Mobility a 'bonus' for Eagles quarterback, Kelly says

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who has worked on his running, said he has "no concerns" about fitting into coach Chip Kelly's offense. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who has worked on his running, said he has "no concerns" about fitting into coach Chip Kelly's offense. DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff
Posted: July 18, 2013

When the Eagles selected Matt Barkley in the fourth round of April's NFL draft, the initial surprise was not that the Eagles landed a touted quarterback who might have been a first-round pick a year earlier. The surprise was that Barkley was tabbed to play in Chip Kelly's offense, which conventional thinking suggested required a mobile quarterback.

"If the fact they have the ability to run, I believe that's an added bonus, but that's not the precursor to what we do," Kelly said. "We've said it since day one. I want the quarterback that has the ability to run. I do not want a running back that can throw. We've never been that type of offense, and I think that's a misconception."

Kelly maintains that accuracy and decision-making are imperative in his offense. But it helps to have a quarterback who is mobile, and that will be one factor in the Eagles' quarterback competition during the next six weeks. Training camp opens Monday, when the rookies report; the rest of the team arrives by Wednesday.

When evaluating the mobility of the top three quarterbacks on the roster, there's a major difference between Michael Vick and Nick Foles and Barkley. Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne, the two other quarterbacks on the roster, are also mobile threats.

Vick has more career rushing yards than any quarterback in NFL history and remains at a different athletic level from almost any NFL quarterback even at age 33.

"Every once in a while, you get in a situation in the room where you chuckle and say, 'OK, Mike, you can do that,' but everyone else just kind of nods and says if it was us, it's better if we handle it a different way," Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor said.

Even if Kelly does not require mobility for a quarterback, it would be an undeniable asset for Vick if he earns the job. Vick said that Kelly's offense was one of the reasons he wanted to stay in Philadelphia, and he has trained this offseason to play that way.

Vick's scrambling ability appeared to decline last season. He rushed for 5.4 yards per carry - his lowest total as an NFL starter - and he was not the same threat as earlier in his career.

Vick acknowledged that there were fewer designed runs than in previous seasons. There was also an emphasis on avoiding hits. He appeared noticeably stronger this spring, and said he can tailor his training for more running. He also said the read-option that became popular around the league last season is a part of the Eagles' system.

Foles and Barkley aren't nearly as mobile as Vick, but that does not mean they cannot play in Kelly's offense. In fact, one point that Lazor made clear was the difference between running speed and being mobile in the pocket.

"It's easy to point to the superior qualities that Michael has compared to just about any other quarterback that played the game. He's special," Lazor said. "But that shouldn't diminish how athletic Nick Foles is, or Matt Barkley is. Both those guys can throw on the run, they can move in space. I think it's going to be fun to see how it goes."

A group of offensive linemen walked by during an interview when Foles was asked how he would fit into Kelly's offense. "Tell them how fast you are, Nick!" the linemen shouted.

"I have no concerns," the 24-year-old quarterback said.

Foles worked on running techniques throughout the offseason. He was once a decorated basketball recruit who drew interest from top programs such as Georgetown and Texas, so he has athletic ability. He also has spent time improving his footwork since leaving the University of Arizona, where he ran a fast-paced offense.

"There's tempo for the offense, and that's just running plays really fast," Foles said. "And then there's fast quarterbacks who could run fast. That's two different things."

Kelly's offenses at Oregon always had quarterbacks who could run, but some ran better and more frequently than others. In Kelly's six years at Oregon - four as head coach, two as offensive coordinator - the quarterbacks combined to run from 413 yards to 967 yards in a season. Touchdowns ranged from three to 14.

When Kelly was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire, his top quarterback was Ricky Santos, who never had elite foot speed. He was mobile enough to twice top 400 rushing yards in a season, but he broke records as an accurate passer who accumulated the third-most passing yards in Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) history.

So Kelly made sure to clear up the misconception that his offense requires a mobile quarterback. It helps, though, and this is a part of the quarterback competition in which Vick will thrive. The unknown is how much emphasis Kelly will place on mobility.


Running Ducks

Oregon's quarterback rushing yards under Chip Kelly:

Year   Att.   Yds   TD

2012    145   917   11

2011     81   413    3

2010    113   624    7

2009    137   686   14

2008*   192   967   14   

2007*   146   607   10

*-Kelly was offensive coordinator, not head coach

These statistics include yardage lost on sacks, which are part of rushing yards in college football.


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com.

Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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