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Memorial Day 2012…a weekend of reflection for our smart Eagles phans…

This holiday weekend in America comes at a point in 2012 where optimism abounds for the newest edition of the Eagles… and yet it is also a time to reflect on the sacrifices made not only by Americans but by Canadian and French and English and Aussie fighters in previous world wars and regional conflicts. If indeed the NFL is a metaphor for battlefield courage and strategy, then attention must be paid to the men and women of the armed forces of generations past and present who as allies have fought and continue to fight the good fight.

That’s what Memorial Day weekend in the USA means to me, anyway… Yeah, I know, we in America have had our solo wars and internal wars, and I shall not discount any of the sacrifices made by the ancient warriors of the 18th and 19th centuries… But since the Eagles and the NFL have been around (circa 1930) I will concentrate on honoring those souls who put it all on the line for the Allies against the Axis of Evil in the Hitler and post-Hitler eras of fascist madness. 

Welp, that’s about as political as we’ll ever get here. And since this holiday blurgger will have to stand up for a couple days on its own, I figured it needed a jolt of real-life caffeine to help it stay awake…

Now back to football:

This could be Mike Kafka’s year to become either Mike Vick’s legitimate #2 backup— or somehow elevated to a major component of a trade to another team.

Eagles quarterbacks, back row from left, Trent Edwards, Mike Kafka and Nick Foles watch as Vick, front center, runs a drill during practice Wednesday in Philadelphia. Coach Andy Reid says Kafka has improved. ‘I think he has a better feel of the overall offense,’ Reid said Thursday.

Whenever Eagles quarterback Michael Vick took a break during Thursday’s organized team activity (OTA) at the NovaCare Complex, Mike Kafka was next in line. The third-year veteran is getting the first shot to replace Vince Young as Vick’s primary backup for the upcoming season. “It’s been great so far,” Kafka said after Thursday’s workout. “As many reps as I can get, the better off I’ll be. It’s all about gaining experience out there, making plays and learning from your mistakes.”

Considering Vick’s injury history – he missed three games in both 2011 and 2012 with rib injuries – backup quarterback could turn into a key position for the Eagles again this season. One of the reasons the Eagles failed to make the playoffs last season was Vince Young’s lack of consistency. After leading a dramatic drive that secured a victory over the New York Giants on Nov. 20, Young stumbled in lopsided losses to New England and Seattle. He ended the season with four touchdown passes against nine interceptions.

With Young now with Buffalo and 2010 backup Kevin Kolb in Arizona, Kafka is competing with NFL veteran Trent Edwards and rookie Nick Foles for the No. 2 job behind Vick. Edwards, who did not play in the NFL last season, was signed as a free agent. Foles was a third-round pick in last month’s draft.

“I didn’t mind when they drafted Nick at all,” Kafka said. “Whatever they do to make the team better, I’m all for it. I think Nick is great. He’s smart and has a very strong arm. And Trent has a lot of experience, so we’ll see what happens.”

So far, there hasn’t been much of a competition. Kafka, a fourth-round draft pick in 2010, was one of the most impressive players in the first week of OTAs while Edwards struggled mightily and Foles received limited opportunities. The offense ran smoothly when Kafka was under center and the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder also demonstrated improved arm strength on some deep passes and sideline routes. He attributed the increased velocity to offseason workouts in Arizona and in Philadelphia.

“I think he has a better feel of the overall offense,” coach Andy Reid said Thursday. “He’s been up every day working, so it’s just getting timing down with different receivers. We’ve got a wide variety of receivers out here and obviously we’re a timing and throwing offense. It’s just a matter of him getting his timing down.”

One of Kafka’s advantages is his knowledge of the Eagles’ offense. The Northwestern University graduate spent the previous two years learning Reid’s version of the West Coast system as taught by Reid, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson.

The 24-year-old endured mixed results as a relief passer last season. When Vick suffered a concussion at Atlanta on Sept. 18, Kafka completed 7-of-9 passes for 72 yards and was a dropped pass away from earning a victory over the Falcons. The following week, he took over when Vick hurt his hand against the Giants and threw two interceptions in a loss.

He figures to get a lot of playing time in the preseason while the Eagles figure out his future. They could keep him around and cut Edwards or try to trade him as they did with A.J. Feeley and Kolb in previous seasons. “Right now, I’m just concentrating on these workouts,” Kafka said. “But I’m hoping to get some playing time. There’s no substitute for being out there on the field in live action. That’s the best way to improve.”

Kafka was selected by the Eaglesi n the fourth round (122nd overall) in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was the fifth quarterback taken in the draft, behind Sam Bradford(1st overall), Tim Tebow(25th overall), Jimmy Clausen(48th overall) and Colt McCoy(85th overall).  Kafka was expected be the team’s third-string quarterback behind Kevin Kolb and Mike Vick. Eagles head coach Andy Reid said of Kafka, “I think once you meet him, I think you’ll see he’s a smart guy. He has some of the intangible things – the leadership, he’s a tough kid. Inner city, Chicago kid. He’s got a little grit to him. I think that’s important. You have to be wired right to handle guys and play in the city of Philadelphia. I think he’s wired right. He likes to compete.” Kafka was signed to a four-year contract worth $2.256 million with $467,000 guaranteed on June 15, 2010.

Kafka was invited to the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, which started on February 24th, along with teammates Corey Wootton and Sherrick McMannis.  Kafka chose Mike McCartney of Priority Sports of Chicago as his agent, who also represents Wootton. Priority hired former Chicago Bears quarterback Erik Kramer and a trainer in Phoenix, Arizona to help Kafka prepare for the Combine. To prepare for the Combine, Kafka worked out twice a day in Arizona, and held practice sessions with Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate.  At the Combine, Kafka said, “I want to be an NFL starter. I’m not going to the league to be a No. 2. I think my whole game can go to another level. I’m ready to take it up another notch.”

This 2012 season beginning in Philly may be his last best chance to make an impression and do exactly that.

Pre-draft measureables
Ht Wt Arm length Hand size 40-yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert Broad BP
6 ft 3⅛ in 225 lb 33½ in 9¼ in 4.93 s 1.72 s 2.86 s 4.37 s 6.96 s 32 in 9 ft 2 in

Kafka chose not to bench press at the NFL Combine. On February 28, Kafka answered 35 out of the 50 questions on the Wonderlic test, and was “99 percent sure” that he answered all 35 correctly. Draft analyst Mike Mayock said that Kafka was “a developmental guy” who should stay on a team’s practice squad for a year. Kafka had some of the best measurements in the vertical jump, broad jump, 60-yard shuttle, and three-cone drill among all quarterbacks.

Kafka worked out for the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders prior to the draft. Mike Mayock called Kafka the “sleeper” of the quarterback class, projecting him to be drafted in the sixth round. Mayock also said, “He’s a really smart kid. Has a better arm than people think. I don’t even think he’s sleeping anymore. He was a month-and-a-half ago, but he’s on the rise. He’s a kid who could surprise people at the end of the day.” Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski concurred, saying that Kafka “knows how to play the quarterback position. There’s a real feel for hitting the open receiver, good anticipation. I can see him being one of those sleeper type guys.” A scout before the draft said that Kafka “throws a lot of picks, but at least he’s willing to pull the trigger. You don’t see that from a lot of young kids.”

During his career at Northwestern, Kafka threw for 4,265 yards with a completion percentage of 64.1%, 19 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. He rushed for 891 yards and 11 touchdowns on 268 carries, and caught a pass for 24 yards and a touchdown.

He seems to be a shining light coming out of the first week of voluntary OTA’s in Philly. Something big is about to happen for this kid, I just can’t tell you whether it will be here with the Eagles or elsewhere…our own GK Brizer has a theory that Kafka is indeed being packaged with a prety bow for a potential blockbuster trade. I can’t wait to see how that theory plays out.  Meanwhile, Kafka is the toast of our Memorial Day Weekend celebration… Enjoy, good souls who have come here and enriched my own life. Have a wonderful few days of relaxation.  On Tuesday, we go back to work—smarshing brains and weaving dreams. Thank you all…