When a team has two young quarterbacks fighting for the No. 2 spot, you usually have to look at the starter to know whether you can develop or if you have to thrust one of them into an important role because of injuries.
The Philadelphia Eagles fall into the latter.
Even so, they can’t lose sight of the fact that both Mike Kafka and Nick Foles are still developing and can be transformed into quality NFL starters. Kafka, a Northwestern product, is still in his third year while former Wildcat Nick Foles is a rookie. They both have plenty of football ahead of them, possibly even with the Eagles.
Unfortunately, only one can play behind Vick, only one will start a couple of games in 2012 and only one can be named the Eagles’ franchise quarterback.
So, who should it be?
Kafka, while still 24 years of age, has already played backup behind Michael Vick for two years now. He’s nearly mastered the offense—according to the offensive coaching staff—and played a couple games with it. Kafka even ran a similar style of offense at college where he was asked to complete passes at a high rate and find open receivers in a progression.
In other words, he’s a prototypical Andy Reid quarterback—unlike Michael Vick.
Kafka has had mixed results when he’s been put into games. He played third-string in 2010 so he didn’t see any game action, but was asked to come in and finish two games last season due to Michael Vick injuries.
In Week 2 Kafka came in to try and close out the Falcons, but wide receiver Jeremy Maclin dropped a pass that would have kept a late, game-winning drive going. Kafka went seven of nine with 72 yards in that game while compiling a 100-passer rating.
The very next week, Kafka was asked to come in and finish yet another game, but went four for seven with only 35 yards and two interceptions. He was doing well on two separate drives until his vertical accuracy failed him; on two straight deep balls, he threw the ball on the wrong side of the receiver and the Giants picked him off.
Kafka has shown some leadership abilities and consistency on mid-length routes, and so far this offseason it looks like the two-year veteran has worked on his deep-ball accuracy as well. On the other hand, he doesn’t have a great arm or precision accuracy anywhere across the field—two things that could limit his development going forward.
Foles is a budding rookie who the Eagles drafted in the third round of last April’s draft. While Foles is somewhat of a project at QB, he has NFL-level size and arm strength. Even his accuracy, which many people questioned out of the draft, has shown great improvement in offseason workouts as he learns the offense and connects with the receivers.
Foles had a pretty good senior season in an otherwise awful offense at Arizona, completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 4,329 yards and 28 touchdowns. He also threw 14 interceptions.
Foles biggest strengths are his athleticism and arm, which I already said are good enough for an NFL quarterback, and the fact that he is coachable. Andy Reid even said the following about his third-round pick, via the Eagles official website:
I like the way he throws the football, and then he’s also a smart guy which helps. So, it’s a different offense. He’ll have to learn this offense, but that’s okay. He’s smart enough to do that. It was unanimous with our coaches. They all liked him. We’ll see how it works. I’m curious to get him in here and let him throw the football around a little bit.”
To sum things up, Reid thinks that Foles is a project worth making.
So, who has more upside? It’s tough to tell since Foles hasn’t seen any game action yet, but if I had to use my gut feeling and OTAs as parameters, I’d definitely have to say Foles. Just the fact that Kafka’s job is even being threatened to the degree that it is makes me think that Foles’ skills are more of what Reid wants out of a future quarterback.
With Michael Vick nearing the end of his career—he is 32, after all—the Eagles made a good choice by selecting another mid-round quarterback, especially one with as much talent as Nick Foles.
He has better arm strength, a better understanding of the game and a better capacity for learning than Kafka, which makes him more suited to be Philadelphia’s future answer at the quarterback position.