Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Closer Look at Stephen Morris
The winner of the Tim Tebow-Matt Barkley competition turned out to be Stephen Morris.
A day after dealing Barkley to the Cardinals and cutting ties with Tebow, Chip Kelly claimed Morris off the waiver wire from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Morris (6-2, 218) threw for close to 7,900 yards during his four years at the University of Miami, including a team and ACC record-setting 566-yard performance against N.C. State in 2012. He completed 58 percent of his throws as a senior with 21 touchdowns to 12 interceptions for the 9-4 Hurricanes. The 23-year-old was signed by the Jags as an undrafted free agent in 2014 and spent last season on the practice squad.
What does Kelly see in him? Let’s take a look at his most recent outing for hints.
Morris got the start in Jacksonville’s preseason finale against Washington and finished 16-of-25 for 160 yards (6.4 avg.) with a touchdown. A lot of the offense was set-and-fire, which seemed to suit him fairly well.
He showed some athleticism and pretty good good arm strength, as demonstrated below.
The longest gain of the night came early in the second on this 40-yard pitch-and-catch with Tony Washington.
There were some misfires along the way. As his sub-60 percent completion rate in college suggests, the repetitive accuracy isn’t always there. NFL.com‘s pre-draft write-up speaks to this point.
Very good arm strength and athletic ability. Can move around the pocket and buy a second chance. Throws with velocity and can rifle the ball into tight spots. Can drill back-shoulder throws. Can adapt his arm and throwing platform and release it from a variety of angles under duress with ease. Has natural leadership traits.
Average overall size with a relatively thin build. Sporadic accuracy. Sprays the ball and struggles to hit receivers in stride (best with stationary targets). Does not throw his receivers open. Marginal timing, anticipation and rhythm. Struggles to handle pressure and presses to create plays — eyes drop to the rush very quickly and vacates the pocket prematurely. Makes too many head-scratching decisions. Birddogs his primary target and will force the ball. Career 57.7 completion percentage is indicative of accuracy at all layers even with a clean pocket. Makes his receivers consistently work for the ball.
There are some tools to work with but also some obstacles to get around. While it might be a long shot, Kelly clearly wanted a young developmental quarterback on the roster to shape, and decided that Morris was the better option over the two singal-callers he had in camp in Barkley and Tebow.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Eagles announce their practice squad.
Josh takes a look at some of Eric Rowe‘s recent struggles with the help of some film and the defensive back himself.
The team announced its final cuts Saturday.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank applauds Kelly’s work as general manager this offseason.
This is a talented football team, a dangerous football team and in most areas a deep football team.
The whole Chip-as-GM thing was a leap of faith for owner Jeff Lurie. Unprecedented in NFL history for a guy with such little NFL experience to be granted final say over all personnel decisions. But Kelly has such a knack for not only evaluating talent but evaluating whether talent will fit seamlessly into his program that it really does make perfect sense.
In the span of eight months, Kelly has rid the roster of a number of very accomplished players and replaced them with a bunch of guys who are probably just as talented but also truly fit Kelly’s vision of what he wants in a football player on the field, in the locker room and outside the NovaCare Complex.
A lot of coaches would be thrilled to go 10-6 every year and be in the mix. The fact that 10-6 convinced Chip to tear apart his roster and start over should be incredibly encouraging for Eagles fans. He wants it all. Just like you do. And this offseason was a major step in that direction.
Bob Brookover writes about the importance of Cody Parkey rounding back into form.
When you made a list of reasons that the Eagles had the best special teams in the NFL last season, Parkey’s preseason addition belonged at the top…
The thing about kickers, however, is that they are a lot like relief pitchers and golfers. One good season is not always followed by another. Minnesota’s Blair Walsh, for example, hit on 35 of 38 field goals as a rookie in 2012, including 10 of 10 from 50 yards and beyond. Last season, however, he made only 26 of 35 kicks.
Parkey’s preseason, at the very least, provided some cause for concern. Late in his rookie season, the former Auburn star was bothered by a groin injury. Two of his four misses in 2014 came in the season’s penultimate game, a loss at Washington, and his kickoffs also lost some distance late in the year.
Whatever Parkey did in the offseason did not prevent a recurrence of the groin injury in the preseason.
A Happy Labor Day to all. One week away from Eagles football.