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How Will Defenses Try To Attack QB Nick Foles?


I'm telling Nick Foles the tale of Jeff Hostetler and the 1990 New York Giants. Hostetler, a third-round pick in his sixth season, replaced an injured Phil Simms for the 11-2 Giants that season and led New York to the Lombardi Trophy. Foles, a third-round pick in his sixth season for the 11-2 Eagles, seems amused.

"That's a good story," he said.

"It doesn't matter to you, does it?" I ask.

"No," Foles said, "but it's a good story."

The Nick Foles Era, Part Deux, began on Monday when news of Carson Wentz's torn ACL became officially official, by which time Foles was already deep in his study of Sunday's opponent, the New York Giants. On Tuesday, Foles met the media, en masse, and he killed it. Foles projects a calmness, a professionalism, and he's certainly been around the block in an NFL career that has been, to say the least, eventful.

The 27-and-2 season of 2013 gave way to an up-and-down 2014 that ended with a broken collarbone, followed by the trade to St. Louis for a nightmarish 7-touchdown, 10-interception 2015 campaign before the Rams released him the following July.

Kansas City and a reunion with head coach Andy Reid and a familiar system and structured offensive approach and the restoration of confidence probably saved Foles' career in a lot of ways. He played substantially in two games that season and threw three touchdowns and zero interceptions and looked good enough that the Eagles made a considerable investment to bring Foles back to Philadelphia as insurance for Wentz.

And Foles was doing his work, very quietly, as Wentz went on an MVP-type 13-game tirade. But a torn ACL on Sunday changed everything, and now the Eagles need Foles to be a high-level quarterback the rest of the regular season - and the postseason.

The Eagles have no doubt Foles will deliver, as head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday and offensive coordinator Frank Reich reiterated on Tuesday. But why? Why the confidence?

"Nick Foles has already proven, right here in this town and this city to everybody here, what he can do," Reich said. "I'm excited for Nick and the opportunity. It comes under very tough circumstances. We've lost some great players already, when you think about losing JP (left tackle Jason Peters), Sproles (running back Darren), and now Carson. I'm excited about the opportunity for Nick, primarily because he's got great talent around him and we've been on a roll. We've got a good offensive line, good skill guys around him, so I anticipate Nick stepping up and making a lot of plays."

So the next question is this: What will defenses try to take away from Foles? How will they attack him?

Weaknesses are exposed very quickly in this league, so how will defenses go after Foles?

"In the sense of, this guy is not quite as athletic as Carson; of course, not too many guys are," Reich said. "You could look at it like, 'Let's pressure him.' Well, that's good. Go pressure us. Nick's really smart and he's seen it all before. Whether they want to drop in coverage, bring pressure, you prepare for all of it.

"I'm not gonna lie: If I'm a backup, like Nick is, this is probably about as difficult as it could be, because of the pressure package that (Giants defensive coordinator Steve) Spagnuolo brings. It's very exotic and diverse. Multiple looks. Great disguise. I mean, you've got to be on. Now, it is a division opponent, we've already played them one time this year so we've already prepared for this, so that's a little bit of an advantage for Nick. They've got a good defensive scheme, they're really good up front, so it will be a challenge for us."

Would it make sense if defenses stacked the box with eight players and dared Foles to beat them with his arm? Sure, it would. But the Eagles addressed their skill positions in the offseason so they would win those one-on-one matchups outside and they are much better equipped for the type of pressure packages and close-to-the-line-of-scrimmage looks they will see starting on Sunday.

"I think you lean on the run just a little bit more," Eagles Hall of Famer and radio analyst Mike Quick said. "But look, even if you stack the box to stop the run, you can block it up and create a crease and if you can get Jay Ajayi to the second level, you're going to see a lot of big runs. I think it's all going to be fine. The Eagles will make some adjustments."


Here's one that you'll likely see: The Eagles are 12-of-12 on fourth-and-1 plays, mostly with Wentz running the quarterback sneak. Pederson isn't going to order up a diet of quarterback sneaks for Foles. The Eagles could very well play it a bit differently in those situations.

Otherwise, as Reich said on Tuesday, there will be "very minor tweaks" to the way the Eagles game plan.

Now, as far as the defenses and what they're going to try to do against Foles and the offense, the Eagles have a sense.

"That is the question we will find out on Sunday. We're preparing, we're watching the film. I'm sure they will add a few pieces to the puzzle," Foles said. "Teams always have one or two things they want to show a quarterback that's different than you've seen. That's where you use your eyes, you react. So, we'll see."

We sure will. There is a history of backup quarterbacks stepping in and winning – Reich did it with Buffalo during his playing day – and the story of Hostetler is especially encouraging. But the history isn't the story here. The present is. The Eagles are in a game-to-game scenario, with the New York Giants – who would love nothing more than to pull off an upset over their division rivals on Sunday – as the sole focus.

"I've been here before and the players know me, so I'm ahead of the curve here," Foles said. "Carson is the MVP and he's had an amazing year. But we also have so many guys on this entire team that have stepped up and helped us win games. That's why we're 11-2. I just have to go out there and play my game, what I know how to do. I just have to worry about my job and play ball."

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