The shaky performance of the offensive line. The uninspiring running back options. The cornerback concerns. The lack of linebacker depth.
These are some of the biggest concerns with the Philadelphia Eagles heading into the 2017 season.
But perhaps what should be considered the most concerning issue does not appear on that list. It’s something that hasn’t really been talked about enough:
The Eagles’ backup quarterback situation.
Carson Wentz showed great durability as a rookie in 2016 by playing all 16 games. It helps that he’s strong and has a sturdy frame at 6-5, 237 pounds. But Wentz isn’t impervious to injury. He tends to extend plays and take hits.
If Wentz gets hurt for an extended period of time (God forbid), the Eagles’ season is likely doomed no matter who the backup is. But if Wentz only misses about four games, a quarter of the season, it’d be nice to have a backup who could at least keep the season afloat.
The Eagles might have a backup who can do just that. Nick Foles is 20-16 in 36 career starters. He’s clearly not an ideal long-term answer at the quarterback position, but he’s showed some competency in the league.
The problem is that Foles might not be a reliable option for the Eagles. The sixth-year quarterback has been dealing with an elbow injury now for over a month. The inflammation has kept him out for the entire preseason and most of Philadelphia’s training camp practices.
It recently looked like Foles was overcoming his injury and might have been able to play against the Dolphins this week, but then the team held him out of Tuesday’s practice. Doug Pederson explained why following Philadelphia’s win over Miami on Thursday evening.
Again, with him, he got a little sore during the week [during practice] with the Dolphins. 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.
Though I’m certainly no doctor and I don’t know the full nature of Foles’ injury, it’s hard to believe his elbow is going to get better if he continues to throw. It’s also hard to believe the Eagles are holding him out for precautionary reasons when he’s missed so much time.
If Foles can’t be relied upon, the Eagles are kinda screwed. Philadelphia might have to keep a third quarterback on the roster, which is a waste of a spot because it should have just been Wentz and Foles. If that third quarterback is Matt McGloin, who has been very bad this summer, it’s clear the Eagles don’t stand much of a chance if he has to play.
Another frustrating element to this situation is how badly the Eagles botched their backup quarterback setup this offseason. Earlier this year, I wrote about how it was the team’s biggest offseason mistake.
It’s true that Chase Daniel wasn’t any good and signing him to a contract in the first place was a mistake. But the Eagles were paying him anyway and weren’t saving much by cutting him, so why not keep him around? He hasn’t had injury issues, unlike Foles during his career. Now the Eagles are paying both Daniel and Foles and it’s possible neither player will be of much use to Philadelphia moving forward.
It’s also possible Foles’ elbow injury doesn’t prove to be too serious and he’s able to be ready to play again soon. Maybe Wentz plays all 16 games and it doesn’t matter who the Eagles’ backup quarterback is.
But it would be nice if the Eagles were assuredly prepared in case of emergency. It should be expected that would be the case considering they’ve spent a lot of resources into the backup quarterback spot. And yet that might not be the reality of the situation.
Even when Foles has practiced this offseason, he hasn’t looked too great. Even though he might have familiarity with Pederson’s offense, the fact that he’s missed a ton of practice time isn’t encouraging. Along with missing most of training camp and all the preseason games, Foles also missed two weeks of OTAs/minicamp. He hasn’t had a lot of time to build chemistry with his receiving options.
Foles’ status is one to monitor closely as the Eagles prepare to play their backups against the Jets this week. Pederson would not commit to Foles playing against New York.
The Eagles better hope like heck Wentz doesn’t get hurt this year.