The biggest roster decision Chip Kelly will make in his first season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles is at the quarterback position. The question is, who will he ultimately choose to run his offense?
Naturally, the first question to ask is what kind of offense he will run and what characteristics he is looking for in a quarterback. Kelly’s offense at Oregon was mainly a combination of read-option spread along with a fast-paced tempo (hurry-up).
His quarterbacks were mostly the athletic type, i.e., guys who can run or at least pose the threat of running. He has stated that he doesn’t necessarily need a mobile quarterback because he can, and would, tailor his offense to match the strength of his personnel.
That’s all fine and dandy, and, that’s what he should be saying. However, in all reality he will want to have a mobile QB who, at the least, presents the threat of running the ball if they’re running a read-option offense.
And depending on the actual running capabilities of his QB, he may run him more or less. But the key is having a guy who can do it so it makes defenses account for it.
Now, that is what I think his preference will be. That’s not to say he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, use a guy like Foles. With a QB like that, I could picture Chip trying to run something similar to what New England does.
The next question is whether Kelly’s first choice will be someone who is already on the Eagles’ roster. Could it be Michael Vick, Nick Foles or Trent Edwards?
The popular thought is that Vick will be gone and Foles has about a 50/50 shot. Edwards hasn’t even been mentioned in the conversation by anyone, and that will continue in this article.
Then there are those who think Kelly will bring in a new quarterback via free agency, trade, or the draft to run the offense I am damn near 100% certain Kelly will bring a new quarterback into the mix (duh, right?).
Kelly talks quite a bit about being able to adapt his offense to his personnel. Upon his hiring, he was described as being an “offensive innovator”, a “brilliant football mind” and a “trend-setter.” This means that there could be a number of different types of quarterbacks he could be looking for in order to decide on the best one.
However, if Kelly decides to go with Foles as the starter, or someone like him, he will have to be every one of those aforementioned characteristics in order to formulate an effective offense around a guy who’d have trouble beating Tom Brady in a foot race.
Kelly has stated that he prefers a passing QB who can run, not a running QB who tries to pass.
However, everybody wants a guy like that and they’re difficult to find. Therefore, he will most likely have to choose a QB who is better at one or the other, or a QB who can do both but is not especially skilled at either.
The NFL is a quarterback-driven league and there is always a high demand for a quality signal-caller. Sometimes teams strike gold in finding a good player after the first round of the draft, but historically that is the exception and not the rule.
Most franchise quarterbacks are first-round draft picks and those guys rarely ever get traded or hit the open market.
Unfortunately, there are not any great quarterbacks coming out in this year’s draft…a year in which the Eagles hold a top-five pick and could potentially get their hands on a franchise player.
That would figure, huh?
With all that said, here are some options in free agency, via trade and in the draft.
Free agency and/or trade possibilities:
The latest and greatest is a report from Geoff Mosher that Chip Kelly will sign Dennis Dixon from Baltimore’s practice squad after the Super Bowl. The logic here is that Dixon ran Kelly’s offense in Oregon and excelled in that role.
He only played one year under Kelly, in 2007, and was a Heisman candidate before a torn ACL ended his season. Dixon was then drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2008 draft.
Since then, he hasn’t played much. In the past five years, he’s attempted just 59 passes (completed 35) and thrown for 402 yards, one TD and two INTs. His most extensive action came in the first two games of the 2010 season when he was filling in for Ben Roethlisberger.
He was slated to play the first four games of that year, but after just six quarters, Dixon suffered a torn lateral meniscus to the same knee he injured in college and was placed on injured reserve.
Dixon didn’t get much of a look once he hit free agency and contemplated going to the CFL, but eventually was signed to the Ravens’ practice squad.
In other words, Dixon hasn’t exactly lit the NFL on fire since he’s been here. He’s listed at 6′ 3″, 209 lbs and looks relatively skinny. After two major knee injuries, one has to wonder how that’s affected his mobility and whether or not he’s going to be another injury-prone kind of player, ala Vick.
The funny thing is, after seeing some responses to this report about Dixon, Eagles fans seem to be more okay with bringing him in, but just recently when I suggested bringing in Joe Webb from the Vikings, I received mostly negative feedback.
So let me ask, is Dennis Dixon really a better option than Joe Webb?
To be 100% honest, neither player is really a great option. As a QB in a traditional offense, these guys are career backups at best. However, if Kelly runs a version of the read-option/spread, either of these guys could become effective starters.
It’s all about scheme and fit. That’s what I was trying to say about Webb, I think he could fit and excel in Kelly’s offensive scheme. Dixon possibly could as well, but to be honest, I’d still prefer Webb.
Webb is a little faster, a little younger, is bigger, and built more compact to withstand the hits he will take. Plus, his health history is much cleaner than Dixon’s as well. When it comes to passing acumen, these guys are about equal.
Both excelled in college. Dixon excelled under Kelly at Oregon, but Webb equally excelled at UAB running a similar offense.
Neither has done anything in the NFL and both have struggled running a traditional offense. My argument is that they, particularly Webb, have the potential to excel under Kelly’s guidance.
The Eagles can just sign Dixon off of Baltimore’s practice squad, but they’d have to give up a draft pick for Webb…albeit a late-round pick most likely. Both guys are worth bringing in for competition.
With all that said, there are still other options…
San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith will be available via either trade or free agency if he gets released. He doesn’t fit the mold of a QB with the threat of being able to run, but we could argue that he’d be an upgrade over Foles.
I’m not opposed to Smith, but I do not see him coming to Philly. We have Foles already and there will be other aggressive suitors for Smith’s services. I can’t foresee the Eagles getting into a possible bidding war for a guy that would not be a significant upgrade over Foles.
Another name I’ll throw out there as a possible trade target is Colt McCoy. Coming out of college, he was seen as an accurate, smart and mobile QB. He ran a version of a zone-read offense in Texas, which could equate to Kelly’s offense.
McCoy is not a gifted runner, but he can move. He did run the ball 379 times and scored 18 rushing touchdowns in 40 career college games at Texas. In 24 games as a pro, he’s rushed just 93 times with one score.
His career average as a rusher between college and the NFL is 3.7 yards per carry. Not impressive, but could be effective, particularly in goal line situations.
The downside to McCoy is that his arm is relatively weak, which would hinder our deep passing threat. He hasn’t succeeded in Cleveland (but who has?) and was thus supplanted by Brandon Weeden.
With that said, a rumor emerged when the Browns were courting Chip Kelly to be their head coach that McCoy was “in their plans” with the new coach. This was taken as if Kelly was to go to Cleveland, he may prefer McCoy over Weeden as his starting QB.
That doesn’t mean anything now, but it’s worth noting. While I wouldn’t be thrilled with McCoy, he could be worth a flier to bring in for competition as long as any trade compensation isn’t more than a sixth-round pick.
Matt Flynn is another interesting possibility. He’s probably the biggest question mark of any QB who could be on the trade market. He made his name on three games in which he filled in for Aaron Rodgers.
Most notably, a 480-yard, six TD passing performance against Detroit in the 2011 season finale. A few months later the Packers cashed in and traded their seldom used backup for a third and fourth round draft pick.
Flynn himself was a seventh-round draft pick by Green Bay in 2008. He’s not a runner, but he has good enough pocket mobility. In fact, some scouting reports on him gave him good reviews in most of the key categories you’d want in a QB.
The main concern with him is experience. Obviously, he’s spent his NFL career on the bench for the most part, but he also only started one year of college. Therefore, the jury is out on this guy.
The trickiest part with Flynn will be trade compensation. I don’t think Seattle can demand as much as they paid for him, but that’s yet to be known.
Would you give up a fourth for him?
The draft is probably where most people want to see Chip take his QB of the future. Everyone is pretty quick to write-off guys like McCoy, Smith, Webb and Dixon because of their shortcomings they’ve seen in the NFL thus far.
In other words, we don’t want anyone else’s garbage.
Normally I would be all pumped up about picking a new QB in the draft, especially with a top-five draft pick. It would figure that the year the Eagles get such a high pick, there wouldn’t be a QB coming out worthy of it.
In fact, the general consensus is that this draft is extremely weak at the QB position. Nobody has separated themselves from a rather underwhelming group.
West Virginia’s Geno Smith is the top rated QB coming out this year and could be available at pick No. 4. The question, though, is if he’s worth that high of a pick. However, quarterbacks are always over-drafted due to high demand and low supply.
I would think that if Kelly were to take a QB that high, he’d have to be a special talent that can run and pass exceptionally well (basically, an RG3 or Cam Newton-type). Scouts say Smith has some mobility, but he’s certainly not a “running QB.”
One just needs to look at his college career rushing average of 1.07 yards per carry, including a -.59 YPC in 2011, to see he’s not a great threat of running with the football.
I’m not trying to put too much stock into the mobility aspect of a potential QB for Kelly, but I do feel that is what he would prefer.
Smith and Southern Cal’s Matt Barkley are viewed as the only two QBs who will be drafted in the first round. However, we all now how over-drafted quarterbacks are these days, so in all likelihood there will be others that rise up draft boards and are taken in the first round.
Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib is a prime example of someone that, right now, is looked at as a second-round talent but will most likely creep into the first.
Once you get past those guys, you have somewhat of a second group of quarterbacks that will likely all go in the second round, if they don’t wiggle their way into the first as well. They include Mike Glennon, Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray and Landry Jones.
Out of those guys, Wilson would probably be the most intriguing for the Eagles.
However, there is one guy that Eagles fans have started fixating on — Florida State’s EJ Manuel — and that will likely grow to a fever pitch in the coming weeks. He created some buzz during during a rather dull Senior Bowl week of practices for quarterbacks.
He followed that by being named the Senior Bowl MVP. However, at this point, it seems that scouts are all over the place in their reviews of him and how he projects to the NFL.
One thing we know is that Kelly recruited Manuel out of high school and now Manuel is making it well known that he’d like a chance to play for Kelly in the pros.
Will Kelly oblige and draft him? Depending on what transpires over the next couple months, he could be available in the third or fourth round, or he could catapult into the second round.
Before things get crazy with the combine, pro days and all the hyperbole that surrounds those performances, remember that all draftniks and scouts are really down on this year’s QB class in general.
Therefore, trying to find a QB to legitimately get excited about will be like trying to identify the prettiest pig in the mud pit.
Okay Eagles fans, where do you stand right now? Who’s your top choice to run Chip Kelly’s offense in 2013? Let me hear it in either the comments or by voting in the poll…or both!