In a mere 11 days, the Eagles 2012 season will get underway at Lehigh as the rookies and selected veterans report to training camp. With the first step on a road that will hopefully end in February days away, it's time to preview the key questions that face each position group as the team prepares to take shape. Starting with the quarterback position, we'll ask the three most pressing questions that we'll be keeping an eye on throughout training camp, heading into the preseason and beyond. Without further ado …
1. Can Michael Vick Stay Healthy And Control The Ball?
As Sheil Kapadia writes in the 2012 Eagles Almanac (a great read for die-hard Eagles fans), "Pretty much every preseason article you read about Vick will focus on two items: turnovers and injuries." He's right, those are, without question, the primary topics of interest as Vick goes into his third season as the Eagles' starting quarterback. Importantly, as head coach Andy Reid has been fond of mentioning this offseason, these last few months have accounted for the first time Vick has been afforded the full offseason as the team's starting quarterback. In turn, Reid has lauded Vick's leadership and work ethic, saying "Michael knows what he needs to do and he's worked like crazy … He didn't miss a workout. He's the one generating the energy. He's the one who's making the players around him be here and demanding stuff from them. He's done a great job of that this offseason."
But how will that affect Vick's performance on the field? Start with the turnovers, where Vick regressed from an otherworldly 2010 season ball-protection-wise, increasing his interception total from six to 14 and his fumbles lost from three to four. Of those 14 interceptions Vick threw in 2011, Kapadia notes that three were caused by misplays by the Eagles' receiver and one came on an end-of-half Hail Mary. In addition, three came as a result of a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage, a problem that Vick has said is a focus of correction. Assuming the full offseason will help Vick, the signs should point to a bounceback year protecting the ball, especially when you consider that he only threw three interceptions (including the aforementioned Hail Mary) during the Eagles' four-game winning streak to close the season. Of course, Vick was also healthy during those four games, all the more reason why his health consistently a hot topic. To his everlasting credit, Vick has remained patient despite the constant refrain of questions about how he plans to protect himself. But while some would have the dynamic Vick focus on staying inside the pocket, that's actually where many of his 2011 injuries took place. Vick is actually quite adept at protecting himself in the open field, and so the real burden of protection may fall on an offensive line that returns four starters, all of whom have been afforded their first full offseason with the team at their current position.
2. Is Mike Kafka Ready For Primetime?
Part and parcel with the questions about Vick's health is the mystery of Kafka's readiness. The 2010 fourth-round pick saw his first regular season action last year, relieving Vick in the second and third games of the season. In that second game, his first ever for-real snaps, Kafka impressed, nearly leading the team down the field for a comeback win. He was less stellar the next week, tossing two interceptions. But if you ask any members of the Eagles offense, they'll relay complete confidence in Kafka's ability to handle and run the offense. Tellingly, Kafka doesn't just have their faith of his teammates, but he has the backing of Reid and Howie Roseman as well. From the beginning of the offseason, Reid has never wavered in his commitment to Kafka as the No. 2 quarterback, and the third-year Northwestern man is also coming off his first full offseason as an NFL quarterback. During Kafka's rookie season, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg commented that Kafka had the best sense of the offense he'd ever seen from a first-year player. That knowledge has only grown, as it's quite common to see teammates asking questions specific plays or formation to the signal-caller. But that's not how Kafka will be judged of course. Rather, it will be about the results on the field for Kafka, and he'll be one of the closest watched Eagles throughout training camp and the preseason.
3. Can Nick Foles Make An Early Impression?
The Eagles surprised some by using their third-round pick in April's NFL Draft on the 6-6 Foles, a strong-armed passer who doesn't necessarily fit the mold of some Reid quarterbacks of the past. The rookie was impressive during the offseason passing camps, but of course that doesn't mean too much at all. Foles will run the third team in training camp, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Reid and the coaching staff challenge the rookie at times with matchups against the No. 1 defense. Like Kafka, Foles too will be one of the more intriguing players to watch throughout training camp and the preseason. Obviously, the Eagles have high hopes for the third-rounder, but the question is just how long-term those plans are. If the native Texan really blows the doors off the preseason, is it out of the question for him to push Kafka for the backup job? Trent Edwards, the fourth quarterback on the roster, has gone unmentioned as of yet, but he'll also have his chances to impress. The veteran of the group behind Vick, Edwards has been going through a mechanical adjustment with the Eagles. If everything comes together for him in training camp, perhaps he too will become a player of interest.
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