ABOVE PHOTO: The Eagles might be Dennis Dixon’s best opportunity to be a starter.
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report
If you look at his career statistics in the NFL, there’s no reason to give Dennis Dixon a snowball’s chance in hell to be the Eagles starting quarterback.
In just three career starts, he’s 2-1 with a quarterback rating of 71.4 and has been mostly a backup during his five years in the league. In 2012, he was a practice-squad quarterback with the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens.
But Dixon’s heyday as a quarterback was at Oregon when Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was his offensive coordinator. In his senior year in 2007, he passed for 2,136 yards with 20 touchdown passes and four interceptions in 10 games before tearing up the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
While Dixon is intimately familiar with Kelly’s offense, he believes that his experience backing up Ben Roethlisberger and playing the scout team quarterback on the Ravens practice squad will be a great asset in the competition with Michael Vick and Nick Foles.
“I was fortunate enough to work around some good defenses from the Pittsburgh Steelers and to the Ravens,” Dixon said. “Just practicing with them made me better overall. I just want to be able to show what I’ve learned and hopefully it’s good enough.”
Even though he hasn’t logged in the time on the field that Vick or even Nick Foles has, Dixon is confident that he has just as big a chance to be the Birds starting signal caller.
“Anybody in their right mind would love competition and that’s what we have,” Dixon said. “And I’m quite sure that Michael Vick and Nick Foles would say the same thing as well. We’re excited. We’re just excited to work and let the chips fall where they may.”
Of course, we all want to know if Dixon is best equipped to run Kelly’s fast-paced, no-huddle, read-option offense the way he did at Oregon. Dixon said he’s not expecting to Kelly the exact offense he ran his senior year.
“(Kelly) can tailor his offense to whomever is presented at that given time and it’s good to see,” Dixon said. “If you have a dual threat quarterback, everyone will say they want to throw the ball first because you never want to have that stigma of you just being a running quarterback. Chip Kelly has made it known that he wants to throw the ball and mix up the run and the pass.”
Looking at how things evolved in his professional career over the five years since that season-ending knee injury during his senior year at Oregon, Dixon hasn’t had the best of breaks and has strived to make the best of a bad situation.
For the first 10 games of his senior season with the Ducks, Dixon was mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate and possibly a high-round draft pick. With the injury, Dixon’s stock dropped significantly. The Steelers drafted him in the fifth round as a backup to Roethlisberger.
Dixon started his first game for the Steelers in 2009 against the Baltimore Ravens when Roethlisberger and backup Charlie Batch went down because of injuries. He completed 12 passes for 26 for 145 yards with one interception and ran for 27 yards on three carries with one touchdown.
With Roethlisberger suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season, Dixon defeated the Atlanta Falcons and completed 68 percent of his throws for a career-high of 254 yards. But he got hurt in the next game where he tore the meniscus in his left knee. The Steelers released him after the 2011 season.
For all setbacks and the fact that he could only get a practice squad job in Baltimore, Dixon refuses to feel sorry for himself and views every situation as an opportunity to show what he can do.
“As far as getting a starting job, I had an opportunity with (Pittsburgh) and I came out on top. I was excited about it,” Dixon said. “Unfortunately, it ended the way it did. But I’m moving forward. I did have an opportunity and now another opportunity has come. I just want to be ready when it comes.”