Philadelphia Eagles

Quicker Release Could Be the Key for Nick Foles in 2014

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) fumbles the ball as he is sacked by Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (97) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp)
Tim Sharp/Associated Press
Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJune 18, 2014

You'd really have to dig deep to find fault with what Nick Foles did for the Philadelphia Eagles last season. After all, Foles posted the third-highest passer rating in NFL history while setting a new benchmark for quarterbacks with a preposterous touchdown-to-interception ratio of 27-to-2. 

However, anyone who watched the Eagles closely will tell you that Foles has plenty of room to improve, and one area that stands out is his time spent in the pocket. 

The numbers bear it out. 

Longest average time to pass attempt, 2013
Time to attemptSack rate (rank out of 38)
1. Nick Foles2.888.1 (27th)
2. Russell Wilson2.829.8 (35th)
3. Mike Glennon2.818.8 (31st)
4. Geno Smith2.798.8 (32nd)
5. Matt Schaub2.755.5 (11th)
Pro Football Focus/Pro Football Reference

It's right there on tape, too. 

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If Foles knew better, he'd have thrown the ball away in all of those instances, and many more. The sack against the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs would prove particularly costly, so that's something the 25-year-old needs to correct in 2014. 

The good news is that Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur thinks Foles has already taken a step forward entering his first full season as an undisputed starter, particularly in that area. 

Per PhiladelphiaEagles.com

I think there were many things he could have done better last year. He's one of the guys who has really improved through the spring training here. He's going to be a better quarterback as far as I'm concerned. I think he's looking forward to getting it going though.

...

When you sit back after the year, watch it all, and then come back in and re-practice all of those things, go back through the fundamentals, it allows you to get the ball out quicker. I think quarterbacks get rid of the ball quicker, they make quicker decisions, when they are more familiar with the progressions. ... That just comes over time as you get used to doing things over and over and over.

As a rookie, Andrew Luck held the ball for 2.6 seconds or longer 58.3 percent of the time. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), that was the third-highest rate in the league.

In 2013, that number shrunk to 50.7, with Luck rising to the middle of the pack in that category. It's no coincidence that his sack total dropped by 22 percent and his sack rate decreased by 13 percent as Luck's numbers rose right across the board. 

Cam Newton also progressed in this area in 2013 after posting the highest 2.6-second pass rates in the league during each of his first two seasons.

He still holds the ball too long, but even slight improvements make a huge difference. Newton also happens to be coming off his best season yet. 

I don't know if Foles can possibly improve on his numbers from last season, but if he truly is learning how to make quicker decisions in the pocket, Philly's new franchise quarterback might soon be fully equipped to take this team deep into the playoffs. 

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