Vick Leaves Early (Again), Foles Plays the Hero (Again) But Has the Depth Chart Changed?

Vick Leaves Early (Again), Foles Plays the Hero (Again) But Has the Depth Chart Changed?

In many ways, Monday night's preseason football game was eerily similar to the one the Eagles played against the Steelers a week and a half ago -- only this was far, far worse. With any and all of their relevant starters on the bench, the New England Patriots somehow jumped out to an 11-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Eagles defense had trouble getting off the field, and Michael Vick once again was hurt early with an apparent injury to his ribs, the same type of injury that caused him to miss games in each of the past two seasons.
But hey, don't sweat it. Rookie/savior Nick Foles entered the game in his place and proceeded to lead three touchdown drives, in the process helping the Birds to a 27-17 victory. Things are totally all right. In fact, we can probably just forget about Foles making a play as the number two quarterback. Andy Reid should name him the starter effective immediately. /eye roll
Although Foles' faster-than-anticipated ascendency is saving what would otherwise be a torturous preseason to date—and we the football-starved people appreciate that—it comes with a few grains of salt. 
To begin, while Foles' was again impressive last night, his first couple of scoring drives were aided by a pair of turnovers. Fellow rookie Brandon Boykin forced a fumble working as a gunner on the punt coverage team, flying up the sideline and landing a shot on the returner as the ball arrived. From there, the Eagles were able to go 24 yards on three runs for the score. A couple plays later, a Philip Hunt strip-sack gave the Birds the ball on New England's 12, setting up Foles for a two-play march and TD pass. Great news for folks interested in seeing how the offense looked near the goal line. 
Later, with most of the Eagles' first stringers still in the game, Foles led an eight-play, 80 yard scoring drive against the Patriots' third string defense to open the third quarter. Take that, Vick!
Don't get me wrong, like anybody else, I am impressed with the rookie quarterback. His performances have been fun to watch during what has been an otherwise vastly disappointing preseason. He's shown a ton of poise and promise, especially in extended action following Vick's injury on Monday night. (Yes, Vick is supposedly okay... again… but more testing will be done.) So far, the Arizona product is 24/36 for 361 yards, four touchdowns, and one pick.
That said, we probably all need a friendly reminder that Foles' accomplishments have come when he has staring solely down the barrel of second- and third-string defenses during a time of year when opponents aren't exactly throwing the types of fastballs that typically make young quarterbacks flinch. For a third-round pick, it's fair to say Foles has exceeded expectations at this early juncture in his career, and if he winds up being the starter in Cleveland this Friday for exhibition number three, he may just have a shot at slipping into the primary backup spot behind Vick with another strong outing.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves though. Mike Kafka's last preseason was not so bad either -- granted not quite this good – but he is quickly being written off amidst the combination of an injury and the guy behind him on the depth chart playing better than expected. Kafka seemingly demonstrated he was a gamer last summer, going 34/49 for 368 yards (7.5 Avg) with two touchdowns and two picks in 2011, good for a passer rating of 87.8. He also very nearly led the Eagles to a comeback victory in Atlanta in Week 2 of the regular season, which holds considerably more weight than what either he or Foles has done in the preseason.
Obviously Foles has greater upside, and that's why the Eagles drafted him. But, he's a rookie, and not one being immediately groomed to start. This is year three for Kafka, and while nobody will confuse him as the QB of the future, as long as he gets healthy, I'm not so sure he isn't still the backup if Vick got hurt in... let's say Week 1. That's what Kafka's been groomed for since his arrival in Philadelphia, and as long as we're basing one's ability on preseason action, let's not forget he too has succeeded to some degree on that level, plus he's had considerably more time in the offense.
None of which is to say the job isn't up for grabs, and that Foles couldn't or shouldn't be the first name called if Vick continues to get bitten by the injury bug. We just don't know yet. Of course, there's also very little to compare Foles against in these two exhibitions -- just nine passes from Kafka, several of which apparently were after sustaining the injury that would ultimately keep him out of the Pats game. Missing snaps due to injury certainly isn't an excuse that will keep the backup role warm for Kafka, but for now, if we're being realistic, I feel it's best to view Foles' success to date with tempered enthusiasm. If we're just looking for some enjoyment in the preseason, by all means, Foles has been a major bright spot, and that's even more encouraging in the long term. So have at it. 
The competition for backup QB is probably still up for grabs though, and the depth chart will be heavily influenced by Kafka's health between now and the start of the season, rather than just Foles' success against vanilla and/or second/third string defenses.
As for Vick, he needs to be smarter or this discussion becomes a lot more than a wait-and-see pondering. With one of Vick's bigger question marks being his ability to stay on the field, he's done little to inspire confidence in the few preseason snaps he's taken. On the play during which he was injured in game 2, Evan Mathis did not hear Jason Kelce change the blocking assignments at the line, resulting in a free rusher with a direct line at the quarterback. Rather than scramble out of the pocket and throw it away -- or hell, this is preseason, just spike it for an intentional grounding -- Vick turned back toward the pass rush to heave a pass downfield, exposing himself to a huge hit to his ribs. Obviously much of the blame rests on the offensive line here, but sometimes the QB also needs to know when to wave to white flag.
We'll have a more detailed review of the game later.
(Photos by Mark L. Baer, US Presswire)

Instant Replay: Rockies 8, Phillies 2

Instant Replay: Rockies 8, Phillies 2

BOX SCORE

The Colorado Rockies laid the wood to the Phillies again Tuesday night. The Rockies hit three home runs en route to an 8-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. The Rockies beat the Phillies, 8-1, on Monday night.

The Phillies have lost four in a row, eight of their last nine and 19 of their last 23 to fall to 15-28.

Two games into this four-game series, the Phillies have been held to just two runs in 13 innings against a pair of rookie Colorado starting pitchers.

Starting pitching report
Zach Eflin had his second straight poor outing. He was tagged for 10 hits and eight runs in six innings. He gave up three home runs.

Eflin has given up 21 hits and 15 runs in his last two starts.

The Rockies got another good start from a rookie. This time it was German Marquez, who held the Phillies to a run over six innings. Rookie Jeff Hoffman held the Phillies to a run over seven innings in the series opener on Monday night.

Bullpen report
Mark Leiter Jr. stopped the bleeding with two scoreless innings.

The Rockies' bullpen has given up just one run in five innings in the series.

At the plate
The Phillies scored their first run on a bases-loaded walk in the third inning. Andrew Knapp homered in the ninth to make it a six-run game.

Rockies leadoff man Charlie Blackmon hit a pair of two-run homers against Eflin. He leads the majors with 62 hits. Blackmon has seven home runs in his last five games at Citizens Bank Park. He hit five in a three-game series last season.

Gerardo Parra also homered for the Rockies, who have the best record in the National League at 30-17.

Transactions
The Phillies placed outfielder Daniel Nava on the 10-day disabled list with a slight hamstring strain. He is expected to return sometime next week. The team opted for an extra bullpen arm and recalled reliever Adam Morgan from Triple A to take Nava's roster spot.

Health check
Howie Kendrick took outdoor batting practice Tuesday for the first time since suffering an abdominal strain on April 15. He could head out on minor-league rehab later this week and be ready to return sometime next week. Kendrick can play corner infield and corner outfield, so he could take away at-bats from Maikel Franco and Michael Saunders if they don't get going. Both were benched Tuesday night (see story).

Up next
The series continues Wednesday night. Jeremy Hellickson (5-1, 3.44) will pitch against Colorado right-hander Tyler Chatwood (3-6. 5.09).

More WRs, more buzz, but Jordan Matthews unfazed with Eagles

More WRs, more buzz, but Jordan Matthews unfazed with Eagles

After leading the Eagles in passing targets for the past two seasons, Jordan Matthews suddenly became an afterthought when the club signed Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in free agency. There's even speculation Matthews might be available in a trade if a solid offer comes along.

The Eagles' investments at the wide receiver position this offseason would certainly appear to put Matthews' future with the team in question. In addition to Jeffery and Smith, Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson were brought aboard in the draft, all as Matthews enters the final year of his rookie contract.

None of which seems to concern Matthews, who described the trade rumors as "fake news" on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex, where Phase 3 of Eagles OTAs was underway.

"I don't care about any of that stuff," Matthews said. "I feel like it's the NFL, if you think about it, everybody has a price. Those talks, they happen, so it really doesn't faze me."

To be clear, there has been very little noise to suggest the Eagles were at any point actively shopping Matthews or the fourth-year veteran is on the trade block. A reporter merely stated a belief the Eagles would be open to moving Matthews in the right deal. It was enough to get people talking, and once Jeffery and Smith signed days later, the rumors weren't going away.

Matthews' contract situation has a lot do with the reaction. Apart from all the new faces in the receivers room, this offseason was the first he was eligible to sign a contract extension.

There is absolutely nothing to report on that front. Instead, the Eagles directed funds toward Jeffery and Smith — who are viewed by some as his potential replacements.

"I haven't really talked to anybody about that," Matthews said. "I really don't focus on that too much, to be honest.

"I think you all know me by now. That's not really what fuels me, so it's like one of the last things I actually really think about. Whatever is going to happen is going to end up happening, so I just try to come out here and play hard and do what I need to do for my team."

Matthews turns 25 in July and has impressive numbers for the Eagles, recording 225 receptions for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. Only six players in NFL history amassed more in all three categories their first three seasons.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Matthews will reprise his role as the Eagles' primary slot receiver in 2017, downplaying the possibility of a reduced role. Pederson also noted Matthews' tight bond with quarterback Carson Wentz.

Pederson also declined to make mention of Matthews' standing with the club beyond '17, nor is it really this coach's place to say.

"Jordan has been a big part of this offense, and he is still a big part of this offense," Pederson said on Tuesday. "He's got a great relationship and a great rapport with Carson, and Carson feels very comfortable with him."

Despite trade rumors, his contract situation and the simple fact the Eagles brought in a bunch of players who would gladly take his targets and his job, Matthews remains positive. In fact, he sees Jeffery and Smith making life easier for the rest of the offense.

"I'm glad, to be honest," Matthews said. "I'm glad to have Torrey, glad to have Alshon, the rookies.

"Obviously, having more guys on the field that have that type of production over a long period of time, they're going to garner attention. That's going to help me get free."

Matthews is coming off of his worst season, posting 73 receptions for 804 yards and three touchdowns. Much of his problems seemed to stem from the lack of options in the passing attack, particularly at receiver, allowing defenses to hone in on Matthews.

Furthermore, Matthews was plagued by an ankle injury for much of the season, from which he is still recovering.

"Still getting there," Matthews said. "An ankle messes up the whole chain. It's not like an upper-body extremity injury. When you're dealing with an ankle, there's a lot more stuff that you have to continue to get right from the back down."

Despite the increasing competition at the Eagles' receiver position, Matthews doesn't sound very worried about his ankle, either. Like trade rumors and concerns about his contract, that too will pass in time.

"We've got a lot of time," Matthews said. "I know I'll be good when it's time to roll."