Philadelphia Eagles training camp 2015 is fast approaching. Coaches and players report as soon as Saturday, August 1. The Eagles training camp schedule, including information on practices open to the public, can be found by clicking here.
As we count down the days together, Bleeding Green Nation will be previewing every position on the Eagles roster. We start off by taking a look at the quarterback position.
Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley, Tim Tebow
I don't believe for a second there's a true competition for the Eagles starting quarterback job. Sam Bradford is absolutely the starter if he's healthy. Just look at the evidence. The Eagles traded away Nick Foles and a future second round pick for him (along with some mid-round pick swaps). The Eagles are paying him nearly $13 million this year. Thought nothing official has materialized (yet), multiple reports have indicated the Eagles are trying to sign Bradford to a long-term deal. Chip Kelly himself confirmed as much. It's clear the Eagles value Bradford to a significant extent.
The Eagles also value Mark Sanchez. The team rewarded him with a two-year, $9 million contract in free agency this offseason. Sanchez looked serviceable while filling in for Nick Foles last season. He helped the team reach a 5-4 record in the nine games he played, which is pretty decent relative to backup quarterback performance. With Bradford unable to full participate in spring practices this year, Sanchez took the majority of the team's first team reps. The former USC looked much better throwing the ball in practice than he did last spring. He's clearly more comfortable with the offense.
Sanchez is a fine backup to have, but he's just not an ideal starter for the team. He's turnover prone (11 interceptions, 7 fumbles last year) and he's not talented enough to elevate the players around him. He can manage the game when paired with a solid defense and a strong running game, which is likely what the Eagles will expect him to do if/when Bradford goes down.
Speaking of that concern, Bradford's health is obviously a major question mark. He was a limited participant during the team's spring practices. He did, however, say he expects to be ready for training camp so it'll be interesting to see if that's the case. Bradford really flashed at times this spring with his quick release, his laser accuracy, and the strong velocity he throws with. There's reason to believe he can be a very productive player in Kelly's offense given his natural talent. Without question, he is the most talented NFL passer Kelly has had the chance to work with.
Back to the "competition" that doesn't really exist. Some have suggested Sanchez can beat out Bradford, but I just don't buy it. The only way Sanchez will start this season is if Bradford injured and unable to play. It's "possible" Bradford could be outplayed by Sanchez this summer, but Bradford would have to look downright terrible while Sanchez would have to look like Aaron Rodgers. It's just not realistic. Bradford will be the winner. The team invested in him for a reason. This isn't a level playing field.
The REAL Eagles quarterback competition taking place is the one for the third spot. Matt Barkley currently holds an edge over Tim Tebow. The latter mightily struggled during spring practices, though there's hope he can still turn things around. Considering how the Eagles have tried to trade Barkley in the past, it's hard to rule out the possibility moving forward. The only issue, which is obviously a big one, is that Barkley likely doesn't have much value. If the Eagles can't get anything for him and he continues to outperform Tebow, Barkley should manage to stick around for a third season in Philadelphia.
How will it play out?
Bradford will beat out Sanchez and all of this talk about a "quarterback competition" will look very silly. Given Bradford's durability issues, however, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Sanchez on the field at some point this season.
Once again, if Bradford manages to stay healthy, he should be able to put up some strong numbers. The Eagles could have a pretty potent offense due to the combination of Bradford's talent and a strong running game. But will it be enough? Can Bradford play at a high enough level where the Eagles are legitimate championship contenders? I knocked Sanchez earlier for not being able to elevate the team around him. The truth is that Bradford failed to make much of a difference for the Rams, though he was obviously not in an ideal situation. Bradford's situation with the Eagles projects to be much better. Now it's up to him to make the most of it.
As for the third quarterback spot, Barkley currently has the edge over Tebow so I'll stick with that until something changes.
Who could be a surprise cut?
Barkley could be the surprise cut if Tebow sticks around. It wouldn't be a total surprise, though, since the organization has already tried to trade Barkley.