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August 25, 2017

Eagles backup quarterback Nick Foles' absence is bad on many levels

A season ago, Carson Wentz played 1127 out of a possible 1133 snaps on offense, attempting 607 passes along the way. Chase Daniel played six snaps and attempted one pass in a Week 16 win over the Giants after Wentz was briefly shaken up.

If Wentz can have the same durability in his second regular season that he had as a rookie, then it doesn't matter who the Eagles' backup quarterback is. However, as any football observer knows, whenever a team has their starter go down, the backup quarterback can go from an afterthought to (temporarily) the most important player on the team.

The 2016 season aside, the Eagles have needed their backup quarterbacks to step up. In fact, in each of the seven years prior to last season, the Eagles have needed to get at least two starts out of their backup quarterback every season, and often more.

 YearBackup quarterback Starts 
 2015Mark Sanchez 
 2014Mark Sanchez 
 2013Nick Foles, Matt Barkley 9, 1 
 2012Nick Foles 
 2011Vince Young 
 2010Michael Vick 10 
 2009Kevin Kolb 

2017 backup Nick Foles missed a couple weeks of training camp with a sore arm, came back and participated fully for the first of two joint practices with the Miami Dolphins, and then was back on the shelf the next day. He has not played a single snap in the preseason to date, and it's likely he won't play in the Eagles preseason finale next week against Jets.

"He got a little sore during the week [during practice] with the Dolphins," said head coach Doug Pederson in his post-game press conference Thursday night. "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."

With third-string quarterback Matt McGloin almost certain to be released after bad showings in training camp and the preseason games, the Eagles are going to have to decide if they can trust going into the season with just Wentz and Foles on their 53-man roster.

If the Eagles feel like they have to keep three quarterbacks, that will not be ideal for several reasons.

1) The current third quarterback certainly isn't the answer.

As noted above, McGloin's body of work from the spring to training camp, and into the preseason games is ugly. If the team doesn't believe they can trust Foles, they'll either have to keep McGloin or sign a quarterback off the street (or wait until waivers), and just hope that he's a quick learner.

2) They'll have to cut a player they would otherwise keep.

In years past, in doing 53-man roster projections, I would get to around 48-50 players, and then I'd be picking 3-5 unworthy players to finalize the roster. This year, the Eagles have better depth and more intriguing prospects at the back of the roster. Unlike previous seasons, I believe there are around 55-56 roster-worthy players on the team, and it's difficult picking which ones to leave off. If the Eagles have to add a third quarterback, that could take a roster spot away from a guy like, say, tight end Billy Brown, who has shown legitimately intriguing traits at the NFL level. (We're not specifically pin-pointing Brown. He's just an example.)

3) It cost a ton of money to cut Daniel and sign Foles. That will look like yet another colossal mistake at backup QB, two years in a row.

It cost the Eagles $7 million in dead money this offseason to get rid of Chase Daniel. In other words, Daniel is counting for $7 million against the Eagles' salary cap this season to play in New Orleans. Foles, meanwhile, will count for $1.6 million against the Eagles' cap in 2017, and $7.6 million in 2018. 

Acquiring Daniel for the contract he signed was clearly a major miss. If Foles' arm is simply not going to reliably cooperate, his signing will just add kerosene to the Chase Daniel dumpster fire.

When asked if Foles would play next week in the fourth preseason game against the Jets, Pederson didn't know.

"I don't know," he said. "I haven't made up my mind yet and where I'm at with that. [That’s] kind of where I'm at right now with that one."

It's a bad sign if Foles misses the entirety of the preseason because of "soreness."

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