With the Eagles losing Carson Wentz due to a knee injury, many people - fans, reporters, analysts - are trying to project what the Eagles' offense will look like with moving forward.
I wondered the same thing so I watched all of Foles' tape from the last few years because it’s been quite a journey.
We all remember the "27 and 2" year from 2013 when he was incredibly efficient as a starter in Chip Kelly’s first season. He was more down than he was up in 2014 but still managed to win a lot of games for the Eagles. He was traded to the Rams in 2015, performed moderately well, but was released after the team selected Jared Goff with the first overall pick. He was signed by Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs in 2016 and won his lone start. Now he’s here and ready to take the reins of a team looking to make a deep playoff run.
Watching Foles over his career, I wanted to see throws that translate to concepts that are run in this offense. We’ve seen the scheme here now with this staff almost two full seasons, so we have an idea as to what the staple pass game route concepts are. The first one is the three-level stretch, and it’s a play that Foles has been executing his entire career.
Shot 1 - Nick Foles has plenty of experience running the concepts in the #Eagles offense. I'll take a look today at some of those throws and how well he's performed in 'situational football' throughout his career. This is an Eagles staple: the Three-Level Stretch #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/ETZyGKk52w — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 14, 2017
Note that there is audio commentary for each of the video clips.
The Eagles love all iterations of the three-level stretch, where three receivers flood one side of the field and attack all three levels (deep, intermediate, and short). This concept typically comes off of play-action, and Foles has been running this play over his entire career. On these throws, Foles displays his ball placement, toughness in the pocket, his touch, and placement on downfield throws.
Shot 2 - Some deep balls thrown by Foles over the last couple of years. He can throw vertically with really nice touch and timing. These are five #Eagles staples in the deep passing game and Foles executing them very well #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/Fl3Sk9ZvC5 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 14, 2017
One thing that consistently stands out with Foles is his ability to throw the deep ball and head coach Doug Pederson likes to attack downfield. This team has a number of downfield pass concepts in the playbook that have worked at a high level over the last couple of years. I’ve broken down the Dagger concept, the Slot Fade, and these deep Over routes from the No. 3 receiver numerous times. Foles has shown that he can make all of these throws from the pocket, and throw them well.
Shot 3 - Is Nick Foles the athlete that Carson Wentz is? Of course not. Doesn't mean he can't execute the same type of boot-action passes that the #Eagles have run all year long. pic.twitter.com/7EEE4ODUTX — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 14, 2017
Will the Eagles be able to continue running some of their play-action passes where the quarterback rolls out of the pocket to deliver the football? My assumption? The Eagles will definitely still move the pocket some with Foles under center. Is he as athletic as Wentz? No, but he’s shown throughout his career that he can make throws on the run and deliver the football downfield.
Shot 4 - Can Nick Foles run RPOs? I don't know --- you tell me! He's been making these throws in the same concepts his entire career #Eagles pic.twitter.com/5auSwZAXx9 — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 14, 2017
The other aspect of the Eagles' offense that has sparked lots of discussion this week is the use of RPOs. The definition of these Run Pass Options is exactly that. The quarterback can either hand the ball off for a run play or pull it and throw the football. Typically, the quarterback can also pull the ball and run it on his own, but that rarely happens. It’s all about playing the numbers game with defenses. Is the box loaded to defend the run? Throw it to the perimeter where your skill guys can make a play in space. Have extra bodies outside the numbers to defend the pass? Hand the ball off. It’s a simple concept that Foles has executed going back to the days under Chip Kelly here in Philadelphia. He can absolutely run these kinds of plays, and run them well.
Other than the ability to make plays "outside of structure," the other area where the Eagles may miss Carson Wentz the most is in "situational football" - on third down and in the red zone. Wentz has been nothing short of outstanding in both scenarios this year for the Eagles. Part of that is on him, part of that has been the coaches, and part of it has been on the supporting cast around him. It will be up to Foles now to carry that torch and keep the offense rolling in that regard.
Shot 5 - One of the biggest questions is, can the #Eagles continue to thrive on third down? Foles has shown that he can be 'that guy' throughout his career. Accuracy, decision making, poise are all on display on some of these throws pic.twitter.com/Oy709OLdkF — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 14, 2017
Shot 6 - 3rd and long? Against pressure? Nick Foles can succeed here. Again, you see the poise under fire, the ball placement with bodies around him, the velocity to complete passes from the opposite hash, and more on these shots #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/YRKT8YX6Vm — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 14, 2017
Shot 7 - The next part of situational football where Wentz thrived was in the red zone, where Foles has been pretty good throughout his career as well. Most of these passes came on third down as well. #Eagles are the best red zone offense in football coming into Week 15 pic.twitter.com/OjQOkjjgVw — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 14, 2017
Throughout his career on third down, Foles has completed 54.2 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On face value, those numbers aren’t great, but they’re also largely affected by a 2015 season in St. Louis where the numbers were just downright awful (45 percent completion, five touchdowns, and five interceptions). In this scheme with this staff and supporting cast, I expect him to be able to produce in those situations at a much higher and more effective rate.
Down in the red zone, Foles has been much better. He’s only completed 50 percent of his passes, but with 30 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions and nine sacks. He’s been able to punch the ball in when he’s had the opportunity. We know how effective the Eagles have been inside the 20-yard line this year, and I think the Eagles will put him in position to succeed. In all of these situations, he’s been able to make some big-time throws in clutch situations.
Shot 8 - These were the kinds of plays I had forgotten about from Nick Foles. He can bring some of those 'out of structure' plays to the field (not as often as Wentz, of course). I'm excited to see him take the field on Sunday #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/MLOthPZY3S — Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) December 14, 2017
These last two plays were the kinds of throws I had forgotten about with Foles. I think people remember him as kind of a lumbering athlete who can’t really "create" plays for himself. Again, he’s certainly not Wentz in that regard, but he can make plays outside of structure on the move. I don’t expect Foles to make these kinds of throws on a weekly basis like Carson did, but if he can continue to take care of the football, which he’s done at an extremely high rate throughout his career, I think he will absolutely have success in this Eagles offense.
Fran Duffy is the producer of “Eagles Game Plan” which can be seen on Saturdays during the season. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team’s games, practices and opponents.