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Position Snapshot: Quarterback

Posted May 1, 2013

With the 2013 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror and the 90-man roster filled to the brim, it’s time to take a closer look at how the position-by-position picture forecasts for the Eagles. We start, as always, at the quarterback position where five players are slated to compete for the job of Chip Kelly’s quarterback. Let’s take a look, in alphabetical order …

Matt Barkley The talk of the draft’s third day, Barkley was swiped by the Eagles with the first pick of the fourth round after the team moved up three spots to secure the services of the former USC quarterback. The move has fascinated the football world because of the preconceived notions about what Kelly would be looking for in a quarterback. Barkley is athletic, but he isn’t a running quarterback like some of the quarterbacks the Eagles were linked to in the pre-draft process (EJ Manuel and Matt Scott, for two). The Barkley selection, as the Eagles professed following the pick, was one of value. The team had Barkley ranked among their top 50 players in the draft, so when Saturday’s proceedings came around, it became worth it for the Eagles to secure his services.

So what now? Well, now Barkley competes. Considering that Barkley has been his team’s No. 1 quarterback for eight straight years (four in high school, four in college), he’ll have every intention of trying to win the starting job. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Remember that Barkley is a fourth-round pick, not a first-round pick. The Eagles believe in his long-term upside, but if Kelly, Howie Roseman and crew considered him an immediate starting quarterback, they would have picked him much earlier. Consider that, as pointed out earlier this week by Sheil Kapadia, only three of the 31 projected starting quarterbacks elsewhere in the league were drafted in the fourth round or later (sixth-round pick Tom Brady, seventh-round pick Matt Flynn and undrafted Tony Romo). So give Barkley some time to learn and grow under Kelly before expecting immediate returns. As Roseman said a few weeks ago, the goal of the NFL Draft is to get the best players three years from now, not to get the best players next season.

Dennis Dixon Looking to recapture some of the magic that had him considered a Heisman Trophy frontrunner as a senior at Oregon (where Kelly was the offensive coordinator), Dixon joined Kelly and the Eagles shortly after the conclusion this year’s Super Bowl. Dixon earned a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Ravens practice squad, his second straight season on a practice squad. A fifth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2008, Dixon started a combined three games for the Steelers in 2009 and 2010, but he hasn’t seen the field in a regular season game since. He is certainly a longshot to win the Eagles’ starting job, but Dixon’s experience with Kelly will be an interesting factor in the race for a roster spot. Dixon does still have another year of practice squad eligibility.

Michael Vick and Nick Foles

Nick Foles Given that he wrested the starting job away from an injured Michael Vick at the end of the 2012 season (before he was injured himself), Foles is technically the incumbent starter. But all signs point to an offseason-long faceoff with Vick, among others, for the top job. In seven games (six starts) as a rookie, Foles completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 1,699 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions.

Kelly, meanwhile, is familiar with Foles from having coached against the quarterback in the Pac-12. Since becoming head coach, Kelly has professed an affinity for Foles, especially for the latter’s decision-making and toughness. If anything, the selection of Barkley confirms that Kelly will be comfortable with a more traditional pocket quarterback running his offense, which bodes well for Foles’ chances of winning the starting job. Foles and Vick basically split the first-team reps in the team’s first minicamp and that should be the expectation moving forward. Both players will have ample opportunities to show their worth to Kelly and the rest of the coaching staff.

G.J. Kinne The least heralded of the five quarterbacks on the roster, Kinne signed with the Eagles this offseason. Unselected in the 2012 NFL Draft, Kinne joined the New York Jets for Training Camp before he was released. He then had fall stints in the United Football League and the Arena Football League before joining the Eagles. Kinne is likely at the bottom of the five-man quarterback totem pole for the Eagles, but that doesn’t mean he should be discounted. The 2010 Conference USA Player of the Year is Tulsa’s second-ranked passer all-time in passing yards (9,472), total offense (10,381 yards) and passing touchdowns (81). At 6-2, 234, Kinne is a good athlete and was a productive runner while at Tulsa, where he also played alongside Eagles wide receiver Damaris Johnson and under the tutelage of Eagles offensive quality control coach Press Taylor.  

Michael Vick – Re-signed to a restructured contract in February, Vick is likely the most intriguing quarterback option for the Kelly and the Eagles. With his unique athleticism and rocket arm, Vick has the tools you would wishcast on a Kelly quarterback. But the rub, as it has been with Vick over the past two seasons, is a distressing penchant for turning the ball over. In his breakout 2010 season, Vick threw 21 touchdowns to only six interceptions. But Vick’s touchdown-to-interception ratio sank along with the Eagles’ victories over the past two seasons, as he tossed 30 touchdowns to 24 interceptions in 23 games. To that, add on Vick’s 32 total fumbles over the last three seasons (12 of which were lost to the opposing team) and you begin to understand why Vick said on Twitter a few days ago that his biggest priority this offseason is to improve his ball security.

With Vick, there is also the question of health, as he’s missed games due to injury in each of the last three seasons. Still, the 32-year-old is among the most talented quarterbacks in the league and he’ll be judged by Kelly and the rest of the staff more on his performance this offseason than on what he’s done in the past. And that’s precisely why the months ahead should be so interesting for Eagles fans. Right now, it’s anyone’s job to win.

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