When Andy Reid and Howie Roseman decided to draft Nick Foles in the third round of last April’s draft, the Philadelphia Eagles front office pair likely thought it was getting a Kevin Kolb-like project quarterback for Reid to groom; one that would hold the clipboard until Michael Vick retired/left and the quarterback reigns were set to be handed over.
Due to injuries to both Michael Vick and Mike Kafka early in the preseason, however, Foles is showing them something more than they expected by lighting up opposing defenses and showing off his NFL-ready arm to the masses; perfect timing for a franchise that hasn’t kept its starting quarterback healthy since the early Donovan McNabb days.
While concerns over Foles’ game awareness and footwork may linger after facing only one first-string defense in three appearances, he’s shown very few flaws in the rest of his game; not only are his deep balls spiraling tightly into the hands of receivers but his short throws are also finding their marks for important conversions. He’s been one of the league’s top preseason quarterbacks, posting a 63.2 completion percentage with 507 yards and six touchdowns.
On deep balls, Foles has excelled in finding his receivers streaking down the sidelines, connecting with Mardy Gilyard, Damaris Johnson and DeSean Jackson for plenty of big gains that have his YPC (yards per completion) rise to an impressive 14.08. In addition to that, he’s completed 11 passes beyond 20-plus yards in just seven quarters of game action while Vick completed only 14 such passes in over 50 quarters last season.
Foles has found a rhythm in the pocket, surveying the field from left-to-right in an organized fashion and going through his progressions like a vet. With his already impressive arm strength and a small improvement in accuracy, he could easily develop into one of the league’s most explosive passers. In fact, he’s probably up there already.
Short, conversion-relevant passes was the one area the Eagles coaching staff said it wanted to straighten out with Foles before the start of the regular season, and it seems quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson is keeping up his end of the bargain by improving Foles’ pocket awareness and touch, two attributes that help any quarterback in short-distance situations. If you don’t believe practice film or praise from Pederson himself, then all you have to look at is Foles’ preseason numbers to gauge how well the 23-year old has done with the short passing game: four out of his six touchdowns have been inside the ten-yard line.
Foles’ incredible red zone efficiency can be attributed to his adroit usage of the three tight ends on the preseason roster, Clay Harbor, Brent Celek and Brent Brackett. He’s thrown all four of those short TD passes to his tight ends, something starter Michael Vick would be foolish not to learn.
While of those numbers are impressive in and of themselves, the single trait that’s won me over has been his unwillingness to back down from pressure and a composure level that is well beyond his years. After a sterling performance against Pittsburgh—where he posted a 143.8 passer rating—Foles has now thrown an interception in each of the last two games. Whereas other young QBs would normally fold, he bounced back to throw three total touchdowns after interceptions, one being the eventual game-winner against New England. Again, another trait that Michael Vick could use as he tries to limit the compounding of mistakes.
Last season was a disaster on so many levels for the Eagles, not least of which was Michael Vick’s inability to stay on the field. While he could’ve used an increase in efficiency while on the field, improvements would’ve come as he strung together more performances without an injury and found his rhythm in the offense.
Now, given that he’s had two preseason injuries, the future doesn’t look very bright for No. 7. Even if he is ready to go for Week 1 against Cleveland, the likelihood he misses three-plus games throughout the season is more than 75/25, a thought that scared Eagles fans; at least up until two weeks ago, when Nick Foles tore apart the Steelers defense and showed he’s ready to roll as the team’s new backup.
They say stability is the best medicine, so let’s hope Foles can easy the chronic migraines that seem to be settling in the minds of the Philadelphia fan base.