NFC East: Michael Vick

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 NFL Nation's Phil Sheridan examines the three biggest issues facing the Philadelphia Eagles heading into training camp.

Can Nick Foles repeat, even improve on, his 2013 success? A year ago, Foles went into camp trailing Michael Vick in the starting quarterback competition that Vick eventually won. After leading the NFL in passer rating, throwing 27 touchdown passes and two interceptions, Foles has a pretty high bar to clear in his first full season as a starter. It is perfectly reasonable to expect Foles to be further from perfect than he was in 2013. But Foles can do that while still being very productive. If he throws a few more interceptions by taking some risks that also produce more touchdowns or big plays, the Eagles can live with that. Foles could even raise his game to an even higher level. It won't be easy, but with a coach like Chip Kelly, it's not out of the question, either. Foles looked very sharp -- accurate and confident -- during June practices. He seems buoyed, not intimidated or cowed, by being the clear No. 1 QB ahead of Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley. Training camp and the preseason will give everyone a chance to see whether he's making progress or heading toward a major regression. Best guess: Foles will be fine. Not otherworldly, but just fine.

Who will replace DeSean Jackson's production? That became the Eagles' most urgent question after Kelly decided to part ways with the guy who caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Since we have no evidence Kelly is a madman, we have to conclude the coach had reason to believe he could get Jackson's production from other players. Jeremy Maclin was never the big-play guy that Jackson was, but he is a solid receiver who is hugely motivated to prove he can excel after a second ACL tear. Riley Cooper may come back to the pack a bit after his breakout 2013 season, but he also might rise to the occasion after experiencing success. The Eagles' additions are intriguing. Darren Sproles figures to be as versatile and unpredictable under Kelly as he was in New Orleans for Sean Payton. Second-round draft pick Jordan Matthews had people at organized team activities comparing his physique to that of Terrell Owens and could be a star in the future. Meanwhile, tight end Zach Ertz is expected to take that key second-season leap in production and reliability. Would the Eagles have been better with Jackson? Probably. Can they be as successful with strong seasons from Maclin, Sproles, Matthews, Cooper and Ertz? Kelly clearly thinks so.

Did the Eagles do enough to improve their defense? Looked at one way, the answer seems like a big "no." The Eagles didn't go out and sign a star defensive back or draft an elite, quarterback-eating pass-rusher. It would be easier to sell this defense if they had. What the Eagles are counting on is an across-the-board rise in experience and comfort in Bill Davis' defense. That isn't as glittery as marquee free agents or high draft picks, but it may prove to be more reliable than either of those. And there is some foundation for hope. The Eagles' defense really did improve over the course of the 2013 season. It looked a lot better in December than in September, and that is why the Eagles may have more new starters on offense than on defense. The front seven looks like it will be the same as it was at the end of 2013. First-round pick Marcus Smith will play as he proves he's ready, but there is no reason to rush him when Trent Cole is playing as well as he did last season. Malcolm Jenkins is a smart and reliable safety, and that should help the secondary immeasurably. The best guess is the starting cornerbacks return. If not, it will be because Nolan Carroll shows that he is better than one of them.

Overall, the Eagles added a bunch of players who will push last year's starters. If they're better, they'll see the field. If not, it will mean the incumbents have fended off the challenge. Either way, the defense should be better.
DeSean JacksonDrew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty Images
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This is the last of three plays nominated as the most memorable play in team history. In the previous two days, we featured the first Miracle at the Meadowlands against the Giants in 1978 and Wilbert Montgomery's touchdown in the 1980 NFC Championship Game. Please vote for your choice as the Eagles' most memorable play.

Score: Eagles 38, Giants 31
Date: Dec. 19, 2010 Site: New Giants Stadium

When Kevin Boss scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning, the New York Giants had a 31-10 lead with 8:12 left in the fourth quarter. That gave the Giants, according to the formula, a 100 percent win probability for that game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

When Michael Vick hit tight end Brent Celek for a 65-yard touchdown a couple of minutes later, the Giants’ win probability stayed at 99.9 percent. When Vick ran 4 yards for a touchdown with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Giants still had a 97.8 percent chance to win the game. Even after Vick tied it with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin with 1:16 to play, the Giants had the ball with a chance to win. But two incomplete passes and a sack later, New York had to punt with 14 seconds left.


Which is the most memorable play in Eagles' history?


Discuss (Total votes: 35,685)

You get the point. The Giants had the game in the bag. The Eagles came back from 100 percent dead in the water and won it thanks to what was quickly dubbed Miracle of the New Meadowlands, for the new Giants stadium had just opened across the parking lot from the site of Herman Edwards' 1978 miracle fumble recovery.

This time around, the winning play itself was almost as improbable as the three-touchdown spree that set it up. Giants punter Matt Dodge was kicking from his own 29-yard line. All he had to do was avoid Eagles return man DeSean Jackson. Instead, Dodge kicked it right to Jackson, who fumbled the punt, picked it up at his own 35-yard line and started to run. He didn’t stop until he was approaching the goal line, where Jackson changed his course of approach to make sure the clock ran down to zero before he crossed the line.

"I was thinking to myself, like, 'They're not going to kick it to me,'" Jackson said. "I was thinking he was going to kick it out of bounds. But it got to me. From there, I just used my instincts and my speed to get into the end zone."

The 65-yard return ended a 28-point Eagles comeback rally and gave them a tiebreaker edge on the Giants for the NFC East title. That meant Jackson’s return contributed to the last of Eagles coach Andy Reid’s nine playoff appearances with the team.

An era was ending, but it was delayed by Jackson’s improbable return and the Eagles’ statistically impossible comeback.

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles went 4-4 at home last season, 4-5 if you count the playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints.

[+] EnlargeEagles Fans
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesThe addition of 1,600 to Lincoln Financial Field should help further turn around the Eagles' fortunes at home.
"We left a bad taste in our mouths last year, losing at home," cornerback Cary Williams said earlier this month. "We lost a lot of games at home. Those are things that we want to right this season."

It turns out 2013 wasn't some kind of anomaly. The Eagles' September loss to the Dallas Cowboys was their ninth consecutive at Lincoln Financial Field. Over the past 10 years, the Eagles' record at home was 44-36. Their road record was 45-34-1.

As the blog Bleeding Green Nation points out, that makes the Eagles the only team in the four major North American sports leagues with a better road record. And that's what Williams was talking about trying to correct.

Nine of the last 10 years, of course, Andy Reid was the Eagles' coach. Chip Kelly is only on the hook for one season with a better road record than home record. To Kelly's credit, the Eagles won their last four home games of the regular season in 2013. They started the year 0-4 at home, as the quarterback knot featuring Michael Vick and Nick Foles untangled itself.

That home loss to Dallas, the ninth straight at home, was the game in which Foles played poorly in the first half and was knocked out with a concussion. The next week, Vick was injured during a loss to the New York Giants. Both of those games were finished by Matt Barkley.

Foles returned to action Nov. 3 in Oakland and threw an NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes in a win over the Raiders. The Eagles went 7-1 in the second half of the season -- and undefeated at home.

Until the playoffs, of course. Despite home-field advantage, they lost to the Saints, 26-24.

Would the Eagles have been better off on the road for that game? It's hard to make that case. Their struggles at home are mystifying, but the Saints were simply a better team in that game.

Can the Eagles restore their home-field advantage in Kelly's second season? They will benefit from the addition of 1,600 seats, which should mean 1,600 more vocal cords, as part of renovations to the Linc. Mostly, they will benefit from being a better team in the second year of Kelly's tenure. And that's what Williams was talking about.

"I think we're going to be much improved from last season," he said. "We understand what's expected of us. We just want to continue to build off what we did last year and be better. I think we're on the right path."
PHILADELPHIA -- It is easy to read too much into what you see during organized team activities. On Tuesday, safety Earl Wolff was running with the first team. It turns out that Nate Allen was sick, and Wolff simply moved up a spot.

On Monday, inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks was calling out the defensive signals. That could mean the Eagles want Kendricks to replace DeMeco Ryans in that role, or it could simply mean Kendricks might have to fill in if Ryans gets hurt during a game.

In general, the Eagles' draft picks are running with the second or third teams. That is just coach Chip Kelly's way. It is not necessarily a reflection of where each rookie stands in the coaches' evaluation process.

[+] EnlargeEagles coach Chip Kelly
AP Photo/Matt Rourke"There's nothing to read into who is where, what, whatever, because we're not playing a game until September," Chip Kelly said.
"If anybody is trying to make anything of who is playing what or how many reps -- all we are trying to do is see if we can get three reps a minute as fast as we can go, get it on tape and coach off of that," Kelly said Tuesday. "So there's nothing to read into who is where, what, whatever, because we're not playing a game until September. We are just trying to get as many plays as we can possibly get. So I would not read anything into who is where or what."

First-round pick Marcus Smith is working at the left outside linebacker spot. That is Connor Barwin's spot. That doesn't mean Smith is being groomed to replace Barwin. It just means that Brandon Graham is the No. 2 guy on the right side, behind Trent Cole. In time, Smith will learn both spots. For now, six weeks before the start of training camp, the idea is to see how Smith reacts to different situations and coach him as needed.

"It's trying to figure out what those guys can do and what their skill set is and what their strengths and weaknesses are," Kelly said. "And then we'll go from there. But you got to start them somewhere. You can't say, ‘Hey, learn every single position.' Just want to put them at one spot and figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are as we evaluate them."

The big difference between last year and this year is that Nick Foles is the clear No. 1 quarterback. Michael Vick is gone. Mark Sanchez is here, but he has been told he's competing with Matt Barkley for the No. 2 spot.

Kelly said it's a "unique situation for Mark because he's probably ahead of where Nick [Foles] and Michael [Vick] were last year because he has Nick to rely on. So everything was new for everybody in the quarterback room last year. ... And he also has probably a lot more experience than a lot of guys. He's played in this league for a long time and has got 60 plus starts."

Sanchez doesn't have quite the standing that Vick had, maybe because none of those 62 starts were for the Eagles. But his experience must give Kelly some comfort going into a season in which Foles will be under more pressure than he's experienced before.

Sanchez said he is still on a "pitch count" -- a limit to how much work his right shoulder can do. But he has established himself as a good teammate, eager to help Foles develop even as he learns from him.

"Having a year under his belt really helps," Sanchez said. "He's really maturing into what I think is a really good quarterback. He's going to be tough to play against for defenses."

That won't really start, as Kelly said, until September. For now, the Eagles' focus is on learning and evaluation. It is, after all, only June.
PHILADELPHIA – Nick Foles is Chip Kelly’s quarterback after all.

That’s how it looks as the Philadelphia Eagles conduct their first full-squad, padded practices of the 2014 season. A year ago, when Kelly was bringing his Oregon offense and his uptempo approach into the NFL, Foles looked like the odd man out.

No hard feelings, kid. Just the wrong skill set for the new way of doing things.

And sure enough, Michael Vick was named starting quarterback midway through training camp. Foles was an afterthought -- until Vick pulled a hamstring early in the season and Kelly had to turn to the tall, less-than-mobile backup. Foles claimed the job with his performance, leading the Eagles to the NFC East title.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
AP Photo/Matt RourkeCoach Chip Kelly said that Nick Foles has been far from complacent after leading the Eagles to the NFC East title in 2013.
But then came the offseason, when Kelly would get several chances to add a quarterback who fits the profile a little better. Free agency? The Eagles signed Mark Sanchez, who was released by the New York Jets, to be Foles’ backup. The draft? Over the course of three days, the Eagles made trades, adding picks and prospects, but none of them played quarterback.

When the team took the field for the third day of practices Thursday, Foles was the first quarterback out there.

“The great thing about Nick, and what you love about him, he knows he’s never going to arrive,” Kelly said. “It’s a great trait to have. Some guys get to where they’ve won a job and they kick their feet up and go on cruise control. That’s not him.”

Kelly showed just how little time he’ll waste before he makes changes. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson put up great numbers in 2013, but he didn’t fit the culture Kelly was trying to instill here. Jackson was unceremoniously released in March.

Foles endured. He is now the senior guy in the Eagles’ quarterback meetings. Even the coach, Bill Musgrave, is new. Musgrave replaced Bill Lazor, who was hired to be the offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.

Sanchez replaces Vick as the veteran backup. Matt Barkley, who played in a couple of games as a rookie last year, is still likely the No. 3 guy. G.J. Kinne is back for his second summer as the No. 4 QB.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Barkley said. “I just trusted the coaches, figured they knew what was best for the team. I don’t have a say in it, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Sanchez hosted Barkley when he was a high school player visiting Southern Cal.

“We’ve crossed paths many times,” Barkley said. “I’ve known him for quite a while now.”

Sanchez took the Jets to two consecutive AFC title games. By last season, he was dealing with a shoulder injury and being replaced by Geno Smith. The Jets released him and, just to keep the circle unbroken, signed Vick to compete with and back up Smith.

“I was ready to get to a new place after I was released,” Sanchez said. “This looked like the best opportunity to come in, to play as hard as I can and do whatever I can to help the team.”

Sanchez has slid into the backup role without a word of complaint. He knew Barkley and Kinne, who was in the Jets’ camp in 2012.

“Getting to know Nick, he’s one of the best guys I’ve been around,” Sanchez said. “Strong Christian guy. Loves football. Loves his teammates. Great player to play with. I’m excited to come out and compete. I love the system.”

Kelly juggled Vick and Foles last year without allowing a controversy to develop. He doesn’t see much chance of trouble from this group.

“With quarterbacks,” Kelly said, “you better have two. There’s not many that make it through an entire season. You look at Aaron Rodgers (in 2013), Peyton Manning a year ago, Tom Brady.”

Foles had not earned the untouchable status of Rodgers, Manning and Brady. But Foles did throw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions while going 8-2 as a starter.

“You reflect for, like, five seconds and then you move on,” Foles said. “That season is not going to help me for this year. When I look back on seasons, I always look at the guys I do it with. I don’t remember the score or the stats from any games. I just remember winning the game with those guys.”

As important as the season was for him, though, the offseason was maybe even more so. Being named MVP of the Pro Bowl was nice. Holding his job through free agency and the draft was better.

“He’s more comfortable,” Kelly said. “I think you can sense that when you see him out there on the field.”

There are four quarterbacks in the meeting room. There’s only one running the first-team offense. That’s Kelly’s quarterback. That’s Foles.

“Chip’s cool,” Foles said. “He’s a fun coach to play for. You just continue to grow. I’ve got to keep getting better. If I don’t play well, it’s the NFL. I’ll be gone. I know that. That’s why last year’s stats don’t mean anything. The most important thing is for the team to be successful. To do that, the quarterback has to be sharp.”
This is a sad situation for the Philadelphia Eagles and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Even with the report from anonymous sources, it's difficult to figure out where the lion's share of blame belongs in this breakup.

[+] EnlargeKelly/Jackson
AP Photo/Michael PerezIt appears the Eagles and Chip Kelly didn't want to invest any more time in receiver DeSean Jackson.
The Eagles released Jackson, their most explosive player, on Friday afternoon. A report by alleges that Jackson has ties to Los Angeles gang members. The report shows a photo of Jackson flashing what can be perceived as gang signs.

Is that report part of the reason for Jackson's release? Did the team have issues with Jackson's alleged affiliations? Was his attitude toward meetings and practices not serious enough for the team?

The problem I have with all this is the failure of the two sides to stay on the same page for the greater good of the team. Why couldn't Jackson play within the rules? Why didn't the Eagles try harder to get their message across?

I find it difficult to believe that the Eagles could not talk things through with their leading receiver.

Why not confront him about being questioned by Los Angeles police regarding a friend of his, who is allegedly a gang member?

Why not demand he report to work on time? Show effort in practice?

I’m not saying Jackson has to be a choirboy. You find flaws in players, coaches and owners up and down every NFL roster. How a team manages those flaws can often be the difference between disarray and raising championship trophies.

Jackson isn’t the only player in the NFL who has alleged ties to gang members. People in all walks of life come across gang members, criminals and simply bad human beings. Are they all guilty by association?

Jackson isn’t the only player in the NFL with questionable work habits. Players have been late for meetings and shown disdain for practice since organized sports were created.

It's hard for me to believe the Eagles made the decision because of his practice habits. I'm just waiting for Jackson to respond by channeling another famous, but highly criticized, Philadelphia athlete. "Practice?! We talkin' about practice?!"

If the Eagles really wanted Jackson around, they would have formulated a plan to get him in the right place.

A league source told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that the Eagles decided to release Jackson for a number of reasons, but most involved "work ethic and attitude."

The same source said the Eagles learned Wednesday night about Jackson's alleged associations in Los Angeles, and that report "raised their level of concern.”

Really? With as much as the team had invested in Jackson, they found out about those alleged relationships only this week? As sophisticated as scouting and security is in the NFL, it's very difficult to believe the Eagles didn't know who their star wide receiver was hanging out with from the time he was drafted until the time he was released.

Months before this report came out, there were photos of Jackson on his Instagram account with alleged gang members.

The Eagles, under a different regime, made a choice to select him in the second round. They have known him and what he's about for years. And now, all of a sudden, this reported gang association, his work ethic and missed meetings are major issues?

Where was the passion to get Jackson in line, much like there was when Michael Vick was signed back in 2009? Remember the protesters outside Lincoln Financial Field? Remember the outrage? The Eagles survived it all.

At the time of Vick’s signing, owner Jeffrey Lurie said he was appalled by the quarterback’s involvement with dogfighting. Lurie acted as if he wanted nothing to do with Vick and put everything on then-Eagles coach Andy Reid.

Those efforts worked out for the Eagles and for Vick, who became a solid citizen in Philadelphia. The Eagles showed patience and told Vick to live up to what the organization wanted from him.

Where was this effort for Jackson?

Chip Kelly is not Andy Reid, and apparently Kelly wasn't interested in putting in the time and effort it would have taken to get Jackson marching in the right direction.

I just can’t imagine how Jackson finished ninth in the NFL in receiving yards last season after being late to all these meetings and simply going through the motions in practice.

How did he manage so much success when it came down to game time?

Either the effort to help Jackson was going to be too much for the Eagles, or there was something very personal going on between Jackson and others in the organization.

If you ask me, the Eagles simply didn't care about getting one of the best wide receivers in the league to buy into the program. It wasn’t worth the effort.

You can bet somebody else will try.
SanchezAndrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsAs a quarterback who played in two AFC title games, Mark Sanchez brings experience as a backup.
Mark Sanchez is one of those players whose negatives have come to define him. We forget that he was a first-round pick, that he went to the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons. We associate him with the butt-fumble, with bad interceptions, with the futility that is the New York Jets. When his name is suggested in connection with your favorite team, your first reaction is something along the lines of, "Jeez. Really? Why?"

But the fact is, at this point in his career, Sanchez is everything you look for in a backup quarterback. And that's what the Philadelphia Eagles see in him -- a backup quarterback. The Eagles signed Sanchez to an undisclosed contract on Thursday. He's not being brought in to compete with Nick Foles, whose monster second half of the 2013 season solidified him as the team's starter going into 2014. It's possible that Sanchez is being brought in to compete with second-year man Matt Barkley for the backup role, but since Barkley was and likely still is a project, it's also possible that Sanchez is being brought in to serve as Foles' backup until (or if ever) Barkley is ready to do that.

Would Chip Kelly's offense function as smoothly with Sanchez at quarterback as it did last year with Foles? Unlikely, if Sanchez were to be as inaccurate a thrower as he has been so far in his career. But that's not the point. Very few teams have ever had a backup who could step in and replicate a starter's performance, because quarterbacks who can do that tend to get jobs as starters elsewhere. The job of a backup quarterback is basically to not mess things up. And Sanchez has enough NFL experience to allow Kelly to believe he can meet that standard.

What you're looking for in a backup is a guy for whom the moment won't be too big -- a player who won't fall apart emotionally just because he suddenly finds himself thrown into an NFL game. Sanchez fits that description. There are only seven active NFL quarterbacks (and only 36 in league history, for that matter) who have won more playoff games than the four Sanchez won in his first two seasons. Of the backup options on this offseason's market, the only one with more experience as a starter was Michael Vick, who coincidentally just left the Eagles to sign with the Jets.

If something happens to Foles and he has to sit out a couple of plays or a quarter or a game or a few weeks, Sanchez gives Kelly the ability to put a quarterback into the game who's not going to be overwhelmed. And there's peace of mind in that. Sanchez might not play well, and the Eagles might struggle if they have to go with him for a few weeks, but the same can be said for any backup anywhere.

The best-case scenario for Sanchez in all of this is that he gets an opportunity at some point to put on a positive performance and rebuild his career as an NFL starter. But if all he's going to be is a backup, the fact that he used to be a starter makes him a valuable one.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Michael Vick generated plenty of buzz Wednesday at the NFL owners' meetings -- positive buzz.

Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, addressing reporters at the NFC coaches' breakfast, said the 33-year-old quarterback still has the physical skills to be a winning quarterback. Later, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell commended Vick for changing his life in the aftermath of the dog-fighting scandal.

Vick signed a one-year contract last week with the New York Jets, who say he will compete with Geno Smith for the starting job.

"I still think he’s got a lot of football left in him,” said Kelly, who coached Vick last season. “He’s got tremendous arm skill. I don’t know too many guys in the league that have the arm that Mike does. There’s still days in practice in December when he rips a couple and you’re just like, ‘Whoa.’ He can throw the football. He still has the ability.”

Vick was Kelly's choice last season as the Eagles' Week 1 starter, but he got hurt and eventually lost his job to Nick Foles, who played brilliantly. That's the biggest question about Vick, his ability to stay healthy. He takes chances outside the pocket, trying to utilize his once-remarkable speed.

“He’s probably not as fast as when he first came into the league,” Kelly said. “But when he first came into the league, he was the fastest guy to ever play the position. A slower version of Michael is a lot faster than maybe every other quarterback in the league, with the exception of one or two."

Before signing Vick, who spent nearly two years in a federal prison for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson consulted with Goodell. The commissioner has developed a rapport over the years with Vick, whom he reinstated in 2009.

"I think Michael is a young man who made a tragic mistake," Goodell told a news conference at the conclusions of the meetings. "He paid a very heavy price for it, but I’ve seen him in everything he’s done exceed expectations. He has worked very hard to be a positive force in a lot of different areas, and that’s something I admire about him.

"When we went through the process of reviewing [his return to the NFL], whether he had demonstrated he would do things the right way and be a positive force, he has. I’m proud of the work that he’s done.”
Michael Vick left the Philadelphia Eagles in part because he wanted a chance to be a starting quarterback. The New York Jets have offered him that chance.

“It’s going to be really interesting to watch that competition unfold,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Fla., “but Geno Smith is going to be hard to beat out.”

Ryan said Vick would have a chance to be the Jets’ starter in Week 1, which led to questions about who would take the first snaps when the team’s on-field activities start this spring. Ryan deflected all of them, returning to a theme that competition is a good thing.

Smith threw for 3,046 yards as a rookie with 12 touchdown passes, but he was intercepted 21 times.

When Vick first got together with New York offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg with the Eagles, he had his best season with 21 touchdown passes and six interceptions in 2010. Ryan said Vick’s background with Mornhinweg and the system will help him in competing for the job.

It’s been awhile since Vick was that good, but Ryan believes Vick has plenty of football left.

“First off, you’re getting a guy who’s a proven winner,” Ryan said. “He is a dynamic player.”

It will be an interesting time around the Jets, as always.
The Philadelphia Eagles need a backup quarterback. Mark Sanchez needs a new place to restart his career.

With ESPN Insider Chris Mortenson reporting Sanchez is expected to sign with the Eagles, it brings together two sides filling a major need.

Nick Foles is without question the Eagles' starter. He threw 27 touchdown passes and had just two interceptions while compiling an 8-2 record in 2013. But with Michael Vick off to the New York Jets and Matt Barkley an unknown, coach Chip Kelly is dipping into the Pac-12 quarterbacks again.

Kelly was Oregon's offensive coordinator when Sanchez played at Southern Cal.

We will now get to see if he can revitalize Sanchez.

Things started so well for Sanchez with the Jets. He helped New York and Rex Ryan to two straight AFC Championship Games, losing to Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, but he never made the next step in his career.

His best statistical year came in 2011, when he threw for 3,474 yards with 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, but the Jets lost their final three games and that was the end of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Tony Sparano did not help Sanchez in 2012. A shoulder injury kept Sanchez out last year.

Provided the shoulder checks out, Sanchez will become the backup to Foles.

Kelly's first order of business is lifting Sanchez's accuracy. He is a 55.1 percent passer for his career. The best he has had in his career is 56.7 percent. In today's NFL with the rules the way they are, quarterbacks must complete about 65 percent to be effective.

With the Eagles, Sanchez would have better tools around him, especially on the offensive line. He could have DeSean Jackson at wide receiver, at least for a minute. He would have Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper to go with Brent Celek and Zach Ertz at tight end. And of course he would have LeSean McCoy.

He would also have Kelly, who has won with different kinds of quarterbacks along his stops at New Hampshire, Oregon and last year with the Eagles.

The Eagles are not the ground-and-pound of the Jets in Sanchez's first two years, but Kelly will run the ball to control the game and his quarterback.

Sanchez would be going to a perfect spot without the pressure to be the Sanch-ise. All he would need to be is a backup, not a savior.

Vick, Jackson once produced magic

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
Four years is a long time in the NFL, so it’s not as if a moment -- or game -- that occurred in 2010 is somehow relevant now. It isn’t. But one play, one game, will provide a snapshot of two players who once made the Eagles a feared offense.

One just left. The other could be headed out soon. According to, a “source close to DeSean Jackson … said Jackson now believes his departure is inevitable.” Whether or not it really is, time will tell. Regardless, a lot of smoke surrounds Jackson and with the league meetings set to begin Sunday, trade talk -- not just about Jackson -- will escalate.

[+] EnlargeDeSean Jackson
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesDeSean Jackson's big-play ability has helped boost the Eagles' offense throughout his career.
Yes, the Eagles will survive the loss of Michael Vick. Yes, they should still have an excellent offense without Jackson, though I’m quite certain the other NFC East defensive coordinators would be quite happy. If I’m Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, I’m texting Eagles coach Chip Kelly to remind him that Jackson is not “his kind of guy.” Hourly.

Anyway, speaking of Haslett, it brings me back to 2010. Vick and Jackson against the Redskins on a "Monday Night Football" game that began with a bang. Redskins safety LaRon Landry, who probably gets out of bed talking trash, started yapping in pregame with Jackson.

One play into the game, Jackson responded and one of the most impressive offensive performances had begun. Vick dropped back, and threw down the middle to Jackson, who easily sped past Landry. An 88-yard touchdown that ignited a 59-28 rout. Funny to say it, but the game wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate -- not that it comes close to suggesting it was.

After the game, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said, “Not too many guys can throw that ball. I don't know how far it went -- 65 yards in the air. That's a great play by Vick and Jackson both.”

Vick went on to have a game that ranks among the best in NFL history, certainly one of the most dominating. The Redskins had no answer for him as Vick was in a zone; his passes zipped, his legs caused infinite amounts of frustration. In the end, Vick finished with 333 yards passing and four touchdowns; 80 yards rushing and two scores. His game set a standard as he became the first player in NFL history to finish a game with at least 300 yards passing, 50 rushing, four touchdown passes and two touchdowns rushing. On the other sideline, a former Eagles quarterback, Donovan McNabb, continued his downward spiral.

That play, that game, certainly served as a reminder of the prodigious talent Vick possessed and what he could do when everything clicked. There were moments that produced the opposite, whether it was injuries or fastballs that sailed high or wide. But the chance that he could do something spectacular, with his legs or his arm, made him interesting to watch. And scary for defenses.

Ironically, Jackson only caught one other pass in that game, for 10 yards. But he helped make a statement and provided fear in the defense, helping other wideouts get open with his presence.

Even if the Eagles trade Jackson they should still have a good offense; enough weapons remain. But Jackson and Vick were nightmares for defenses as much because of what they could do at any moment versus what they always did. One is done in Philadelphia, the other may soon follow.
There was really no way Michael Vick would return to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2014, but it became official Friday when he signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the New York Jets.

He came to the Eagles in 2009 after spending 21 months in state prison for his involvement in dog fighting and rehabbed his image.

On the field Vick had some magical moments, but nothing was quite as good as it was in 2010 when he went 8-3 as the Eagles' starter and threw 21 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. He remained a deadly runner (nine touchdowns) but his decision-making was the best it had ever been. He was named to the Pro Bowl and was the Comeback Player of the Year.

But he could not recapture that 2010 form. Injuries slowed him down, including a hamstring injury that led to Nick Foles becoming Philadelphia's unquestioned starter as the Eagles won the NFC East in Chip Kelly's first year.

Vick had a 20-20 record with the Eagles. He had 56 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions. He had two 3,000-yard seasons.

Vick was good for Philadelphia, and Philadelphia was good for Vick.

How will you remember Vick's time with the Eagles?
Michael VickChris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsMichael Vick has thrown 57 touchdown passes since joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.
Free-agent quarterback Michael Vick has a visit lined up this weekend with the New York Jets, who need him more than the Philadelphia Eagles do and thus look likely to lure him away. Even if the Jets don’t sign him, it appears increasingly likely that Vick’s time in Philadelphia will come to an end this offseason.

Vick signed with the Eagles in August 2009, a month after he was released from federal prison following a two-year sentence on dogfighting charges. The move was a surprise, since the Eagles had Donovan McNabb at quarterback and a young Kevin Kolb being groomed as McNabb’s replacement. The idea that Vick would ever start a game for the Eagles, let alone be on the team for five years, was difficult to believe at the time. Even the Eagles themselves presented it as a move designed to help a guy get back on his feet, and if he helped the football team then so much the better.

But it has in fact been five seasons for Vick as an Eagle, and while it hasn't all been sunshine and lollipops, he has had his moments. And whatever you want to say about Vick's tenure in Philadelphia -- whether it's over or not -- you can't say it hasn't been interesting:

2009: Amid speculation that then-coach Andy Reid and then-offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg may have been dreaming up some special offensive packages designed to maximize Vick's speed and athleticism, Vick stayed more or less on the sideline while coaches worked with him in practice to sand down some of his rough edges as a passer. He played in 12 games, attempted a pass in eight of them (and no more than three passes in any) and had a rushing attempt in 11 of them (but never more than four in a game). If he was on the field at all, he was a decoy or a mop man. But he did get to throw for one touchdown and rush for another in garbage time in a 34-7 victory in Atlanta, which had to give the former Falcon some satisfaction.

2010: Kolb was named the starter in the preseason, but he got hurt in the opener and Vick came in and put on a dazzling show, nearly leading the Eagles to a comeback victory over the Packers. He was 16-for-24 for 175 yards and rushed for 103 yards on 11 carries. He was so brilliant that, even once Kolb was cleared, Reid announced he was switching up and giving the job to Vick, who did not disappoint. Highlights included the six-touchdown "Monday Night Football" torching of the Washington Redskins and the incredible comeback in Week 15 against the Giants. That was the game DeSean Jackson won with his now-famous last-second punt return, but the work Vick did in bringing the Eagles back from a 31-10 deficit in the final eight minutes of the game was utterly breathtaking.

That was the high point, though, as the Eagles followed it with an inexplicable Tuesday night loss (that's right, look it up) to the Joe Webb Vikings and then fell in the first round of the playoffs at home to the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers. That was a close game. Vick cut it to 21-16 with a touchdown run in the final 5 minutes, and the Eagles had the ball in Green Bay territory in the final minute. But Vick threw an interception in the end zone and his sizzling season came to an early end.

2011: Vick actually threw for more yards in 2011 than he did in 2010, but he ran less and his other stats dropped. His interception total rose from an unsustainable six to a more reasonable 14. And the Eagles fell apart around him, starting out 1-4 and never recovering until they were out of the race in December. Vick contributed to the problem with a staggering 11 turnovers in the first six games, and his late-season injury issues forced a completely unprepared Vince Young into the starter's role in key games. The Giants won the NFC East with a 9-7 record and went on to win the Super Bowl as the Eagles, who had to win their final four games to get to 8-8, watched in self-disgust.

2012: This was a weird one. The Eagles won three of their first four games in ugly fashion. Vick threw four interceptions in the opener against the Browns and two more the next week in the home opener against the Ravens, but he led game-winning drives both weeks and the Eagles won each game by a single point. In Week 4, he led them from behind to a two-point victory over the Giants. The Eagles were getting away with all kinds of sloppiness, and it eventually caught up with them. They lost 11 of their final 12 games and got Reid fired in the process. By mid-November, a concussion and other physical ailments had sent Vick to the sideline, and even once he was healthy Reid decided to roll instead with backup Nick Foles to see what they had for the future. Vick's time in Philadelphia appeared done.

2013: Surprisingly, the Eagles re-signed Vick to a one-year contract and new coach Chip Kelly named him the starter in training camp. He looked good in the season-opening victory over Washington and threw for 428 yards and two touchdowns the following week in a loss to San Diego, but tough losses to the Chiefs and Broncos dropped the Eagles to 1-3 and had folks grumbling. Vick would run for 79 yards on seven carries in the first half of a Week 5 victory over the Giants, but he pulled his hamstring on his final run of the half, and that was that. Foles seized the job and never looked back, leading the Eagles to an 8-3 finish with 27 touchdown passes and only two interceptions. But Vick's 2013 legacy may be the capstone on an Eagles career that began as a reclamation project. He made no waves, served as a willing backup and was attentive and helpful to Foles and the rest of the offense in practice and in meetings. Vick's ability to handle losing his starter's job with dignity likely helped his case as a free agent this year. Teams that may have been wondering a year ago about what kind of backup he'd make now have some proof that he wouldn't be a detriment in that role. Who knows? It could even land him back in Philadelphia if things don't work out this weekend with the Jets.

Top free-agent roundup: NFC East

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
Here are the top 15 free agents, followed by their rankings, entering Tuesday's signing period as compiled by NFC East reporters Dan Graziano, Todd Archer, Phil Sheridan and John Keim. There are some strong options at the top, but there is not a lot of depth in the NFC East when it comes to free agency. And if Dallas' DeMarcus Ware gets released, he vaults to a top spot on this list. As always, ESPN's free-agent tracker will keep you updated during this period.

1. LB Brian Orakpo, 8.5: The Redskins used the franchise tag on him, so barring a surprise, he’ll be back. It’s a controversial move among fans, but the Redskins need his pass rush and promise to unleash him more often. His career best for a single season is 11 sacks.

2. DT Linval Joseph, 8: A very big, strong and young (25) interior run-stuffer who has also shown the ability to create pressure from the interior, Joseph could be available because of the Giants’ depth at defensive tackle and their many needs.

3. DT Jason Hatcher, 8: He is coming off an 11-sack season, but he turns 32 in July and Dallas doesn’t have much cap space.

4. LB Jon Beason, 7: The Giants are working hard to sign him before free agency opens, as his leadership and high-energy play at middle linebacker helped transform their defense during the 2013 season.

5. WR Hakeem Nicks, 7: This grade is based on talent and past accomplishments, and a feeling that he was being overly careful in 2013 in order to hit free agency healthy. Lacks his early career speed, but knows how to play the position as well as anyone.

6. WR Jason Avant, 7: For a team in need of a third-down possession guy, the sure-handed Avant will be a great value.

7. P Donnie Jones, 7: The Eagles are expected to re-sign Jones, who was an underrated contributor to their NFC East title team.

8. DE Anthony Spencer, 6: He is coming back from microfracture surgery, so the cost won’t be high.

9. LB Perry Riley, 6: The Redskins need to re-sign him because they already have a hole at inside linebacker after London Fletcher retired. But they won’t break the bank for Riley, who needs to improve in coverage.

10. DE Justin Tuck, 6: Coming off an 11-sack season that came out of nowhere after two down years, Tuck turns 31 later this month but is a locker-room leader and a 4-3 defensive end who can set the edge against the run.

11. QB Michael Vick, 6: With Nick Foles' ascension, Vick is looking for a chance to start elsewhere.

12. RB Andre Brown, 5: He played very well in his first few games back off a broken leg, but faded down the stretch and fumbled too much in the final few games. He is likely not a guy who can be relied on as a starter, but potentially a valuable piece.

13. TE Brandon Myers, 5: A huge disappointment in New York after catching 79 passes as a Raider in 2012, Myers also contributed little as a blocker. The Giants are likely to let him go. He could fit better with a different system.

14. CB Terrell Thomas, 5: He played all 16 games after missing the previous two seasons because of ACL tears in the same knee. Thomas believes he can hold up as a starter off a real offseason, and would like to cash in.

15. S Danny McCray, 5: He is a core special teamer only, so the Cowboys could find value here.
Scratch the Jacksonville Jaguars off Michael Vick's list of possible employers.

That was the immediate take after the Jaguars signed quarterback Chad Henne to a two-year contract Friday. The nature of the deal and, frankly, the nature of Chad Henne suggest the Jaguars plan to draft a quarterback in May and use Henne as an interim starter in 2014.

That is not the kind of role Vick really wants, obviously. He has been a franchise quarterback, in attitude and usually in job description, for most of the years since he was drafted first overall by Atlanta in 2001. Vick's plan is to leave Philadelphia, where he was displaced by Nick Foles, and go somewhere he can start for another two or three seasons.

That place probably wasn't going to be Jacksonville. But each time a team with an obvious need at quarterback fills that need, Vick's options shrink. The list of likely possibilities includes Oakland, Minnesota, the New York Jets, Tampa Bay and Buffalo.

The other striking thing about Henne's deal is how it sets the market for veteran stopgap types. Henne will reportedly get $4.5 million guaranteed and a total of $8 million from the Jags.

Vick earned over $50 million in bonuses and salary over the past four seasons. That sounds like a lot, and it is. But he has also been dealing with the demands of the bankruptcy court, which has forced him to pay back his many creditors after his conviction on charges related to his dogfighting operation.

Vick reportedly emerged from bankruptcy only late last year. So he is surely looking for another big payday before his playing days are over. He will be 34 in June, so this is his last chance.

Did the Jaguars ever consider Vick? Did they prefer Henne because of football reasons and familiarity? Or did they figure Vick was holding out for a more prominent role than they were prepared to offer him?

The answers to those questions could provide clues about how Vick is seen around the league. The old truism that it only takes one team has never been more applicable than it is with Vick.

The Eagles were the only team willing to take a chance on him when he was reinstated by commission Roger Goodell in 2009. Will there be another team willing to give him a starting job in 2014?

It will be one of the most-watched stories in free agency. With Vick, that's the one thing you can be sure about.