PART 14 IN A SERIES:
We hear it every year at this time, the backup quarterback is one of the most important positions on the roster. Whether it is or not is a debate for another time, but it’s under the microscope now more than ever as teams try to justify how many resources, or in some cases how few, they’ve committed to the position….and you hear reports of young QB’s who are just “killing it” in their mini-camps.
The position can either be rendered completely irrelevant: Jim Sorgi never getting his uniform dirty in meaningful situations backing up Peyton Manning from 2004 – 2010. Or franchise altering: The Colts never addressing the position appropriately, team goes 2-14 without Manning in 2011, total housecleaning, first pick, Manning moves on, Andrew Luck now in place.
I thought it would be interesting to take a look at every team’s backup situation. These aren’t grades, just an overall look at the total sum of each team’s outlook if their starter were to go down. I’ll consider the immediate situation and the longer-term picture.
I’ll go in order of my NFL Power Rankings 1.0, published May 10th.
Today, the Philadelphia Eagles:
STARTER: Michael Vick (11th Year)
PROJECTED BACKUP: Trent Edwards (5th Year)
I could never really understand why Edwards hasn’t had a smoother road in the league. He has everything you look for in an NFL QB; size, intelligence, and arm talent. But he threw a lot of interceptions on bad teams in Buffalo and hasn’t been able to gain any traction since. Hard to imagine a better opportunity than exists in Philly. Work with Andy Reid, with weapons all around you, behind a starter who has had durability issues. I could see this going either way… he would win the backup job hands down with a good early camp, or be released before games even begin. But if Edwards is dedicated to getting his career back on track, this could be a terrific under-the-radar move by the Eagles.
Verdict: Remains To Be Seen
PROJECTED 3RD QB: Nick Foles (Rookie)
Foles may have been the most polarizing QB in this year’s draft class. Some analysts think he’s a potential star, others had him rated as a 6th or 7th rounder at best. His size and arm talent are unquestioned. What needs to be seen is how well they translate from the ball-control spread system he ran in college to the complex scheme in Philly. Based on the investment, and his potential, he makes the roster regardless of how he looks in preseason.
Verdict: Boom Or Bust
OTHER CONTENDERS: Mike Kafka (3rd Year)
Kafka was a 4th round pick in 2010, and apparently Reid’s comfort in dealing Kevin Kolb was in part due to his confidence in the former Northwestern triggerman. He’s got decent size and athleticism, but arm strength is an issue. There were rumors that teams were calling the Eagles inquiring about Kafka’s availability after his rookie year, but the fact is he’s never been more than the team’s 3rd stringer on game day. If Reid really liked him that much he wouldn’t have signed Vince Young last year, or spent a 3rd rounder on Foles this year. If Edwards looks good in camp, Kafka is on the outside looking in, and would not be eligible for the practice squad.
My Take: Andy Reid brought his Green Bay Packer mentality with him to Philly, and it shows. In the last 12 years, he’s drafted 6 QB’s in addition to taking a chance on Vick. Since 2007 alone he’s used a 2nd (Kevin Kolb), a 3rd (Foles) and a 4th (Kafka) to shape the position. That’s the kind of commitment to developing quality QB’s that’s worked so well for the Packers. But while the process is sound, the execution of it may not be. Serious questions exist about Reid’s true eye for QB talent. Kolb looks like a bust in Arizona, while Kafka was so highly thought of only 2 years ago, yet isn’t good enough to prevent the Eagles from taking Foles in the 3rd? And if these young QB’s you’re using so many draft picks on are so good, why keep bringing in veterans like Edwards? If Vick stays healthy, the point is moot. But should the Eagles need to call on one of these other options, how they perform could go a long way in determining the increasingly shaky future of Reid in Philly. None of the backups here are slam-dunks, and there may not be enough snaps to hand out in camp to figure it all out.