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Spadaro: Marcus Mariota and why the No. 2 QB position is vital

Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro

He is in his ninth NFL season, so having to learn a new offensive system for the eighth time is something quarterback Marcus Mariota is embracing. New language. New cadence. New way of stacking the playcalling.

Loving every minute of it in Philadelphia, a team with high expectations, a great surrounding cast in a proven offensive scheme, and with a fan base that has shown him a lot of love, Philly style.

"It's a great opportunity for me to be around a great group of guys," Mariota said. "It's been a lot of fun getting to know them, building these relationships up, continuing to connect. Every single day I just love coming out here and competing with these guys. I'm trying to do my part to make the team better."

We know how valuable the No. 2 quarterback position is. History tells us it can, in extreme cases, make a season (see Nick Foles, 2017 Eagles) or break a season (see Jim McMahon and others, 1991 Eagles). The Eagles have Jalen Hurts as the starter and there really aren't enough superlatives to describe him on and off the field, but even in the 2022 season, Hurts was sidelined for two games and the Eagles dropped both of them (at Dallas, vs. New Orleans) with Gardner Minshew taking the snaps.

So, the addition of Mariota – who started 13 games with Atlanta last season and tossed 15 touchdown passes and nine interceptions and added another four scores and 438 yards on the ground – in free agency was important.

He adds experience, a pro's perspective, and a skill set with his mobility that translates well to this offensive mindset.

"Marcus has been great to be around," Offensive Coordinator Brian Johnson said. "I think he has a very unique experience in this league, as well, and anytime that – you spend so much time in the building with these guys and they spend so much time together in the quarterback meetings, I think just being able to share that information, share knowledge is really important to the development of the position."

The Eagles' offense is different for Mariota in its language, of course, but also in the way it attacks a defense. There are only so many plays in a playbook and formations to be shown, but what separates the Philadelphia offense from the one Mariota knew in Tennessee or in Las Vegas or in Atlanta is the read of the progressions in the passing game and the "how" and the "why" the Eagles are doing it the way they are doing it.

That's where Mariota is in his process. He's new to the quarterback room and the offense and the locker room and Mariota is pumped to be in this winning culture, this competitive environment. He wants to play for a team that can compete for a Super Bowl and that's why Mariota chose the Eagles, a team that he says has "unbelievable" talent throughout the offense.

"It's a credit to these guys because I think that's developed over time," he said. "I don't think you just wake up and you're that guy. It's a credit to how these guys work, how they go about their business, how they want to come in and get better. It's a special collection of talent. What's really even neat about it for me is that these guys aren't settled with that. They want to continue to get better.

"For me, that wakes me up, too. I've got to come out here and get better and be the best I can be."

It is important that the Eagles have Mariota up to speed and ready to play because, well, you just never know. Hurts has been razor-sharp and the expectations are extremely high for what is ahead, but it's so vital to make sure No. 2 is prepared, especially when he's new to the offense.

"You always have to be ready in case your moment comes up," Mariota said, "but I think it's too hard to sit here and butt heads with your quarterback group. I really believe that when you have a strong quarterback group that relies on one another and supports one another, you create confidence within that group that helps the entire team out.

"I try to embrace that and I try to be that guy for Jalen and lend experiences that I have had that he can learn from and take something from it."

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