Have We Seen Enough of the Eagles’ QB Competition? And More Observations

Have We Seen Enough of the Eagles’ QB Competition? And More Observations

At this point you probably should be resigned to the inevitable. Barring injury or a dramatic reversal of fortune, Michael Vick will be named the Eagles’ starting quarterback sometime between now and September 9.

It’s not that Nick Foles has been bad by any means. The 24 year old moved the offense quite capably. It’s just, well… he’s made a mistake or two, whereas Vick has not yet.

Vick has struggled to throw so much as an incomplete pass for that matter. The four-time Pro Bowler’s line through two preseason games: 13 for 15, 199 yards – better than 13 per attempt – one touchdown. He’s run twice for 20 yards. Perhaps most important of all, Vick has only been sacked once, and his lone turnover came on an interception off a Hail Mary as the game clock expired.

Foles has been sharp, too, completing 78.6% of his passes while leading a pair of scoring drives. He’s turned the ball over twice though, at least one of which was almost entirely his own fault. Not saying it’s fair – Foles had just 31 preseason snaps to prove himself. That’s simply what happened.

On the other hand, that’s why there isn’t really any reason to wave off the competition yet, either. Vick has been on the field for all of 30 snaps himself, and while it’s been a quality 30 snaps, they’re not enough to totally convince anybody he’s heading for a second Comeback Player of the Year award, are they?

Vick deserves the start in preseason game three in Jacksonville on Saturday. He probably deserves a majority of the reps, too. That said, there really isn’t any reason for Chip Kelly to formally name him the starting quarterback for Week 1 in Washington. Based on what, half a game’s work?

I don’t expect anything to change in terms of who will be under center, but Foles could still use the reps – we’ve seen Vick get hot, get hurt before. The extra series or two a 10-year veteran will lose isn’t going to get him any more ready for the regular season, whereas it can actually help a second-year quarterback a great deal. And history suggests he may need it.

Let’s see this through to the end, even if it might be a bit of a farce coming down the home stretch. And then let’s get on to the regular season already.

RISING FALLING

LeSean McCoy

Eight carries for 47 yards (5.9 per carry), plus he punched one in at the goal line. Three catches, 16 yards. Beyond solid in pass protection. Oh, and there was his 21 scamper where it seemed as if he was running around the field looking for Panthers defenders to juke. He's going to be real fun to watch, folks.

Chris Polk

Did some things well. Is willing in protection. Contributes on special teams. Finished with five carries for 24 yards, much better than Week 1. However, that fumble lost is killer, took 3-7 points off the board for the Eagles. Bryce Brown has had issues with this in the past, and he didn’t even play, so it won’t necessarily cost Polk playing time, but enough to get him the “falling” column here.

Jason Avant

Shows chemistry with the quarterback regardless who is under center. What he lacks in pure athleticism he still makes up for in timing and intelligence. Made one mistake in illegally blocking downfield, but just a brain fart. Came back on the next play and got most of the yards back. Finished with four catches for 42 yards on four targets, giving him seven for 84 this preseason. Doesn’t look like his role will diminish any.

Jason Kelce

Arguably has been their most solid lineman. Evan Mathis looked a little rusty against Carolina, and Todd Herremans had something of an up-and-down night versus the Patriots. Allen Barbre seems to be getting some help while filling in over at left tackle, and naturally looks better in this OL-friendly offense. Lane Johnson has impressed, but is a rookie. Kelce has looked natural and strong in both phases, and hasn’t missed any game snaps – big positives coming off last season’s knee injury.

Zach Ertz

Nice improvement over a week ago. Had two catches for 36 yards, both to convert third downs. Had another big catch that was wiped away by a penalty. Saw him make one nice block on a wide receiver screen, driving his man past the sticks. All came against a second-string defense, still positive all the same.

Greg Salas

Has garnered some attention as a possible candidate to fill the fifth receiver spot on the roster. Caught two balls for 27 against Carolina. Also sort of forced a muffed punt as he was engaged with the blocker who disrupted the returner’s effort to field the kick.  Now has five receptions for 81 and a TD, and some circus catches in practice.

Matt Tobin

I suppose when you’re the backup to the left tackle’s backup (and that guy [Allen Barbre] probably wouldn’t start before the Eagles moved Lane Johnson there, Todd Herremans to right tackle, and played somebody else at guard), there’s no need to say too much. Didn’t keep Dennis Dixon’s blindside clean, nearly resulting in a turnover. Not very promising in general.

MIXED REVIEWS

Nick Foles

Bobbled two shotgun snaps against Carolina – one he kept his poise and converted a third down, the other he wound up throwing an interception. Made a dangerous-looking fake lateral on a zone keeper. Appeared to make the wrong read on one of those packaged plays, handing off with a loaded box. Just hasn’t had the big plays Vick has. Eagles are probably fine if he winds up starting, but has not made the most of opportunities so far.

Russell Shepard

Has made more plays on special teams than Salas. Ran right through a “wedge” to blow up a kickoff return around the 10-yard line. Is usually in position to force the issue with the punt returner. Has shown no ability as a wide receiver though. Went untargeted last week, and has just one catch for four yards overall. Special teams are important, but I don’t know if they’re that important.

Michael Bamiro

His second week was better than the first. Got out and made a couple of nice blocks on runs to help seal the deal over the Panthers as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter. Did get beat in pass protection once where he couldn’t recover, but the QB got the ball out. Has a lot of work to do, which is to be expected from a rookie who only went pro about a week before training camp. Improvement from one week to the next is a good sign though.

NFL Notes Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

NFL Notes Rams' All-Pro Aaron Donald skips OTAs amid contract talks

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. -- All-Pro defensive lineman Aaron Donald has skipped the Los Angeles Rams' first day of organized team activities while he negotiates a long-term contract extension with the club.

Rams general manager Les Snead says the team knew Donald wouldn't be at their training complex Monday.

Snead acknowledged Donald's absence is because of their contract negotiations, which are reaching "the serious part." The GM is confident Donald will be a long-term fixture on the Rams' line.

The Rams exercised their fifth-year option for 2018 on Donald last month. He will make nearly $7 million next year. Snead has repeatedly said the Rams plan to sign Donald to a long-term deal.

Donald is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro in his three-year career.

Vikings: Zimmer takes time off after latest eye surgery
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer "in a few weeks." Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

"We all agree Mike's health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term," Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations (see full story).

Jets: Former 2nd-round pick Smith waived
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Wide receiver Devin Smith has been waived from the injury list by the New York Jets.

A second-round draft pick from Ohio State in 2015, Smith rarely saw the field for the Jets. He tore his ACL during the offseason workout program after he appeared in four games last season. He started that season on the physically unable to perform list while rehabbing from another ACL tear suffered in December 2015.

If Smith clears waivers, he would revert to the Jets' injured reserve list.

"It's bad luck and bad timing because the kid worked so hard to get back," coach Todd Bowles said last month during the NFL draft. "He has to persevere and adversity will help him get stronger. But unfortunately in this game, over my course of time playing and coaching, you see these types of things. Some of the best athletes get hurt and don't get a chance to get on the field, and it's just bad timing, bad luck."

The Jets also re-signed wide receiver WR Deshon Foxx on Monday. Foxx originally signed with the Jets in January and was waived May 9. The Connecticut product first signed with Seattle 2015 after going undrafted and was waived/injured with a hamstring injury that August.

Buccaneers: TE Howard signs rookie deal
TAMPA, Fla. -- Tight end O.J. Howard has signed his rookie contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Howard, who was the 19th overall pick in last month's NFL draft, signed a four-year deal on Monday that includes a team option for a fifth season. He is the first of Tampa Bay's six draft picks to sign.

Howard, who is 6-foot-6 and 251 pounds, was a third-team Associated Press All-America selection last season. He started 12 of Alabama's 14 games last season and had 45 receptions for 595 yards and three touchdowns.

The drafting of Howard and signing DeSean Jackson in free agency should give Jameis Winston more options in Tampa Bay's passing game.

The Buccaneers also announced that defensive end Jacquies Smith has signed his restricted free agent tender.

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Duke's Jayson Tatum to the Sixers at No. 3

With the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery behind us, there appears to be a consensus on the first two selections in next month's draft. The Celtics are expected to take Washington guard Markelle Fultz, and it would be a surprise if the Lakers passed on Lonzo Ball.

After that, all bets are off, and the Sixers will have plenty of options at pick No. 3.

A popular choice has been Kansas' Josh Jackson, and with good reason. The 6-foot-8 guard was an All-Big 12 first-team selection in his lone season with the Jayhawks, averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Others have pointed to Kentucky sharpshooter Malik Monk, who would fill an obvious need. Monk consistently has shown the ability to pull up without hesitation. He shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc while averaging 19.8 points per game to lead the Wildcats.

There is a strong case to be made, however, that Duke forward Jayson Tatum will be the most talented player remaining on the board when it is the Sixers' turn to pick. 

As a basketball beat writer for The Duke Chronicle, I had the opportunity to watch Tatum play up close and in-person for much of the season, seeing him at his best and his worst.

A quick rise
After coming to Durham, N.C. as one of the key pieces of the Blue Devils' top-ranked recruiting class, Tatum suffered a left foot sprain during a preseason practice that kept him out of action until early December. 

But even with what appeared to be a breakout performance against then-No. 24 Florida in early December, he struggled to find a rhythm throughout the first half of the season. Tatum shot only 30 percent from three-point range in his first 13 games.

When the Blue Devils were shocked at home by ACC bottom-feeder N.C. State Jan. 23, I was quick to call out the first-year player — he was not cutting it on the defensive end, and offensively, Tatum had yet to prove himself as a consistent shooting threat.

Down the stretch, however, no freshman came on stronger than Tatum. He scored 28 points on 6-of-7 shooting from distance against Virginia in February, averaged 22 points in four ACC tournament wins in March, and notched a double-double in his first career NCAA tournament game.

Whatever questions scouts have about Tatum's potential, he has already shown an ability to develop in a short period of time. Even if Tatum takes time to develop as an NBA player, it probably won't take all that long as the Sixers continue their rebuild.

Cool customer
In a deep ACC, Tatum was one of just two first-year players to earn all-conference honors, picking up a third-team spot in early March. He was also second in ACC Freshman of the Year voting behind N.C. State's Dennis Smith.

Tatum been a consistent performer at the charity stripe — unlike Jackson, who shot just 56.6 percent from the line. He hit on 118 of 139 free-throw attempts (84.9 percent) and has the body to get to the line at will with strong drives to the rim.

Although the Sixers have budding stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, they lack a true end-of-game threat who can score both inside and out. Tatum's improving outside shot combined with a powerful inside game could give the Sixers an option that will stretch opposing defenses.

Defensive concerns
As has been the case with a few recent young Duke prospects (e.g. Brandon Ingram, Jabari Parker), Tatum at times struggled on defense. As Sixers fans know all too well, Jahlil Okafor has the same problem. The former Blue Devil standout led Duke in scoring during his lone collegiate season but wasn't a major factor on defense and has been even worse with the Sixers, ranking 324th of 486 NBA players in defensive win shares last season.

Tatum's numbers suggest he has potential to be a better defender than many might expect. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Tatum had a 3.2 block percentage and a 2.3 steal percentage — an uncommon combination. He helped Duke limit North Carolina's Justin Jackson to only 6-for-22 shooting in an ACC tournament semifinal matchup.

Where Tatum needs to grow is guarding away from the ball. He often found himself losing his man on back cuts and long possessions in the half-court.

With the Sixers, the 6-foot-8 Tatum potentially could be the shortest member of a lineup that would feature the 6-foot-9 Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Simmons at 6-foot-10, and the 7-foot Embiid in the middle. Although he will likely need to improve his quickness, Tatum has the size to overwhelm smaller guards and the strength — weighing in at 205 pounds — to match up with most small forwards in the league.

Tatum vs. Jackson
Tatum and Jackson are comparable players in most respects. The two were right next to one another in the ESPN's Class of 2016 rankings behind Harry Giles and put up nearly identical numbers on the offensive end.

Both are considered top-five picks, but the 19-year-old Tatum is younger by more than a year and has room to grow physically. And unlike Jackson, he does not carry the baggage of a criminal property damage misdemeanor from December.

Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel told 97.5 The Fanatic last week that Tatum is "one of the most talented, most gifted offensive guys" he has ever seen. 

Agreed.