Do not push the panic button. Do not sound the alarms. Nick Foles watches what you watch and he knows that he's got to make better decisions and deliver the football with better accuracy and cut down on the mistakes he's making in this 2014 season.
The sentiment around town seems to waver between bewilderment and outright panic over Foles, who has thrown 9 interceptions and has lost 3 fumbles in seven Eagles games. The Eagles, after taking care of the football so efficiently in their 10-6 season of 2013 (a plus-12 in turnover ratio) are mired among the very worst in the league at minus-7 now.
That they are 5-2 with such a poor turnover number and a 32nd ranking in touchdown efficiency in the red zone is pretty remarkable, and it's a testament to how improved the team's special teams and defense have been. The offense has had its moments as well, and would be soaring if not for those doggone turnovers and the lack of effectiveness in the red zone.
This is not a memo on Nick Foles, nor is it an essay assuring you that he will bounce back and play with more security. It's fair to be concerned with the interceptions and the mistakes. It's also natural to expect them to happen for a quarterback who is, please remember, in his first full season as an NFL starting quarterback.
How Foles emerges from his inconsistent play goes a long way toward determining the success the Eagles have this season. It's too early to say that it's make-or-break time for Foles, but it's certainly some adversity for a young quarterback. Foles is digging in, working hard and keeping his outlook positive and his mind clear of all of the criticism.
Inside the Eagles organization, the mood is instructional. Coaches are teachers. They see mistakes on every play and look to correct them. In the case of Foles, as offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur talked about earlier in the week, there are mechanical issues that begin with an inconsistency in setting a good, solid foundation. Simply put, Foles isn't getting his feet under him and isn't transferring his body properly as he delivers the football. When there is inconsistency in the base, there are going to be times when passes are delivered behind receivers, late to receivers and generally off target and off time.
So what to do in the short term? Work hard, yes. Continue to preach the fundamentals, of course. Remain confident and positive, no doubt. But maybe the Eagles will also tweak some of the things they are doing to help Foles minimize the errors that have hurt the offense.
Balance things up. Foles threw 62 passes in Arizona. Don't look for that to happen in Houston. The Texans have a strong defense and a fantastic front led by J.J. Watt, and the Eagles must establish the running game and work into more management third-down situations.
Get the short-passing game going. The return of Darren Sproles this week should help as the Eagles look to mitigate the Houston pass rush by spreading the field and getting the ball out of Foles' hand quickly. A pitch-and-catch to Sproles or LeSean McCoy moves the chains and challenges the defense to make tackles In the open field.
Alter the approach on first down. Five of Foles' nine interceptions have come on first-down plays, and that means he has had the opportunity to throw the ball away rather than force passes. How to alter, I don't know. Call some high-percentage passes, run the ball, do whatever it takes to give Foles some favorable down-and-distance chances on second down.
This is a terrific challenge not only for Foles, but for the coaching staff. Chip Kelly's group has brought a young roster a long way in a short period of time. Many players here have seen their games grow leaps and bounds in that time (Brandon Graham, Riley Cooper, Zach Ertz, Casey Matthews, etc). Foles is an important player who has wrinkles that need to be smoothed and very quickly with an NFC East battle brewing and a conference that is there for the taking.