NFC East: Mark Sanchez

Eagles vs. Giants preview

December, 26, 2014

The last time the Philadelphia Eagles played a game without playoff implications, it was the tail end of the 2012 season and Andy Reid was still their coach. For the New York Giants, Sunday's 1 p.m. ET regular-season finale against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium will be the fifth consecutive game in which both they and their opponent have already been eliminated from postseason contention. Nothing on the line here but pride for these division rivals. ESPN NFL Nation reporters Dan Graziano and Phil Sheridan are here to break it all down for you.

Graziano: Well, that fell apart in a hurry. Three weeks ago, the Eagles were in the NFC East driver’s seat. Now, Sunday’s game means nothing more to their playoff chances than it does to the Giants’ playoff chances. What’s the biggest reason for the collapse?

Sheridan: I’ve had a little time to ponder this and I think it’s relatively simple. The Eagles were not an elite team this year. They were pretty good, able to compete within the NFC East and against St. Louis and Jacksonville and such squads. But every time they had to face a playoff-caliber team -- Arizona, San Francisco (before their fall), Green Bay -- they lost.

That big Thanksgiving Day win in Dallas created the illusion that the Eagles had hit their stride. But Seattle brought them right back to reality. Seattle simply beat them up the way superior teams beat average teams.

The two most recent losses, to Dallas and Washington, were due to factors that have lingered all season for the Eagles. Turnovers? They lead the league in giving the ball away. Red zone? Break out the rookie place-kicker. Pass defense? Er, next question.

Early in the season, the Eagles got a bunch of touchdowns from their defense and special teams. That was a tough way to win, and it dried up on them against the better teams.

The Giants were 3-9 when the Eagles were 9-3. The Eagles haven’t won since, the Giants haven't lost since. Is that just late-season, no-pressure-to-win stat-padding, or have the Giants really turned things around? Put another way: Is this something they can carry over to 2015?

Graziano: They think it is, which I think is important, considering how young the players are who are contributing to this run. The schedule has helped, of course. The Giants' three-game winning streak is against Tennessee, Washington and St. Louis. But the Rams were playing defense as well as anyone in the league coming into Sunday, and the Giants dropped 37 points on them. So something is going right. Rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham is the superstar, but rookie Andre Williams has two 100-yard rushing games in the past three weeks, rookies Devon Kennard and Kerry Wynn are contributing on special teams. Add in strong late surges from cornerstone players in quarterback Eli Manning and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, and the Giants are on the kind of roll that means nothing to this year but could, they hope, give them some confidence going into the offseason that they're on the right track for 2015. The offense has definitely shown progress since Week 1, and in the first year with a new coordinator, that's one of the biggest things for which the Giants were hoping.

Hey, Mark Sanchez is back in his old stomping grounds this week. Am I safe in assuming the Eagles go into this offseason with quarterback high on their priority list? Or do they expect/want Nick Foles to come back and win the job?

Sheridan: You’d be safe in that assumption if I were the general manager or head coach. As for Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly, I’m not sure how they view this. I think it will be a little bit of a Rorschach test: What they see when they look at Foles will tell a lot about them.

If they blame the collapse on Mark Sanchez and his 13 turnovers in eight games, that will mean they choose to overlook Foles’ 13 turnovers in his eight games. It’s a shame, really, that Foles wasn’t cleared to play in time to get one or two more games in. It would have helped the evaluation process to see him behind the relatively healthy version of the offensive line. It was banged up when he was playing (which is one reason he ended up with a broken collarbone, frankly).

Sanchez will be a free agent. Foles still has one more year on his rookie deal. It would certainly be easy enough to bring Foles back and let 2015 decide whether he gets a franchise-quarterback contract. But then Kelly is in his third season and if Foles plays more like he did this year than last year? Year 4 isn’t exactly the time to start looking for a franchise quarterback.

I would expect Kelly and Roseman to explore all the options, including mortgaging some draft picks to move up and try for Oregon’s Marcus Mariota. If they can’t hit a home run, they can always come back with Foles. But swinging for the fences seems like the right thing at this point.

How responsible is Beckham for the Giants’ recent success? It looks from a distance as if he quickly has become the bell cow for that team. Does it look like that from up close? How good can the kid be?

Graziano: He's the engine, that's for sure. I thought the target distribution was more even this week, then I looked at the box score and saw Beckham was targeted 12 times and no one else was targeted more than six. And this in Manning's best game of the year. It's not exaggerating to say there's no one in the league playing the receiver position better than Beckham is playing it at the moment. He runs great routes, has great speed, catches everything and offers the ability to run trick plays where he lines up in the backfield because he can run with the ball or even throw it. He had only two catches for 28 yards in the Week 6 whitewashing in Philadelphia in which Victor Cruz went down. But since that game, Beckham has 1,048 yards and 10 touchdowns in only nine games. He can be as good as he wants to be. Remember, he's doing this after missing almost all of the offseason program, all of training camp and the first four games of the season due to a hamstring injury. In the grand scheme of things, at the NFL level, he has barely even practiced.

As far as this game goes, Beckham and the Giants’ offense are on a roll. Do you expect them to be able to continue it against an Eagles defense that shut them out in Week 6?

Sheridan: Yup.

Oh, I should write more? I just don’t see anything from the Eagles' defense that suggests they’re equipped to stop the bleeding that has cost them these past three games. There is some chance that Bradley Fletcher will get benched after his escapades covering Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson, but there is a reason the Eagles kept running Fletcher out there. He’s better than Nolan Carroll and Brandon Boykin.

That said, can he cover Beckham? I shudder to think about the damage that might be done if the Eagles try to find out. The simple fact is the Eagles have tended to lose against good quarterbacks with decent weapons to work with. You know better than I do what was up with Manning and the Giants when the Eagles shut them out in October. Cruz got hurt in that game. Beckham was only a household name with “David” in front of it back then. But if the Giants of the past few weeks show up Sunday, they will be able to get some big plays on this defense.

There always seems to be speculation about Tom Coughlin’s future. He endured a seven-game losing streak this season. Now that things seem turned around, is there more confidence in Coughlin going forward? Is he feeling re-energized?

Graziano: I never sensed a lapse in energy -- not for any sustained length of time. Coughlin was down after the loss in Jacksonville that dropped the Giants to 3-9, but true to his nature he was right back up Wednesday and getting the team ready for the next game the way he always does. At this point, I think it would be shocking if he's not back next year, based on everything I've heard inside and outside the building about this. Ownership never wanted to get rid of him -- especially after only one year in the new offense and with Ben McAdoo still only 37 and likely not ready yet to take over. There was some concern that a lousy finish might force their hand, but the three straight wins here have mellowed things, and now I expect Coughlin back in 2015. And I don't expect to see any difference in the way he coaches or operates. He's as consistently a high-energy coach as there is in the league, even though he's the oldest, and if there was no reason to get rid of him last year, I don't see what the reason is to do it a year later.

Eagles inclined to keep Mark Sanchez

August, 17, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- Listen up, potential shoppers. If you are in need of a quarterback and are interested in trading for the resurgent Mark Sanchez, you better make an attractive offer because the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t inclined to let him go.

“I mean, we’ll listen to anything for anybody,” second-year Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Sunday morning. “We’re not going to just bury our head in the sand and say no. But it better be a pretty good deal in terms of what it is.”

No team has inquired about Sanchez, Kelly said. Yet.

After getting cut by the New York Jets during the offseason, Sanchez signed a one-year deal with the Eagles in late March and has thrived working in Kelly’s up-tempo system. In two preseason games against Chicago and New England, Sanchez has completed 18 of 22 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Against the Patriots on Friday night, Sanchez threw just one incompletion and finished with a 112.2 passer rating.

Although he was limited during offseason workouts while still recovering from a shoulder injury that ended his season last August, Sanchez is back to full strength. During the brief respite between the end of minicamp in June and the beginning of training camp in late July, Sanchez said he finally felt 100 percent healthy while working out with a former coach near his home in Southern California.

Sanchez is No. 2 on the Eagles' depth chart. He has said that, while he would love to start, he is focused on putting good work on film so that when he becomes a free agent again in 2015, he can hopefully land with a team that is looking for a starting quarterback. He also has said he is more than happy to support Nick Foles.

Kelly said that with Sanchez, Foles and Matt Barkley, he feels like the Eagles “have one of the better quarterback situations in the league.” Sanchez has 68 career starts, including the playoffs, while Foles has 17, including a playoff loss to New Orleans last January.

“I’m also a big guy that you better have two quarterbacks in this league,” Kelly said. “So I think unless something blows you out of the water, we’re real confident with Mark starting a game if we need it. ... We need him.”

Kelly was asked, hypothetically speaking, would he move Sanchez?

“What are you giving me?” he responded.

Kelly made it clear: It would take a lot for him to let Sanchez go.

Injuries: The Eagles returned to practice Sunday morning after having Saturday off following their preseason game at New England Friday night. While wide receiver Riley Cooper and running back Matthew Tucker practiced, the Eagles were still without several key players.

Kelly said an X-ray on rookie wide receiver Josh Huff's injured shoulder was negative. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who has tightness in a hamstring, should return to practice Monday. Cornerback Cary Williams also sat out with a sore hamstring he injured while returning an interception of Tom Brady for a touchdown.
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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.

Eagles' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
The elephant in the room when discussing the Philadelphia Eagles' prospects for the next few years is named Nick Foles. If Foles continues to be the quarterback who threw 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions last season, who led the NFL in passer rating in 2013, then the Eagles should be in fine shape for the foreseeable future.

But I don’t think that’s really the question we should be asking. To me, the Eagles’ chances for continued success under Chip Kelly depend largely on the coach himself.

Remember, Foles went 1-5 as a starter under Andy Reid in 2012. He certainly benefited from that experience, but the single most important reason for his big 2013 season was Kelly’s offensive strategy. Foles performed at an elite level while LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing. That doesn’t happen by accident. It happens as a result of good coaching that finds ways to get the most of the players available.

As long as that is Kelly’s approach, the Eagles have a chance to contend for the next few seasons. And there is no reason to believe Kelly will change his approach.

Consider the worst-case scenario regarding Foles. If he regresses significantly in 2014, the Eagles are under no obligation to sign him to a long-term contract. They would be free to see if Mark Sanchez or Matt Barkley can excel in Kelly’s system. If the answer is no, they could draft a quarterback in 2015 -- Marcus Mariota, anyone? -- and let Kelly work with him.

If Foles is able to replicate his success, or even build on it, then the Eagles will be fine. So it’s easy to conclude Foles is the key. But in truth, the No. 1 determining factor for this franchise in 2015, 2016, 2017 and beyond is Kelly.
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.”

Barkley's role in offense still developing

April, 18, 2014
In last year’s NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to select USC quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth round.

It was an interesting decision since Barkley didn’t seem to be the type of quarterback coach Chip Kelly would like to run his offense. Then again, neither is Nick Foles and he had a record-setting season in Kelly’s offense.

Barkley’s grade has to remain incomplete. He didn’t get many snaps and was pushed into playing time when Foles and Michael Vick went down with injuries. Barkley attempted 49 passes and threw four interceptions.

Since the Eagles signed Mark Sanchez, it’s hard to figure out where Barkley fits this season.

But Barkley was worth a fourth-round pick since he had so much success in college. Having a full offseason of organized team activities and training camp should be even more beneficial.

“If you want to take that and jab me with that, that’s fine,” Barkley told of his numbers last season. “I’m not going to make excuses. I know what I did wrong, and I’m going to learn from it, but at the same time, I’m capable of a lot more. I’m a better quarterback than that, and I know that and the people who have watched me and know me and watched me play the last four years -- and even the last eight years, going back to high school -- know that I’m a better quarterback than that.”

When the Eagles make their fourth-round pick in next month's draft, it remains to be seen what direction they'll head. At this stage, they’ll be looking for the best player available.

Sometimes, it takes a few years to really determine if the pick was the right one. That's certainly the case with Barkley.
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.

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.
Mark Sanchez will be remembered for one play -- a bizarre, comical, inexplicable, can't-believe-what-we-just-saw play.

The Butt Fumble.

And that's too bad because when you look back at his five seasons with the New York Jets, the costliest drop of the ball was committed by the organization itself.

For the way it failed to develop Sanchez.

Call it an Utter Fumble.

To understand what went wrong, you have to go back to the beginning. Sanchez was a raw, somewhat immature kid when he arrived from USC in 2009, but he stepped into a huddle filled with smart, tough and experienced teammates. Guys such as Thomas Jones, Damien Woody, Alan Faneca, Tony Richardson, Jerricho Cotchery and Brandon Moore.

It was a ready-made team good enough to win games with a not-so-ready quarterback. The chemistry worked for two years -- two almost-championship seasons. By 2011, Sanchez was ready to make it his team (or so we thought), but the talent around him got old and the whole thing started to sink.

The sinking went on for two seasons, plus a lost year in the trainer's room, and there he was Friday, receiving his walking papers from the franchise that once seemed perfect for him.

What a shame.

The timing never was right for Sanchez. When it was time for him to go from little brother to head of the family, his supporting cast was virtually gone. The front office didn't do a good job of replenishing the talent, sticking him with Plaxico Burress and LaDainian Tomlinson -- both diminished players -- and the diva of all divas, Santonio Holmes.

The worst move came before the 2012 season. After a fleeting and ill-fated attempt to recruit Peyton Manning, a courtship that lasted as long as a burp, the Jets professed their faith in Sanchez by giving him a three-year contract extension even though he still had two years on his rookie deal. But that wasn't the bad part. That came a few days later with the news that Tim Tebow was coming in a trade.

It was the beginning of the end for Sanchez. Even though Tebow never posed a serious threat as a quarterback, his presence -- and the distraction -- altered the team dynamic and undermined Sanchez. Let's face it: Sanchez crumbled under the pressure. After Tebow was gone, Sanchez admitted, "I just don't know if it was the best situation for either of us."

Translation: The Tebow trade was an unmitigated disaster for everybody.

That season, 2012, was critical for Sanchez because he still had a chance to recapture his Wonder Boy image. But the Tebow soap opera, coupled with a hiring of a coordinator who had no expertise with quarterbacks (hello and goodbye, Tony Sparano), proved too much to overcome.

For practical purposes, Sanchez's career with the Jets ended on that apocalyptic night in Tennessee -- Dec. 17, 2012, when he committed five turnovers and was informed after the game that he no longer was the starter.

Sanchez was exposed that season -- and, really, in parts of 2011 -- as a system quarterback reliant on a strong running game and a powerful defense. He was incapable, either with his personality or physical skill, of elevating the team. Only a handful of quarterbacks can do that, and he doesn't belong in that group of transcendent players.

Some former teammates say Sanchez carried himself with a sense of entitlement, perhaps born of the silver-spoon treatment he received from the organization. He was coddled and never challenged, behaving as if it were his birthright to be the starting quarterback of the Jets. In retrospect, maybe he was a victim of his early success.

But let's be frank: Sanchez had to go. Some might argue the Jets should've reworked his contract, based on the premise that you don't jettison a 27-year-old quarterback with four playoff wins on his résumé, but that Sanchez is gone. In his last 18 starts for the Jets, he went 6-12 with 25 interceptions, turning the fan base against him.

"He can't play in that stadium anymore," a longtime front-office executive said last week. "To me, he's done. The Jets would probably help their popularity with the fans by getting rid of him."

And now they have, with Sanchez becoming the latest on a growing scrap heap of quarterbacks who failed to become The Next Joe Namath.

It's sad because it didn't have to be this way. Sanchez has talent. Anybody who witnessed his six playoff games, especially the two conference championships and that magical divisional win at New England, knows he has the physical ability to do the job.

But the whole thing got messy and complicated because the organization failed to develop its most important asset. Rex Ryan kept drafting defensive players, building his beloved defense and letting his quarterback -- the Sanchize -- erode with the rest of the offense.

The final indignity occurred last August, when Ryan inserted Sanchez into the fourth quarter of a preseason game for no good reason -- unless you buy his half-baked explanation that he was trying to win the game. The unthinkable happened, as Sanchez blew out his throwing shoulder.

Done for the season. Done with the Jets.

In the end, he was treated like a backup by an organization that once considered him a star before he was. It never would've gotten to this point if the Jets had only given him a better chance to actually be a star.

Free-agent dossier: Michael Vick

February, 25, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- We could start our look at the Philadelphia Eagles' impending free agents anywhere. This recent report, however, makes Michael Vick seem as good a place as any.

The New York Jets' potential interest in Vick is understandable on every level. The Jets fell off the map after two consecutive trips to the AFC championship game. Head coach Rex Ryan can only have so many chances left to get his team back to that level. He will need a quarterback to do it before time runs out.

Mark Sanchez, who is coming off shoulder surgery and is due $9 million for 2014, probably is not going to be that guy.

Geno Smith, the second-round draft pick from last year, deserves a chance to develop into a franchise quarterback. But Smith's rookie season did not summon memories of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson from the 2012 draft class. Smith threw 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 2013, although he finished relatively strong.

A quick fix could be Ryan's best option, and no one is as compelling a quick-fix candidate as Vick.

The 33-year-old was having a good, but not great season for the Eagles before pulling a hamstring on Oct. 6 against the New York Giants. Vick's injury opened the door for Nick Foles, and Foles seized the opportunity.

Would Vick have been effective if he'd remained the starter in coach Chip Kelly's first season? There is reason to believe he would have. Before the injury, Vick had one poor outing in his first four starts in a radically new offensive system. He played very well in the season opener at Washington and a 33-30 home loss to San Diego.

Vick and the Eagles were overrun by the Kansas City Chiefs on a short week. He was fine in a no-chance loss in Denver. Before getting hurt against the Giants, Vick had made several big plays with his legs. The Eagles were winning, 16-7, when Vick was injured late in the first half.

Foles took the starting job with his performance after that, just as Vick had won it outright with a superb preseason showing. At season's end, Vick said he wanted to be a starter in the two or three years of high-quality football he felt he had left.

Of course, any team that signs Vick has to deal with the possible fan backlash. Although Eagles fans came to terms with Vick's history, he still turns up at the top of surveys designed to find the NFL's most disliked players.

He would probably have an easier time in the uniquely large and diverse New York market. In football terms, Vick would be reunited with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who held that title for Vick's first four season with the Eagles. Mornhinweg would be as well-equipped as any coach in the league to get the most out of Vick at this late stage in his career.

There are other possible fits, of course. Vick could find a starting job in Oakland, Jacksonville, Minnesota or Tampa Bay. He could compete with, and serve as a veteran stopgap for, a rookie draft pick in any of those cities.

As for his chances of returning to Philadelphia, it is always possible. But with Foles entrenched as the starter, Matt Barkley in-house as his backup and a draft class full of possible developmental quarterbacks, it feels as if Vick's time here is done.

Are Jets, Bucs good fits for Vick?

February, 3, 2014
PHILADELPHIA – That old truism applies to quarterback Michael Vick. It is only going to take one team to believe he is the best solution for its quarterback problem.

But it will help if that one team has the right conditions to deal with any potential fallout from signing the still-controversial Vick. As I wrote recently, Philadelphia Eagles fans have gotten used to having Vick around after five years. Fans in other cities still may have an adverse reaction to having Vick join their favorite team.

But ESPN's Adam Schefter's report fits the bill. Schefter tweeted today that the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are two franchises likely to have interest once Vick hits free agency next month.

The Jets' offensive coordinator is Marty Mornhinweg, who served that role for Vick's first four seasons with the Eagles. Mornhinweg knows Vick very well on two important levels. He doesn't have to wonder what it would be like to bring Vick into a locker room, and he has as good a feel as anyone for building an offense around Vick's skill set.

The Jets' head coach, Rex Ryan, might be more open than most to taking a shot with Vick. Ryan has spent the past couple years dealing with quarterback issues: Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Geno Smith. If Ryan is going to last much longer with the Jets, an experienced and talented quarterback couldn't hurt.

Vick will turn 34 in June. He is not going to be any team's long-term solution as a franchise quarterback. But Ryan and the Jets are a perfect example of a situation where a short-term fix might make perfect sense.

As for Tampa Bay, Mike Glennon showed some genuine promise after replacing Josh Freeman as the starter. But Glennon wasn't exactly a Nick Foles-level revelation.

New head coach Lovie Smith went to a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman as his starter. Like Ryan, he's a defense-first guy. He's also an experienced, no-nonsense coach with the self-assurance to withstand any backlash that might come with signing Vick.

There are other possibilities, of course. The Oakland Raiders remain a franchise that is difficult to read from the outside. They have always had a reputation for welcoming players with tarnished reputations.

The Cleveland Browns seem less likely to be a fit for Vick now that Kyle Shanahan appears poised to become their offensive coordinator. During his time in Washington, Kyle and his father Mike Shanahan had difficult relationships with Donovan McNabb and Robert Griffin III. It's hard to imagine Vick choosing to go there if he has other options. Browns president Joe Banner was with the Eagles when they signed Vick in 2009, but players don't spend much time with club presidents.

The free agency period comes between the scouting combine, when teams can get a real feel for the crop of incoming quarterbacks, and the draft. Teams that need a quarterback and can't be certain of drafting one might find Vick their best option.

It only takes one.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 2

January, 25, 2014
IRVING, Texas -- The second part of the Dallas Cowboys’ Twitter Mailbag is ready for you guys.

If you have questions for next week or beyond, hit me up on Twitter (@toddarcher) and use the #cowboysmail hashtag.

Away we go:

Vick presents conundrum for Eagles

January, 13, 2014
PHILADELPHIA -- The Michael Vick situation provides a conundrum for the Philadelphia Eagles, bringing a couple of coach Chip Kelly’s priorities into conflict.

All season, Kelly talked about the importance of having two quarterbacks capable of winning NFL games on the roster. The Eagles were living proof of the value of having Vick and Nick Foles. The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, were an object lesson in what happens when your depth chart drops from Aaron Rodgers to Seneca Wallace.

“I think you can never have enough quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “I've said that no matter where I was. In this league, we were fortunate that we had two this year, and that was a huge benefit to us that we had two, and we'll continue to always look at quarterbacks, and I think anybody that's any good in this league always does that.”

Vick will be a free agent on March 11 and says he wants to go somewhere he can be a starter. And while he has said he would be willing to return to the Eagles as a backup “if all else fails,” there is a very real possibility the Eagles won’t be interested.

That’s because, for all the praise Kelly heaped on Vick for handling his in-season demotion, the coach also had good things to say about rookie Matt Barkley.

“Matt was awesome,” Kelly said. “I'm excited to get a full offseason with Matt in here to really get a chance to work with him, because I think he's got a skill set that's exciting when you see him, how the ball comes out of his hands, the decisions that he makes, and that's part of this whole deal.”

Kelly wanted Barkley enough for the Eagles to trade up a couple spots in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor spent hours of extra time working with Barkley. He saw action in three games, but was thrown into some pretty unfortunate situations.

The guess here is that Barkley is tagged to be the No. 2 quarterback behind Foles. His style is closer to Foles’ than Vick’s is, which theoretically makes for a smoother transition if he has to play. It also wouldn’t shock me if the Eagles draft a quarterback again this year, maybe even higher than they took Barkley.

As for Vick, he is probably the best of a mediocre batch of free-agent quarterbacks this year. He will be 34, but still has a couple years left in him.

Some possible fits:

• Oakland, where coach Dennis Allen is going to be feeling some heat. Vick could be a good option to Terrelle Pryor as the younger quarterback gets up to speed.

• The New York Jets, where there will be intense pressure on head coach Rex Ryan in 2014, and where the offensive coordinator is former Eagles assistant Marty Mornhinweg. If the Jets stick with the combination of Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez for another year, chances are they’ll be looking for a new head coach in 2015.

• Jacksonville, where the Jaguars slid from the No. 1 overall pick to No. 3 by winning a few late-season games. If they aren’t in love with the quarterbacks available, or if they need a veteran to serve as a bridge to the rookie, Vick could be a fit.

• Cleveland is interesting. It’s hard to say whether the presence of former Eagles president Joe Banner would be good or bad for Vick in Cleveland.

• Tampa Bay, which has a lot to like in Mike Glennon. But new coach Lovie Smith may want real competition for the starting job in training camp, and Vick just proved himself a solid locker room citizen through one of those.

• Buffalo is similar to Tampa Bay. E.J. Manuel is going to get every chance to be the quarterback, but coach Doug Marrone may want a veteran to compete, and Kevin Kolb’s status may force the Bills to bring someone in.

• Kansas City. OK, OK, Andy Reid just had a very good year with Alex Smith. But Reid has fallen hard for Vick and scuttled his quarterback plans before. A long shot, yes, but there’s a sliver of a chance.
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- After sitting out Thursday, wide receiver Santonio Holmes returned to practice Friday and participated in positional drills, the walk-through and a red-zone drill, the latter on a limited basis. It all occurred during the 30-minute window open to the media.

Holmes, 11 months removed from foot surgery, is expected to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he likely will be on a play count. He missed the entire preseason, and the New York Jets don't want to over-work him, especially with a Thursday night game next week.

Cornerback Antonio Cromartie (hip) participated in practice and will play. The biggest question surrounds nose tackle Kenrick Ellis, who missed the last three preseason games with a back injury. Ellis was limited in positional drills, and his status is up in the air. Even if he plays, he'll likely serve as a backup to Damon Harrison.

Injured quarterback Mark Sanchez made an appearance on the practice field. Wearing his red jersey No. 6, he stood with the offense and watched various drills. After the red-zone period, Sanchez fist-bumped Geno Smith, an indication that he's being supportive of the rookie starter. This will mark only the third game in Sanchez's career that he won't start. He missed a game in 2009 because of a knee injury, and he was benched for a game last season.