Lunch Break: Bad against the 'Boys
With Michael Vick out Sunday, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley combined for three interceptions and 4.0 yards per attempt on 22-for-49 passing. (USA Today Images)
Chip Kelly doesn’t know who will start the Eagles’ next game. Michael Vick. Nick Foles. Matt Barkley. Perhaps someone else who isn't yet on the roster. The head coach wasn’t sure. Too many variables. Too many unknowns.
“I can’t answer that question because I don’t know if [Vick] can go,” Kelly said after the Eagles abdicated their spot atop the NFC East with an abject 17-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. “I can say ‘yeah, he’s my starter,’ and then find out he can’t play.”
On Monday, Kelly said he didn’t even know who would take the first-team reps this week. That’s a problem.
Here’s another: What if the other two quarterbacks not named Vick can’t play? Forget about this weekend. Forget about the here and now and the usual microscopic focus on the next game. What about all the games to follow? What if Foles and Barkley can’t play in a macro sense? What if the Eagles have two quarterbacks in their early 20s who initially looked solid on the surface but are actually flawed and cracked upon closer inspection? What then?
If you’re the hopeful sort, if you believed that Foles or Barkley or perhaps both would acquit themselves and become the Eagles’ quarterback of the future, Sunday had to shake your faith –- if not kill it completely. Two quarterbacks. Two outings so ugly you were forgiven if you turned away from the whole ineffable mess.
A week ago, there was a long and loud debate in this town about who should be the Eagles' quarterback this season. No one is having that conversation today. If they did, it would be a much shorter, less-heated exchange.
Foles completed just 11 of 29 passes against the Cowboys. That’s a 37.9 percent clip. He managed only 80 passing yards and a 46.2 quarterback rating. In games in which he’s thrown more than one pass, the QB rating was the second worst of his career; a year ago, he had a 40.5 QB rating against the Redskins.
All the things Foles was praised for entering the Dallas game –- the accuracy, the decision making, the ability to throw receivers open and play well in the red zone –- were absent on Sunday. He overthrew Brent Celek and LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown on various plays. He underthrew Jason Avant in the end zone for what should have been an easy touchdown. And he missed DeSean Jackson badly on a 3rd-and-1.
The Foles people might excuse the performance. They might point to the fact that he played well against the Bucs in Tampa and was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week. One good outing followed by one terrible outing. Perhaps his ability is somewhere in between. Perhaps, but the question is whether that ability –- wherever it falls on the quarterback spectrum –- is impressive enough to warrant confidence.
In two years, he has started or seen significant action in 10 NFL games. Three of those have been victories. He has completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,321 yards (6.54 yards per completion), 12 touchdowns, five interceptions, and an 84.7 quarterback rating. Those are the numbers. They are not impressive or unimpressive. They are something closer to average.
Barkley’s sample size is much smaller but no less disconcerting. In his first NFL action, the rookie fourth-round pick connected on only 11 passes to his teammates and three more to opposing players. In fairness, it was a difficult position for Barkley. He was asked to rally his trailing team and mount a come-from-behind victory against a division rival in order to keep the Eagles atop the NFC East. That is complicated stuff –- like asking a first-year law student to take over as lead counsel at the last moment in an important trial, and without any notes or real preparation.
Barkley’s final numbers against the Cowboys: 55 percent completions, 129 passing yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions, 35.2 quarterback rating. Even if you give him a pass for being thrust into an untenable situation, it’s difficult to ignore some of the throws he made -- or, rather, didn’t. He stared down receivers on several plays and generally made those interceptions pretty easy for the Cowboys. If Barkley was more aggressive than he normally would have been in an attempt to snap the Eagles out of their funk, his approach and execution were still questionable.
Foles and Barkley looked so lost against the Cowboys that they should have had maps strapped to their wrists instead of one of those handy, laminated mini-play charts quarterbacks sometimes wear for reference purposes. Foles and Barkley represent two-thirds of the Eagles' signal callers. The other third, while talented, will be 34 this year, has a lengthy injury history, and is in the final year of his contract.
That’s the situation. The Eagles have three quarterbacks today. But are you even the least bit confident that they have one for tomorrow?