Based on what went down in the team's first two preseason games, there were Philadelphia Eagles fans who were already prepared to give rookie quarterback Nick Foles a key to the city.
Philadelphians reserve special places in their hearts for backup quarterbacks, and Foles was already the hot backup de jour.
But many remained cautious because we had yet to see Foles perform against a first-team defense. We've been fooled time and again by players who have had their reputations inflated artificially by such circumstances.
Foles finally faced defensive starters in Cleveland Friday night, and in doing so he proved that he's here to stay as a Philadelphia quarterback. His presence in the pocket was again superb. He didn't get sacked and made only one big mistake, throwing a first-quarter deep ball into heavy coverage for his second interception of the preseason.
Rookie quarterbacks do things like that. All of them. But the thing about Foles is there are few things Michael Vick can do that he can't. He's got the gun and the ability to maneuver away from pressure, and he might actually be more disciplined and less susceptible to turning the ball over. He doesn't have the legs, but he makes up for that elsewhere.
He also appears to be mature beyond his years and has taken on a leadership role on the sideline. That's something you rarely see in rookies, especially third-round picks who enter training camp as third-stringers.
That's what a little confidence can do. Foles is already leading this team vocally, lending words of encouragement to his linemen and receivers. Instead of getting down after making mistakes, he stays cool. He possesses the exact traits front offices look for in quarterbacks.
The sample size is small, and the injured Mike Kafka hasn't had much of a chance to battle this month, but it's too late now. It's unavoidable. The moment Vick struggles this season, fans will start calling for Foles.
The coaching staff won't be so hyperreactive, and Vick would really have to run into trouble in order for a change to be made. The leash is shorter, though, and an injury to Vick would give Foles a window.
The real takeaway might instead be that the Eagles have their quarterback of the future. Vick is only 32, but he relies on his athleticism more than most. Athleticism and age are competing properties.
We've seen Vick at his best, and that wasn't good enough to win in January. If that trend continues for another year or two, it'll be time for the Eagles to begin a new era at quarterback. Foles has thrown only 57 preseason passes, but the results have been so damn good that he's now the prime candidate to lead Philadelphia into that era.
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