isn't chucking the ball down the field 50 yards on every other play. The key is to hit your receivers on shorter patterns in stride so they can gain more yards after the catch.
Can Vick be that type of quarterback and better take care of the football and himself? That is what he has to prove in camp. His arm strength and athleticism matter less this time around now that Andy Reid is gone. The offense will be more balanced, where accuracy and timing will play huge roles. This will be a tall task for Vick, but no one is going to question his work ethic or desire.
I really like what I have seen from Nick Foles so far. He only won one start in 2012, but when you look at what was left around him by the end of the season, that one win looks mighty impressive. Foles demonstrated great pocket presence, leadership, command of the huddle and outstanding accuracy on his short and intermediate passes. To top it all off, his deep ball looked greatly improved back at mini-camp.
Foles will make his money this summer. He has a fading star in front of him in Vick and a promising young rookie behind him in Matt Barkley. 2013 will be his best chance to become a full-time starting quarterback. He has a new offense that fits his game and the conditions are ideal for him to win the starting job.
If he doesn't win the starting job out of camp, he probably never will, but if he does win the job, I could see him having a big year in a very exciting offense.
When I see Matt Barkley I can't help but think of Tom Brady. Both had down senior years, both went to prime college football programs and both came into the NFL with concerns about their arm strength. They both are also flat out gym rats who can set the tone when it comes to work ethic, attitude in practice, and preparation on game day.
There is a lot to like about Barkley. Don't let the USC quarterback label fool you. Carson Palmer loved the game of football and has had a lot of success in the NFL (he did take the Bengals to the playoffs twice). Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez have done an incredible job at ruining the hopes and dreams of future USC quarterbacks down the road. Those guys weren't gym rats, they were celebrities who just happened to play football. Barkley is nothing like Sanchez or Leinart.
Barkley is probably a year away from becoming a legitimate starting NFL quarterback, but I wouldn't put it past him to win a starting job at some point in 2013.
Dennis Dixon knows Chip Kelly better than any other quarterback on this roster. He was his starting quarterback at Oregon back in 2007 when Kelly was the offensive coordinator. Dixon had a Heisman like season that year until he tore his ACL.
Dixon's best chances to earn the starting job is if Michael Vick is traded or released. That makes Dixon the closest thing to a RG3 or Russell Wilson on the roster. That means he can act as the read option quarterback in practice to help out the defense's preparation that week. Dixon would also become the third best quarterback on the roster with Vick out of the picture.
G.J. Kinne is a nice camp body for the summer, but can he develop into something more? That has to be his focus. This isn't a cheesy sports movie from the 80s, he isn't going to win the starting job just because he has "heart." He needs to show Chip Kelly something nobody has seen from him yet. At the very least, he can earn a spot on the practice squad and keep his dream of having a NFL career intact.
Other than that, there really isn't much to say about Kinne. We really don't know how well he can compete in the NFL just yet. He doesn't need to become the next Kurt Warner, he just needs to compete and hold his own.
So who makes the Eagles roster at quarterback? Here is how I see it:
1st String- Nick Foles
Backup- Matt Barkley
3rd String- Dennis Dixon
Practice Squad- G.J. Kinne
So what happens with Michael Vick? Well there is a certain dysfunctional franchise in the northeast that could really use a somewhat stable quarterback. I'm talking about the New York Jets of course. Geno Smith probably won't be ready to lead the Jets to anything but the bottom of the league this season. Mark Sanchez is also a pretty lousy quarterback at this point.
The Jets might be best off just letting him go and cutting their losses. You don't want a mentor like that for Smith. Oh and one more thing that really makes this trade possible, Marty Mornhinweg is the Jets offensive coordinator. He has been Vick's offensive coordinator since he signed with the Eagles in 2009.