After Vick, Eagles' QB situation cloudy

751808.png

After Vick, Eagles' QB situation cloudy

Andy Reid has always valued the No. 2 quarterback position as much as one of the Eagles 22 starting spots.

With the exception of Mike McMahon, Reids backup QBs since he got here have been guys who can start games and actually win games.

A.J. Feeley. Jeff Garcia. Kevin Kolb and then Michael Vick and Kolb again. Even Vince Young, who was terrible last year, at least had a very good pedigree coming in, with two Pro Bowls and a 30-17 career record with the Titans.

So whats the deal now? The Eagles have three quarterbacks behind starter Michael Vick, and Vicks inability to play a full season 2006 is the only year he started 16 games brings a ton of weight to the Eagles backup QB spot.

Reid has said that Mike Kafka, a fourth-round pick in 2010, goes into the offseason as No. 2. Trent Edwards, a one-time Bills starter who spent last year out of football, and rookie third-round pick Nick Foles are also in the mix.

Does one of them really have what it takes to win games in the NFL, like Feeley, Garcia and Kolb?

Kafka has thrown only 19 passes in his NFL career, but the Eagles are very high on him. Hes now entering his third NFL season, and the Eagles believe hes ready to be No. 2.

Kafka's got a lot of tools you look for in a starter, Eagles general manager Roseman said. He's got really good size. He's really smart. He throws with anticipation. He's a good athlete. There's no harder worker in the building. There may be guys tied, including Michael Vick. But he's really got a lot of the traits you look for. Another guy who's not had an off-season here, with us and with our quarterback coaches. We've always been excited about Mike Kafka, we continue to be excited about Mike Kafka.

Kafkas most extensive playing time came in the Eagles loss to the Falcons on a Sunday night in Atlanta Week 2 last year after Vick left the game with a concussion.

With the Falcons leading 35-31 and 4 12 minutes left, Kafka drove the Eagles from their own 9-yard-line to the Atlanta 22, when his perfect fourth-down pass for first-down yardage was dropped by Jeremy Maclin at the Atlanta 16-yard-line. Kafka was 7 for 9 for 72 yards in the game, including a 43-yarder to Maclin.

But its more than that game that has impressed the Eagles brass.

Its a feel, Reid said. You watch his work ethic. The guys a relentless worker. Ill come out of my office at 10 oclock at night, and hell still be in the building doing film study, or Ill get a knock on the door and hell want to come in and talk football. Hes kind of a gym rat that way. He wants to be the best.

You cant argue with the Eagles QB brain trust. Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and QB coach Doug Pederson love taking young quarterbacks with some ability, breaking down their technique, and then re-teaching them the position from the ground up.

The idea is, if they dont become a starter, the Eagles can trade em for picks. When Vick emerged as the Eagles long-term starter, they traded Kolb for what became Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin. Certainly made it worth drafting Kolb with a secon-round pick.

Reid said Kafka has already made some subtle changes to his technique that should make him more effective moving forward.

Hes done some things with his ball leverage and the cradle, where hes dropped it down a little bit, Reid said. He used to be a real high riser, and hes dropped it down where its nice and comfortable now, and it gives him a little bit more velocity and accuracy.

If the Eagles are so set on Kafka, why draft Foles?

Its an interesting question, and Reids answer is a simple one.

We just liked him, he said. We liked him in that position. Former Packers GM Ron Wolf taught me this a long time ago: You like one, better get him. Sort it out later.

Reid admits the Eagles didnt really need another quarterback, but he just likes stocking up. Even though he admits its kind of a risky move.

I think it's such an important position, you want to throw darts at the position with guys you feel good about, he said. I use this loosely, because I don't think it's a blind dart, but if you're in the third round, and the hit rate in the third round is 25 percent, and then you have a quarterback ... that you feel has a chance to be a starter, and that may be a 10 percent chance. Isn't it worth taking a more important position with a guy you feel good about at a priority position than it is taking another position?

We don't go into a lot of drafts feeling there's five or six guys we really want on this team. There's usually just a handful of guys. When you have a guy like that you feel good about, it's worth taking a shot, no matter who you have at the position. We've had success with that. Because we've had so much success in getting guys in here and getting them performing to their abilities, and either keeping them here or developing them and them going somewhere else, for us it's a risk we're probably going to continue to take, no matter who's on our depth chart.

So Vick is the starter, Kafkas No. 2, and Foles is a rookie third-round pick and isnt going anywhere. What does this mean for Edwards?

Consider him insurance. Hes started 33 NFL games, and Kafka and Foles havent started any. Most likely, barring an injury or regression from Kafka, Edwards will eventually be the odd man out.

But Roseman wouldnt even rule out keeping all four QBs. Which would be unusual but not unprecedented.

We would have no problem carrying a deep set at a position, if we felt that's where our strength was, and go lighter somewhere else, he said.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to lose in 2016-17?

052816-provorov-webbestvideo3_1920x1080_694956611777.jpg

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to lose in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to lose in 2016-17?

Dougherty
What Shayne Gostisbehere accomplished in his rookie season was unforgettable. He set Flyers records, broke some NHL rookie records and finished with 17 goals in 64 games.

The list can go on and on. He can become the first Flyer to win the Calder Trophy when the NHL Awards are announced on June 22. We all want to see what "Ghost" can do as an encore.

But now Gostisbehere has expectations. Lofty expectations — fair or not.

Gostisbehere will be expected to quarterback the power play, a job he excelled at this season and wrangled away from Mark Streit, whose injury paved the way for his call-up.

In addition, Gostisbehere will be asked to produce offensively and consistently as well as continue to hone his defensive game, which still has areas that needs improvement.

Seventeen goals will be difficult to duplicate and we should not hold him to — or expect — that number again in his sophomore season. We should all temper our expectations.

But the reason I believe Gostisbehere has the most to lose in 2016-17 is because he's very much still a growing product. There will be growing pains and should he hit those next season, how will he bounce back from it? Defensemen generally develop at a slower pace than forwards, and for Gostisbehere to enjoy so much success in Year 1, how will he react to a step backward in 2016-17? It's a weighted response and one that's geared more toward the long-term, but to me, Gostisbehere has the most to lose next season.

Hall
I believe Matt Read will be back next season.
 
After all, he’s under contract through the 2017-18 campaign.
 
But his leash will be as short as it’s even been. At 30 years old, he’ll be fighting just to dress. And when he gets playing time, he’ll have to do enough to show he deserves it over other candidates, many of which will be young, spry and hungry for jobs.
 
Read said he learned a lot last season.
 
Will he make adjustments and carve out a role in Dave Hakstol’s system?
 
Next season, we’ll get an answer.
 
If he doesn’t, his time in Philadelphia could quickly dissolve.
 
And who knows what that would mean for his NHL career.

Paone
Want to talk about having something to lose? How about possibly losing a job, which is a very real possibility for Scott Laughton next season.

The young forward, who will turn 22 on Monday, posted seven goals and 14 assists in a career-high 71 games this season. But much more telling was the fact he found himself in the press box as a healthy scratch down the stretch, as Dave Hakstol felt there were better options as the team completed its improbable run to the playoffs. And that came after he was moved from his natural center position to the wing for the first time since he represented Canada in the world junior tournament.

His inconsistency has come a pretty bad time because as more and more talented prospects come through the system, roster spots with the big club become more and more precious. Laughton will need to have a very good summer and training camp to earn his spot again. The forward prospects will push him during camp, which could be a good thing. But even if Laughton makes the Flyers out of camp when the season starts, the leash could still be short. 

Ron Hextall makes no bones about how he prefers to hold on to young talent and let it develop. But we could be at the point where the Flyers want to see Laughton take the next step. And it could be a much different story if you replace young talent with young talent.

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews, injury concern, leading rusher

pederson-kelly.jpg

Eagles mailbag: Jordan Matthews, injury concern, leading rusher

Another day, another mailbag. 

I hope you're enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend. If you're reading this on the beach or at a BBQ, well done. 

Yesterday, I answered the first round of your questions about Doug Pederson, Brandon Spikes and the possibility of adding another running back. 

Today, I'll answer some more: 

At times, Jordan Matthews will still be in the slot this season. But he won't be there all the time. 

In Doug Pederson's offense, the receivers will move around quite a bit, which means we'll see Matthews lining up out wide on both sides and in the slot. He has the ability to do both. Either way, he's going to be on the field. He's clearly the Eagles' best receiver and they're not going to take him off the field. 

I think there's a good chance we'll see some Josh Huff in the slot this year, which would make a ton of sense to me. Huff is at his best when he gets the ball in his hands and can make something happen. He's shifty enough to play in the middle. 

The idea that slot receivers are just small, shifty guys is outdated. It's all about matchups and Pederson won't be afraid to move his receivers around to find the best ones. 

Good question. I'll give you two names. One on offense and one on defense. 

Now, I didn't just pick the best players, I picked the best players with the biggest drop off to their backups. So on offense, it's Jason Peters and on defense it's Jordan Hicks. 

The scary thing: it wouldn't be shocking if either of these two go down in 2016. 

If Peters goes down, the Eagles will be fine at left tackle, because Lane Johnson will shift over. But that means either Dennis Kelly or Halapoulivaati Vaitai will come in. We all know what's happened in the past when Kelly comes in, and Vaitai is just a rookie. Not a ton of great depth at tackle. 

As for Hicks, we saw what happened to the defense when he went out last season. And this year, the team has virtually no depth at linebacker. If Hicks went down, either veteran special teams player Najee Goode or rookie Joe Walker would need to fill in. Yikes. 

I understand it's kind of a cop-out to just pick the top running back on the depth chart, but that's what I'm doing. I know Ryan Mathews has a lengthy injury history, but I can't see Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood or Kenjon Barner being the team's leading rusher. 

And when healthy, Mathews was the team's best running back in 2015, going for 539 yards on 106 carries, an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. If he manages to play 12 games this year, I think he'll be the team's leading rusher. 

Today's Lineup: Tommy Joseph, Andres Blanco in to help avoid sweep vs. Cubs

052816-salisbury-post-webbestvideo3_1920x1080_694933571725.jpg

Today's Lineup: Tommy Joseph, Andres Blanco in to help avoid sweep vs. Cubs

Seeking to avoid being swept for the first time since their opening series in Cincinnati, the Phillies on Sunday afternoon will ask Tommy Joseph to provide a much needed spark.

Joseph, 24, sat out Saturday's 4-1 loss to the MLB-best Cubs with Chicago trotting out right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who crafted a five-hit, one-run complete game masterpiece.

It will be Joseph's fifth game against a righty this week, as manager Pete Mackanin's platoon at first base with Ryan Howard seemingly is coming to an end. Joseph will bat fifth.

With the Phillies averaging 3.22 runs per game, second-worst in baseball, and owning a run differential of minus-38, playing Joseph more is one of a few moves Mackanin can make.

Take into account Howard's average dipped to .154 after an 0 for 4, two-strikeout game Saturday, the decision to give Joseph more at-bats makes sense. It has for a while now.

Plus, Joseph has enjoyed success during his time up with the Phillies. The first baseman is hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs. He is, however, hitting just .211 with seven of his 10 strikeouts in 19 at-bats against righties. He'll face a good one in John Lackey (4-2, 3.32) on Sunday.

Mackanin has also decided to start Andres Blanco at second base against Chicago, which has proved to be too much for the Phils through the first two games. Blanco, 32, will bat third against Lackey, who he has never faced in his career. The utility man is hitting .281 with one long ball and eight RBIs in 35 games this season.

In other lineup news, the Cubs will start Villanova product Matt Szczur in left field in the series finale, giving Jorge Soler the day off. During his junior baseball season at 'Nova in 2010, Szczur took time off to donate bone marrow that helped saved a young girl in Ukraine. (Read more on Szczur here from CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury.) Szczur is hitting .375 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 40 at-bats this season with Chicago.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Andres Blanco, 2B
4. Maikel Franco, 3B
5. Tommy Joseph, 1B
6. Cameron Rupp, C
7. Tyler Goeddel, LF
8. Vince Velasquez, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Miguel Montero, C
7. Addison Russell, SS
8. Matt Szczur, LF
9. John Lackey, P

For more on today's game, read Steven Tyding's game notes.