It's the truth, isn't it? As Nick Foles prepares for his preseason starting debut tonight (7:30, 6abc in Philadelphia), Eagles fans are blinking, fully alert, saying, "Is this kid for real?"
Tonight's game won't answer that question. It will help to answer, but it won't tell the whole story. Nobody is going overboard on Foles, not yet. He leads the NFL in preseason passer rating after two games at 118.4 and he has done all the right things on and off the field. Foles is off to a great start.
Now the key is taking another step in his development with a start in a very short week. Foles could play a half, maybe three quarters. The other starters will play a quarter, with perhaps one or two of them staying on the field to get some extra reps. King Dunlap, for example, could see a few more snaps, just because, and rookie Dennis Kelly needs as many snaps as the Eagles can give him to smooth his edges at right tackle as Todd Herremans attends a family funeral.
But it's No. 9 we're tuning in to see, and there is no disputing that. Cleveland will play its starters for some time, is likely not to blitz a whole lot, but still will try to give Foles fits and certainly will give him looks he hasn't yet seen.
What's fair to expect from Foles? His tempo is probably the most important developmental characteristic to watch, along with decision making. You look at former Eagle Kevin Kolb, now in Arizona, right now and you see a quarterback hurried and lacking confidence and at times just throwing the football nowhere.
Foles must have a pocket with which to work, and when those times come when it all collapses around him, we need to see how he responds.
It is certainly fair to expect Foles to go out and put some points on the board, as he has done in the first two preseason games. It's fair to expect him to check out of situations when he sees something from the defense, as he has done. It's fair to expect him to look good, even if the history of rookie quarterbacks in the preseason around here -- Donovan McNabb, Kolb, etc. -- isn't as inspiring.
Yeah, we're all waiting with great anticipation for Foles tonight. It's his team for this preseason game, and with that we all get a glimpse of the potential future of the Eagles franchise with No. 9 as the leading man.
- A word of condolence for the family of Steve Van Buren, who passed away on Thursday night at the age of 91. He and Reggie White are at the top of the list. Van Buren was a dominating player, a Hall of Fame performer, and he was blessed to have three daughters, 16 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.
- Kelly has his chance tonight to win a roster job, at the very least. He starts at right tackle and the Eagles like his athletic ability and his size and reach. He's a bit of a project, but offensive line coach Howard Mudd is excited about working with Kelly, who protects Foles' blind side against the Browns' 3-4 scheme.
- Michael Vick told USA Today that his ribs are "80 percent" right now, so there is every reason to think he will be fine for the September 9 opener. You wonder how these injuries impact Vick emotionally. Does he stay in the pocket when there is pressure in the regular season? How much does he run? Were both this injury and the thumb injury against the Steelers just fluke things?
- Is it possible that the Eagles keep all four of their halfbacks? I don't see how, but there is no denying that both Bryce Brown and Chris Polk have spiced up the conversation. They should both see a lot of time in these final two preseason games. I want to see Brown in pass protection, and I want to see him continue to create space with his great speed and burst. Polk is a bruiser and game has translated well to the NFL so far.
- Damaris Johnson, Chad Hall and Marty Gilyard are, as I see it, battling for one roster spot at wide receiver.
- A concern I have is at safety in terms of depth. I like both Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman and I think they're going to be fine. Who are the reserve safeties? Has Oshiomogho Atogwe shown enough to make the team? Jaiquawn Jarrett? Tom Nelson has a high ankle sprain and he's a question mark physically.
- I'm looking for the Browns to run the ball a lot tonight and to use the screen game. Let's see how the defense adjusts, and let's see how the hard-charging D line handles the running game.
- Haven't seen Mat McBriar holding on a field goal attempt yet, so maybe tonight is the night. He and Chas Henry are still battling for the punting job, and holding for placekicker Alex Henery is part of the job description.