First things first: Quarterback Nick Foles is healthy. There is no lingering pain or discomfort or anything that might limit him from that game-ending hit he absorbed last Thursday in the preseason loss at New England. He hasn’t missed a practice, and he’s going to start in preseason game No. 3 in Cleveland (Thursday, 8 p.m., nationally televised on FOX).
After that, who knows?
The Eagles are keeping this one-game-at-a-time approach very much to themselves, what with the unknown of Carson Wentz’s knee and his timetable for full clearance, and so Foles understands that the throws he makes on Thursday night could be, might be, who-really-knows? his final throws of the 2018 season.
Then again, Foles could be the starting quarterback on September 6 when Atlanta comes to town.
“That’s a challenge. That’s a challenge for anyone in my situation,” Foles said on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex. “You just don’t know. I think that’s where, as I told y’all during the playoffs (of 2017), I just stayed in the moment. Like, really focusing on today, in this moment, because that’s all I can control. It’s hard at times. There are times when your mind wanders and then you start dealing with it. But that just takes you off the moment and what you need to do right now.
“That’s what I’m really focusing on, especially in Training Camp. I mean, Training Camp is a grind. We’ve all gone through it. Any athlete will tell you it’s a grind. I’m really just focusing on the moment, doing what I can to prepare for the Browns, getting ready to go. That sort of alleviates all the different anxieties that you may face.”
All of this makes the game in Cleveland more important for Foles, who could play into the third quarter with the rest of the starting offense (minus some key pieces like wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, running backs Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles, and tight end Richard Rodgers). Foles is coming off a struggling performance in New England, where, in his first game since his Super Bowl LII brilliance, he completed 3 of 9 passes for 44 yards. He was sacked three times, including the one that knocked him out of the game and into the sideline medical tent with what has been described as a right shoulder strain.
The initial diagnosis held, and Foles is fine. He was back at practice on Sunday at the NovaCare Complex and hasn’t looked back. What he wants on Thursday night is to get flowing early against the Browns’ defense.
“I think for us just to go out there and let it loose,” Foles said. “Just play ball, move the ball, get the comfort of the game, the feel of the game. Obviously, we want to put points on the board and all that, that’s generalities. I think for all of us, just to get back to what we were doing, the rhythm of the game, where we know we can move it and we don’t hurt ourselves with penalties, with turnovers and stuff like that. Just play clean, Eagle football like we know we can do. That’s what we’re striving for each and every day.”
It’s all about the “now,” a mindset that has served Foles well in his up, then down, then very up NFL career. He says his “body feels great. I’m very fortunate with my shoulder” and that’s all that matters in this moment. On Thursday, it’s going to be a different story. The Eagles have played sloppy, mistake-ridden football the first two weeks of the preseason. Coaches talk about “self-inflicted wounds” and the Eagles have had a slew of penalties, giveaways, missed assignments, and dropped passes.
The opportunity to turn it around and head into the regular season with some momentum comes in Cleveland.
“I think having a half, getting out there, moving the ball, running our offense, I think it will be great for us,” Foles said.
There is some importance to this preseason game, one that obviously doesn’t count in the standings but one that matters to Foles and his reliance on touch and timing. He didn’t have much of either last week. Thursday night, it’s an entirely new experience, and one he hopes will vault the offense into that September 6 focus and whatever that might mean for No. 9 and the quarterback position.