Quarterback Nick Foles has shown a lot of progress in his first four NFL games. As the team prepares to head to Tampa Bay this Sunday, Foles is coming off of his best start against Dallas. He completed 65 percent of his passes for a season-high 251 yards with a touchdown, no interceptions and a season-high 96.6 quarterback rating.
Foles has played well enough that head coach Andy Reid declared him the starter for the remainder of the season, no matter when Michael Vick is able to return to action from his concussion. Now that Foles is in the starter's seat, more is expected of him from his coaches.
"All of this progressing and all of that is over now. We are no longer rookies - that's done," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. "We expect to play at a high level consistently. Now, having said that, he sure does some things quite naturally. These are some great positives that he has."
The Eagles scored a season-high 33 points last week against Dallas. Backup quarterback Trent Edwards, a friend of Foles who has served as a mentor all season, said that the biggest difference in Foles' performance is that the throws he's making during the week in practice are now being made on Sundays.
One of those throws was a 29-yard pass to wide receiver Jason Avant late in the first half against Dallas. Foles had to thread the ball perfectly between the underneath defender and the over-the-top defender. The Eagles came away with a field goal despite having the ball for just 41 seconds before halftime.
"I think he's progressing as a player, his decision making has steadily progressed over last two games that he's been in there," Avant said. "I think the biggest reason is (calling the right plays) and the offensive linemen taking care of the run game. I think that's always good for any quarterback."
Foles' ability to read defenses has also improved. Foles saw that former Eagles and current Cowboys linebacker Ernie Sims was coming on a blitz in the second quarter. Foles stood tall in the pocket and delivered the ball to tight end Brent Celek over the middle despite getting drilled on the play.
As much as Mornhinweg and the coaches can teach Foles, one thing they certainly can't is toughness. It doesn't matter if Foles is a rookie or not. Toughness is a trait which you either have ... or you don't.
"Look, tough guys are tough guys," Mornhinweg said. "They are tough all the time, typically, and he's a tough guy and he's built the right way typically it appears. He came back and made just a beautiful play with a free rusher on the throw to Brent.
"He has done some really good things. Now, his challenge, and we've talked about this for the past couple of weeks, is to play at a high level like he's shown that he can play and make it a really consistent deal over a period of plays and a period of plays over a ballgame, and then a period of plays over a ballgame back-to-back, and then finally over a 16-game or 20-something game season. That's his challenge right now."
Even though he's a rookie, Foles' ability to take command in the huddle has never been an issue.
"When he comes in the huddle, his demeanor, just the way he takes it over and is always accountable," wide receiver Riley Cooper said. "If we run a wrong route, he's always, 'No, my bad. My bad.' I have a lot of respect for Foles. I'm really impressed with him. He's going to be a heck of a player."
Of course, when you throw perfect passes like the one Foles did to Cooper for a 15-yard touchdown with Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr being draped all over him, teammates are not going to look at you like a rookie anymore.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter @EaglesInsider