As the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to open training camp on July 25, we examine whether the team is better or worse than last season at each position. Leading off is quarterback.
In terms of passer efficiency—the combination of completion percentage, yards per attempt, touchdowns and interceptions—Foles’ 2013 campaign ranks third in NFL history, behind only Aaron Rodgers in 2011 and Peyton Manning in 2004. Improving on those numbers will be next to impossible.
Regardless of what the stats indicate at the end of the year, ultimately the Eagles are still better off under center now that Foles is firmly entrenched in the starting job.
For one, Vick made the first five starts last season after winning a quarterback competition in training camp. The four-time Pro Bowler looked sharp out of the gates, but his performance steadily regressed until an injury knocked him out of the lineup. In all, Vick compiled a 2-4 record as a starter last season.
The Eagles should be able to get off to a faster start in ’14 with Foles under center. Not only that, but having a full offseason and training camp where he’s taking all of the first-team reps in practice should be extremely beneficial to the third-year signal-caller’s development. Even just knowing he’s the man now probably boosts the 25-year-old’s confidence.
Foles isn’t necessarily going to set all sorts of records this season. That being said, he’s only 16 starts into his NFL career, so there’s reason to believe the best is yet to come.
It’s a shame the Eagles couldn’t convince Vick to stick around. As a locker-room leader, Vick was second to none, while his skill set is possibly scariest when he’s coming off the bench.
As backup quarterbacks go, Philadelphia could do worse than Mark Sanchez, assuming he beats out Matt Barkley for the job. If nothing else, Sanchez brings experience to the table, with 68 career starts—including six in the playoffs—as a member of the New York Jets.
Sanchez might have a shred of upside as well. Sure, he’s a lifetime 55-percent passer who at 27 has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns during the regular season. However, it’s fair to question to what degree his struggles can be traced back to the lack of talent he was surrounded by in New York.
Still, Sanchez isn’t likely to start living up to expectations at this stage of his career. Furthermore, if there is one player opponents would dread seeing enter a game for an injured quarterback, it’s Vick, whose ability to run with the football is trouble for an unprepared defense.
And although Vick has never played at a consistent level over a full 16-game season plus playoffs, we know he can catch lightning in a bottle for a few weeks at time. When that happens, he’s one of the most dangerous weapons in the game. It would’ve been nice to keep that in reserve.
I anticipate Barkley’s progression continuing in his second NFL season, but can’t say that with any certainty. All we really have to go on are the 49 passes the 2013 fourth-round pick attempted in three relief appearances as a rookie.
The numbers don’t bear out well for Barkley (30/49, 300 YDS, 6.1 AVG, 0 TD, 4 INT), but he was thrust into some difficult situations. All four of his picks came when behind in the fourth quarter—games in which Barkley was inserted with his team already trailing.
Actually, there were aspects of Barkley’s performances that were encouraging. Perhaps most impressive was his decisiveness. There were occasions when he dropped back and looked lost or panicked. For the most part, though, he had some idea of where he wanted to go with the football.
Not surprisingly, knowing where he’s supposed to go with the ball was still a work in progress for Barkley, but his poise was a positive sign. The sample size was simply too small to project where his development goes from here.
BETTER OR WORSE?
Better. The backup situation is tenuous, but let’s be honest, most—if not all—NFL teams are in trouble if the starter misses anywhere from more than a couple games to any action at all. The Eagles are only as good under center as Foles is. Fortunately, he still has room to grow.