One of the most interesting teams in the NFL this season will be the Philadelphia Eagles, and part of that is a quarterback battle that is growing increasingly hard to handicap.
When the Eagles handed Michael Vick a $3.5 million bonus earlier this year, that was a pretty clear indication that he would be the favorite to start. Or so it seemed.
Now there's an interesting comment in a mailbag response to a reader from CSNPhilly.com Eagles beat writer Geoff Mosher in which he states he thinks that not only does he consider Nick Foles the favorite, but Vick "actually has the toughest road to the starting job."
Mosher explains that he believed Vick was the favorite, but since then the team drafted Matt Barkley, showing that new coach Chip Kelly doesn't necessarily need a mobile quarterback for his offense, and the reps in the offseason have been split 50-50 between Vick and Foles. He rightly points out that if the competition is close, Kelly has no reason to go with a 33-year-old quarterback over either of the two young guys on the roster. Mosher even thinks if Barkley is close to Vick and Foles, the team could turn to Barkley and let him learn as he goes, like Seattle with Russell Wilson.
The problem with the assumptions that Vick would be the favorite is that Vick hasn't been very good for two seasons. He has more turnovers (33) than touchdowns (30), and his exciting 2010 rebirth seems long ago. The Eagles' offensive line problems are a huge reason for Vick's struggles, but that doesn't totally take him off the hook for his mistakes. Even Kelly's reliance on a running quarterback is overstated. He won't have the same system in the NFL that he ran at Oregon, and last year his starting quarterback Marcus Mariota ran just 107 times in 13 games (for a comparison, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel ran 201 times last season).
Foles played well enough at times last year to at least have some intrigue. A 381-yard performance with two touchdowns and no interceptions did come against a bad Buccaneers secondary, but it's still worth a second look. Foles also threw for 345 yards in the last of his seven games last year, against Dallas. He wasn't great as a rookie, but certainly good enough to get a legitimate chance to compete for a starting job.
And while Barkley took a pretty shocking dive in the draft, he's still the same player who was once considered a strong possibility for the first overall pick of the draft. It's not hard to picture him reviving the hope that once surrounded him now that he's away from the Lane Kiffin-led mess at USC.
Nothing is going to be settled in that quarterback battle for a long time, but nothing should be assumed going into training camp either.