With just over 24 hours before the Eagles kick off the preseason, head coach Chip Kelly has yet to name a starting quarterback for Friday night’s game, let alone the regular season. In the grand scheme of things, whether it’s Michael Vick or Nick Foles, who takes the field first against the Patriots on Friday night is all but meaningless.
“They’re both going to get reps. So whoever takes the first rep, let’s not anoint them as anything,” the Eagles’ coach said after yesterday’s joint practice with the Patriots, the opponents for the preseason opener. “Someone’s got to be the first guy. So we’ll have a plan as a staff how many reps those guys will get, and we’ll go from there. We do have to have someone start the game, but I wouldn’t say the guy that starts the game is going to be the starter overall, in general, as we get going on Sept. 9.” That’s when the Eagles kick off the regular season against the Washington Redskins.
What will be most important to watch during the course of this preseason, is which quarterback outshines the other during the next four games, which will be viewed as Kelly’s ‘final exam’ in this ongoing competition. Kelly, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and the offensive coaching staff must figure out a way to distribute the first-team reps against the Patriots starters, all the while balancing the risk of injury to a unit that already is down to just seven healthy wide receivers.
“It’s not, ‘Hey, I didn’t have the starting receiver, so it would have been good if I had them in.’ Well, they may not be [available] in the [regular season] game, either. Which guy is going to give us the best chance to win the game is the decision. But the good way to gauge that is who is helping us move the ball in a productive manner.” Kelly explained.
Beyond the starting quarterback position that is shrouded in mystery, these next four games will serve as the grand unsheathing of Kelly’s high octane offense.
Moreover, battles will be won and lost across the board in the next month, especially on defense where coordinator Bill Davis Jr. is installing a 3-4, 4-3 hybrid in his first season in town.
The Eagles secondary, which has been lit up by Tom Brady in recent days of joint practices with the Patriots at the Novacare Complex, has been a revolving door. Cary Williams has completed just three full practices and the safety pairings have fluctuated more than the Philadelphia Phillies nightly lineup. Eventually, the game of Russian roulette has to end, but that is what these preseason games will serve to do.
There is plenty of excitement and intrigue surrounding this Eagles team and even more questions that likely will not be answered until well into the regular season. However, these four preseason games should offer at least a glimmer of clarity of what to expect from a team that has more wild cards than many others across the NFL.
Matt Lombardo is also a sports radio host on 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia. Join the conversation and follow him on Twitter.