One of the most intriguing camp battles so far has been at the quarterback position for the Philadelphia Eagles. Michael Vick and Nick Foles, who both had very similar numbers last season, are jockeying for for the starting gig for Chip Kelly’s new high-tempo, read option offense.
So far in camp, Vick and Foles have been going back and forth with regards to who has actually shown more flashes of taking the lead, with Vick, the more experienced of the two, appearing to have the edge in camp over the past week, according to reports.
However, based off the last night’s preseason game, we may be back to square one.
Chip Kelly announced that Vick would be starting the game and would likely get a series or two, which was the same for Foles. From the onset, Vick looked crisp, still displaying the terrific arm strength that made him a number one draft pick 12 years ago. He had a beautiful throw to bust the seam on his first past for a 22-yard first down to Jason Avant. Afterwards, he threw a gorgeous 47 yard bomb to DeSean Jackson for a touchdown. Vick’s arm is so strong, it simply looks like he flicks the ball with his wrist and the ball gets there. Credit Jackson for making a wonderful catch in traffic, creating separation and adjusting to the ball on the Patriots best, corner, Aquib Talib. Vick did not have much action after, aside from a nice 19 yard completion to Riley Cooper. Overall, he showed decent awareness in the pocket, using his legs and avoiding the rush. The key will be for that offensive line to keep Vick upright as he becomes a marginal quarterback, as most pivots do, once they are pressured.
Foles later came in and was more methodical but just as effective. He sold the inside zone run well and got the ball out quickly to his open receivers and running backs with quick strikes and checkdowns. Although his mobility is not as prevalent as Vick’s, he was able to scamper for a first down with a 10 yard run, showing decent speed and quickness.
Foles has a solid release and gets the ball out quickly, which is absolutely key in this fast paced offense and boy was it fast paced. Roughly 7 seconds went off the play clock, before a new play was ran on each set, which meant few to no substitution packages and more importantly, the defense was not able to scheme and put the personnel packages they wanted. Foles ran the offense well, driving the team down the field quickly, for an eventual Bryce Brown touchdown. That drive was 11 plays, spanning 66 yards, yet only remove three minutes and 24 seconds off the clock. Overall, it was great management of the offense and a good first appearance from Foles.
What do we take out of that first game from Vick and Foles? Honestly, not much. Both quarterbacks looked sharped and showed command of this new offense. Reports stated that Kelly was going to be very coy with the offense that he was going deploy during the first preseason game. Obviously there will be added wrinkles to the offense and we may eventually see that inside zone play (the base inside run play for the running back in a shotgun offense), transition to a read option. If that happens, obviously, Vick is best suited to run such an offense, as he possesses by far the most mobility of the quarterbacks on the team. One underrated aspect from what I saw from the inside zone handoff to the running back, is the quarterback who rolls out and runs after the handoff, as a way to fake keeping the ball. When Foles was in the game, faking his run to the outside, the defense almost always keyed into the running back and never bit on Foles’ runs, as he should not be a serious candidate to run the read option. Vick on the other hand, when he executed the inside zone handoff to Brown, continued his roll out like he still held the ball, yet the defense at times did key in on his him.
This will be a key factor in my opinion as it will be hard to truly sell the read option aspect if your quarterback is not a real threat to keep the ball.
Of course, Kelly has stated many times that a running quarterback is not prerequisite for this offense, which bodes well for Foles. The former Arizona Wildcat has the type of game that is less prone to turnovers and if the offensive line does not necessarily pan out, you may be better off with the quarterback who handles the blitz best and won’t put the ball on the floor as much as Vick has over the course of the past 3 season (32 fumbles).
Don’t look for Kelly to name a starter anytime soon. This decision will not be based by the media, nor the way the locker room is split, lobbying for one quarterback over another or even having the quarterbacks know right away so they can get more “comfortable” or acclimated The former Oregon coach will evaluate both players in camp and ultimately their play in the preseason and in small spurts such as last nights game, will be the telling factor in who will start.
The week 2 preseason match-up against the Panthers will show much credence as to who has the inside edge on this competition but we’ll look for Foles to start this one with Vick coming for relief afterwards.