Are the Eagles set with backup quarterbacks?

Are the Eagles set with backup quarterbacks?
May 14, 2014, 3:00 pm
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Mark Sanchez (left) did not play this past season. Matt Barkley had four interceptions and no touchdowns in limited action. (USA Today Images)

They're set. That's the story the Eagles are telling. But will they tell the same tale in September when the season starts and the games count?

The Eagles went 10-6 last season. They won the NFC East. They came awfully close to winning a playoff game. They raised expectations, too. Bovada has the Eagles installed at 22/1 to win the 2015 Super Bowl. Eight teams have better odds, five of which are in the NFC. The Eagles aren’t at the top of the list, but they’re close.

That has everything to do with Chip Kelly’s go-go-gadget offense, which set team records in 2013 for points, yards and touchdowns. As NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock put it, the Eagles are a “Super Bowl offense.” Provided, that is, key personnel stay healthy. Which brings us to the quarterbacks and the depth at that position and how comfortable the Eagles are or should be with the current crop of signal callers.

Given the chance to fully embrace the guy who once broke his heart, Kelly and the Eagles passed on Johnny Manziel in the first round in favor of drafting a pass rusher. Afterward, Kelly was asked about the decision. He called Manziel “a dynamic quarterback,” but he also lauded the guys he’s currently coaching.

“I think we have a very, very good quarterback situation, not only with Nick [Foles], but you add Mark Sanchez in, Matt Barkley, we think quarterback is a strength for us right now,” Kelly said.

It’s hard to fault his confidence in Foles. In 16 career starts, Foles has thrown for 4,590 yards, 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 63 percent of his passes. That’s a good way to keep an organization from drafting another quarterback. Foles is also affordable. He’ll make $635,000 in 2014. If he plays well again, he’ll be in line for a fat new contract. If not, the Eagles will be able to consider other options without already being locked into a long-term deal with him.

It seems pretty clear that the Eagles are committed to Foles for at least the upcoming campaign. Their faith in Foles makes sense. Their faith in those who follow Foles is harder to fathom.

If Foles goes down at any point for any length of time -- and go ahead and knock whatever wood is in your immediate vicinity -- could Sanchez or Barkley keep them afloat or might the backups sink whatever hopes they have?

Sanchez started 62 games for the Jets and won four playoff outings. He has a 94.3 postseason passer rating, which, remarkably, is ninth-highest in NFL history. But for his career, Sanchez has completed 55.1 percent of his passes while posting a 71.7 quarterback rating. Those are, charitably, average numbers. Sanchez is also coming off a shoulder injury that required surgery and kept him from playing a single regular season game a year ago. He was also the unfortunate author of an infamous fumble -- which, depending on your perspective, might have been less troubling than a certain phase he went through. At present, he figures to be Foles' immediate backup.

“I’ve said many times that we will always look to add quality players at the quarterback position," Kelly said after the Eagles added Sanchez. “We consider it a key position in this game, so having the chance to add Mark to that group was a no-brainer for us.”

The no-brainer part was interesting. In 2012, the last time Sanchez played close to a full season, he completed just 54.3 percent of his passes for 2,883 yards, 13 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. His 66.9 QB rating was 31st in the NFL. Only one other starting quarterback, Matt Cassel, was worse. Any list that puts your player in close proximity to Cassel is a bad list.

As for Barkley, he saw limited action in 2013. His debut wasn’t good, though in his defense he was forced into a difficult situation. In three games last season, Barkley completed 30 of 49 passes for 300 yards, no touchdowns, four interceptions and 44.6 quarterback rating. If you’re giving him a grade, he gets an incomplete. No one can be sure what he can or can’t do -- which doesn’t make the idea of him possibly playing next year any more comforting.

According to Kelly, the Eagles didn’t take a quarterback in the draft because it didn’t “look like it was a quarterback draft.” They like the guys they have. They like them in May -- which doesn’t matter nearly as much as liking them in the fall.

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