For the first time in his young NFL career, Nick Foles knows the situation going into the season. He is the Eagles' starting quarterback after making the most of 2013 – the 27 touchdown passes in the regular season, two more in the playoff loss to New Orleans and the co-MVP award in the Pro Bowl. It was a heady kind of year for a young man who is as even-keeled and team-oriented as they come. If Foles was once flustered by the rise or in any way in awe of the specter of his season, he didn't let anyone in on the moment.
"It's what's expected of me; it's my job," said Foles after he won co-Most Valuable Player honors in the Pro Bowl. "I'm just going to keep doing what I've been doing to get to this point, and that's working hard every day, working my hardest every day. I will keep doing that and good things will happen.
A third-round draft pick in 2012, Foles has earned his way to where he now stands. The awful 4-12 2012 campaign at least allowed Foles a chance to become acclimated to the NFL game, and he took advantage of the opportunity. Foles needed only seven games, six starts, to establish franchise records for rookies in completions, passing yards and passing attempts. There were some lumps absorbed along the way, but Foles showed in that half season of action that he had a good feel for the pocket and for making the right decisions and for having the arm to make all of the throws.
Chip Kelly was hired as the head coach after the '12 season and the immediate question circled around Foles and the idea of his skill set – more of a drop-back style than a run-away-from-trouble quarterback – fitting into what Kelly wanted.
You know how it turned out, right? Exciting stuff. Foles and Michael Vick enjoyed outstanding preseasons and Vick was named the starting quarterback and he played pretty well until his hamstring popped at New York. Foles stepped in and never looked back.
As the Eagles work internally to prepare for May's NFL draft and Foles gets himself right for his third NFL season, the next step in his maturation is in progress. With his swift decision making and the accuracy on his throws and the timing that makes it all work, Foles is in a great spot. The Eagles have a lot around him in the offense and could very well add to the mix in and around the draft. There have been changes at wide receiver, of course, and the question of a stretch-the-defenses threat is valid until proven otherwise, but the pieces are in place for Foles to have another terrific season with an offense that last season set franchise records for points scored and yards gained.
For the first time, Foles is the undisputed starter going into a season. It won't go to his head or anything of the sort, but there has to be a sense of accomplishment for Foles. He's earned it, without question. To show the promise he did as a rookie in such trying circumstances and then to take advantage of the move up the depth chart in 2013 and turn it into something special lends credence to the idea that Foles has the right stuff for the Eagles at quarterback.
And it should only improve.
The numbers will be difficult to duplicate – the touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013 was the best in NFL history – but it's not all about numbers here. Foles is the leader of the offense and his calm demeanor and take-responsibility attitude permeate the locker room. The next step in the evolution of Foles into a "special" quarterback is for him and the Eagles to win in the postseason.
Winning is the agenda here, no matter how it happens.
In what areas can Foles improve? He'll tell you that every phase of his game can be better, and that's truly the case. Foles was able to pull the trigger and take some chances with some throws, and at the same time he exercised patience and excellence in defensive recognition that allowed him to sustain drives and keep his interception total down. Foles took a few sacks that he would like to erase and that's an area to improve.
Foles goes into Year 3 looking for more. More consistency. More productivity. More victories. The arrow is up for the team's "franchise" quarterback (in the words of Kelly, that he loves so much to say). Foles has accomplished quite a bit in two seasons, but he always will chase perfection in the pursuit of a Super Bowl for the Eagles.