Inside the Eagles: Eagles QB competition settles in for long haul

Nick Foles during the regular-season finale against the Redskins. (Mel Evans/AP file)
Nick Foles during the regular-season finale against the Redskins. (Mel Evans/AP file)
Posted: May 22, 2013

A week after Chip Kelly lifted the curtain on his practices and Michael Vick had the slight edge on Nick Foles in first-team repetitions, the roles were reversed and the second-year quarterback was first up with the "ones."

Foles took 21 snaps to Vick's 15 in seven-on-seven and team drills on Monday, and if it weren't for the great interest in the Eagles' quarterback competition, it might have felt a little silly logging repetitions in May with players running around in shorts.

But what the snap count did reveal, if we're to trust that Kelly's closed practices weren't significantly different, is that the Eagles coach wasn't lying. Vick and Foles are even on the media's imaginary depth chart and the job is open and won't likely be won until the preseason.

Go figure.

For months, Eagles watchers everywhere have been looking for clues as to whom Kelly favored. And there might be a guy. But logic suggests that he still doesn't know after just one month of teaching his quarterbacks his offense. (And now rookie Matt Barkley is in the mix.)

For the first time in a long time, the Eagles have a good, old fashioned quarterback competition that will play out through the hot days of training camp. Some fans may not want to accept that because it brings back memories of Rodney Peete and Ty Detmer, but this race has some long-term potential because of the inclusion of Foles and Barkley.

Despite all that, Foles' advantage in reps on Monday and the fact that Barkley apparently has emerged as the clear No. 3 quarterback, Vick has certain factors in his favor.

Experience is one. His mobility is another. There are certainly more assets. But Vick's ability to run the zone read, Kelly's bread-and-butter play at Oregon, and one the quarterbacks said the Eagles have spent much time practicing thus far, could give him the edge.

Vick said the most he ran the zone read was in 2006, his last season before he went to prison. He ran for 1,039 yards and threw for 2,474 more but completed just 52.6 percent of his passes for the 7-9 Falcons that season.

"Everything that's installed in [Kelly's] offense, it's pretty much what I like to do," said Vick, who was the lone quarterback to take off and run on zone-read plays Monday. "Everybody knows I like to carry the football, run with the football, get yards, and play off [improvisation], too. It just suits my game."

True. But Vick's game, of late, has involved getting injured far too often. He missed 11 games because of injury in the last three seasons. He didn't sit out a game in 2006 despite 123 carries. But Vick will be 33 next month and has suffered two concussions in the last two years.

The zone read does not suit Foles' game, although he voiced comfort in running it.

"As a quarterback you've just got to be able to get a couple of 5-, 10-yard runs a game," Foles said. "It puts the defense on their heels because they really have to watch out for you because they don't want to give up a big run to the quarterback, that I'll tell you."

But the quarterback must pose some threat with his legs.

If the 6-foot-6, 243-pound Foles can master the up-tempo offense and be the most accurate with his passes, then it could offset his immobility. Kelly would simply cater his scheme to Foles' skill set, but it's difficult to imagine the zone read disappearing completely.

Vick's critics say that he doesn't make quick reads and that he holds onto the ball too long - cardinal sins in Kelly's offense. Reminded of this criticism last week during an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic, Vick called the naysayers "ignorant."

All systems require quarterbacks to make throws before a receiver breaks, but Kelly's places emphasis on the skill. If Vick has been guilty of anything as a thrower it has been relying too often on his great arm strength.

His best pass on Monday came when he zipped a 15-yard strike to tight end Brent Celek over the middle and through two defenders after he ran a curl route. He was off-target with a few other passes, but the sample was small.

Foles threw his share of incomplete passes. He tossed a few beauties, including a 40-yard heave to a wide open Jason Avant.

Barkley took the majority of reps with the third team - 21 snaps to Dennis Dixon's five and G.J. Kinne's two. What the fourth-round rookie lacks in power, he makes up with his quick release and accuracy.

Barkley is still a ways from contending with Vick and Foles, though. But with Kelly far from making a decision on his starter, the distance between the first-, second- and third-string quarterbacks may decrease by training camp.


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

|
|
|
|
|