Kelly’s Quarterback Competition Is Underway

There was one sequence during Chip Kelly‘s blindingly fast practice Monday where all five quarterbacks dropped back at once. Five receivers running five different routes down the same stretch of field. Music blaring in the background.  Five QBs side-by-side. Five snaps, five reads, five throws. Five balls darting through the air simultaneously.

As Kelly promised, there were plenty of reps to go around as OTAs got underway at the NovaCare Complex. That’s what happens when you are moving non-stop for two straight hours. Players rotating in and out. One play rolling right on top of the other. Enough throws to tire out multiple arms.

Still, there needs to be order amid the controlled chaos, even in what the head coach has termed a wide-open quarterback competition. When  individual drills gave way to team exercises, it was Michael Vick that was typically the first signal-caller in, followed by Nick Foles and then Matt Barkley. Foles got a healthy amount of work with the first team, though, and Kelly made the case afterwards that the reps with the ones were virtually split between Vick and Foles.

“Count them up. Someone charted them, I would imagine,” said Kelly. “[Vick] and Nick switched to different groups, so that’s what we did…I mean, it could have been 48/52. but we’ll count them up.”

Foles said that as far as he knows, a starting quarterback may not be named until we are on the doorstep of Week 1.

“Hey, with Chip, anything is possible,” he said.

The read option was certainly on display Monday, whether it was Vick, Foles, Barkley, Dennis Dixon or G.J. Kinne running the show. As you might imagine, Vick and Dixon looked the most at home on these plays.

“It’s part of our offense. It’s what we do,” said Vick of the option element. “You might see it, you might not. But it looked pretty good.”

But picking a QB cannot be tied to mobility alone. That is all the clearer after watching this offense up close. The system demands quick decision making. You are rushing to the line, getting the play off, making a read and releasing the ball. Being able to process the information quickly and execute consistently is paramount.

“That’s what your measured on — your consistency,” said Vick. “That’s one thing Coach Kelly stressed to us — how consistent can you be, day in and day out?”

For  Barkley, this has to be a lot to process. He said that he is accustomed to high-energy, music-filled practices, which perhaps helps with the learning curve. But he is charged with the task of mastering this supersonic offense on the fly while adapting to a new environment. For Day 1, he seemed to hold his own.

“I’m getting it. It’s a new language but that’s what you practice for and you study for,” said Barkley. “I’ll get it.”

Barkley believes he can get onto the field this season. Vick considers this his team. Foles is gunning for the starting job. Right now there are enough balls to go around. But eventually, someone will pull away from the pack.

“It’s up to Chip. We don’t worry about it,” said Foles. “Every day we’re here working. I think we have a great quarterback room, a great quarterback coach [in Bill Lazor] and we’re all working together to push each other to be better players. Whoever ends up being the quarterback of this team, the other guys are going to cheer him on.

“Each guy on this roster wants to start, but you’ve got to go to work, and it’s up to the coaches.”

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