The plan heading into Chip Kelly’s first NFL game, a preseason showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots, was to start quarterback Michael Vick and have he and Nick Foles alternate through the first-team offense during first quarter.
For a preseason game last night’s tilt between the Eagles and the Patriots turned out to be a very entertaining contest. It came with a number of intriguing story lines heading in, and not all were answered.
How will Chip Kelly’s Oregon offense work in the NFL and how similar will it be to the offense that Bill Belichick runs in New England? In terms of a quick pace, hurry up offense, it was very similar. The Eagles offense looked spot on from how Kelly ran things with Oregon – quick drives, minimal huddles.
How many cards will Kelly show during preseason? Kelly is an innovator with a lot of ideas and he showed a few of them last night, but overall he took a basic fundamental approach to football. He didn’t give away all of his secrets but he showed his offense can work in the NFL.
Will we see Tim Tebow? Yup, and a lot of him. Tebow led the Patriots on a touchdown drive. That’s one more that he led the Jets on last year – preseason or regular season.
How will some of the new faces like Zach Sudfeld, Aaron Dobson and Kembrell Thompkins work out for Tom Brady and the Patriots? All three had their moments, but it worked out just fine for Brady. Thompkins looked real good with four catches from Brady on one drive. Tom finished the day 7 of 8 with 65 yards and a score.
But fantasy football enthusiasts also wanted to know who would take the lead as starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles? As it turns out, no one took the lead.
Of course we knew that the answer wouldn’t come after one preseason game, especially when Kelly said Vick and Foles would split time. To me there’s no question who should be the starter in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins – it has to be Michael Vick just on pure talent alone. By naming Foles the starter next week against the Carolina Panthers, Kelly is keeping everyone on their toes and giving away no secrets or hints as to who will be the guy in Philly. I think after last night his decision is tougher – and Kelly’s discussion after the game suggests as much, noting that he will delay the decision as long as possible.
At first it looked like a no doubter that it would be Mike Vick. His first throw was on third down, a 22 yard pass to Jason Avant down the middle, and then immediately the Eagles went into a no huddle and the new era in Philly began. Vick’s second pass of the game (the Eagles fifth play) was a beautiful 47 yard bomb to DeSean Jackson who blew past Aqib Talib, the Patriots best corner. Philadelphia ran five plays in 2:15 going 77 yards for the score. On the next series Vick was back in under center and on the first play he hit Riley Cooper with a 19 yard pass. The Pats managed to make Vick and the Eagles punt and that was it for him for the night.
Last year Vick was 4-11 for seven yards in the preseason; last night he finished 4-5 for 94 yards and a TD. Vick showed great mobility moving away from pressure, and he threw darts on the run like we all know he can. Although it was a small sample under Kelly, Vick showed he could make quick decisions and the ball flew out of his hands – he looked good.
From there it looked like Vick had taken the lead in the quarterback competition with only two drives. It especially looked that way when Nick Foles fumbled the ball on his second play of the game while attempting to avoid pressure. It’s something that you have to think Vick has the upper hand with. However, Foles bounced back finishing 5-6 with 43 yards leading the Eagles to their second touchdown of the game.
Foles seemed comfortable and was effective running Kelly’s offense. The play calling and style during his second drive was – to a tee – the way Kelly ran the show in Oregon. A nice hurry up offense with the same personal group, no substitutions, short passes and inside runs with play action passes that culminated with an 8-yard TD run from Bryce Brown. It was a 10-play, 3:28 minute drive that took only 4:16 in real time. It was the first time we saw a glimpse of the hurry up offense, and Foles was able to get a good rhythm going.
Last season Michael Vick and Nick Foles had similar numbers. In 10 starts Vick had a 58.1 completion percentage with a 78.1 QB rating; in six starts Foles had a 60.8 completion percentage with a 79.1 QB rating. Many people believe that Foles will have to out play Vick by a lot to land the starting job – last night’s evaluation progress began with a bang from Vick, but Foles was able to keep pace and earn a few style points.
The talk will continue, not only around Philly but around the whole league, and fantasy football owners should keep an eye on this battle. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top; Michael Vick looks like he should be the favorite, but Foles was able to keep pace and run an offense that Chip Kelly will be looking to run in Philadelphia. Foles will start next week’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers and from there we only have another four weeks to see who can impress the most.