Kafka putting in work to get Eagles backup QB job

Posted: June 15, 2012

Minicamp was over, and the Eagles were free to scatter, to enjoy five weeks of summer before the start of training camp and a hard, grinding season.

Only Mike Kafka wasn't quite finished. The backup quarterback, as usual, wanted to throw some more, even after the team wrapped up its last offseason practice Thursday. So wide receivers Chad Hall and McKay Jacobson ran routes while Kafka fired a few more passes.

Kafka and Hall have made the extra post-practice reps a regular routine since the two joined the Eagles in 2010, Kafka as a fourth-round draft pick and Hall as an undrafted free agent.

Kafka's work on his craft goes beyond extra throws, though, and continues into early-morning and late-night film sessions in which he has compiled a notebook of scouting reports on every defensive back the Eagles have faced.

"It meshes really well with the scouting report we get from the team," Kafka said. "I just wanted to give myself a little library."

So Kafka, as he reviews weekly game plans, also jots down notes on the individuals he might face, from details about their background to observations about how they play certain routes or coverages.

Do they give hand signals to indicate a particular look is coming? If so, Kafka notes it.

"Any little thing I can get," he said.

Kafka works around the rest of the Eagles' required meetings and workouts, arriving at the team facilities at 7:30 or 8 in the morning, going through his day, maybe stopping home to eat, and returning at night until around 8 or 9.

"I like coming down here at night. It's quiet, you can do whatever you want," Kafka said.

Kafka keeps his observations in a spiral notebook, stapling in or gluing on additional information as needed.

"I do it old-school," he said with a laugh.

Eagles coaches rave about Kafka's intelligence and understanding of the team's offense, and they have entrusted him with a significant responsibility. Backing up Michael Vick, odds are he will have to play at some point this season, since the team's top quarterback has only once in his career started all 16 games in a season.

Kafka, though, is still relatively unknown, having attempted just 16 career passes, all in the second and third weeks of last season.

Beginning the offseason as the backup, instead of the No. 3 quarterback, Kafka has had the benefit of taking far more repetitions than he ever has in the past, helping him grow even more comfortable with the offense.

After playing in Northwestern's prolific spread offense, Kafka had to learn the proper ways to drop back from under center and other nuances of a pro-style offense. In his third season, though, Kafka said those basic but important fundamentals finally feel natural. He no longer has to count his steps as he drops back.

"Now I'm just playing and making sure I can execute," Kafka said. "The more you can not think about all the other stuff and just think about throwing the ball on time and accurately, that's important."

Timing for Kafka is especially important, since he does not have a high-powered arm.

He has worked on that, too, with typical diligence. He left for Arizona, his offseason training home, four days after last season ended, and with twice-a-day workouts added 10 pounds in the hopes of improving his throwing velocity.

As he heads into his third training camp, but first with a full offseason, Kafka has the inside track on the No. 2 quarterback job. Veteran Trent Edwards and third-round pick Nick Foles also will contend, but Kafka said he was not worried about competition for the job.

"You want to compete against yourself and compete against the defense," he said. "I'm not really worried about anything but that, besides for just doing my job."


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

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