The curious case of Nick Foles and the Eagles backup quarterback conundrum

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Since the drafting of Carson Wentz, there hasn’t really been a lot of talk surrounding the Eagles quarterback position…or at least at the top of the depth chart. After a last-minute trade sent Sam Bradford to Minnesota, the future of the Franchise was given to Carson Wentz to man. The NDSU star would go on to attempt the most passes of any rookie quarterback in the history of the league and reaffirm all of Howie Roseman’s gambles to move up the ladder and snatch the prized quarterback second overall.

Wentz entered the perfect environment to develop. Both Head Coach Doug Pederson and Offensive Coordinator Frank Reich were successful NFL quarterbacks, while John DeFilippo was a former collegiate signal-caller who helped groom one of the league’s most exciting young arms in Derek Carr. His backup was of course none other than Chase Daniel. A veteran who had spent the last few seasons helping Alex Smith in the film-room, presenting a lot of familiarity to Pederson’s Offense and experience sitting behind the likes of the Canton-destined Drew Brees. The storm had finally

Once the offseason arrived however the skies grew murky once again. Daniel was of the opinion he could start in the NFL, taking his talents back to New Orleans and reuniting with Drew Brees in the hopes of one day claiming his inheritance. The Eagles needed to replace their guru quarterback and had the perfect man for the job.

Pederson turned to Nick Foles. The former Eagles QB is known mostly for his stunning 27-2 TD/INT season under Chip Kelly, but has proven to be a competent starter, earning a 20-36 record overall. Pederson was infatuated with Foles prior to the year in which he was drafted and played a large role bringing him to Philadelphia. The duo reunited in Kansas City making their fit in Philadelphia this season nearly perfect.

But then OTA’s rolled around. They say that the best kind of ability is availability…and it’s something that Foles, who signed a 2-year deal worth $11M, has’t shown so far. Foles missed two weeks of the spring workout period due to the arrival of his new Child and was expected to be raring to go for Training Camp.

When Camp arrived, Foles did too, but in a somewhat limited capacity. Missing most of what’s been a vital period with elbow soreness, in the few practices Foles has taken to the NovaCare Complex, reports haven’t exactly painted him in a glowing light. The backup quarterback is also yet to see any preseason time and even though he returned to practice against the Dolphins for a joint practice, he missed the very next one along with their preseason game on Thursday.

“he got a little sore during the week [during practice] with the Dolphins.” Doug Pederson told the media after the Eagles narrow win. “He had a lot of throws because he missed so much time early in camp, and then coming back, he got more throws [and] more intense throws against the Dolphins [in practice]. It just got a little sore on him, so I just didn’t want to push him. Again, the more rest that you can get on that elbow, the better. I’m confident with Nick having coached him in the past and [with him] being a veteran quarterback and understanding our system. The rest will definitely help him.”

It’s not an immediate concern. Carson Wentz played in all but six snaps last season and showed his durability and toughness both physically and mentally as he smashed through the rookie wall. But when disaster strikes as it often can in the NFL, who’s the next man up? Chase Daniel was a veteran with some league experience and although he’s hardly Tom Brady, he at least bought plenty of scheme experience and a full body of offseason work with the team.

Foles hasn’t had time to gel with any of his receivers, be that the first team or practice squad candidates and while I’m no Doctor, missing what’s become approximately three weeks of work due to a sore elbow must mean that there’s something either relatively substantial going on, or slightly cryptic.

The last time Nick Foles took to an NFL field was on November 6th in a Chiefs win over the Jaguars. Since then, he’s been extremely limited as the end of the season was right around the corner and the few opportunities Foles has had to gel with his new team and ready himself on the sidelines, he’s been absent for.

Now we can all look at Jay Cutler, a man who was preparing for a TV role before coming out of retirement for one last shot with the Miami Dolphins, reuniting with Adam Gase, and give the same response he did. The position Cutler and Foles play doesn’t require peak physical condition (although it certainly helps) so while all reps are important, it’s not the end of the world.

But in a scenario where the Eagles can’t rely on a backup quarterback (which defeats the premise of having one), the team enter a sticky situation. The Matt McGloin show has been anything but a thrill-ride. The stats in preseason show McGloin’s consistency…but they don’t show his unwillingness to throw downfield, scrappy throws into the flat or errant passes over the middle. The former Oakland Raider has a spot here, that’s unquestioned. He had a role to play along with his current QB coach in developing Derek Carr, but is that role a backup quarterback? Could the Eagles turn to McGloin in a week 17 clash with Dallas with a playoff berth on the line in the third quarter? If the answer is “Not a chance”, then that’s where the problem lies.

It seems strange that the Eagles would need a contingency plan for a contingency plan, but the team haven’t exactly given Dane Evans a chance to prove himself. Pederson has been on record as wanting to marinate a third string QB to one day take over the backup role behind Wentz, but despite flashing in preseason, the reps for the former Tulsa QB have been limited while Matt McGloin has attempted more passes than I’ve had cups of tea this week…and I’m British.

The Nick Foles saga is as much of a problem as the Eagles deem it to be, nothing more, nothing less. But if the team to ride off into the regular season with just Nick Foles sat behind Carson Wentz and lightning does strike, then all of a sudden Howie Roseman is accountable for not one, but two very expensive backup blunders. However if the Eagles carry a third quarterback who would then drive a potential player of need or more usage out of a roster spot, could that be justified if Wentz stays healthy all season?

It all comes down to contingency plans. If the Eagles feel safe in the knowledge that Nick Foles is ready to roll when week one rolls around, then no more needs to be said about the issue…but if they’re not, they need to forget accountability worries and salary cap concerns and ensure it’s rectified…quickly.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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