Eagles backup quarterback Kafka prepared for possible start

Backup in motion: Mike Kafka scrambles after replacing Michael Vick. He was surprisingly competent Sunday.
Backup in motion: Mike Kafka scrambles after replacing Michael Vick. He was surprisingly competent Sunday. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer)
Posted: September 21, 2011

Backup quarterback Mike Kafka may have surprised many observers with his poise and play Sunday night for the Eagles, but not one of the coaches who knows him best.

"Maybe it surprised everybody else or some other people how he played the other night. It didn't surprise me, because he's always been there, ready," said Mick McCall, the Northwestern offensive coordinator who coached Kafka in college.

Kafka may have to be ready this week. With Michael Vick recovering from a concussion, it might be the second-year quarterback under center when the Eagles resume practice Wednesday - and perhaps on Sunday, too, against the Giants in the Eagles' home opener.

The team had no update on Vick's condition Tuesday. Even in a best-case scenario, Vick probably wouldn't be cleared to practice until later this week. The NFL requires several tests before players who have had concussions can return to practice.

Backup quarterback Vince Young has been limited by a hamstring injury since Sept. 1, so his status is also unclear, leaving Kafka as the Eagles' only fully healthy quarterback.

Getting his first NFL regular-season playing time Sunday, Kafka showed his control of the offense. Most of his seven completions were short, but one 43-yard pass came on the kind of throw that many wondered if he could make.

Afterward, Kafka was all-business, as usual.

"Reads, progression, getting guys lined up . . . doing my job," Kafka said after the game. He rushed to Jeremy Maclin after the receiver dropped a fourth-down pass that effectively killed the Eagles last chance, and later told reporters he could have gotten the ball there faster.

If he plays Sunday, though, it will be a different scenario. The Giants, unlike the Falcons, will have time to prepare for Kafka, to adapt to his strengths and attack his weaknesses.

McCall said the Eagles can count on Kafka to prepare.

"His work ethic is second to none," he said. "He does a great job of studying film and knowing exactly what he's got to do and what all 21 other guys on the field are doing during a play."

In college, Kafka started four games as a redshirt freshman. But after suffering a hamstring injury he was replaced and spent most of the next three seasons on the bench. When he got a chance as a junior to fill in for Northwestern's injured starter, though, Kafka ran for 217 yards in a win over Minnesota.

His senior year, Kafka was back as the starter. In the Outback Bowl his senior year, Kafka put up eye-popping numbers: 47 for 78 passing for 532 yards, with four touchdown passes and five interceptions. He ran for 29 yards and a score in the 38-35 loss to Auburn.

Those numbers were helped by playing in Northwestern's spread offense. With the Eagles, Kafka had to learn new footwork and other nuances of playing under center. He stayed late to throw after most practices and was praised for his study habits and smarts.

Before Kafka's first training camp, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called him "maybe the best rookie" he's coached in terms of grasping a new system. (Asked in his team bio who he'd most like to have dinner with, Kafka listed Albert Einstein.)

During the lockout, he was a regular at the Eagles' informal workouts and appeared in command when he played in camp and the preseason.

Of course, those situations don't compare to a home opener against an NFC East rival. Kafka knows the Eagles system, but if the team wants in-game experience, Young has 47 career starts.

McCall said Kafka can be counted on to work hard in any role he is handed.

"He's going to come in, and he's going to be as prepared as he possibly can, and he's going to play his fanny off," McCall said, "whatever happens."

Extra points

A man in the Washington area has been pretending to be Young, taking money from some victims, according to the Eagles quarterback and his representatives. One woman was conned into writing a $12,000 check that she thought was going to Young's charitable foundation, said Denise White, CEO of EAG Sports Management, Young's management agency. In a video statement posted by NBC's Washington affiliate, Young warned: "Keep watch out for this guy because he's not me. He's out there perpetrating as me. He's taking money, taking pictures with kids in hospitals." Young filed a complaint about the impersonation in Houston in June, White said. Some victims have also filed complaints in other states, but nothing formal has yet been filed in Prince George's County, Md., where White said the alleged impersonator lives. . . . The Eagles worked out wide receiver Mardy Gilyard and defensive end Jacob Ford on Tuesday. Neither was signed. Ford played under defensive line coach Jim Washburn last year in Tennessee, and the Eagles may need an end if Darryl Tapp (pectoral) and Juqua (ankle) are out this week.

Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214, jtamari@phillynews.com or @JonathanTamari on Twitter.

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