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Foles Rises To Challenge At QB

Posted Nov 18, 2013

Three straight wins have given the Eagles the edge in the NFC East and a primary reason is the play at quarterback, which has been sensational. Nick Foles has been something special to watch ...

As the Eagles glow just a little longer in the light cast by Sunday's 24-16 victory over Washington, it's time to take stock of what Nick Foles has accomplished at the quarterback position this season. This isn't exactly headline news, because his every move has been chronicled since the 2012 season when Foles stepped in for an injured Michael Vick and provided some hope in a bleak season.

In 2013, Foles is a vastly improved quarterback. He's worked hard at every phase of his game -- the mechanics are more compact, the decision making is sharper, the accuracy is improved and the clock in his head is measuring the speed of the game so well -- and Foles has taken to the instruction provided by quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor and the offensive staff.

The numbers jump off the page. They are staggeringly good, and while so many people out there imagine the future and who plays the quarterback position here, the present is pretty darn impressive. Consider ...

  • Foles leads the NFL with a passer rating of 128.0, is first with an average gain of 9.59 yards per passing attempt, is tops in touchdown percentage (9.9), interceptions thrown (0) and interception percentage (0.0).

  • Foles has not thrown an interception in 199 pass attempts dating back to December 23, 2012, in the home-finale loss to Washington.

  • Only five quarterbacks have more than the two rushing touchdowns scored by Foles, who is also averaging 4.1 yards per carry (only four quarterbacks have more yards per carry than Foles, for that matter).

  • Foles has completed 74 percent of his passes during this three-game winning streak with 10 touchdown passes, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 152.8. Since 1960, only Dallas' Craig Morton in '69 had a higher passer rating over a three-game span.

There are a lot of other numbers to support the notion that Foles is playing great football. The numbers don't tell the whole story. It's been a collaborative effort, of course. An offense works when 11 players and the coaching staff are on the same page, and that's what the Eagles have going on right now. The game has slowed down for Foles, and the clear vision and mental approach he's taken has allowed him to make great decisions.

Take, for example, a throw he made early in Sunday's victory. A Foles pass down the right sideline for running back LeSean McCoy gained 49 yards to the Washington 4-yard line, and the Eagles wanted a touchdown on the next play. Foles set up to throw and looked left for wide receiver Riley Cooper. He was covered, so Foles threw the ball through the end zone incomplete.

It was a great decision. It was the right move. Foles lived for another play, rather than trying to make something out of nothing.

On the next play, a read-option keeper that Foles ran to the right side, he scored on a 4-yard play and the Eagles had a lead they would not relinquish.

The sequence was something that every coach loves, demonstrating some of the qualities that have made Foles so effective this season: A tough pass perfectly thrown to McCoy, running away from a linebacker in coverage, a decision to throw the football away rather than force a pass into traffic and a keeper that Foles executed for a touchdown with his legs.

Foles has worked very hard on every piece of his game after a season in which he established franchise records for rookie quarterbacks. He has embraced the Chip Kelly offense, which demands as much intellectual superiority as physical excellence. Foles can make all the throws, and he has the feet and the feel in the pocket to slide and shuffle and buy precious half-ticks of seconds to set up and throw the football.

All of it combined -- his hard work and improvement, the coaching he has accepted so well, the system and the nuances introduced weekly by the coaching staff as well as a strong supporting cast -- have led to these mind-boggling numbers that, quite frankly, have a lot of room to grow.

I don't care about labels, so the idea of a "quarterback of the future," is something to be discussed in the offseason. The Eagles are in the thick of the playoff picture and taking care of business this week and enjoying the weekend off is all that matters.

Foles, for his part, was at the NovaCare Complex early on Monday. He isn't a "hype" guy, so any thought that he's allowed some early-career success go to his head just isn't reality. Foles is a grounded guy. He is a humble, hard-working player trying to become as great a player in this league as he can be.

The Eagles have themselves a quarterback down the stretch who is playing with absolute confidence. Foles has the job until told otherwise. Kelly is asked just about every day who the "quarterback for the rest of the season" may be, and he has resisted any temptation to leap to the future.

It's a day-to-day proposition for every position in the NFL, none so more than at quarterback for the Eagles. Michael Vick will be healthy soon, again providing the Eagles with depth at the valuable position. Vick understands the big picture here. He knows Foles is playing fine football and he knows that Kelly is the one making the call, so there is no public lobbying, and there is no back-door campaigning.

Everyone recognizes the strides Foles has made and how the team has responded to his performance. He's the quarterback when practice resumes on Tuesday. Is there any need to look into the future? Can't we all just appreciate the present and enjoy the feeling that we haven't felt in a few seasons: The Eagles are in a playoff chase, led by a red-hot quarterback who continues to improve in every phase of the game. The numbers, as impressive as they are, tell only part of the remarkable story of Nick Foles and his career development.

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