With the Eagles off today and very little going on, now feels like a good time to reflect back 0n the start of training camp to take a closer look at where things stand in regard to camp battles, player progression, and other story lines that have unfolded in the last few days. Camp is still young, but much has unfolded in a short period of time. The players have — for better or worse — begun to distinguish themselves, and the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2015 outlook is beginning to take shape. Here, we will take a look at how the Eagles’ QB situation has developed in the early-goings.
No position group has been more heavily scrutinized than the quarterbacks, and through the start of TC there has been a lot of discussion in regard to the competition within the group.
Though Chip Kelly insisted that a fair QB competition would be held between Sam Bradford and Mark Sanchez, in the early stages of camp it has been anything but equitable. In what has been an unsurprising development, Bradford has taken the vast majority of first team reps, and by all accounts, he has outperformed Sanchez.
There are a lot of factors at work here, one being that the staff wants Bradford to run away with the job.
After extensively studying Bradford during the offseason, Chip Kelly determined him to be by far the best available option to lead his offense. Bradford ran an up-tempo, spread attack at Oklahoma, and possesses many of the characteristics that Kelly values in his QB archetype. Given the limited options, Bradford was easily the most compelling, and Kelly made that clear when he gave up a fairly significant package to obtain him.
Pat Shurmur has long been a proponent of Bradford’s, often times mentioning him unprompted during media sessions, and heaping praise on his former — now current — quarterback. Under Shurmur, Bradford won offensive rookie of the year honors, despite a complete lack of support on both sides of the ball.
The organization now has what is a fairly comprehensive file on Mark Sanchez: They monitored his progress last offseason, watched him play in 8 regular season games, and now, have seen how he has progressed heading into his second training camp. The fact of the matter is, Sanchez has likely reached his peak in the Eagles’ offense. Bradford, on the other hand, has outshone Sanchez despite his inexperience and lack of familiarity with the playbook, terminology, and Eagles teammates. Sanchez is much more deeply integrated into the offense at this point, yet Bradford still looks more impressive. This is a testament to Bradford’s superiority from a pure talent standpoint, and gives a glimpse of Bradford’s upside.
The staff wants to give Bradford more reps than Sanchez. Not doing so would be a disservice to the team and Bradford himself. Bradford is behind the eight-ball at this point, and allocating valuable repetitions to a QB who has very limited upside as a starter (Sanchez), would further stunt Bradford’s growth and development. Maybe the Kelly will give Sanchez more starters reps once Bradford becomes further acclimated to the offense, however, that would likely only be to create the illusion of an equitable competition, and not to give Sanchez a legitimate shot to start.
Beyond the starter’s “competition,” is the battle for the third QB slot.
Although Sanchez has virtually no shot at winning the starting gig, he is perhaps the best backup QB in the league, so he is a mortal lock for the #2 job. The #3 job will come down to Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley, both of whom have been predictably uneven in their training camp performances to this point.
This competition, and the criteria for the #3 QB is a bit more ambiguous than it might seem. The organization has communicated mixed signals when discussing the outlook of the position, and to this point, Barkley and Tebow have failed to significantly distinguish themselves from one another.
On one hand, According to Jimmy Kempski of phillyvoice.com, Matt Barkley has been on the trade market for some time — and for a what appears to be a very low asking price, no less — so the indication here is that the organization considers him to be very expendable.
Barkley’s training camp performance has been anything but consistent. From what I can gather, he has had his moments, and at times looks the best he has in an Eagles uniform, however, the prevailing opinion is that he is still a very limited passer overall.
Tebow, meanwhile, hasn’t faired much better, and made a number of embarrassing miscues during yesterday’s training session. Still, Tebow appears to have improved his mechanics — albeit only slightly — and has been a little bit better throwing the football overall since working with QB guru Tom House in the offseason. Then, there’s always Tebow’s added appeal as a runner, and perhaps even as a 2-point/situational weapon.
The early returns suggest that Tebow is in the lead, however, a comment Kelly recently made regarding positional congruency has thrown a bit of shade on the notion that Tebow is currently ahead of Barkley. When asked to define the positional prototypes that he and Ed Marynowitz look for, Kelly had this to say:
"“I think some people just grasp at straws when all of a sudden you have a 6’6″, 250-pound quarterback backed up by a 5’10”, 175-pound kid that’s a run-around guy. I think you’re trying to get people that fit into your system, and that’s why you have height and weight and speed parameters that fit your system.”"
Now this is hardly a definitive indicator as to how Kelly will construct his stable of passers, but it does raise several questions:
Will Kelly want to adjust his offense to Tebow’s skill set? Would he be more comfortable with a player like Barkley who is more similar to Bradford and Sanchez in terms of being a more traditional passer?
These are both loaded questions.
Back in 2013, Kelly had no problem adjusting his offense to accommodate the contrasting skill sets of Michael Vick and Nick Foles. That being said, this isn’t 2013 where Kelly had to be more flexible in pandering to the players he had been given. Now, Kelly jettisons players who don’t fit what he is trying to do. Kelly has been more rigid in defining his position-specific criteria since seizing managerial control, and has no reason to bend to anyone’s will but his own.
That being said, kelly loves versatility, and when compared to his counterpart Barkley, Tebow offers versatility in spades.
Another thing to consider is this; If Bradford and Sanchez miss significant time and the Eagles have to turn to Barkley or Tebow, they’re screwed anyway. With that in mind, keeping the player who could possibly contribute in other ways (Tebow), would be the more prudent measure.
Then again, perhaps I’m over analyzing the situation. But there’s no doubt that there are conflicting principles at work here.
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