Quarterback is the most important position on every football team. For the Eagles, it is also the second-most important position.
Because they have Michael Vick in the most important position, their backup-quarterback job is more important than any other position on offense, defense, or special teams. And right now, that position is a bit worrisome.
As the team goes through OTAs (Overblown Tackling-free Auditions) at the NovaCare Complex, there appear to be two possibilities: Either rookie Nick Foles is a prodigy and will be ready to step in and win a game or two by October, or the Eagles have left themselves more unprotected at the No. 2 spot than at any time since Mike McMahon was the mcman behind Donovan McNabb.
If you have erased that part of your memory as a defense mechanism, then count your blessings.
Three QBs other than Vick are on the roster. There is Foles, a third-round pick from Arizona. There is Mike Kafka, who spent the last two years as the No. 3 quarterback and saw some emergency action last season. There is Trent Edwards, who has spiraled from starter to backup in Buffalo, to backup in Jacksonville, to being released in training camp last summer by Oakland.
When the Eagles signed Edwards, the expectation was that he would be the veteran to beat out Kafka for the No. 2 spot. What was unknowable was whether he'd turn out to be another McMahon or another Jeff Garcia or, most likely, somewhere in between.
But then the Eagles drafted Foles a little higher than you'd expect them to take a camp-fodder quarterback. And then they got to these full-squad practices and Edwards is getting as many practice reps at QB as Evan Mathis.
"It's been explained to me what the situation is," Edwards said after throwing some post-practice passes Thursday. "I completely understand. And I understand that I need to get those reps [watching] from the side, from behind, and make sure I'm picking up as much as I can as fast as possible."
These OTAs are mostly about setting the groundwork so players are ready to go full-speed in training camp. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg want to overload Foles to see how he handles the mental part of the game, then how he translates that to the field. Vick naturally works with the first team. Kafka knows the offense better than Edwards and is able to run it properly - remember, practice is for the other 10 guys on offense as well as the quarterback.
"There's times I understand where I'm going with the ball," Edwards said. "My footwork feels good. And maybe the very next rep, it's not the case."
The real competition will begin at Lehigh. That is where Edwards should get the chance to prove that his experience and skill set make him a better candidate for the No. 2 spot than Kafka or Foles. It will be an important competition, one the coaches can't afford to misjudge. Not with Vick's history of being knocked out of games and missing two to four starts a season.
Looking back on 2011, it seems more incredible than ever that Vince Young led the Eagles to a victory over the New York Giants in the Meadowlands. Young was otherwise forgettable and not exactly invested deeply in the whole enterprise.
It is difficult, and not really fair, to judge Kafka off a couple of cameo performances. He never had a full week of preparing to be the starter and developing timing with the first-team receivers. Watching him in practices over two seasons, though, you don't really see the arm necessary to win in the NFL. There are QBs who have excelled without cannons - Joe Montana, Drew Brees - but they compensate with remarkable savvy and accuracy.
Maybe Kafka will be in that class. It's hard to imagine Reid's risking the season on it, though.
With Young's moving on, the QB position became a priority. The Eagles worked out Edwards and liked what they saw. The guy has started 33 NFL games. He was in a bad situation in Buffalo, in limbo in Jacksonville, and in the epicenter of franchise dysfunction in Oakland.
So it's hard to know what the former Stanford quarterback can do, though it seems likely he can do more than Kafka.
But the drafting of Foles added a new thread to the narrative. If the coaches are as high on the 6-foot-6 rookie as it appears, they may see him as capable of being the No. 2 guy by midseason. If that's the case, Kafka can keep the clipboard warm as he did while Young (almost) learned the offense last year.
So Edwards may never get a fair chance. And when - not if, but when - someone has to step in for Vick, the Eagles may wish he had.