Who will be the Eagles' starting quarterback this season? Head coach Chip Kelly doesn't know and he doesn't plan on announcing one for quite some time.
"I've never understood why you have a starter on paper because you don't play the games in April," Kelly said during the NFC coaches breakfast Wednesday at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix. "It's the most important position in the game, so you should use the full amount of practices you have where you have to make decisions on who that guy is."
The Eagles bring back their two starting quarterbacks from last season in Nick Foles and Michael Vick as well as backup Trent Edwards. Since Kelly was hired in January, the team has signed Dennis Dixon, who played for Kelly at Oregon, and G.J. Kinne, who played for Eagles quality control coach Press Taylor at Tulsa.
And the team may potentially add more arms in the draft. The Eagles recently held a private workout with former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith. The workout was attended by Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie. Kelly also said that the team hosted Matt Scott, who was Foles' successor at Arizona. The Eagles will also have a private workout with former Florida State quarterback, EJ Manuel, per Kelly. The team also has the ability to host other draft hopefuls at the NovaCare Complex in the coming weeks.
Kelly did not rule out that the Eagles could use an early draft pick, possibly the No. 4 overall selection, on a quarterback.
"It would make sense if they were the best player out there for us to take. We're always looking to improve the team," Kelly said.
What exactly is Kelly looking for in a quarterback?
"There's not one thing that trumps the other thing. It's the ability to grasp the offense, number one; number two, how do they process it when they're on the field? Can they take it from drill to practice?" Kelly said. "There's a lot of guys who are great in drills. Then, all of a sudden, you get them in and they're OK in seven-on-seven, but when you add more people and get to 11-on-11, it's not as good as it looked when we were in drills. How do they transfer that knowledge from a drill to practice, to when you get in more team situations? But you're evaluating them as a football player. So you're evaluating them, really, when we're doing mostly on 11-on-11 stuff, because that's how the game is played."
Kelly added that his quarterbacks must learn the entire scope of the offense, which would include read-options plays, and from there the team would formulate a gameplan to take advantage of the signal caller's strengths. The bevy of arms that the Eagles currently possess could allow them to potentially make a trade down the line, but that's not something Kelly is concerned about.
"I'm trying to get the best players on the field to win games right now," Kelly said. "I don't think anybody is thinking, 'We need to play this guy in a regular season game to make his trade value go up.' Whoever we play in the opening game, we're trying to beat them. We're not worried about trade value in the opening game, I can tell you that."
That is why Kelly is not going to bother naming a starter at quarterback now. There are still more than five months, unfortunately, before September and the start of the regular season. Kelly isn't complaining. He's going to use that time to his advantage to be ready for the season.
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