Nick Foles could be the Eagles starter

Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles speaks during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility, Wednesday, April 3, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Eagles' Nick Foles speaks during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility, Wednesday, April 3, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Posted: April 05, 2013

It may be time to envision the possibility that Nick Foles will win the Eagles starting quarterback job.

Certainly, there are some who have already contemplated the likelihood, considering the competition. Chip Kelly has never wavered from his stance - given the day after he became the Eagles head coach - that he likes Foles and would tailor his offense to the second-year quarterback's skill-set should he prevail.

And yet there has been this perception that Foles has little chance since Kelly came aboard and decided a few weeks later to bring Michael Vick back.

The Eagles aren't financially committed to starting Vick, but his skill-set and Kelly's experience with mobile quarterbacks suggested that the veteran would have a leg up on Foles.

And when Kelly signed Dennis Dixon, a former quarterback of his when Kelly was the offensive coordinator at Oregon, and G.J. Kinne, another dual-threat quarterback, Foles appeared even further on the outskirts.

So what if the Eagles draft another quarterback who can run, such as Geno Smith or E.J. Manuel or Matt Scott? If this were Sesame Street, Foles would be the one quarterback that was not like the others - excluding, of course, Trent Edwards, who is remarkably still on the roster.

Foles, speaking for the first time since the end of the 2012 season, seemed perturbed by the idea that Kelly couldn't work with a pocket passer and that he couldn't play for the coach.

"I wouldn't be here right now if I didn't [think I could start]," Foles said Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles continued offseason workouts. "I think I would be somewhere else. Yeah, I believe I fit here."

And what if Foles, aside from fitting in, bucked the narrative and was . . . wait for it . . . actually better than everyone else? It's not that hard to conceive. Aside from that six-game stretch in 2010 when defenses were ill-prepared for the new Vick, what has Vick done since to show that he can't be supplanted?

Maybe Kelly is the magic potion that resurrects Dixon's career, but his relative inexperience - he's played in only four games over five NFL seasons - doesn't bode well for his chances.

And it would be difficult for any quarterback from this year's draft to start immediately, although if Smith was taken fourth overall the Eagles may have little choice.

Foles, meanwhile, remains a bit of a mystery. It's possible he takes a significant step forward from his first year as other second-year quarterbacks have done before. It's possible he takes to Kelly and his coaching staff more than the others. It's possible he will have greater command of the playbook.

In that case, Kelly may have little choice but to start the 24-year-old. Foles started six games for the injured Vick last season. The Eagles went 1-5 in those games, but the offensive line was battered, several skill-position players were sidelined, the defense was in shambles, and coach Andy Reid was on his way out the door.

It would not be fair to judge Foles solely on those starts. There was some good and plenty of bad. On the positive side, he did not shirk from the opportunity, moved well in the pocket for his size (6-foot-6, 243 pounds), made some strong throws, and engineered a game-winning drive in Tampa.

On the other side of the ledger, Foles turned the ball over too often (five interceptions and three fumbles); was prone to key in on receivers; and did not have an explosive arm, although it was more than capable.

In seven games he was sacked 20 times. The struggles on the offensive line did not aid the rookie, but if Kelly was the evaluator, the quarterback would bear responsibility for those sacks.

Kelly's assessment of sacks seems to have more to do with decision making than foot speed, but Foles cannot afford to hold onto the ball longer than mobile quarterbacks.

He has to be quick with the trigger and in running the offense, and this could be where he has a decided advantage over his rivals. Kelly's playbook will have enough plays in it to suit any number of quarterbacks. But it will certainly be up-tempo.

Foles ran an up-tempo offense in college. Vick has shown inconsistencies running the no-huddle in the pros and thus has been asked to do little of it. The pair will initially split practice repetitions, according to Kelly. Both have said they are confident they will win the job.

"I feel like if you want to be a quarterback in this league or in peewee, you've got to believe, 'Hey, I'm the guy,' " Foles said. "If you think, 'Oh, I'm a backup,' you're going to be a backup."

While few believe as he does, Foles may prove to be right. He may end up being the guy.


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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