NFL camp preview: Machine Gun Kelly needs triggerman

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

PHILADELPHIA -- Intrigue is high for the Philadelphia Eagles as they report to training camp Thursday and go through their first full-squad workouts Friday under new head coach Chip Kelly.
He will unveil certain aspects of the fast-paced offense he used at Oregon, which literally left defenses breathless as the time between snaps was often as short as 15 seconds. But before Machine Gun Kelly can riddle the NFL with this weapon, he must find a triggerman.
The incumbent is fast-footed veteran Michael Vick. Second-year quarterback Nick Foles and controversial rookie Matt Barkley are also in the mix. And just to make it all more interesting, Kelly signed one of his former Oregon quarterbacks, Dennis Dixon, an outstanding athlete who failed to catch on in pro baseball or during chances with other NFL teams.
Despite the public urgings of many of his top players to name a starting quarterback as soon as possible, Kelly has made it clear he is in no rush to do that.
"We're going to have to name a starter at some point in time," Kelly said. "But it would be unfair to name one right now because there hasn't been enough situations to evaluate.
"If somebody said we have to play a game tomorrow, then we'd have to make a decision (now). But we don't have to play tomorrow. We have until September 9. So we'll see how that works itself out. But with a big decision like that, you want to make sure you take the whole body of work into consideration."
But while Kelly saw all three leading candidates throw hundreds of passes in the team's spring OTAs and minicamps, he said he won't know who his best quarterback is until he sees them play in the preseason.
"We've been out there in shorts and t-shirts since April 1," he said. "I'm not going to name a quarterback off of that. They haven't been hit. There's been no (pass) rush. I don't think that would be fair."
Kelly is expected to give Vick, Foles and Barkley reps with the first team during training camp.
There is a popular sentiment that Vick has the advantage because his mobility makes him suited to run the read-option, which was a part of Kelly's offense at Oregon. But Kelly said mobility merely is a "bonus." He said the two most important things he wants out of his quarterback are accuracy and sound decision-making.
Vick had 42 turnovers in his last 32 starts and has had just four turnover-free games during that period. Last season, before he got hurt, he was near the bottom among NFL quarterbacks in average time getting the ball out.
Foles, who started six games as a rookie, finished fifth in the league in interception percentage.
The other big job in training camp falls on Kelly's defensive coordinator, Bill Davis, who needs to figure out as quickly as possible what defensive scheme best suits his personnel.
The Eagles will be switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 hybrid. But how much they line up in a three-man front will be dictated by the capabilities of the Eagles' defensive players.
To make a 3-4 go, you need rush linebackers. The Eagles brought in former Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin, who had 11.5 sacks two years ago. But the jury still is out on Trent Cole and Brandon Graham.
Cole, who has had four double-digit sack seasons in the last six years, and Graham, the team's 2010 first-round pick, both have played strictly with their hand on the ground in the NFL and college. If they can make a quick transition to being a standup edge rusher and occasional cover linebacker, the Eagles should see dramatic improvement in a pass rush that had just 30 sacks last season. If they can't, Davis will have to make some major adjustments.
"What we're doing here is we're taking the wide-nine 4-3 (which the Eagles played last year) and we're moving in the direction of the 3-4," Davis said. "But where we stop is yet to be determined by the players that we have. We're going to maximize the players that we have and what they do best."

--Team correspondents for The Sports Xchange contributed material for this story.

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