In two weeks, the rookies and selected veterans report to the NovaCare Complex to kick off the first Training Camp of the Chip Kelly era. There are a lot of questions that will be answered before the Eagles travel to take on the Washington Redskins for the season opener. We will pick three questions for each position and try to shed light on what to keep an eye on once the full-team practices get underway. Our Training Camp preview begins with the quarterback position ...
1. Who Will Be The Starting Quarterback?
This will easily be the most discussed, debated and analyzed topic for the Eagles and there is no clear answer at this point. From the time the Eagles restructured Michael Vick's contract in February, head coach Chip Kelly has declared that the job for the starting quarterback position will be an open competition.
During the spring camps, Vick and second-year quarterback Nick Foles split the overwhelming majority of the first-team reps. In Vick, the Eagles have a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback who has openly praised Kelly's up-tempo, spread offense. Kelly loves Vick's competitive spirit, his quick release, tremendous arm strength and overall skill set. Foles took over as the starter last season and showed poise and confidence as he broke a number of franchise rookie passing records. Kelly has also said he is excited by Foles' quick-decision making, skill set and size at 6-6, 243 pounds.
What fans have to remember is that there are more than two quarterbacks battling for the starting job. There's Dennis Dixon, who had success with Kelly at Oregon, and G.J. Kinne, a first-year quarterback out of Tulsa, and ...
2. Could The Eagles Turn To Rookie Matt Barkley?
In a word, yes. Barkley was drafted by the Eagles with the first pick in the fourth round after the team ranked him as one of the 50 best players in the entire NFL Draft. Barkley was potentially a surefire first-round pick in the past, but he has done nothing but look ahead to the future since arriving in Philadelphia. Assistant coaches have praised Barkley for his work ethic and he's shown uncommon poise for a first-year player.
Kelly saw Barkley up close and personal as the head coach of Oregon. Barkley started as a true freshman and shattered a number of USC and Pac-12 passing records by the time his collegiate career was complete. Kelly relishes Barkley's mental toughness. The perceived knock on Barkley entering the NFL Draft was his arm strength. Barkley's senior season at USC ended early due to a shoulder injury, but that held up fine during the spring camps. And Kelly believes that Barkley has more than enough arm strength, as most of you would recall the, "We're not trying to knock over milk cartons at the county fair," quote after Barkley was selected.
Kelly has insisted that the best quarterback will start. At Oregon, Kelly relied on quarterbacks with different levels of skill sets and experience - including a redshirt freshman in Marcus Mariota last season. Plus, don't forget offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has extensive experience with young quarterbacks. In 2010, Shurmur guided Sam Bradford to AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in St. Louis. Last year, Brandon Weeden was the Week 1 starter for the Cleveland Browns against the Eagles.
3. What Does Chip Kelly Want In His Starter?
Kelly listed that the "No. 1 quality" that he's looking for in a quarterback is repetitive accuracy.
Vick is the franchise's all-time leader in completion percentage. Foles completed nearly 61 percent of his passes last season. Barkley's was above 62 percent in each of his final three seasons.
Shurmur said at the start of the spring camps that the team hopes it's "very obvious" who the starter is by the end of the preseason. Kelly has said that he will be flexible and not force the offense onto any particular quarterback, but accentuate the strengths of whomever the signal caller becomes.
When Kelly was first hired, the misperception was that the quarterback had to be mobile so he could run the read-option. That would certainly have tilted the scales in Vick's favor, but the selection of Barkley and Foles' presence in the spring camps validated Kelly when he said that he wants a quarterback with the ability to run, not a running back who can throw.
Even at Oregon, and before that at New Hampshire, Kelly worked with quarterbacks who were not the most nimble. Darron Thomas took Oregon to a BCS Championship Game and a Rose Bowl and he featured less mobility than any of the other quarterbacks Kelly worked with at Oregon.
Each of the Eagles' quarterbacks brings something different to the table. The one who can maximize his strengths, make the fewest mistakes and proficiently function in Kelly's offense will be leading the team onto FedEx Field for the Monday Night Showdown with the Redskins.
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