Put down the pitchforks and torches. Take off the paper bags off your head. The outlook is not that cloudy in Philadelphia. Nick Foles was not as bad as his passing yardage suggested against the Panthers.
I know it's a few days late (thanks Monday Night Football), but the Raanan Review is finally here. And this time Nnamdi Asoumgha's lack of effort didn't completely obliteration my intentions - to analyze Foles' performance with a fine-toothed comb. Still, it wasn't easy considering the Eagles rookie quarterback dropped back to pass just five times in the second half.
Foles' final numbers in his second career start were strange. A 76-percent completion percentage on 21 attempts ... but for just 119 yards. An 89.2 QB rating, no fumbles or interceptions, just one sack, 22 points (thank you, Bryce Brown), no touchdown passes. And three of his five incompletions were could-have-been pick sixes.
(Note: The biggest play Foles made in the passing game didn't count in his statistics. It was a 51-yard heave into double coverage to Jeremy Maclin that resulted in a pass interference call.)
So let's try and make sense of this mishmashed performance. After all, the development of Foles is the only thing that really matters at this point of the Eagles (3-8) dreadful season.
So what I did was re-watch every one of Foles' dropbacks on Monday night, both on the television broadcast and the coaches' film. Here's what I discovered:
Let's start with the positives:
- Foles can really zip the ball. There was plenty of heat on his passes to the sidelines and, when he did actually try to thread the ball into a tight space (i.e. down the middle to Brent Celek), there was more than enough velocity. Arm strength will never be his problem.
- Foles' accuracy has improved in each of his three appearances. It probably has to do with him being more settled. Regardless, there were only two instances Monday where Foles stepped into throws and they were off target. And they were only slightly off target. One was a third-down pass to Jeremy Maclin that made the receiver go the ground immediately short of the first-down marker. The other was a slant to Riley Copper that sailed a bit. Both still went for completions.
- Foles looked prepared and comfortable in the offense. You can see he audibled several times to running plays and always seemed to know the routes his receivers were running.
- He didn't really miss any open receivers deep downfield. There was only instance where I saw Damaris Johnson run a deep post on the right side where Foles could have fired it into a tight window. Instead, he chose to dump it off. On another note, the lack of open receivers downfield doesn't bode well for the Cooper and Damaris Johnson.
- Foles too often stared down his first target. No "eye discipline" as Jaws would say. Foles rarely made a throw to the opposite side of his primary target. When he did, it was a dump off to his running back. It's not a reprehensible sin given that Foles is a rookie quarterback, but it is cause for concern if it doesn't improve. Two of the three passes that were almost intercepted were due to him staring down targets.
- Foles didn't look good when he had to move around the pocket. He appeared skittish and out of control when forced to move outside, trying to stuff throws to the first receiver he located regardless of whether they were open or not. It almost looked like Foles was attempting to move too fast for his body. When he was on the move his accuracy waned.
- This may seem obvious but Foles didn't show good mobility. He was unable to make any plays with his feet despite a pair of opportunities. It should be noted this is not the strength of the 6-foot-6, 243-pound quarterback's game.
Foles was average. He didn't make a ton of plays and was fortunate not to have made some crucial mistakes - particularly in the red zone. He did appear to belong though. Foles did mostly what was asked from the coaching staff, who went with a lot of quick passes, screens and relied on the running game. It would be nice, however, to see him make more 'wow' plays in the final five weeks of the season. That seemed to be lacking on the game film.
Other Notable Observations:
- Sure DeSean Jackson left early. And Jason Avant didn't play. Still, you expect a little more from the Eagles receivers. They didn't do a great job creating separation throughout the game. There's a reason Cooper (36 snaps) only saw two passes thrown in his direction.
- The Eagles offensive line had its best game of the season on Monday night. Dallas Reynolds in particular too, aside from the fourth-down play where he was driven several yards into the backfield. It almost seems appropriate that Reynolds (ankle) is sidelined with an ankle injury. Offensive line injuries, one of the main stories of this Eagles season.
- Dennis Kelly did especially well at right tackle with a tough assignment against Charles Johnson. He also made some really nice blocks in the run game, including a great seal on Brown's 65-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Kelly looked like a more than competent right tackle in the contest.
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was flagged again for pass interference in the third quarter. Louis Murphy still caught the 55-yard pass. It was the 11th time this season DRC was called for a penalty, most among defensive players in the NFL. Amazingly, six of those penalties were declined, which means, like Monday night, either the pass was caught or the Eagles allowed big gains on the play. Not good.