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What's Next For Nick Foles?

Posted Jan 9, 2014

This isn't about labels, or guarantees, or predictions for Nick Foles. It's about the natural progression of a quarterback entering his third NFL season and the things he needs to do to improve ...

In two seasons as an NFL quarterback, Nick Foles has thrown 33 touchdown passes (35 including 2 in the playoff game against New Orleans) and 7 interceptions, has completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 4,590 yards and compiled a passer rating of 101.0

More important, Foles led the Eagles to seven wins in eight games in the second half of the 2013 regular season, learning to deliver at clutch times as the Eagles won the NFC East for the first time since the 2010 season.

In two years, with two head coaches and in two different systems, Foles showed that he belonged in this league and, in fact, that he could thrive in the NFL.

What's his next step? What's his ceiling? What happens for a young quarterback after two seasons when he's had a reasonable amount of success -- OK, 27 touchdowns and 2 touchdowns in 2013 is more than "reasonable" -- and is aiming for more in Year 3 and beyond?

"The game is going to slow down for Nick even more than it has and he's going to study himself and attack his game," said ESPN's Ron Jaworski, the former Eagles quarterback. "Nick has done a lot of good things in two seasons. He has made a tremendous amount of progress. But there are little things to improve -- the footwork, the mechanics, the awareness of what defenses are trying to do. It's part of the process. It's what every quarterback goes through.

"Nick has been very, very good for two seasons. There is still room to grow."

That's exactly what Foles said when he met the media on Monday, the clean-out day at the NovaCare Complex. He said he wanted to work on his footwork and his throwing mechanics and "every little thing I can think of" to improve his game.

The kid's got game, on and off the field.

So, what is going to be different about Foles when he reports back to the NovaCare Complex on April 21, the start of the team's offseason program? The improvements are likely to be subtle, as they were in his progression from year one to year two. He will be in great physical condition after working on his strength and his quickness and speed. Foles will likely have spent a lot of time working on tightening up his throwing motion and improving his footwork and how his shoulders are pointed and all of the nuances of the position.

There is also the matter of confidence, in knowing the kind of quarterback he is. A year ago, Foles looked to build on a promising rookie season. No way could he envision his sophomore year going the way it went with such staggering numbers. Foles asserted himself as the leader of the offense, the quarterback in whom everyone has confidence.

The next step is to continue to advance on the little things. Foles will work on ball placement and the subtle things that define a great quarterback. He isn't caught up in labels and the idea of a "franchise quarterback" is mentioned only in the media, not within the team walls.

For the team to take the next step, Foles must be better. The offense around him -- both in scheme and in personnel -- must improve. It's a team thing, you see. Foles walked out of the NovaCare Complex locker room on Monday feeling the bitter taste of the loss to New Orleans deep in the pit of his stomach. The defeat lingers. It serves as motivation for the long weeks ahead before the team again gathers and builds toward September.

"I'm definitely going to think about the loss and I'll think about it for a long time," said Foles. "We didn't want to end the season. We wanted to keep playing football."

Only one team is satisfied at the end of an NFL season, and 31 others go back to the drawing board. It's the same for every player, no matter what they have accomplished. Standing still in this league means moving in the wrong direction.

For Foles, the bridge to Season 3 is an important one. He has to get better. ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said in a conference call on Thursday that he feels Foles will have a "tremendous" career in Philadelphia, and that if there is a flaw in his game it is that he can be too "methodical" and that Foles needs more "suddenness." It's going to come with experience and confidence to "grip it and rip it," as head coach Chip Kelly urged early in the 2013 season.

"I have to work on everything," said Foles, and he's right.

The maturation process continues somewhere in Austin, Texas, or wherever Foles works throughout the offseason. He's the guy here, and every bit of his development is crucial to the Eagles as they build for a bright future.

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