I remember sitting on my parents’ couch in Pittsburgh when the Nick Foles - Sam Bradford trade broke, on air, in March 2015. I kind of laughed, because it seemed very much like a trade of one middling quarterback for another, and in the end that’s exactly what it proved to be.
When the Eagles signed Chase Daniel to a very pricey three-year deal last offseason, I did not laugh, because while Bradford and Foles were both middling quarterbacks, they had proven they could at the very least hold their own when given a chance. Daniel had done no such thing, and probably never will because he simply isn’t a good enough NFL quarterback.
So while bringing back the much-maligned and oft-mocked Nick Foles feels like a weird step into the past, and could appear, to some, like a lateral move, let me tell you: it is not at all.
Backup quarterbacks are, by design, lesser players, so let’s get this out of the way: if Nick Foles is forced into action for more than two games next season, the Eagles will be doomed anyway. It won’t matter how much Foles plays up to his skill level: except for the Patriots, teams don’t win when their franchise quarterback goes down.
What we’re looking for from Foles, then, is serviceable play in short bursts, ideally. If Carson Wentz takes a brutal shot to the ribs, or tries to fly over a defender again and smacks his head on the turf of the Linc, can Foles come in and weather the storm until Wentz is available a few quarters later, or, at the worst, the next game?
In short, yes.
His woeful 2015 with the Rams was well-documented: he completed just 56.3 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,052 yards, seven touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 11 games as the team’s starter. Foles was awful, to be blunt, but so were those Rams.
Not much has changed with that team since Foles departed, which makes you think there was probably more to his failure than just his play.
Especially when you look at how Foles played for the Chiefs last year, surrounded by substantially better offensive talent and coaching.
Foles, in what amounted to 1.66 games last year, including one start: 65.4% completion percentage, 410 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions.
Take those numbers with these crucial grains of salt: those games came against the Colts’ and Jaguars’ defenses. The Colts ranked sixth-worst in the NFL in passing yards allowed last season, while the Jaguars ranked fifth-best.
So, overall, not bad!
Let’s go to the tape, then, to see what our old pal Nick was up to.
I looked at each play from his first game, against the Colts, and extracted some of the good, some of the meh, and some of the ugly.
This was the best throw I saw Foles make in this game. Ironically, it went incomplete. But check out where he places this ball: Travis Kelce does a double-take because he can’t believe Foles was able to drop it back-shoulder in between two defenders.
Of course, this isn’t a common Foles throw, but it’s a damn good one. This is infinitely more impressive than anything Chase Daniel can do, and if Carson Wentz goes down during a close game, throws like this could theoretically keep the Eagles in games.
One thing Foles often was ridiculed for in 2014, and rightfully so, was his abysmal pocket presence. He would backpedal from danger to the point that completing a pass was a near impossibility.
Here, Foles identifies the pressure early, steps up in the pocket, and uncorks a deep throw to Tyreek Hill. The throw itself isn’t all that great, but his movement in the pocket is what we’re focused on here. Because it shows improvement over what Foles was repeatedly doing when Chip Kelly realized Foles had no future as the Eagles’ franchise quarterback.
This isn’t a wildly difficult throw, as Travis Kelce beats his man early in the route and then boxes him out with his size, but Foles still has a finite window with a second defensive back tracking over from Foles’ right. He delivers a good ball right to Kelce’s hands for a touchdown.
Again, nothing spectacular, but a solid throw, and the kind of thing Foles might be asked to do in relief to keep the Eagles afloat in Wentz’s absence. Knowing Foles can still make these kinds of throws is reassuring.
I have a hard time one placing this all on Foles, but he certainly could’ve done better on this play.
If you watch Foles, he gets flushed because his right tackle is caught flat-footed, and then has very little time to make any play once he rolls.
But about a half-second before he gets flushed, his tight end Demetrius Harris (No. 84, lined up widest left) breaks free from his defender and comes wide open. Now, Foles would have to put a bit of touch on that throw to get it over the linebacker lying in wait, but that’s a throw Foles has to try and get off.
One problem with Foles in 2014 was his penchant to hold on to the ball too long (you hear that, Carson?), and this is another example. You don’t want to force the pass and give up three points to a turnover, but that’s a throw Foles can, and should, make.
I know, I know, it’s a touchdown. But it’s probably the easiest touchdown in history, and Foles nearly botches it by putting his throw much closer to the safety, and much shorter, than it needs to be.
Look at the way the Colts’ safety is positioned when Foles realizes his guy is wide open on the left side: feet facing the opposite sideline, making sure the middle of the field is covered. By the time Foles’ pass arrives, the safety is basically at Foles’ target because Foles leads him a bit too close to the middle of the field.
He does a good job of identifying the open receiver early in the play, and in the end he gets the job done, but Foles needs to be more accurate with such a gimme play.
This is a bit rough for Foles, because I’m sure his running back is supposed to chip here. But Foles has to be better than this in the pocket. He doesn’t see the edge rusher until much too late, especially considering he should’ve looked back to see his running back wide open in the flat for a dump off.
I understand Foles not wanting to force that pass to Kelce underneath, because I’m pretty sure he’s short of the sticks on this third down play. But Foles has to have a better sense of what’s going on around him when he’s in the pocket.
This was by far Foles’ worst play of the day.
He gets Charcandrick West breaking wide open, with Travis Kelce (apparently legally?) picking the linebacker tasked with getting to West in the flat. The defensive end overruns West with a bad angle, and then doesn’t try to stay with him on his route.
Literally all Foles has to do here is loft the pass into West’s hands for a staggeringly easy touchdown, but instead he (likely) panics when he sees how wide open his man is, and overthrows West. This is a routine pass for most starting quarterbacks in the NFL, and one Foles can’t afford to fudge if the Eagles need him to keep them alive for a few series or a couple quarters.
Overall, Nick Foles looks like the player we remember. He can make throws that boggle your mind in both ways: one play, he launches a perfect back-shoulder throw over two defenders for 40 yards, and the next he completely misses a wide-open running back for a touchdown.
He’s not a starter, but he’s a very solid backup, especially considering his familiarity with the Eagles’ organization and Doug Pederson’s offense. Is it possible Howie Roseman overpaid Foles? Yes. It’s also at least understandable, and will probably look a little less insane if Foles is forced into action this season.