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After Vick, there are questions at quarterback for Eagles

The Eagles haven't gone into a season with as much inexperience at backup quarterback as they currently have since 2008.

The Eagles quarterbacks talk with quarterback coach Doug Pederson during a practice on Thursday. (Alex Brandon/AP)
The Eagles quarterbacks talk with quarterback coach Doug Pederson during a practice on Thursday. (Alex Brandon/AP)Read more

The Eagles haven't gone into a season with as much inexperience at backup quarterback as they currently have since 2008.

That is, assuming Mike Kafka remains the No. 2 signal-caller behind Michael Vick. After three days of throwing it around while wearing shorts and a protective red jersey, the average-armed Kafka still has a hold on the job.

It is likely to stay that way through the rest of the spring, into training camp, and through the preseason because the Eagles haven't exactly given him much competition.

Trent Edwards has 33 career NFL starts, but he spent last season on the street and has looked shaky after the first week of full-squad practices.

"I think he's getting used to the offense and everything else," said Eagles coach Andy Reid, who agreed that Edwards' arm isn't where he would like it to be. "He'll get there as we go."

Fourth on the depth chart but guaranteed a roster spot is Nick Foles. The third-round quarterback out of Arizona may have the strongest, most accurate arm among the three, but he is a rookie and will need grooming in the Eagles' complex offense.

"He's completing balls and his completion percentage is way up there," Reid said Thursday. "He's a smart kid, and we're throwing a ton at him right now. We really like his attitude."

Though Kafka has only 16 more passes in the pros than Foles, he has two years of learning and practicing the Eagles' system under his belt. Because the lockout wiped out workouts last spring, this is his first full offseason.

Kafka was asked how different he has felt under center this May as opposed to two years ago after the Eagles had chosen him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft.

"Oh, jeez. You're talking about my rookie year?" he said. "Yeah, it's way different. Things slow down just a little bit, and now it's all about execution."

The buzz word with Kafka is timing. He mentioned Thursday the importance of being on the same page with his receivers, as did Reid, unprompted. The underlying message is that Kafka needs to be extra precise because he doesn't have the arm strength to camouflage rhythm issues.

"We're a timing-and-throwing offense," Reid said. "It's just a matter of getting his timing down."

Kafka said his arm was stronger. He appeared to have more zip on his throws within 15 yards, but the 20-yard outs were another story. It is still early, however. This is Kafka's first stay as second on the depth chart, although he did fill the backup role last season when Vince Young was sidelined.

He was impressive when called on against Atlanta. A week later against the New York Giants, he regressed. Reid saw enough to believe that Kafka could handle the responsibilities this season. Adding Edwards and Foles said as much.

Reid last handed the No. 2 spot to a novice in 2008. Kevin Kolb had no pass attempts before he was named the backup. Kolb, of course, was seen as the heir apparent. Donovan McNabb remained healthy that season, however, and Kolb was used only when McNabb struggled.

But the importance of the position – especially with Reid's injury-prone starters – has been evident over the last three seasons. McNabb missed two starts in 2009, and Kolb went 1-1 in his stead. Kolb and Vick were sidelined for a combined four games in 2010, and the Eagles went 3-1 when each took the other's place.

An injured Vick sat out three games last season, but Vince Young managed only a 1-2 mark in his absence.

The Eagles have drilled into Vick that he must stay out of harm's way this season. History suggests, however, that Kafka will be pressed into duty at some point, unless Edwards or Foles – or some mystery acquisition - can supplant the 24-year old.

Edwards, who last played for the Jaguars in 2010 and spent most of his career in Buffalo, said that he's still trying to shake the rust from his layoff.

"But it's a good kind of rust," he said.

Foles was the most accurate of the reserves this week, even though he was throwing to receivers who in most cases won't ever play in the NFL (although the same could be said of the defensive players he was passing against). He said he wasn't comparing himself to his competition, though.

"If you asked me that in high school or going to college, I'd say yes," Foles said. "But at this level, the way I approach it is: I'm worrying about me getting better, but use those guys to push me.

"If you start thinking, 'All right, he hit a deep ball, now I've got to throw a huge post into triple coverage,' that's not going to make your team the most successful."