It is only the second week of the NFL preseason, but already there are a number of things that are becoming clear about what we might be able to expect from the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2012 season.
Michael Vick's Injury Question Marks
With an injury to Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters, questions on how the defense will rebound from 2011 and the expectations of Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, there are a lot of questions this team still has to answer. Not the least of these being the question of who will be the No. 2 QB on the depth chart.
As just two preseason weeks have served to remind Philadelphia Eagles fans everywhere, Vick is a quarterback who could, and likely will, deal with durability issues. Because of his style of offense, his lack of protection and his reluctance to ever give up on a play even if it means sacrificing his own body, Vick has only played a full 16-game season once, and that was with the Atlanta Falcons.
During his time with the Eagles, Vick has suffered concussions, rib injuries and more. He has missed significant time, and as a result, the Eagles have struggled when he is not under center.
Once again, Vick is giving the Eagles reason to panic when it comes to his injuries. In the first preseason game, he suffered a minor hand injury and only played in about two or three series.
At the time, it was viewed as just a precaution when Vick was removed from the game. There was really no reason to think much of it because after all, it is the preseason and Vick likely wouldn't have played much longer than a few series regardless.
Coming into the second game, Vick felt healthy and ready to go. In a game that coach Andy Reid decided would be the Eagles' dress rehearsal, Vick and the rest of the starters were expected to go deep into the game playing at least until halftime.
In his first series Vick looked fine but struggled to hit Jackson on a pass. The Eagles were forced to punt the ball away. The next series, however, is when it got dicey. Vick scrambled as no wide receivers were open.
In the backfield, he avoided a sack and then threw the ball over the middle. The pass fell incomplete, and Vick, too, found himself on the ground after a huge hit by the New England Patriots linebacker Jermaine Cunningham.
Eventually, Reid was forced to call a timeout as Vick was taken off the field. He walked off under his own power, but was still forced to leave the game. He was taken to get X-rays and did not return.
Watching Vick leave the field had Eagles fans collectively holding their breath because it doesn't take an expert to know that if Vick is hurt, the Eagles are in trouble. Without Vick, this is not a Super Bowl-caliber team; it isn't even really a playoff team. Philadelphia needs him if it hopes to live up to the lofty expectations that have many fans claiming once and for all: "Super Bowl or bust."
Luckily, it was revealed that Vick's X-rays came back negative. He may not play anymore in the preseason, but if it is in fact just bruising, Vick could be ready to go by the Eagles' opener against the Cleveland Browns.
Even if Vick does play in the season opener, these two preseason injuries coupled with Vick's injury history have to have the Eagles considering the possibility he won't be starting every game. For this reason, the team is really going to need a good backup quarterback in place.
Who Should Be the No. 2 on the Depth Chart?
More than it might have been before, it seems these preseason games are really going to serve as an audition process for who gets this job.
Before the season began, the Eagles' depth chart listed Vick as the first-string QB, and then third-year player out of Northwestern Mike Kafka second. But Kafka suffered a hand injury in the Eagles' first game against the Steelers and is expected to miss the rest of the preseason.
In the offseason, the Eagles made the decision to part with Vince Young and instead go with former Buffalo Bills QB Trent Edwards.
Even with Kafka's injury, Edwards is a long shot to make the team. He had a solid showing in the first preseason game, but it was as the fourth quarterback, something Edwards is likely to be when cuts have the team just carrying three signal-callers. Essentially, barring some miracle, Edwards will be the odd man out.
Then, there's Nick Foles, the 88th overall pick out of the University of Arizona.
The rookie quarterback is an interesting case. He fell in the draft because it was believed he was too big to be an NFL quarterback. He also was not really considered a good QB when it came to movement in the pocket.
That being said, Reid took a chance on Foles nonetheless, mostly for his uncanny ability to find and hit open receivers. He has a good arm. He showed it at Arizona, and so far in this NFL preseason, he has shown it as well.
Foles, who has been practicing with the third-team offense since training camp began, got his chance after Vick and Kafka left due to injuries. With most of the first-string offense out of the game, Foles quietly had a solid performance.
While everyone was watching the stat lines of expected rookie starters Robert Griffin III in Washington, Ryan Tannehill in Miami and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis, Foles put together a performance that was right on par with these guys. He threw two touchdown passes and went 6-of-10 with 144 yards. He had no turnovers and helped the Eagles set up the game-winning field goal drive late in the fourth.
Not much was made of this because Foles is not going to be the starting QB for the Eagles and because it was against the third-string offense of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, Foles performed well and with Kafka's injury, he was bumped up to the second QB on the depth chart.
Enter Nick Foles
So given his promotion, Foles got a week to work with the second-string offense. He saw snaps against a little bit of a tougher defensive scheme and got to practice with some of the better backups the Eagles have.
Just like in the first game of the preseason, Foles, once again, got his chance when Vick, again, went down with an injury. He wasn't expected to come in until at least the third quarter, but instead, he found himself on the field early in the first, getting a real opportunity to play with the team that will be on the field during the 2012 season.
For Foles, this was like his Super Bowl. It was his chance to prove why he should stay as the backup even when Kafka returns healthy. He had his opportunities to throw to DeSean Jackson and to play against the Patriots defense.
Now again, because of New England's preseason schedule, Foles didn't face competition from all of the Patriots' starters. Notably, defensive star Vince Wilfork was out of the lineup. Still, this was Foles' most competitive start and likely his best chance to prove to the Eagles brass that it was right in drafting him.
Foles once again had a great night as he stepped in for Vick. He played up until the end of the fourth quarter and went 18-of-28 with two touchdowns, one interception and 217 yards. He certainly impressed as he dissected the Patriots defense with both the first- and second-team offense.
He executed a variety of different offensive plays and showed a skill set that you don't often find in a rookie quarterback in just his second preseason game.
The youngest of the Eagles' QBs, Foles has been a hard worker throughout the preseason as Reid himself has noted.
I think what you look at with any rookie is, are they getting better every day? He seems to be doing that, and is more comfortable. We’ve got a load of plays in for him and he’s able to recite those properly. Now it is just making sure he’s got everybody down and that comes with reps but I would tell you we knew he was smart coming in and he hasn’t disappointed us in that area. He’s a pretty sharp kid, very diligent, works hard, and all of those things.— courtesy of Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com
He has responded to everything Reid has asked of him and has a great work ethic. As it showed in the second preseason game, he is also incredibly resilient.
After Foles threw an interception on a bad read to end the second quarter, he came back in the third much improved. He began the third by leading the Eagles on a very nice touchdown drive mixing in a balance of short-yardage plays and intelligent decisions. It looked as if he learned from his interception and immediately came on to the field ready to make up for it.
For Foles, someone who most believe could amount to be a diamond in the rough for Philly and Reid, it is evident that he has a great skill set, and he has a coach and offensive coordinator who believe in him.
He has showed it in training camp and once again showed it in the preseason game. At this point, it would be surprising if Foles doesn't get more time with the first-team offense because right now, he has to be the guy the Eagles should focus on as the backup to Vick.
He is young and still has a lot to learn, but with what he has shown so far, there is no reason to believe that Foles can't be a reliable backup to Vick, and potentially even a solid starter if Vick does down with an injury.