The Philadelphia Eagles have been all over the place this season, so in a way it shouldn't come as a surprise that a player who lost a training camp competition to start at quarterback now looks like the franchise's future at the position.
That player is second-year pro Nick Foles, who has been about as hot as a quarterback can get this season:
Over the last 2 games, #Eagles QB Nick Foles is 34 of 46 (73.9%) with 634 yards, 10 touchdowns and 0 interceptions for 155.3 passer rating.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) November 10, 2013
It hasn't just been the past two games, either. Foles has played significant snaps in five games this year, starting four. In those five games the Eagles have gone 4-1, and outside of a horrendous start against the Dallas Cowboys, Foles has played exceedingly well.
Before the season, there was a closely scrutinized passer derby in Philly. The majority of pundits believed that Michael Vick's arm strength and athleticism were the better fit for Chip Kelly's offense. Sure enough, it was Vick who started the season under center for the Eagles, but the hot-and-cold play and propensity to get hurt that have followed Vick throughout his career carried right over into 2013.
Now, even Vick sounds like a man who knows Foles is the guy for the job, according to Martin Frank of USA Today:
I think Nick has played great. I think being under the pressure that he and this organization have been under, he's played great. We're all helping him. Coaches are coaching him. We're putting him in a position to excel, and he's doing it.
You see, the aspects of Foles' game that everyone conceded were better than Vick's have turned out to be really important in Kelly's uptempo offense.
Through Week 10
The ability to read the defense and make an accurate throw.
Yes, Foles doesn't have the cannon for a left arm that Vick does, and he's certainly not as mobile. But the importance of those aspects to success in Kelly's offense was overestimated.
Besides, if Foles' three-touchdown game against the Green Bay Packers was any indication, Kelly certainly has no reservations about having Foles attack defenses down the field.
Foles has also been doing a phenomenal job of making his reads and avoiding mistakes.
In fact, he's been doing a historically good job of avoiding mistakes:
Nick Foles has 16 TDs and 0 INTs this season, tied for the 2nd most by a player before throwing his first INT. (Peyton had 20 this season)— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 13, 2013
Foles' passer rating of 132.5 and quarterback rating of 105.99 at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) is the best in the NFL among quarterbacks with over 100 attempts. His DVOA (45.5%) at Football Outsiders leads all quarterbacks, and his QBR of 79.2 trails only Denver's Peyton Manning.
Nick Foles isn't just playing well. He's playing as well as any quarterback in the NFL.
The impact has been felt all over the offense. According to Geoff Mosher of CSN Philadelphia, running back LeSean McCoy credits Foles with giving the ground game a boost:
Shady said the way Nick Foles is playing, it's helped the run lanes reopen again. Defenses can't load box.— Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherCSN) November 13, 2013
Meanwhile, wide receiver Riley Cooper, who was invisible in the offense for most of the season, is suddenly a touchdown-scoring machine, with five in his last two games.
Will Foles keep up at this pace? No. There are going to be bumps in the road. There already were against Dallas.
However, the argument can be made that, to this point at least, Nick Foles has made the biggest jump of any of the second-year quarterbacks, and improvement this dramatic is about all a coaching staff can ask for.
It may lead to an NFC East title and a playoff berth. It should at least lead to Foles being afforded the opportunity to lead the Eagles for a full season in 2014.
Because as it turns out, for all the questions about whether Kelly's offense or Foles could be viable in the NFL, the answer was to mix the two together.