Ray's Replies: Will Eagles keep Dixon & Foles?

Ray's Replies: Will Eagles keep Dixon & Foles?
February 19, 2013, 10:00 am
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Q. You were the first one I heard mention the possibility of the Eagles acquiring Dennis Dixon. You said it the day the Eagles hired Chip Kelly. But you never said whether you thought it was a good idea. So I’m asking: Dennis Dixon, good idea?

-Brian T.
Haddonfield, N.J.

A. I think it makes sense, that’s why I mentioned it when Kelly was hired. I felt Kelly would pursue either Dixon or Darron Thomas, the quarterbacks who ran his offense at Oregon. Dixon was on Baltimore’s practice squad and Thomas was playing in the CFL with Calgary. He opted for Dixon. I’m fine with that.

When Steve Spurrier went to Washington, he brought in two of his Florida quarterbacks, Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel, to run the offense. It didn’t work out too well, but I understand the thinking. If a coach plans to introduce a new offense, it helps to have a quarterback who has run it before. Even if he isn’t the starter, he can help the other QBs learn the basics.

In taking the Eagles job, Kelly said he wasn’t committed to the option and would tailor his offense to the talent on the roster, but Jeff Lurie didn’t hire Kelly to be a conventional pocket passing coach. Lurie sees the league moving toward the option offense and that’s why he wanted Kelly. So while Kelly may tweak a thing or two, he is going to do pretty much what he did at Oregon.

That’s why Mike Vick is coming back and Nick Foles probably won’t. The Eagles denied reports that they were shopping Foles but that’s to be expected. If they say, "Yes, we want to trade Foles, he doesn’t fit here anymore," then his value goes down.

The Eagles' decision to work out what amounts to a one-year deal with Vick tells you what Kelly wants to do. He wants to run his offense and thinks he has a better chance with Vick. For all the nice things Kelly has said about Foles, he knows Foles can’t run the option. I expect Foles to be on another team when next season starts.

That leaves the Eagles with Vick and what else? Trent Edwards? Not likely. So Dixon is a viable option. He is 28 with five seasons in the NFL as a backup with Pittsburgh and Baltimore. He hasn’t played much (two regular season starts) so he will be rusty, but he is coming back to an offensive system that he knows very well, which can only help.

Dixon is 6-3 and 200 pounds and while he doesn’t have the speed of Robert Griffin III, he can run the option well enough to keep a defense honest. He set an Oregon record for most rushing yards by a quarterback when he ran for 141 yards versus Houston in 2007. He had 368 yards of total offense the next week against Michigan, so he has the skill set and experience to execute Kelly’s offense.

In college, Dixon's drawbacks were in the passing game. He got rid of the ball quickly, but he was not a particularly accurate passer. He didn’t throw the ball with touch. Even on short throws, he drilled the ball. He made receivers work for every catch. I will say this: Dixon improved as a passer in his final year under Kelly. Maybe he can improve some more by reuniting with Kelly here.

My guess is the Eagles quarterbacks next season will be Vick as the starter, Dixon as the backup who plays in certain option packages and is on standby in case Vick goes down, and a rookie who is drafted this year to be the developmental quarterback, possibly E.J. Manuel of Florida State.  

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