Breaking Down Areas Nick Foles Needs to Improve on the Most
The Nick Foles era officially started in Philadelphia, as the team’s third-round rookie quarterback made his first NFL start.
Foles posted less-than-stellar results against the 3-6 Washington Redskins, completing just 21 of 46 passes for 204 yards, no touchdown passes and two interceptions. He fumbled three times and didn’t lead the Philadelphia Eagles to any touchdowns on offense, as the Birds lost, 31-6.
Foles was also playing behind a depleted offensive line featuring four backups, one of which (Jake Scott) was just signed off the street this past week.
Foles will likely get several more opportunities this season to start while Michael Vick rehabs from a concussion he suffered against Dallas. It’s way too early to judge Foles based on two appearances and just one start, but he would be wise to focus specifically on improving the following aspects as he sees more action.
Look no further than Foles’ second interception for proof of this. The Eagles had moved the ball effectively on each of their first two drives (Foles’ first interception was more on Brent Celek than it was on Foles).
The Eagles faced a 3rd-and-21 on the Washington 42. Seven or eight yards would have been enough to get the Eagles in field-goal range. The Eagles lined up with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin split out wide to the left, Brent Celek providing extra protection next to right tackle Dennis Kelly, Riley Cooper next to Celek and LeSean McCoy in the backfield.
Foles took the snap from shotgun and essentially threw one up for grabs to Jackson about 20 yards down the field. The problem was that Jackson had slipped, Maclin was at least five yards away and there were three Redskins players right there.
Predictably, the ball was intercepted by Brandon Meriweather (who was playing his first game with the Redskins).
It’s not as if Foles is the first rookie quarterback—or even first quarterback—to force a throw like that. Michael Vick was a seasoned veteran and he made his share of plays like that. But that’s something Foles will really have to cut down on, because it essentially killed the momentum of the game.
Part of becoming a successful NFL quarterback is holding onto the football and preventing turnovers. Foles threw two interceptions in 46 pass attempts and 50 dropbacks.
Considering the first one was in no way his fault, that’s not a bad total by any means. What Foles will need to work on, though, is preventing fumbles.
He was sacked four times in the game but fumbled the ball on three of those plays.
In this one, Foles just needed to do a better job of securing the football. The pocket collapsed fairly quickly, but given the situation, Foles really needed to just take a sack. The Eagles were inside the red zone trying to convert a 3rd-and-7. A sack would have pushed the Eagles back to about the Washington 25, but that’s still a doable field goal for Alex Henery.
Fortunately, Foles’ teammate McCoy was able to recover the football, and the Eagles were still able to kick a field goal. But that’s a play the coaching staff would be wise to review with Foles to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
On this next play, Foles just failed to recognize a corner blitz coming from the left side.
He was hit, fumbled the football, but fortunately, the Eagles were able to preserve the football once again.
Here’s the full video of the play.
That’s something Foles will assuredly recognize more and more as he gains NFL experience (although Vick still struggles in recognizing it).
In his first game, Foles was 22 of 32, completing over 68 percent of his passes. That’s a phenomenal total, and while it was heavily inflated by the high number of checkdowns the Eagles called, it’s still a good rate for Foles.
His accuracy took a big hit in his second game, as he completed one fewer pass on 14 more attempts. Plays like this deep one to DeSean Jackson are tough plays to pull off but something that Foles will need to fix.
As you can see from the picture underneath, Foles does a good job of standing tall as the pocket collapses all around him.
In fact, for the day on the whole, Foles showed confidence and poise behind an Eagles offensive line that literally allowed Vick to take so many hits that he was concussed.
Jackson had his man beat deep down the right sideline, and all Foles needed was a perfect—or even pretty good—throw for a touchdown.
But he hooked the ball five yards out of bounds, and while Jackson was still able to catch it, catching it out of bounds won’t do much.
One of Vick’s biggest problems as a quarterback was something he couldn’t control—his height. Vick was generously listed at six feet tall, but he was probably 5’11”.
As a result, he had an extremely high percentage of his passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles didn’t help the situation by putting 6’10” King Dunlap at left tackle or 6’8” Dennis Kelly at right guard, meaning Vick really couldn’t see over his offensive linemen.
Foles is 6’6”, though, and that makes him the tallest quarterback in franchise history. He has impressive stature for the quarterback position and a strong arm that is NFL-caliber.
That’s why plays like this one are so frustrating:
As you can see, Perry Riley of the Washington Redskins (No. 56) is bearing down on Foles. McCoy releases his block on Riley and turns around to catch a little dump pass from Foles.
The pass was predictably knocked down.
Chemistry With Wide Receivers
Foles threw the ball 46 times against the Redskins and somehow managed to complete a grand total of two to Jackson and Maclin for a whopping five yards.
Jackson had both catches for the five yards, meaning Maclin pitched a shutout for 60 minutes of action. And this was with Jason Avant sidelined for the game and Andy Reid calling his usual unbalanced ratio of passes.
Jackson was targeted seven times but just two of the passes were completions, and a yards per attempt of 0.71 yards per pass is not too impressive. Meanwhile, Maclin was targeted just twice and dropped one of them.
That means Foles’ numbers throwing to Jackson and Maclin were the following: 2-of-9 for eight yards and an interception (the second pick Foles threw). That’s a passer rating of 0.0.
It makes sense that Foles should be more comfortable throwing to Cooper (five receptions for 61 yards on eight targets), as the two worked together on the second-team unit at practice all season. But Foles did have an entire week practicing with Jackson and Maclin, and those results aren’t too good.
Despite throwing two interceptions in the first quarter, Foles passed for 109 yards on nine completions. That put him on pace for 436 yards for the game, and while it was expected that he wouldn’t reach that number, the fact that he finished with just 204 is very disappointing.
Foles was just 12-of-31 for 95 yards after the first quarter. That’s bench-worthy. He was 5-of-13 for 40 yards on the final drive of the game. It’s understandable that he struggled because of the awful blocking from the offensive line, and the fact that it was Foles’ first NFL start.
But that doesn’t mean Foles doesn’t need to show a drastic improvement in his consistency.
This will come with time, as Foles takes more snaps behind center and becomes more comfortable leading the offense.
He will develop more of a rhythm and sync with Jackson and Maclin. The Eagles will call more plays to showcase Foles’ powerful arm, and Foles will improve his ability to recognize the blitz and pass-rushers coming his way.
Foles may start the remainder of 2012, and he may not. It depends on how soon Vick recovers from his concussion. Foles may start for the Eagles in 2013, and he may come back solely as a backup. But like all young quarterbacks, it’s important not to get too high or too low on Foles on just an extremely small sample size thus far.
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