Philadelphia Eagles News

QB Spotlight Soon To Have Answers

It is the position everyone wants to discuss: Quarterback is in the spotlight for the Eagles, understandably so, and will remain so until the team clears up some questions the fans and media are asking.

While head coach Chip Kelly and his coaching staff and personnel department are in Indianapolis at the NFL's Scouting Combine, the idea of who is playing the quarterback position for the Eagles in 2015 and even beyond remains the hot topic on every radio talk show, television roundtables, daily newspapers, the digital world and water coolers in every corner of the business world.

The contention here has been, and will continue to be unless proven otherwise, that Nick Foles will return healthy and ready to go for 2015 and that he will be in line for a great season. He knows the system, he has had success in the offense and he understands more than ever after having sat out half a season that ball security is of utmost importance in this league.

If that scenario plays out and if Foles is in the starter's slot, there are still questions. He enters the final year of his rookie contract, so the business side of the equation is very much a factor in the long-term thinking for the franchise. 

There is a lot of speculation in every conversation about quarterback, and it intensified over the weekend when the quarterbacks took center stage at the Combine and the top two, Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota, drew oohs and aahs from onlookers and generally very high reviews for the way they handled the media attention, their athletic prowess and, of course, the throws they made dropping back in shorts and a tee shirt and going through the basics of the route tree.

Both quarterbacks are expected to go at the top of the first round of April's draft and both have been projected, in the various mock drafts, as the very first selection by Tampa Bay.

The intrigue lies in the incessant conversation about Kelly's relationship with his former player, Mariota, who was dynamic in an Oregon offensive scheme that resembles what the Eagles do in terms of its tempo and some of the concepts that include run/pass options for a quarterback who has the mobility to gash a defense. Kelly has spoken highly of Mariota in the past and, why not? Kelly recruited Mariota to Oregon and aided, prior to the last two seasons, Mariota's development. Mariota is a great prospect. He has a spotless character and an on-field portfolio of success on the field.

Football analysts can't stop gushing about what a perfect reunion it would be - Mariota running the Eagles' offense with Kelly at the helm - it's a match made, the analysts say, in football heaven.

And so the talk-show hosts prattle on. And the mock drafts note the possibility of the Eagles trading all the way up from No. 20 in the first round to somehow land Mariota who, according to those same draftniks, could be taken No. 1 by Tampa Bay, No. 2 to either Tennessee or a team that trades up to get Mariota, or No. 6 to the Jets (or a team that trades into that first-round slot).

It's truly mind-boggling stuff. Round and round goes the speculation as we spin closer to the opening of free agency (March 10, 4 PM, set your smart watches now) and, with it, some answers and truth.

The Eagles have questions at the quarterback position. There is no doubt about that. If Foles is the guy, what about the contract situation? If Foles is not the guy, who is? Beyond the fourth-year quarterback, the Eagles need to make sure they are solid, maybe beyond solid, with their depth at the position. They've got Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne under contract. Barkley has seen scarce playing time in his two seasons here, and had exactly one passing attempt in 2014 after playing in three games and completing 30 of 49 passes for 300 yards and four interceptions in his rookie campaign. 

The 2014 backup quarterback, Mark Sanchez, is due to be an unrestricted free agent on March 10 after compiling a 4-4 record (in addition to playing three quarters and leading the Eagles to a win over Houston) when Foles suffered a broken collarbone on November 2. 

The point is this, and this is not particularly earth-shattering but still worth noting: Beyond the hysteria of the will-the-Eagles-trade-up-for-Mariota? chit-chat are some very real and franchise-vital questions that, in the not-too-distant future, will be answered.

Nobody can pretend to know what Kelly is thinking. You can be sure, though, that he's got a plan in place and a winning vision for the position, both for 2015 and the future. Kelly knows what he wants and no doubt he's investigated every angle to the position, has pored over every bit of statistical data he can get his hands on and will use the element of old-school football evaluation to make the quarterback position, the most important in all of sports, as good as it can possibly be.

In Chip We Trust ...

In the meantime, though, we're subject to the debate and the hoopla and the will-they-or-won't-they? discourse, invented or not. There are trade rumors being reported - did you hear the one about the Eagles trading with the Rams and moving to No. 10 in the first round and then ...? - without any substantiation or flow. It's just out there. It's just fun.

It's just that time of the year when Eagles fans are jonesing for some action. They want something. Anything. Soon, people, soon. There are some very real questions about the quarterback spot and need answers that only Chip Kelly and his vision can answer.

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