Vick’s Other Job & More Backup QB Talk

Posted: June 21st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , | 22 Comments »

For I wrote about Mike Vick and his value as a salesman.  One of the key reasons free agents will want to come to Philly to play with #7.   I just wish Lurie/Banner would get him one of those Century 21 gold blazers to wear when he’s talking to free agents.  Get him the coat, have him watch Glengarry Glen Ross a couple of times and the rest will be history.  And for god’s sake…give him some of the new leads.

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We talked about the need for a backup QB the other day.  In the comments section mcud made the point that outside of a couple of top players, we’re just as good going with Mike Kafka.  I strongly disagree.

We’re expecting to challenge for a Super Bowl in 2011.  Should Vick go down, you don’t want a second-year, unproven QB leading a team that is built around the offense.  The Colts and Pats rolled the dice in recent years with mediocre backups, but Peyton Manning and Tom Brady don’t have a history of missing games.  Vick is a very different player.  We saw that last year.  Vick took a big hit in the first Skins game.  He missed the rest of that game and the next 3 as well.  We went 2-2 in those games.

Vick takes chances when he runs.  He’s trying to be smarter about that, but his instincts lead him to be aggressive and get as many yards as possible.  That exposes him to open field hits.  That raises the chances for injury.

With Vick at the helm I don’t think you can afford to have a question at backup QB.  You might point to 2002 when A.J. Feeley led the Eagles to a 4-1 record.  He was in his second year and was largely unproven.  The thing to remember is that he was the #3 QB.  Koy Detmer was the backup, but got hurt in the SF game on Monday night.  Feeley did an admirable job, but that team was built around defense.  We had a strong set of RBs in Duce Staley, Dorsey Levens, and young Brian Westbrook.  We could play ball control on offense and then let the defense and STs units do their thing.

The 2011 Eagles are a much different story.  This team has an explosive offense and that is the key to the team.  You must have the right QBs in place for this team to be at its best.  Vick is the starter.  Kafka is fine as the #3 QB.  We need a veteran backup.  God forbid Vick is hurt for half the season or isn’t able to play in the postseason.  Just look at what happened with Arizona last year.  In the 3 years with Warner at the helm they won 8, 9, and 10 games.  He leaves and they fall to 5-11, and that was playing in an awful division.  Offensive teams must have good QBs.

Kafka is a player I definitely like.  He’s got the skills and physical ability to be an NFL starter.  Good size.  Good athlete.  Natural leader.  Very competitive.  Handles pressure well.  Good passer, with a good enough arm.  Tough.  There is plenty to like.  I’m just not ready to hand over the keys to our offense to him yet.  He didn’t play in an pro style system in college.  He didn’t start a ton of games.  Northwestern isn’t exactly a QB factory for the NFL.  Let’s have Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg, and QB coach Doug Pederson work with Kafka and get him ready to be the primary backup in 2012 or 2013.

Someone asked about Kafka as a future starter.  The Eagles think he can develop into a starting QB, but that would be several years down the road.  Did he look like John Elway last summer?  No, but that’s not a big deal.  Matt Hasselbeck was on Green Bay’s Practice Squad in 1998.  He then made the team in 1999 as a backup.  Matt was great in the 2000 preseason and that gave him good trade value.  He went to Seattle in 2001.  He had to battle for the QB job with Trent Dilfer, but eventually won that and ran the team for years.  Be patient with Kafka.

I would take any of the key veteran backups over Kafka at this point.  I’m talking about Jake Delhomme, Marc Bulger, Bruce Gradkowski, and even Rex Grossman.  He played well late last year and has started in a Super Bowl.  I don’t think we’ll be looking at second tier backup QBs like Billy Volek, Kellen Clemens, and Luke McCown.  Andy knows we need a good backup.  I hope he goes hard after Matt Hasselbeck, first and foremost.  He would be a terrific backup QB.  I do admit to having some interest in Tarvaris Jackson.  He isn’t the kind of passer we ideally need, but there is something to like.  He is a very good runner.  He’s got the physical skills to be a good passer.  He needs to be developed.  Reid and crew have shown they can do that.

The litmus test for me is would I be comfortable with the QB starting against the Jets in Week 15, with us fighting for a playoff spot, the division title, or even the #1 seed in the NFC.  Comfortable…not happy.  Comfortable.  Would the QB give us a chance to win?  Kafka?  I seriously doubt it.  Find a veteran who has ability left and who has had some success in big games in the past.

We can’t approach the backup QB situation casually.  We need a good option in place.  We need someone who can practice with the team this summer.  We need someone who is ready to go when called upon.  Again, we’re an offensive team.  We’re not going to win many 13-10 games.  We need to put up 24 points.  That means good QB play.  That means having the right guy in place in case Vick goes down.

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Former NFL Safety Matt Bowen is a regular contributor to the National Football Post.  He’s doing a regular series called Inside the Playbook this spring/summer.  Today he covered the Eagles and Andy Reid’s High-Low passing concepts.  Good read.

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Akeem Jordan got arrested recently.  That’s not a good way to make the Eagles want to bring you back.  Or is it?  Maybe all the talk of Big Al and Plax confused Jordan and he thought a rap sheet would make him more attractive.  That’s what the Eagles get for sending mixed signals.

Big Al, Plax, and Kafka

Posted: May 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , , | 17 Comments »

“Free at last! Free at last! Thank god almighty, I’m free at last!”

I think we all remember exactly where we were when we heard Carlito Brigante shout those words on the courthouse steps at the beginning of Carlito’s Way.  The man saying them today is Albert Haynesworth, hero to the masses and great guy all  around.  He had been caught up in some bogus charges of road rage.  I had some people look into it and they confirmed that Big Al is “1 million percent innocent”.  That’s like a record or something.

I’m glad he wasn’t punished by the law.  Big Al has suffered enough.  The man has been a victim for years and years.  Will we ever forget the horror of seeing Andre Gurode attack Big Al’s foot with his face?  Gurode couldn’t be stopped.  I’m just glad Big Al got out of there okay.

Now we need the Skins to cut Big Al loose so that he can come to Philly.  I’m sure he’d be the victim of some trouble here.  Poor guy is just always a target.  I’m not sure why.  He’s the NFL version of St. Francis of Assisi.  Maybe he’s too nice.

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Lots more talk over the weekend about Plaxico Burress coming to Philly.  I remain confused on this idea.  I have nothing against Plax being an Eagle.  I’m just not sure how he fits in.  Would he be willing to come here as a 30 catch guy and Red Zone specialist?  If so, I guess I’m open.  Even then, things aren’t crystal clear.   Let’s look at receiver stats for 2010:

DeSean Jackson — 47-1056 – 22.5 – 6 TDs
Jeremy Maclin —— 70 – 964 – 13.8 – 10 TDs
Jason Avant ——- 51 – 573 – 11.2 – 1 TD
Riley Cooper ——- 7 – 116 – 16.6 – 1 TD
Brent Celek ——– 42 – 511 – 12.2 – 4 TDs
Clay Harbor ——– 9 – 72 – 8.0 – 1 TD
LeSean McCoy —– 78 – 592 – 7.6 – 2 TDs
Owen Schmitt —— 19 – 136 – 7.2 – 1 TD

So where do we find 30-40 catches in that group? Or do we think we’ll throw an extra 50 or 60 passes?  I’d like DeSean to get more catches (although part of that is on him simply catching the ball better).  Celek had a down year with only 42 grabs.  Clay Harbor and Riley Cooper are young guys I’d like to get more involved in the offense.

Shady did catch 78 passes.  Only about 1/3 of those were by design.  He caught a lot of checkdowns.  You can’t count on taking those throws away from him.

Avant would be the big loser, most likely.  He’s not such a weapon that we must get him 50 catches, but he is a really valuable 3rd down receiver.  Plax could help on some plays, but I’m not sure we’ll find as many passes to come his way as he’d ideally like.

You would think a team that only has one good WR would make a strong push for Plax.  He could possibly be an impact player for the Chiefs or a team like that.  Will Plax buy into being a role player or will he expect to be a starter type?  Mike Vick bought into the fact he had bottomed out and had to change his ways.  Plax might not have the same attitude.

I’m going to remain skeptical of the reports, but there is some real logic to the thinking.  Plax is a big time Red Zone weapon and that is an area where we’ve struggled for years.  He wouldn’t solve the situation, but would be a weapon down there.  He also might turn out to be an important role player that you got at a bargain price, as well as at a point in his career when he’s highly motivated.

Can’t wait to see what happens with this situation.

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Mike Kafka says he’s ready to be the backup QB this year.  I disagree.  Andy Reid says Kafka is ready.  I still disagree.  I think Kafka needs another year of preparation.

A.J. Feeley started 5 games in his 2nd year and led us to a 4-1 record.  However…that 2002 team had a great defense, very good STs, and top 5 running game.  Feeley was charged with not losing games.  We have a whole different situation right now.  The offense carries the team.  We must score points to be effective.  The defense is a complete mystery.  The running game is effective, but is partially successful because of the passing attack.  And STs…that’s a bit of an unknown right now.

I think Reid knows Kafka’s not ready.  Big Red is just saying that to be supportive of his guy, but to also keep people from asking him a million questions about what we’ll do for a backup QB.

I still have high hopes for Kafka in 2012 and beyond, but I don’t see him as someone I’d be comfortable running the team at this point.  I am interested to see what kind of progress he’s made since last summer.  Let’s hope we have preseason games so we can get a look at Kafka.

Will the Eagles Draft a QB?

Posted: March 25th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Tags: , | 7 Comments »

Andy Reid loves QBs.  He’s an offensive guy, having played and coached on that side of the ball basically his whole life.  He went to BYU, a QB factory back in his era.  He coached under Mike Holmgren, a QB guru.  He learned personnel matters from Ron Wolf, who believed that teams should take a QB every year.  Wolf generally meant using a late round pick to see if you could uncover a guy who would blossom in the NFL.  So, when we talk about Andy and QBs, we have to keep all of this in mind.

Andy loves Mike Vick.  He and the staff are high on Mike Kafka.  They love Kolb, but he’s a goner once the CBA situation is resolved.  That means we’ll have 2 QBs and an opening.  Because Vick has some durability issues it is likely the team will add a veteran to play behind him.  They need a player who can start a game or two and be functional.

Let’s talk about Kafka for a second.  I had a couple of people curious about him and his level of play.  You have to understand who Mike is and where he’s coming from.  Mike was a 4th round pick from Northwestern.  He started at NW in 2006 and 2009.  In between, he was mostly a backup.  This isn’t a guy who has 35 starts under his belt.  He didn’t go to a school that is well known for putting out NFL passers.  Kafka is raw.  The Eagles knew that when they picked him.  They loved his ability, athleticism, and intangibles, but knew he would take time to develop.

Kafka looked good at times in the summer of 2010.  There were other times when he looked completely lost.  That’s the life of a young QB adjusting to the pro game.  Kafka had to learn a new offensive scheme and also had to adjust to playing in a pro style offense instead of the spread.  That’s a lot for a young guy to take in.  Also, he couldn’t have been getting any extra attention from the staff since they were focused on getting Kolb ready to be the starter and trying to get Vick back up to speed.  Project Kafka was low on the “To Do” list.

The coaches were happy with the progress that Kafka showed.  They saw what they expected: a talented, but flawed young player with a lot to learn.  He seems coachable, which can make a world of difference.  Wanting to be coached and working hard to learn and improve is a huge part of developing as a QB.  Kafka is on the right track, but I think he needs at least one more year before he can be a viable backup for a playoff team.

If you assume that we have Vick, a veteran, and Kafka, that means all 3 QB spots are full.  That makes taking a QB tough to do.  Yet, we hear the Eagles are taking a look at Colin Kaepernick.  They took a look at Tyrod Taylor.  What’s the deal?

Go back to Andy’s background.  He puts premium value on QBs.  Reid and the Eagles won’t go into the draft hoping to land a QB, but they also don’t want to pass up a player who might fall to them.  Back in the 2006 draft the Eagles loved Matt Leinart.  They figured he’d go high, possibly #3 to the Titans.  The Eagles had the 14th pick.  Leinart slid down the board and the Eagles were prepared to take him if he fell to 14.  The Cards (luckily) took him 10th.  Donovan was still playing at a very high level back then.  He hadn’t yet torn his ACL.  Andy had no interest in replacing Donnie, but he sure wasn’t going to let a franchise QB go right by him in the draft.

As we head into this draft you have to know the Eagles have a similar mindset.  Reid has no intention of moving up for a QB.  He’s not going to spend pick 23 on Jake Locker or Kaepernick.  But…what happens if Locker or Kaepernick is on the board when the Eagles 2nd round pick rolls around.  If Andy likes the guy, he easily could roll the dice and take the player.

You have to keep in mind that I said “if Andy likes the guy”.  Just because a QB is highly regarded by Mike Mayock or ESPN or whoever doesn’t mean that the Eagles are interested.  QB is the position where teams/coaches are the pickiest.  You are looking for your guy.  If you don’t get the #3 OT prospect you move on to #4.  QB isn’t like that.  Personality and fit are huge factors.

We don’t know which QBs, if any,  Reid likes from the current group.  This is a very poor QB class, from the top on down.  I do think Reid is fascinated by athletic guys like Locker and Kaepernick.  Should either of them fall to our 2nd round pick Reid would be very tempted.  He and Howie Roseman would be having an interesting discussion.  I don’t think those guys will fall that far so this is probably a moot point.

The middle round targets aren’t compelling at all.  Pat Devlin is interesting, but he’s not as good a prospect as Kafka was last year.  Same for Ricky Stanzi.  And Greg McElroy.  There is something to like about these guys, but there are plenty of flaws.  Andy Dalton gets a ton of credit for being a leader and a winner.  He is both of those things and a player that is easy to like.  His intangibles are off the charts.  My problem is that he’s not a consistently good intermediate/downfield passer.  That brings up a point a few people touched on.  Can you coach guys to be more accurate or more consistent?

Yes and no.  You have to look at the background of the players.  Jake Locker played in a pro style offense for 2 years under a QB guru and showed little improvement.  That really bothers me.  Cam Newton played for 3 schools in 3 years.  He was in 3 different offenses with different coaches.  I expect him to be raw.  I hold Jake to a higher standard because of where he came from.

I love Locker’s potential, but his lack of substantial improvement scares the heck out of me.  He didn’t complete a pass in the bowl game until the 3rd Qtr this year?  That’s disturbing.  He still led UW to a win in the game, but I’m looking for a QB.  Guts and toughness isn’t enough in the NFL.  I need passing ability.  The Eagles coaches could work with Locker on technique and try to really hone his mechanics, but after 2 years with Steve Sarkisian he still looks very raw.  That’s a red flag to me.  Locker may suffer from the same problems Donovan McNabb had.  Guys with tremendous talent can do things there own way and get good results in high school and even college.  That catches up to you against top competition and certainly in the NFL.  McNabb had 5 years of good coaching and stability at Syracuse that gave him a better foundation.  Reid and the coaches were able to get him to work on things and show improvement.  His old bad habits never went completely away (just ask the worms at The Linc).  Can Locker even get to that point or is he destined to be Kyle Boller, pt. 2?

Dalton played in a run heavy spread offense.  He started for 4 years and had good skill players and stability.  I hold him to a somewhat higher set of expectations.  Pro coaching could help him, but I still don’t get the talk about him being a 2nd round pick.  I just don’t see it.  Mayock thinks he’s similar to Kolb.  I think Dalton is more athletic, but not as good of a passer.  Dalton is similar to Kafka in terms of size, skills, and potential so I don’t see the value in adding him.

There are some late round guys the Eagles could like.  They would take these guys and try to put them on the Practice Squad.  Jerrod Johnson had a nightmare Senior season.  In the past I thought he could be a somewhat early pick, but he was awful in 2010.  Johnson is huge and talented.  I’d be willing to use a 7th rounder on him.  A couple of people have asked about Tyrod Taylor.  I don’t like him as a QB.  Taylor is a very good athlete.  He can improvise.  He can throw downfield effectively.  The problem is that he can’t consistently move the chains with his passing.  Against Duke and Wake Forest he’s a good QB, but I don’t see him as an NFL passer.  Taylor made an amazing play in the Orange Bowl that showed how dynamic he can be.  I kept waiting to see more of that, but never did.  Good college QB, but limited pro prospect.  People will try to compare him to Vick, but that’s a major reach.  I watched Vick put Va Tech on his back and lead them to the National Title game vs FSU.  In that game, Vick was the best player on the field.  Taylor wasn’t the best player in his own backfield this year.  Heck, maybe not 2nd best.

The Eagles could spend a late round pick on Taylor to see if they could develop him.  He would be a major project.  It is also possible the Eagles could be looking at him as a WR/RS type.  Taylor is quick, fast, and elusive.  He ran for 2,196 yards and 23 TDs in college.  Taylor isn’t without some potential, QB or otherwise.