Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The Eagles receivers and running backs are fumbling left and right. The special teams are inventing miscues (disconcerting signals?). The defense refuses to intercept a pass. It's just another week of Eagles football.
As the castle crumbles around him, it's becoming harder and harder to judge the play of rookie quarterback Nick Foles. The Eagles are creating alternative ways to implode by week. Foles shows enough positives to keep you honest, but leaves one or two areas that keep you uncertain about his future as a starting quarterback.
Once again the cause for concern against the Bengals was the deep ball. In Tampa, Foles overthrew a pair of deep passes. On Thursday night, he underthrew three. One went for an interception, one Jeremy Maclin still hauled in for a 46-yard gain and the other fell incomplete.
The underthrows left you wondering whether Foles has the necessary arm strength to succeed as a starter. The Eagles insist he does. An NFL talent evaluator agrees. So I went to look for myself.
There were throws where Foles showed plenty of zip. He fired two straight near the goal line to tight end Clay Harbor that eliminated any comparison to Kevin Kolb, Jeff Garcia or Mike McMahon. One slammed off Harbor's hand and fell incomplete partially because of the velocity. There was also a slant later in the second quarter that Foles fit into a tight window thanks to his arm strength.
On the short to mid-range passes, Foles' arm showed no signs of being a problem. The deep throws were a different story. Maclin had to slow down to catch the ball on his big gainer in the first half. The third-quarter interception was badly underthrown and a fourth-quarter strike down the sideline lacked the necessary velocity. The defender caught up to Maclin and knocked down the pass.
In my estimation, it was a combination of footwork and accuracy which let Foles down. Not arm strength. So forget about arm strength. Instead, there is something else to worry about with the Eagles' potential franchise quarterback.
Other notable observations:
- Foles did most of his damage against the Bengals from the shotgun, going 11-of-23 passing for 152 yards, a touchdown and interception. He went just 5-of-10 passing for 30 yards from under center. Three yards per pass attempt from under center. Scary bad.
- Brandon Graham was as good on tape as he was live. Graham dominated a very good tackle in Andre Smith from start to finish, against both the run and pass. Graham finished with six tackles, 2.5 sacks, one tackle for a loss, three quarterback hurries and three penalties drawn in 52 dominant snaps.
- Colt Anderson played very well. Good enough in fact to remain the starter this week. While not overly talented Anderson was exactly where he needed to be on just about every play. He covered the deep ball well - knocking down a pass to A.J. Green and bracketing Marvin Jones on another play - blitzed and was active against the run. Way more active than Nate Allen, who was somehow credited with the same number of tackles as Anderson. There is no doubt, however, Anderson was more active and around the ball more often than Allen.
- You could hear someone on the replay yell on the field goal where the Eagles were called for a "disconcerting signal." It was a long, exaggerated roar that sounded like "Seeeeeeeetttttttttttttttttt..."
- The Eagles defense (DeMeco Ryans, Dominique Rodger-Cromartie, Colt Anderson and Brandon Boykin) missed four potential interceptions. None were easy plays. Still, at some point, somebody needs to make an extraordinary play to end this drought. The Eagles haven't intercepted a pass since the Lions game in Week 6.
- Nnamdi Asomugha played one of the best games for a player who did not record a single tackle, sack or interception. He was at least credited with a pass defended, shut down his receiver (Jones had four targets, zero receptions) and even protected the edge well on several running plays.
- The fumbles by the Eagles running backs and receivers shouldn't be a total surprise. In fact, it was probably only a matter of time. Jeremy Maclin often runs loosely with the ball. We know the way LeSean McCoy has always carried the ball. Bryce Brown and Clay Harbor too. Harbor actually almost fumbled two plays before he did lose the ball. Vontaze Burfict came close to stripping the ball from Harbor the first time. He did strip it from him the second time. It wasn't an accident either. It was sloppiness by the Eagles, the kind of sloppiness that has ruined the last two seasons.