Sunday, April 20, 2014
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Too soon to decide how good Foles is

Gallery: Too soon to decide how good Foles is

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Chip Kelly likes to point out how little Nick Foles has played in the NFL.

He does this to caution those, for instance, who were poised to write the quarterback off after his disastrous Cowboys performance. But he also mentions it as a reminder, maybe even to himself, that more games are needed before a true evaluation of Foles can be made.

Foles added another to his list of accomplishments after the Eagles breezed past the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, 27-13, on Sunday. He wasn't especially sharp, and was the beneficiary of a few fortunate bounces, but getting the victory nonetheless is ultimately how he should be judged.

When it comes to Foles, there is the short-term and there is the long-term. Kelly has said he isn't concerned about the future. The Eagles are 5-5 and very much in the playoff picture. Kelly's attention, as it should be, is now on next week's opponent, the Washington Redskins.

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    But even casting aside Foles' inclusion in the long-range plans at quarterback, it could be argued that he gives the Eagles their best shot in the final six games of the season.

    Foles is 3-1 as a starter. Michael Vick is 2-4. There were extenuating circumstances in each start, but the bottom line is that Foles has won more than Vick. If he wins next week against Washington, ending the Eagles' 10-game slide at home, Kelly's decision will be an easy one.

    Vick's re-aggravated hamstring injury has afforded the Eagles coach the luxury of holding off on naming a de facto starting quarterback. Vick won't likely be back by Sunday, but with a bye the following week, he should be healthy enough to play against the Arizona Cardinals on Dec. 1.

    By that point, Kelly will be hard pressed to name a starter. One of the reasons he probably hasn't done so - he hasn't given Vick a vote of confidence in over a month - is because of the backtracking he would have to endure if Foles regressed again or got injured.

    Foles, for his part, said that he was fine with the current arrangement, however uncertain.

    "I'm not worried about that," Foles said. "That's a question for Chip. Whatever the situation is, I respect it."

    Kelly was spared questions about his quarterback situation following the game, but the answer on Monday will likely be: "I don't know because I don't know if Vick will be healthy."

    But the picture is getting clearer. Foles wasn't anywhere near as accurate as he was in last week's seven-touchdown performance against the Raiders. But he still completed 12 of 18 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns. His next interception will be his first of the season.

    "He doesn't really make egregious mistakes out there," Kelly said. "If he misses, he's off. He may not be as accurate on a throw, but that's what you're missing. It's not, 'Hey, we had a guy open and he was supposed to look right, but he was looking left.' I think he's got a good grasp and command of what we're doing, and I feel real comfortable with him right now."

    Foles also ran eight times for 38 yards, three times picking up first downs with his legs. The Eagles didn't need his arm as much because LeSean McCoy and the running game were effective. The Packers also finished with a 75-58 advantage in plays.

    When Foles did throw, he took advantage of man-to-man defense and hit his receivers over the top. Three completions traveled over 30 yards, and each one resulted in a touchdown.

    Foles has managed to keep feeding DeSean Jackson (four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown), while also getting Riley Cooper involved (three catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns). Cooper now has 15 receptions for 393 yards and six TDs with Foles. He had only eight catches for 93 yards and one score with Vick.

    "I feel like I have a connection with all my receivers," Foles said. "I understand how they run routes. I understand their strengths. I'm very fortunate to be in a situation where we have talent everywhere. And the most important thing is to get them the ball, get them in an area so they can make plays."

    But there were several throws that made you scratch your head and a few times when he appeared indecisive and took sacks. The last one resulted in a fourth-quarter fumble - his first turnover of the season - but the Packers failed to capitalize and turned the ball over on downs.

    Foles' first touchdown pass to Jackson was a gift. He underthrew his receiver, who had a step, and when two Packers defensive backs caught up, the ball bounced off one and into Jackson's hands for a 55-yard score.

    Later, Foles just tossed one up for grabs. It looked like maybe the wind grabbed it, but he got lucky when there were no Packers nearby and the ball fell meekly to the ground. In the third quarter, he threw to Cooper deep and the ball took an odd flight, but the receiver came back and reeled in the pass for a 45-yard touchdown.

    Foles said he purposely threw short, knowing Cooper would have the only shot at catching the ball.

    "There's a lot of things I can improve upon," Foles said. "That's something I'll always strive for is consistency. There's going to be adversity I'm going to face."

    The Eagles are getting a truer read on Foles, and much of it is positive, but they still need to see more.

    He has only 10 career NFL starts, after all.

     


    A Place in History

    Since 1960, only the New England Patriots' Tom Brady (11 in 2007) and the Oakland Raiders' Tom Flores (11 in 1963) threw more touchdowns in a two-game span than Nick Foles. Here are the most TDs to start a season without an interception:

    Player   Team   TD   Year

    Peyton Manning   Broncos   20   2013

    Nick Foles   Eagles   16   2013

    Milt Plum   Browns   16   1960

    Don Meredith   Cowboys   14   1966

    Randall Cunningham   Vikings   14   1998

    SOURCE: The Philadelphia Eagles


    jmclane@phillynews.com

    @Jeff_McLane

     

    Jeff McLane Inquirer Staff Writer
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