The reviews have been largely positive for Nick Foles through three starts and four games of his rookie season. He has handled the mental part of the game and has clearly prepared thoroughly and has made the correct adjustments to the different looks and schemes he's seen.
Foles has also done a nice job growing into the role of a starting NFL quarterback from a physical standpoint. He has been given a little bit more responsibility in each of his starts, to the point where he's, in the words of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, no longer a "rookie."
OK, well, that tells you how much confidence Mornhinweg and head coach Andy Reid have in Foles, who has been extremely mature and receptive to learning through the entire experience of replacing Michael Vick and piloting an offense missing key pieces such as running back LeSean McCoy, wide receiver DeSean Jackson and three starters from the line.
It ain't easy being in this position, you might say.
But Foles has been really good about doing his job. Whether he's dealing with the media in a cordial and professional manner or facing the "A" gap blitz from the Cowboys, Foles has made nice progress.
Next up is Tampa Bay, and the book on the Bucs is to get into a throwball game and to attack their secondary. Tampa Bay's pass defense is ranked 32nd in the NFL, and, obviously, the Eagles don't need any extra encouragement to throw the football. Tampa Bay, if the stats mean anything, also happens to have the first-ranked run defense, so if the numbers are to be believed, Foles could be in for a 50-passes kind of day.
That isn't the intention, I'm sure. The Eagles want to give the football to Bryce Brown and allow him to continue to grow against a very good front seven. They want Foles to have some help as the Eagles look to break this eight-game losing streak. They want to be efficient and explosive in the course of 60 minutes.
Foles' progress is very much the top-line agenda item for the Eagles. How good is he? How good could he be? How much faith should the team put in Foles as they eye up the 2013 season, and think about the beyond?
Tampa Bay will give Foles a lot of looks, particularly from a very quick and aggressive front seven. He's going to be on the spot to trust what he sees and to change the protection and square up his reads with those made by his receivers.
In the end, though, if we are going to judge Foles as more than a "rookie," then we have to judge him by wins and losses. That may not be fair given the injury situation, but that's the business of the league. You have to rise about the injuries.
Anyway, that's the next step for Foles. He has to win a game. He has to demonstrate that he can lead the Eagles to a victory, because, let's face it, there is a certain "something" required to win a game in the NFL.
We would all like to see Foles deliver one of those big-time games, when he throws for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns and the Eagles win in a runaway. Geez, it's been forever since the Eagles have experienced a game like that. Lest you forgot, the three wins the Eagles have this year were by one point, one point and, ahem, two points. Nary a blowout in the bunch.
So maybe asking for a blowout, or even a double-digit win, is asking for too much. At this point, a win is so desperately needed for this football team. And that's the next step in the progression for Foles.
Because at the end of the day, no matter how impressive the numbers might be, or how much poise the young man shows, it's all about getting a W. Foles needs to prove he can win football games, whether he is leading a fourth-quarter drive for the winning points or handing off as the Eagles burn clock with a comfortable lead late in a game.
Oh, for sure we're going to watch how Foles handles every element in the game against the Bucs, who have three starts' worth of film of Foles. They've studied his strengths and they want to take advantage of his weaknesses. Foles has to play in a hostile environment, and naturally that's going to be something else to witness.
Above and beyond everything, though, Foles needs a W. And the Eagles need him to notch a win in his rookie belt. That is the logical next step for Foles, who has made impressive strides in his four appearances since Vick was injured.