The Current Quarterback Situation, From A to Z

The Current Quarterback Situation, From A to Z

When the Eagles finally signed Trent Edwards last Thursday after a month-long courtship, there was a sense the depth chart had crystallized at the quarterback position. Edwards would battle third-year signal caller Mike Kafka for the back-up job behind an injury-prone Michael Vick, while Vince Young is allowed to depart a free agent, his services no longer required.

Then on Friday, the Eagles interviewed Robert Griffin III at the NFL Scouting Combine, and the whole town went crazy. Could the team move up in April's draft to select a Heisman Trophy-winning QB? Are they serious about bringing another arm into the mix? Isn't Andy Reid already pot committed to Vick, especially now that the organization is feeling a renewed sense of urgency? So many questions.

Presumably, VY is still out of the equation -- perhaps he would be a better fit on the hardwood, surrounded by Chuck and MJ. As for everyone else, and their relationships with the Birds: all bets are off.

Simply interviewing an exceptional prospect does not necessarily mean the front office intends to take that player, obviously. However, whatever the Eagles' level of interest in RG3, the sheer knowledge of their meeting may have changed everything. After the jump, we review the depth chart as it stands currently, and the impact this shocking development holds for the future under center.

3. TRENT EDWARDS
Let's start with something that should have been evident right away. The addition of Trent Edwards did not automatically conclude the club's business with quarterbacks.

Chosen by the Bills out of Stanford in the third round of the '07 Draft, like many that came before him, Edwards could not single-handedly turn around that moribund franchise. He flashed some potential, but Buffalo's front office, in a seemingly constant state of flux, waived Edwards in the midst of his fourth season after he surrendered the starting job to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Edwards spent the rest of the season with Jacksonville, then the following summer in Oakland's training camp. He didn't make the final roster, and spent a year out of football.

Key phrase here: spent a year out of football. There are a lot of things to like about a low-risk signing like Edwards. He's 28, has prototypical NFL size (6-4, 231), and went to a good school. He started 32 games for the Bills, amassing a 14-18 record, 60.9% completion percentage, and tossing 25 touchdowns to 27 interceptions -- not great, but respectable considering the situation.

Edwards strikes me as a player who suffered from inconsistent development in an ever-changing environment. In fact, the only thing that hasn't changed in Buffalo recently is the last time they made the playoffs. He isn't known for his arm strength, but Edwards is an intelligent guy, and given Reid's ability to turn a QB's fortunes, it makes for a nice off-season project for the Birds.

Again though, he just spent a year out of football. Cool, the team brought somebody in to compete, but let's not go guaranteeing Edwards a roster spot. The Eagles will have more options once free agency opens March 13. With his experience in the west coast offense, Jason Campbell could be a fit. Kyle Orton is a seasoned veteran. Hell, it will never happen, but Donovan McNabb would be a compelling choice to play behind Vick if you believe familiarity breeds success, and there's no rush to get something done there.

Of course, the draft isn't off the table, either.

So then why sign Edwards now? Well, it doesn't hurt to snag him early. They beat other potential suitors to the punch. Insurance in case they can't land the guy they want later. Then, finally, there is the simplest explanation, that being he is here to compete with Mike Kafka for a job... but which one?

2. MIKE KAFKA
It's far too early to say for certain, but Edwards's arrival might be an ominous sign for Kafka.

At first, the competition sounds innocent enough, a journeyman pushing the inexperienced prospect for his promotion, a battle which the incumbent is (hopefully) projected to win. Throw another candidate into the picture, one of the name free agents, or a relatively high draft pick, and suddenly you're not talking about Kafka playing for the back-up role. Instead, he's fighting for a roster spot.

If Edwards didn't preclude the Eagles from finding another QB, the RG3 interview may have only confirmed the suspicion they would like to. In his case, that's more an indictment of Vick than anybody else. After all, they aren't trading up in the first round of draft to add depth.

Speaking more broadly though, any other quarterback the team brings in going forward without subtracting another could signal the coaches have measured a ceiling for Kafka. A Campbell/Orton-type signing suggests they aren't quite comfortable with him at number two. Entering year three, maybe they never will. A selection made over the first couple days of the draft indicates they don't think Kafka will ever take over the reigns.

The latter doesn't have to reflect poorly on Kafka, either. Fourth-rounders often have their limits, and all the coaching up in the world can't make stars out of them all. Having seen him attempt 16 whole passes in meaningful football games, we really have no clue about his progress to this point.

Just saying, you can judge a lot by the movement of the front office. If they stop at adding Edwards, Mike Kafka may have some type of future in the NFL. If virtually anybody else you recognize is brought in, it's fair to speculate it might not work out for Kafka, at least not in Philadelphia.

1. MICHAEL VICK
Are the Eagles already feeling buyer's remorse over their deal with Vick?

We still don't expect management to make a sales pitch to Peyton Manning once the Colts finally release him from his contract, or search for any direct replacement for Vick in 2012 for that matter. His base salary of $12.5 million for this season is fully guaranteed, and for better or worse, Vick remains the best chance the club has of making a run this year.

Apparently, beyond 2012 is another story.

When it was first revealed the Eagles had interviewed Griffin, we took it with a grain of salt, chalking it up to management doing their due diligence. RG3 is the consensus second-highest rated QB in the draft behind Andrew Luck, and with the Rams interested in moving out of the second overall pick, there is a better than 50% shot somebody would want to trade into their spot. The Browns at four and Redskins at six are in prime position to leap up a few spots. The Birds select 15th.

Is it possible for them to get as high as two? Yeah, it's possible. It's also very, very expensive. Initial estimates have the Eagles giving up this year's first, second, and third rounders, as well as a first in 2013. Whoa.

Yet even given the outrageous cost, the front office has themselves in a position to at least hold the conversation. As of right now,
they already own an additional second-round pick this year, as well as a second fourth, and could receive more decent choices if they part with Asante Samuel and/or DeSean Jackson in a trade. The firepower is there, with the only hang-up being whether St. Louis would want to move all the way back to 15 if one of the other teams has a similar offer on the table.

Meanwhile, Vick isn't getting any younger. He'll be 32 once the season starts, he hasn't been able to stay healthy, and last season, he did not show signs of growing into the quarterback who could dissect defenses with his mind as easily as he can with his left arm and his legs. What's more, the vast majority of the guaranteed money on the "six-year, $100 million contract" he signed in August will have been paid, so the Eagles could be free as soon as next season if they feel inclined.

But RG3 to Philly? It's fun to think about, however, open to scrutiny. Can they claim they are going for broke this season, then trade half their draft and mortgage the future for a quarterback who won't play this year? Well, when you scan their roster, their only glaring hole is at linebacker, and they would still have free agency and a pick or two to address that need. Does having a young QB to develop buy Andy Reid even more time if they falter again in 2013? Not sure about that one, but he's not the only man in the world who can groom a star passer.

Then there is always the hint Mike Vick is gonna turn things around. Even after a poor season, the Eagles were 7-4 last season in games he started and finished -- 7-3 if you remove the game against the Cardinals where he dealt with broken ribs. His health will always be of some concern, but behind an improving offensive line, if he can make his reads just a little bit faster, throw a few more balls away, and get down or out of bounds before taking so many big hits, who knows, maybe he could survive for a full year, and play at a Pro-Bowl level once more.

Yet after much deliberation, we must concede there is a legitimate interest for the Eagles' part, even if it's bolstered by secondary reasoning. Maybe they don't wish to tip their hand on another free agent or rookie QB, or they are just trying to drive up the cost for the Redskins, engaged in a cunning plot to bury Washington at the bottom of the division by having them send a never-ending array of high draft picks away for single players at a time. But ultimately, how could they not be interested in Griffin?

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

Phillies look to 'keep grinding' after latest rough loss to Rockies

BOX SCORE

The Phillies have scored just two runs in 13 innings against a pair of rookie starting pitchers and the eventual outcome has been two losses to the Colorado Rockies the last couple of nights. The latest was an 8-2 setback on Tuesday night (see Instant Replay). That followed an 8-1 loss on Monday night.

What's happening right now at Citizens Bank Park is ugly. The Phillies are in the midst of a freefall that has seen them lose 19 of their last 23 games. They have been outscored 134-91 over that span.

Now, before we completely lose perspective here, the Phillies remain a building team and they were not expected to contend this season. But they weren't supposed to be this bad, either, and right now they are embarrassingly bad at 15-28.

John Middleton, the team's fiery managing partner, watched several innings of Tuesday night's debacle sitting beside Andy MacPhail in the club president's box. Oh, to have been a fly on that wall. Middleton is committed to a patient rebuild from the ground up, but he's also a man who has made it no secret that he likes to win a little. The show that the Phillies are putting on out on the field these days can't sit well with him. Surely it's not sitting well with the fans. Tuesday night's attendance was just 17,109, the lowest of the season, and many in that group headed home after Gerardo Parra's sixth-inning homer gave the Rockies an 8-1 lead.

"We're just in a big rut right now," manager Pete Mackanin said.

Shortstop Freddy Galvis added that he couldn't remember going through anything this bad.

"We have to keep grinding," he said. "Keep grinding, man. It's pretty tough right now."

Tuesday night's loss offered a tale of two young pitchers. Zach Eflin, the Phillies' 23-year-old right-hander and a veteran of just 18 big-league starts, was hit hard. Meanwhile, German Marquez, the Rockies' 22-year-old rookie, was impressive. He held the Phillies to one run over six innings. He twice faced bases-loaded jams and gave up just one run when he walked a batter.

On Monday night, the Phils were held to one run over seven innings by another rookie, Jeff Hoffman.

Rookie pitchers are often good medicine for struggling teams.

"That's the way I look at it," Mackanin said. "Unfortunately it hasn't happened.

"I know we're better than this. I think the team knows they're better than this. I can't fault the hustle. Someone might say there's no energy. Well, when you don't get any hits, there's no energy."

The Phillies have scored just three runs in the last three games.

The scarcity of runs gives the pitching very little room for error. But in this game, Eflin simply did not keep it close. He gave up 10 hits and eight runs over six innings of work. Phillies killer Charlie Blackmon torched Eflin for a pair of two-run homers and Parra got him for a solo shot.

"A poor outing," Mackanin said of Eflin's work. "He couldn't locate. The ball was up in the zone. He's struggling to keep the ball down.

"When he struck out Blackmon in the first inning, it was a two-seamer with great movement, I thought we're in for a good outing here. But then he couldn't keep the ball down. You have to pitch down or you're going to get hurt."

Eflin has given up 21 hits and 15 runs in his last two starts.

"It's frustrating, but it happens. It's baseball," he said. "There are going to be a lot of times in my career where I give up a lot of hits and a lot of runs. But I'm really not worried about it right now. I know that I'm going to continue to work hard and go out every fifth day and, you know, put up a line of winning baseball."

Blackmon has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. He has three multi-homer games in Philadelphia.

"He seems to like hitting here," Eflin said. "But I just have to execute pitches. There's no excuse. I just have to be on top of my game."

Right now, the Phillies are at the bottom of their game.

"We have to stay together as a team and keep fighting, try to get out of what's happening right now," Galvis said. "It's a really tough situation, but we have keep playing hard."

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

NHL Playoffs Senators battle past Penguins to force Game 7

BOX SCORE

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Craig Anderson and the Ottawa Senators bounced back nicely two days after a blowout loss put them on the brink of elimination.

Anderson stopped 45 shots, Mike Hoffman scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period and the Senators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 Tuesday night to force a decisive Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 36-year-old Anderson was coming off a pair of rough outings, including Sunday when he was pulled after yielding four goals in Ottawa's 7-0 loss in Game 5 at Pittsburgh.

"You can't change what happens in the past," said Anderson, who has credited work with a sports psychologist early in his career for helping him manage the mental side of the game. "From that moment on you have to look forward and get ready for the next one."

Hoffman fired a slap shot through traffic off a pass from Fredrik Claesson to put the Senators ahead at 1:34 of the third. Bobby Ryan also scored a rare power-play goal for Ottawa.

It was quite a response after the drubbing in the previous game.

"I think the biggest message for us was if somebody told us back in training camp in September that we'd have an opportunity to win Game 6 in the Eastern Conference final at home in front of our fans we would've taken it," Ryan said. "So let's not dwell, let's not kick ourselves and put our heads down. Let's embrace this opportunity to extend this for two more days together and go from there."

Evgeni Malkin gave Pittsburgh, vying for its second straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final, the lead early in the second period and Matt Murray finished with 28 saves.

"I thought we played a real good game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I thought we dominated zone time. We had lots of chances. We didn't score tonight. The puck didn't go in the net, but if we continue to play the game that way, then I believe we'll get the result."

Game 7 is Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with the winner advancing to face the Nashville Predators for the championship.

Ottawa was primarily looking for a return to structure in Game 6, beginning with a smoother start -- which they got. Notable in a scoreless opening period were two effective penalty kills, one of which saw Viktor Stalberg get the best opportunity short-handed.

Pittsburgh had four shots with the man advantage, but Anderson stopped them all. It was evident early that he had his game back in this one. He stopped Nick Bonino off a rebound in transition, Scott Wilson off a deflected shot by Phil Kessel, and Bonino again when Kyle Turris gave the puck away.

Anderson then stopped 22 of 23 shots in the second period.

"I think Anderson was the reason that they got this one, he played big for them," Murray said. "But in our room we just focus on what we need to do. We played really well, we just didn't get the bounces and weren't able to put one home."

Anderson's performance was a reminder for Senators coach Guy Boucher of why he took the job with Ottawa in the first place last May.

"I'll be honest with you, if I didn't have a No. 1 goalie, I didn't want the job," Boucher said. "I've lived it for quite a few years, and it's hell when you don't have it because everything you do turns to darkness, and there's nothing that really matters when you don't have a real No. 1 goaltender.

"It's like a quarterback in football and a pitcher in baseball, and we have it," Boucher added.

Murray was also sharp. The 22-year-old, who replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after Game 3, made maybe his finest save of the first on Derick Brassard, who found an open lane down the middle of the ice following a pass from Ryan.

The Penguins appeared to have opened the scoring just over three minutes into the second, but Trevor Daley was deemed to have interfered with Anderson following an Ottawa challenge.

Less than two minutes later though, Pittsburgh took the 1-0 lead anyway off a few moments of brilliance from Malkin. The playoff scoring leading (24 points) bounced off a check from Zack Smith behind the goal and after being stopped on his drive to the net, followed up with a nifty backhand rebound to beat Anderson.

It was the 153rd career playoff point in 142 games for Malkin -- three back of Sidney Crosby for second among active players behind Jaromir Jagr -- who had been jarring with Hoffman a few minutes earlier.

The Senators had little going until a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage for 1:24 just past the midway point of the period. The Ottawa power play, which had gone 0 for 29 in the previous 10 games, came through with Ryan ultimately wiring a one-timer short-side to tie the score.

It was the sixth goal and 15th point of the playoffs for Ryan, who is second on the Senators behind captain Erik Karlsson (16 points).