Time running out for Eagles' Kafka to make his case

Mike Kafka has been cleared to take snaps. Since breaking his left hand he has lost his grip on the No. 2 quarterback position.
Mike Kafka has been cleared to take snaps. Since breaking his left hand he has lost his grip on the No. 2 quarterback position. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: August 29, 2012

With each question the answers became more evasive.

Mike Kafka does not know what his future holds. And when you don't, "One day at a time" - the quarterback's stock response - is the only way you can approach an uncertain time.

Kafka was cleared Monday to receive snaps from under center for the first time since he fractured a bone in his left, non-throwing, hand Aug. 9. But he has not been cleared to play in the Eagles' preseason finale against the New York Jets on Thursday.

Since his injury, Kafka has gone from No. 2 quarterback to, well, no one really knows - including the third-year quarterback. In his absence, rookie Nick Foles has flourished and veteran Trent Edwards has gone from afterthought to possibly pushing the Eagles' 2010 fourth-round draft pick off the team.

The Jets game could be Kafka's last chance to make his bid for a roster spot.

"Every time you play, for any position, you just want to go out there and do your best, best effort," Kafka said. "I'm just taking it one day at a time and go from there."

The Eagles have not had four quarterbacks on their roster this late in the preseason since 2009, when they had Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb, and A.J. Feeley. Those circumstances were different, however. It was understood that Feeley would be cut with a post-incarcerated Vick to be reinstated soon.

Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Monday that no final decisions have been made on which three quarterbacks will remain after the roster is trimmed to 53 players Friday.

"We've got some days of practice and the last preseason game to evaluate that and discuss it," Mornhinweg said. "We've got four quarterbacks here [who] really can play at a high level. Those are good things."

If Kafka hadn't injured his hand there's a strong chance that Edwards, who was signed in February after he spent all of 2011 out of the NFL, would have been released. Foles and Kafka would have likely split the snaps after Vick in the second and third preseason games.

But Kafka wasn't around to take those snaps. Foles did and was more than efficient, completing 30 of 47 passes for 363 yards and four touchdowns against the Patriots and Browns. He did toss two interceptions.

The rookie played well enough, however, to be the backup - at least in the eyes of many who watched the games.

"That choice has not been made," Mornhinweg said. "We've got several different things to evaluate there."

Edwards took the rest of the snaps. He was 20 of 28 for 186 yards and a touchdown and did not toss an interception in both games. Kafka could do nothing but observe.

"I've been taking notes and getting mental reps," he said.

Kafka has done a lot of that in his NFL career. He was the third quarterback and did not play in a game as a rookie. Last season, he was called upon when Vick was knocked out of the second and third games and Vince Young was also out with an injury.

A former Northwestern star, Kafka looked effective in relief of Vick in Atlanta, not so the following game against the New York Giants. Although he had thrown just 16 NFL passes, the Eagles gave Kafka the nod as the backup entering the spring.

But the acquisition of Edwards and the drafting of Foles in the third round suggested that his leash was short. Kafka did not have a strong training camp. Dropping back alongside Foles, his size and his arm paled in comparison.

When the Eagles opened the preseason against the Steelers, Kafka took over in the second quarter for Vick. He struggled. He completed just 5 of 9 passes for 31 yards and threw an ill-advised screen pass that was intercepted.

Foles and Edwards, meanwhile, were sharp - albeit against lesser competition. Foles completed 6 of 10 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards was 12 of 20 for 106 yards and a score. He also engineered the winning drive that ended in Alex Henery's 51-yard field goal.

Two days later the Eagles revealed that Kafka had broken his hand when a Steeler stepped on it during his first series.

"It's definitely been tough," Kafka said. "It's one of those things. It's football. It's a physical game."

Indeed, Vick suffered a bruised thumb against Pittsburgh and then bruised ribs against the Patriots. The injuries to the starting quarterback highlighted the Eagles' backup situation even more than it had been.

Foles' emergence helped ease the concern of some. He did nothing to help Kafka.

"I'm just going to, like I said, [take it] one day at a time," Kafka said.

Who should be the Eagles' third-string quarterback? Vote in The Inquirer poll

at www.philly.com/sportspoll


Roster is trimmed to 75; Jason Peters and Mike Patterson move to reserve lists. C2.

Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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