The Philadelphia Eagles may have their starting quarterback – but their backup job may be up for grabs.
As the Eagles tied the Cleveland Browns 18-18 in their second preseason game, one of the glaring storylines was none other than the uneven play of Marcus Mariota.
Mariota not only failed to lead the Eagles to a single touchdown drive during a full half of play against a Browns defense featuring backups, he simply looked inept. The 29-year-old veteran quarterback went 9-of-17 for 86 yards with one interception. He often overthrew receivers and failed to lead the offense on deep drives.
“I was sloppy,” Mariota said during the postgame presser. “I can do a better job of getting our guys operating cleaner and more efficiently. But that is what preseason is for.”
In fact, of Philadelphia’s seven offensive drives in the first half, just one went for longer than 18 yards. Furthermore, the first drive ended in a safety, two others ended in turnovers and the final one ended with Mariota being sacked. To top it all off, Mariota was sacked three times on just 20 dropbacks while averaging just 5.1 yards per pass attempt.
To say the offense looked disjointed would be an understatement.
Meanwhile, sixth-round rookie Tanner McKee looked impressive. On his first drive, the 6-foot-6 quarterback led a touchdown drive in just six plays, marching the offensive unit down 75 yards. The drive was capped off with a 33-yard touchdown run by Trey Sermon — executed while running the RPO offense.
McKee finished the night 10-f0r-18 for 147 yards, one touchdown, zero turnovers and a 100.9 quarterback rating. To top it off, he averaged 8.2 yards per pass attempt and threw a beautiful 22-yard touchdown pass off of the play-action fake to Brady Russell.
While McKee struggled with accuracy in the preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens last week, he did have a productive outing, passing for 148 yards and 7.4 yards per pass attempt.
Despite the glaring difference in play between the two quarterbacks, head coach Nick Sirianni stressed during the postgame presser that Mariota is still the backup to Hurts — for now.
Mariota was signed with the intention of serving as Jalen Hurts’ backup for the 2023 season. The former Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback signed a one-year, $5 million deal with Hurts solidified as the franchise quarterback.
By comparison, McKee is due to earn just $4 million total over the course of four years.
The former No. 2 overall draft pick and Tennessee Titans starter was supposed to be in the perfect system in Philadelphia. After all, the Eagles utilize the RPO offense more than any team in the NFL and Mariota is one of the more mobile quarterbacks in the league, posting the fifth-most rushing yards of any quarterback since 2015.
Now, it appears Mariota’s propensity for overthrowing receivers combined with his tendency to take sacks may push McKee over the former No. 2 draft pick on the depth chart.
It’s worth noting that the Eagles could easily move on from Mariota before the start of the season with little penalty. Because there are several void years attached to Mariota’s contract, Philadelphia could cut the veteran quarterback and it would only result in a dead money cap hit of slightly under $2 million this season. The remaining $3 million in dead cap money would be spread over the next four seasons.
While it’s obviously too early to crown McKee as Philadelphia’s new backup quarterback over Mariota, it’s become clear that the youngster may be better equipped to run the offense over the 74-game starter.
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