- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Newsy little Saturday up there at Lehigh with the Philadelphia Eagles. Quarterback Michael Vick is planning to practice in spite of the thumb injury he suffered in Thursday night's preseason opener. But backup quarterback Mike Kafka is not, because he broke his left (non-throwing) hand in that game when a Steelers player stepped on it. Rookie Nick Foles, who threw two touchdowns in the game, is taking second-team reps as Vick's backup. And left tackle Demetress Bell has been dropped to the second team after a poor Thursday performance, and King Dunlap is working as the first-team left tackle.
Got all that? Let's take the last part first.
Bell is the tackle the Eagles signed to replace star left tackle Jason Peters after Peters tore his Achilles tendon (twice) this offseason. His demotion is obviously not a good sign for the Eagles' ability to replace Peters, but it's also not necessarily permanent. Recall last year, when first-round pick Danny Watkins wasn't ready to start the opener at right guard but was able to ascend to a starter's role during the season. Offensive line coach Howard Mudd's schemes can be difficult to pick up, and it's possible that Bell needs more time. There are 29 days until the Eagles' regular-season opener in Cleveland, so he has that time if he needs it. And if he needs more, the Eagles (as they showed with Watkins) will give it to him. Dunlap has worked for a year in Mudd's system as a backup and spot starter, and I'm sure the Eagles feel they can get by with him there for a couple of weeks if need be. If Bell never gets any better, and Dunlap has to be their 16-game starter at left tackle, the Eagles could have a big problem. But today's news isn't "Bell out for season," it's "Bell needs more work."
The Kafka news is interesting because news about the backup plan for Vick is always interesting. There's a feeling of inevitability about Vick getting injured and missing time at some point during the season, so Eagles fans want to know who's next in line. The plan was for Kafka to be that guy in this, his third season on the roster and in the offense. But now they're estimating he's out three weeks with the broken hand. And given the way Thursday night went, that doesn't help him.
Interesting that Foles, and not veteran Trent Edwards, is getting the second-team snaps. Foles looked very good Thursday, completing 6-of-10 passes for 144 yards and those two touchdowns. The Eagles' third-round pick this year out of Arizona, Foles has great arm strength and great size. Should Vick get hurt and Foles be the replacement, the results would likely be spectacular in two different directions -- some eye-opening throws and plays mixed with (likely too many) damaging rookie errors. He still needs time in the offense and working on mechanics and footwork before he's a viable replacement. Even if he does throw the ball better down the field right now than Kafka does, that doesn't mean he's going through his progressions the way the Eagles need him to. Giving him the second-team reps is a good way to speed along his education. Edwards has experience, and the Eagles think he fits their offense well, so they could put him in there in a pinch in a real game. But in preseason, the Kafka injury is a chance to educate and evaluate Foles against a little bit better competition than he otherwise might have seen.
The question is how quickly Kafka gets back, and whether this injury hurts his spot on the depth chart or even the team. At this point, I'd have to think not. But his absence will give the other Vick backups a chance to make their cases.