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QB Kafka On Spot To Step Up

Posted Feb 12, 2012

To suggest you have a feel for Mike Kafka playing the quarterback position in the NFL is to take a large leap of faith. The sample size just isn't very substantial ...

Yet Kafka, who has thrown just 16 passes in his two seasons with the Eagles, stands at the moment as one of the players on this roster being counted on to make the most substantial leap in 2012.

Kafka is slated to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Michael Vick, a role that carries some significant weight. Vick last season, lest we forget, missed three full games and the fourth quarter of two others, and his absence was costly. The Eagles lost leads against Atlanta and the Giants after Vick was out and Kafka came in.

That has to change in 2012, on several fronts. Keeping Vick healthy and under center for 16 games is the Organizational Key Project. He has to take few hits, make fewer mistakes and keep his body out of harm's way on the football field.

If something should happen to Vick, Kafka needs to be prepared. This is his time. In Year 3 of his Eagles career, Kafka must be capable of stepping in and winning games. One game. Two games. A month of games. Whatever it takes.

The Eagles clearly feel Kafka is capable. They turned to him in Atlanta and watched Kafka complete 7 of 9 passes and lead a last-minute drive that came up just short in a Week 2 loss. The next Sunday, Vick left the game in the third quarter and Kafka came out bombing. He was intercepted on his first pass, and then again later, as the Eagles dropped their second consecutive game.

That was all we saw from Kafka. The consensus after the fourth quarter in Atlanta was that Kafka had that "it" factor, especially the cool demeanor. A week later, following the loss to the Giants, the reviews were more mixed on Kafka.

With Vince Young slated to become an unrestricted free agent and likely ready to hit the market and find a starting job, Kafka is squarely in the spotlight. He has a full offseason during which to work with the coaches and improve his mechanics, particularly his delivery on deep passes.

Otherwise, the Eagles like that Kafka is an athletic, intelligent leader who knows the offense. The coaching staff feels that Kafka is ready.

Does that mean that, no matter what, he's the No. 2 quarterback? No, not at all. An NFL offseason is always crazy and unpredictable and as teams work in year two of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there is still a feeling-out process. Who knows what is going to transpire? Already, the Eagles have shown an interest in veteran Trent Edwards, who did not play last year because of a shoulder injury.

Kafka, though, understands the landscape. He led a football program's resurgence at Northwestern as the do-everything player at the quarterback position and became a fourth-round draft pick of the Eagles in 2010. After a rookie season during which he threw zero passes in the regular season, Kafka provided a glimpse of his game in 2011.

The progression is expected in year three.

Oh, there are a dozen other players in similar positions as Kafka, those expected to take a quantum leap for 2012. If the offseason plan is to keep as many of their own players on the current roster -- and the Eagles have given no indication of what they want to do in free agency and the draft, so I'm guessing here -- then the core of the roster, a young one in many spots, has to step forward.

A full conditioning program, a slate of organized practices and a regular training camp and preseason schedule will benefit Kafka. He has to be ready. He has to be the guy, in case the guy (Vick) can't go the distance for the Eagles in 2012.

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