Chip Kelly regularly held quarterback competitions during his time at Oregon. He did the same in his first year on the job in Philadelphia. Kelly was asked if that process is no longer needed considering Nick Foles established himself with a monster 2013 season.
“No, there’s always competition, and I think you can ask Nick that, too,” said Kelly. “I think everybody kind of feeds off of that, and they understand that. And then if you also have a guy that’s not competing to be the starter with Nick, then what if Nick gets hurt and then all of a sudden the other guy goes, ‘Oh, my God, I’m not ready to play because I thought Nick was going to be the guy.’ It’s a cliché, but you are a chin strap away from playing in this league and when your opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of that.”
A chin strap away. That’s one of the more frequently-used Chipisms, as Kelly often talks about the need to have two good quarterbacks on your roster in the NFL. One of the significant questions facing the Eagles this offseason is whether Matt Barkley can be the man to push Foles in camp, and step in capably if the situation arises.
The early returns on the Eagles’ 2013 draft class are encouraging. Lane Johnson, Zach Ertz, Bennie Logan and Earl Wolff all contributed in their rookie seasons. That’s four of the top five picks that made an impact in their first year. The one selection missing from that group is Barkley. The fourth-round pick out of USC got tossed into a couple tough spots this season and struggled, throwing four picks on just 49 pass attempts (Foles, in contrast, had two interceptions on 317 regular-season attempts.)
"I don't think it was that drastic of a change but little things here and there that you're used to in college, being able to lead guys and fit balls into windows, they're just different now," said Barkley of the transition to the pro game. "The little bit of experience I got helped but obviously you want more than that so you come back with a normal offseason this year with your team and get ready to learn and progress even more."
Barkley is very much looking forward to this "normal offseason" where he can focus on his craft rather than getting ready for the "meat-picking combine that we had last year." The 23-year-old wasn't even able to participate in that combine because of a lingering shoulder injury. He later admitted that the shoulder affected him this spring and summer as he tried to keep pace with Foles and Michael Vick. He couldn't.
Vick is hoping to land a starting job elsewhere, meaning the No. 2 slot may very well be up for grabs. Barkley, now at full health and better versed in Kelly's offense, is the early favorite for the role.
"Matt was awesome, and that's the other guy, I think, I'm excited to get a full offseason with Matt in here to really get a chance to work with him because I think he's got a skill set that's exciting when you see him, how the ball comes out of his hands, the decisions that he makes, and that's part of this whole deal," said Kelly.
"I think you can never have enough quarterbacks. I've said that no matter where I was. In this league, we were fortunate that we had two this year, and that was a huge benefit to us that we had two, and we'll continue to always look at quarterbacks, and I think anybody that's any good in this league always does that."
Backup quarterbacks are like insurance policies: you never know how valuable they are until you need them. That's why Kelly likes to get two ready by having his quarterbacks go head-to-head in camp.
"One of the things we do here is we compete and we have a bunch of guys that compete," said Kelly. "Obviously you've got to have one guy. Right now, Nick is that one guy, but I don't think Nick has ever been afraid of competition. He showed me that the first time we had that."
"I hope that's the case every year," said Barkley of the prospects of an open competition. "It always keeps you on your toes and never lets you get complacent."
WHAT YOU MISSED
Just how different will the wide receiver corps look in 2014? Kapadia and I debate.
Will the Eagles make a splash in free agency? Sheil takes a look.
Keyshawn Johnson changes his grade for Kelly.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
President Don Smolenski told the Inquirer that the Eagles may make a bid to host a Super Bowl if all goes well Sunday.
“If it goes well, that’s definitely a possibility,” Smolenski said when asked if the Eagles would try to bring the Super Bowl to Philadelphia.
“We’re very proud of Lincoln Financial Field. We do think it’s a great facility, and we think over the years that’s been evident. It would be a sense of pride. Philadelphia is a world-class city with world-class facilities, and it’s a great sports town. It would be a chance to showcase Philadelphia on an international stage.”
Andrew Kulp of the 700 Level takes a look at a couple free-agent QBs who could be signed for a reserve role.
Ideally, it would be somebody with upside, but those types of player are lacking. San Francisco’s Colt McCoy is one of the few available under 30 with any pedigree to speak of. A third-round pick by the Browns in 2010, McCoy has never been given much of a chance in the NFL.
The Eagles could be in a position to take a flyer on disgraced quarterback Josh Freeman as well. The ‘09 first-round pick was cut by Tampa Bay mid-season in a messy divorce and quickly scooped up by the Vikings to no success. But if Philadelphia was able to rejuvenate Vick’s career, why not Freeman’s?
Our offseason outlook series continues as we put a spotlight on the safety position.