Brand-new Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Mark Sanchez is having one hell of a preseason. Sanchez has completed 80.6 percent of his passes and has a passer rating of 112.5 in three preseason appearances.
|Eagles quarterbacks this preseason|
Naturally, because he's redeeming himself, because he's still only 27 and a former No. 5 overall pick, and because he's a talented quarterback with plenty of big-game experience, there's a connection being drawn between Sanchez and the St. Louis Rams, who lost quarterback Sam Bradford to a season-ending knee injury last weekend.
The tie to the Rams is especially strong because their current offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, coached Sanchez during his first three seasons with the New York Jets.
However, while it might be tempting to send a quarterback who isn't supposed to play and is only signed to a one-year contract to anyone willing to give up draft picks, the Eagles have to be stubborn here. While Nick Foles' 2013 season was one of the best in the history of the game, it was only one year from a guy who was passed on 87 times in the 2012 draft for a reason.
Philly has every reason to believe what Foles did last season—NFL record touchdown-to-interception ratio of 27-to-2, league-high 9.1 yards per pass attempt and the third-highest passer rating ever (119.2)—wasn't a fluke. However, nobody can guarantee he'll be close to as strong with tape out there and a bullseye on his back in 2014.
In this league, in this era, you can't win without strong play at the quarterback position. While Foles is likely going to be the man throughout this season regardless of how much his numbers drop off, quarterback insurance is a special thing to have nowadays.
In that light, let's keep in mind that Foles missed time after breaking his hand near the end of his rookie season and was forced to miss a game due to a concussion last year. He might not be fragile, but injuries happen, especially when—according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required)—you spend more time in the pocket than any other qualifying quarterback in the league. The kid takes hits.
The Eagles can't trust second-year USC product Matt Barkley, who threw four interceptions on only 49 pass attempts last season. Barkley hasn't been terrible against third-team defenders this month, but he's not in the same league as Sanchez.
"He just looks confident, in control, accurate," wrote CSN Philly's Reuben Frank earlier this preseason. "If something happened to Foles, the Eagles are in good hands with Sanchez. He’s been impressive."
The good news for Philly fans is that even Sanchez might realize he's better off with the Eagles in a backup role right now. From USA Today's Tom Pelissero:
But if Sanchez has anything to say about it, there's "no chance" he'd abandon his fresh start as a backup under coach Chip Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles for a shot to rejoin Schottenheimer and play in St. Louis, a person with knowledge of Sanchez's thinking told USA TODAY Sports on Sunday.
Sanchez is exactly what a team like this needs in a backup. He's played in two AFC Championship Games. He's been there, done that. Did he always do it well? No, but the guy has nine touchdown passes and only three interceptions in six career playoff games, four of them wins.
Head coach Chip Kelly and the rest of the front office will, of course, listen to trade offers. If the Rams want to do something crazy like give up a first-round pick, the Eagles would have no choice but to gamble on Foles and Barkley.
However, unless they get St. Louis or anyone else to sell the farm, the idea should be to stand pat and keep a secure roster extremely stable at the most important position on the field.
Brad Gagnon has covered the NFC East for Bleacher Report since 2012.