Curious call by Kelly: Brad Smith at QB

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Curious call by Kelly: Brad Smith at QB

Gunn and Mosher recap a huge win for the Eagles

December 2, 2013, 10:00 am
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Lining up as a QB for the first time with the Eagles on the Cardinals' 6-yard line Sunday, Brad Smith took a four-yard loss. (USA Today Images)

In the second quarter of Sunday's win over Arizona, with the game tied at 7, the Eagles faced a 1st-and-goal at the 6 -- and decided to make a change at quarterback.

They put Brad Smith at QB and moved Nick Foles to wide receiver.


Replace one of the hottest QBs in the league with a player who signed less than three weeks ago? In a wildcat formation? 

Oh wait, don't call it a wildcat.

"It was not a wildcat play," head coach Chip Kelly said. "It's just Brad Smith plays quarterback. So let's straighten that out right now. We don't run the wildcat. It's just a play. He played quarterback. Nick played receiver because Brad's really good with the ball in his hands."

Problem was, by the time Smith had the ball in his hands, pass-rusher John Abraham was in his face. Smith never caught the snap. It went right through his hands, hit his chest and fell to the ground. Smith picked it up and was tackled for a four-yard loss.

Now, Smith has played quarterback on a regular basis -- in college. He was a QB at Missouri, but in the NFL the eighth-year veteran has completed 4 of 9 passes for 51 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He hasn't completed a pass since 2010 and he's attempted one pass in each of the last two seasons.

So wildcat or not, Smith was much more apt to run it than throw it. The Eagles signed him ostensibly to help as a kick returner, and on Sunday he returned his first kickoff with the team 31 yards.

Seeing him line up at QB -- in a tie game with playoff implications no less -- was stunning. If Kelly wanted a mobile QB in for a play, Michael Vick was the obvious choice. Vick on Sunday was active for the first time in a month; he had been inactive the last three weeks after aggravating his hamstring injury.

But Kelly preferred to use Smith.

"Brad has practiced more than Mike," Kelly said. "So we're just trying to get everybody back in. Mike's first week back at practice was this week."

To be fair, Smith has a unique skill set. He entered the game with 949 career yards receiving, 970 rushing and 2,746 on kickoff returns. He's the only player in league history to throw for a touchdown, catch a touchdown, rush for a touchdown, return a kickoff for a touchdown and score a touchdown on a blocked punt.

"You can run a couple different plays with Brad than you can run with some other guys," Kelly said. "He's pretty diverse. ... And I think he's different than anybody because if you do put him back there, a lot of times when people put a running back back there, there's not a threat of a pass, but Brad can throw the football, too."

Now he just has to catch it first.