Few position battles across the National Football League are being as closely monitored on a daily basis than at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Michael Vick, brought back on a restructured deal that guarantees him $3.5 million this season which is escalated to $7 million if he is on the roster opening night against the Washington Redskins, is embroiled in a competition for the starting job with second-year signal caller Nick Foles.
Foles, the Eagles third-round draft choice last season out of the University of Arizona, finished last season in elite and exclusive company as an NFL rookie.
As a starter, Foles completed 60.8% of his passes which is the sixth highest all time among NFL rookies and behind only Ben Roethlisberger, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan. Foles’ 243 yards per game average is third all time behind only Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, and he is the only rookie quarterback in NFL history to average 240 yards per game and complete over 60 percent of his passes.
It’s no wonder that Chip Kelly is at the very least passively interested and, if the distribution of practice reps giving Foles an edge over Vick is any indication, excited to see how Foles improves from year one to year two of his career.
During his time as head coach of the Oregon Ducks, Kelly coached against Foles at the collegiate level and has on several occasions said that he came away in awe of what the Austin, Texas native is capable of doing on the football field.
“I’m a huge fan of his,” Kelly said at his introductory press conference as Eagles head coach on January 17th.
“He’s tough. That’s an attribute that I think a lot of people don’t understand — how hard it is and what toughness means to the quarterback spot, just to be able to stand in the pocket and throw the football.”
To his credit, despite critics pointing out the lack of athleticism that comes with Foles’ 6’6″ frame and the inability to strike fear in the hearts of defenses in terms of running with the football, Foles has remained confident in his chances of winning the team’s starting job.
“Every day I get more and more comfortable out there,” Foles explained after practice on Tuesday. “You go out there when it’s your time and like I’ve always said, you play like you are a starter. You play hard and you always try to play to the best of your abilities. Every day you get a little more comfortable out there.”
The early returns have been promising for Foles, who through minicamp certainly appears sharper as the spring has worn on. On Wednesday, the second-year quarterback completed 23-26 passes for two touchdowns and was sacked once in 36 reps. Meanwhile, Vick finished 14-21 with one touchdown, two interceptions in 33 reps. Foles took a total of 22 reps with the first team while Vick took 17.
Regardless though, it is only June and it doesn’t appear that even Kelly has any timetable on when he plans on naming a starting quarterback.
“It doesn’t have to be that he throws a prettier ball or all those things,” Kelly said of what he’s looking for. “There is a lot of different things. How do you manage a game, how do you secure the football? Are we not turning it over? Are we constantly moving in a positive direction? Are we getting into third and short and converting them? Things like that. It really is who moves the team the best is what we are looking for at the quarterbacks.”
There certainly is upside to the Eagles starting Foles and turning the page from Vick who will turn 33 by the time the regular season begins.
But until a decision is made, all eyes will continue to be on the Eagles quarterbacks and whether Foles can seize the job.
Matt Lombardo is also an on-air personality on 97.5 FM The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow Matt on Twitter.