Part of a new campaign the SB Nation NFL blogs will be participating in this 2014 season is answering questions posed by Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk. Faulk, who is also an analyst at NFL Network, took to Twitter on Wednesday to ask his weekly question:
Wow. Many surprises in Wk 1. @SBNation: on your team, who is now facing the pressure to perform? ... http://t.co/fez0V7D33a— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) September 10, 2014
I didn't have to think too hard about this one. It's clearly Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.
Foles is coming off a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars where his statistics looked way better than his actual performance: 27 completions on 45 attempts for 322 yards (7.2 average), 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a passer rating of 87.5. While those don't seem like bad numbers, they easily could have been way better. Foles often held onto the ball too long which resulted in five sacks and two fumbles. Not to mention almost a third fumble that was ruled as an incomplete pass. Pro Football Focus clocked Foles at an average of 2.74 seconds to attempt a pass, which was the third slowest out of all NFL quarterbacks in Week 1. Only Robert Griffin III (2.79) and Tony Romo (2.92) took longer.
It's not like Foles was holding onto the ball because his receivers weren't open, either. And even if they were blanketed in coverage, Foles has often been credited in the past with throwing his receivers open. In any case, let's take a look at how Foles was missing wide open receivers.
This was on the 2nd sack fumble... Oye.... Not so #WonderFoles pic.twitter.com/2cQ8msrWVE— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard) September 8, 2014
Nick Foles's second fumble vs JAX. Eagles ran old R&S switch concept and Maclin was wide open: pic.twitter.com/yWIb2MRD5u— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) September 10, 2014
Another inexcusable miss by Foles throwing behind Matthews on trips 4 verts. PHI had guys like this open all day pic.twitter.com/tcSysehUfX— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) September 10, 2014
For everyone saying Foles fixed everything in 2H, here's one from the 3Q. He ends up checking down to McCoy for 2yds pic.twitter.com/BurhLMdUAs— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) September 10, 2014
If he played even average Foles might've had 600 yards. I've never seen such wide open guys in an NFL game and it's unreal they are missed— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) September 10, 2014
Brown's statement about Foles isn't even hyperbole. Birds 24/7's Sheil Kapadia suggested the same thing in his Eagles game review.
We can sugarcoat it, or we can call it like we saw it: He played poorly. The numbers say 27-for-45 for 322 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. I believe that if we had seen "normal" Foles, he may have broken Donovan McNabb's single-game franchise record of 464 yards passing. There were big plays left on the field all game long.
Read Kapadia's All-22 breakdown of Foles miscues here. As you can see, part of the problem was Foles rolling to his right into oncoming pressure instead of stepping up in a clean pocket. Other times, Foles did actually see the open receiver and attempt to pass but the ball was off target.
I know some will think I'm being too harsh on Foles and point out how this was just one game. It's true that even the best quarterbacks have bad games. I do find it likely that Foles will fix these mistakes and rebound from this performance moving forward, because it's something he's been able to do in the past.
Still, Foles is not above criticism. Foles' struggles can't simply be written off as "one bad game." Don't throw "27-2" in my face. Look beyond the box score. Some of his issues that were apparent against Jacksonville were evident last year. The difference in this situation was that the Jaguars aren't a good team so the Eagles had ample opportunity to fight their way back into the game. Against better teams, they might not have that opportunity. Let's look back at last year's Eagles-Saints playoff game, for example.
People are quick to blame Philadelphia's defense for the team's 2014 playoff loss to the Saints just because Foles and the offense left the field with a lead. That's certainly fair to an extent. But at the same time it can't be so easily forgotten how it was the Eagles defense that generated two turnovers in the first half and Foles was unable to put up points with those chances. To give you an idea of how critical those missed opportunities were, consider this:
The Eagles are the second team since 1997 to be +2 in turnover differential at home and lose a playoff game. Teams were 44-1 at home when +2 in turnover differential or more last 17 years.
And just like he did against the Jaguars, Foles left too many plays on the field against New Orleans. A few examples here via Birds 24/7. Read the entire post for more.
Foles throws to Avant instead of a wide open Celek on this third down and the Eagles have to punt.
Foles has former Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson with a step on Saints defensive back but forces a ball to a tightly-covered Celek instead.
Again, it's not unlike other quarterbacks to make these same mistakes. It's just more likely that it's a bigger issue with Foles because of how long he holds onto the ball. Foles is simply leaving too many easy plays on the field, and that's something I've been concerned with all offseason.
One of my concerns with Foles last year is that he left too many easy plays on the field. The first half of the Vikings and Saints games come to mind in that regard. Foles had receivers open that he just wasn't seeing for some reason.
I thought this flaw would be less apparent in Foles' game after having the 2014 offseason to work on it. It was discouraging to see no real progress from Foles in this area against the Jaguars. If anything, it may have even been worse than before.
Foles now has a golden opportunity to quiet his doubters by putting up a big performance against the Indianapolis Colts this week on Monday Night Footballl. Philadelphia's defense and special teams units have done their part so far this season. Now the pressure is on Foles to perform and prove his team is a legitimate contender in the NFC.
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