After a whirlwind of free agency moves, one of the lesser publicized additions to the Philadelphia Eagles was the hiring of new quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave. Former quarterback coach Bill Lazor left this offseason to become the Miami Dolphins new offensive coordinator. Musgrave came from the Minnesota Vikings after serving as their offensive coordinator the past three years. Prior to that he had spent time as the quarterbacks coach for Oakland, Carolina, Jacksonville, Washington, and Atlanta.
Musgrave has experienced some profound success early in his career as a quarterbacks coach. He has coached two pro bowl quarterbacks in both the Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan in 2010 and the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Steve Beuerlein in 1999. He was able to get the most out of a rookie in the Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder in 2011 when he led the league in red zone passer rating. He aided Washington Redskins’ quarterback Mark Brunell with a career-best 23 touchdowns in 2005 as he led the Redskins to a playoff berth. Musgrave has sustained remarkable success with quarterbacks in a variety of systems over the course of his coaching career.
Musgrave will be instrumental in the development of the Philadelphia Eagles’ pro bowl quarterback Nick Foles and how he progresses in the upcoming season. While it may be difficult to find a way to improve in his touchdown/interception ratio of 27/2, he can find other areas of his game to work on. Foles had a great feel for coverages he was comfortable throwing into, but problems arose when defenses took away his primary receivers. Consequently, Foles took some unnecessary sacks just to avoid throwing possible interceptions. Musgrave can help improve this aspect of his game by finding ways for him to utilize his checkdowns. The Eagles have a great screen game with their athletic offensive linemen, but Foles can learn to use running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles this year as outlets for when his receivers cannot gain separation.
The Eagles were near the middle of the pack in red zone touchdown-scoring as they ranked 13th in 2013. This is definitely an area where Musgrave’s prior experiences can be exploited as Philadelphia can improve on these opportunities. The Eagles had the 6th most red zone trips, so capitalizing on these trips against an improved NFC East and a difficult schedule is a necessity if they hope to return to the playoffs. Musgrave was able to use Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph on his way to nine touchdowns in 2012, something that Eagles tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz should be able to reproduce in their own manner. Musgrave needs to work with Foles to help him find the soft spots in the shortened field when he’s in the red zone. Taking unnecessary sacks led to some closer scoring games than what were needed. This resulted in the Eagles settling for field goal attempts instead of having the ability to punch it in for the score.
Musgrave will also have the opportunity to work with the duo of former USC quarterbacks in Matt Barkley and Mark Sanchez. Foles has yet to complete a full season as the starting quarterback, so making sure the depth chart behind him is capable of filling in is essential. Barkley was thrown into unfavorable situations in the limited time he had behind center last year. His play was less than reassuring, and the signing of former first-round pick Mark Sanchez for a reasonable price makes sense by the Eagles front office. Musgrave will have his work cut out for him as he begins the development of Barkley and works on both his footwork and his ability to read NFL defenses. Sanchez is a unique situation where he has experienced success in the league, but needs help in his decision making and limiting his turnovers. Sanchez’s lack of accuracy is also alarming as he’s never completed more than 57% of his passes in a season. Coach Musgrave has proven in the past that he has the means to develop each of these quarterbacks but will certainly have his work cut out for him in 2014 as he hopes to improve different aspects of each of the Eagles quarterbacks.