The reality that Carson Wentz is out for the season became official when Wentz went on injured reserve Tuesday, and the Eagles’ hopes now fall upon Nick Foles. The coaching staff spent the last two days preparing a game plan for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants with Foles as the starting quarterback, and the team returns to practice Wednesday without Wentz as the first-team QB for the first time since the start of the 2016 season.
“My job right now is to step in that huddle and keep this thing rolling,” Foles said. “That’s what I plan on doing.”
He’s not Wentz, and it’s unlikely that Foles can step in and pick up where Wentz left off before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. But Foles, 28, is not a stranger to a starting job or meaningful late-season games. It’s rare to have a backup quarterback who has started 36 games and a playoff game, and the Eagles were aggressive in acquiring Foles during the offseason in case the worst-case scenario with Wentz occurred.
“When I looked at what Nick has done in this league, to throw seven touchdowns in a game, to throw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in the course of a year, that’s pretty freakish as well,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “Good for us that we have a backup quarterback that’s done that. I mean, that’s crazy, and that’s why I know from coaching perspective, we didn’t blink. It’s a setback, obviously, you lose your quarterback, but to have a guy like Nick step in is big time.”
The team’s stance is that the offense won’t change going from Wentz to Foles. Foles called it the “Eagles’ offense” and that it’s “the DNA of this team.” The same expression was used by Reich, who won in the playoffs as a backup quarterback in Buffalo. He said that his experience in a comparable situation was that he wanted to run the same offense as Jim Kelly. The coaches will modify the play-calling to fit what Foles does best, but it’s the same system the Eagles have practiced since the first day of the offseason program.
“There will be very minor, minor tweaks to the game plan,” Reich said. “This is our system. … Certainly it starts at quarterback, but it’s really built around all the talent that we have on offense. And good for us that all our quarterbacks are talented. Now Carson has some unique, physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it’s nothing that Nick can’t handle. So we’re full steam ahead.”
Foles said the big difference now is that he will not run the scout team in practice and he will practice with the starters. His preparation won’t change because he’s been in sync with Wentz and Nate Sudfeld each day this season. So he moves up the depth chart, but his week doesn’t change otherwise.
When Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz coached Detroit in 2013, he prepared a game plan to defend Foles during the hottest stretch of the quarterback’s career. He’s also seen Foles every day in practice and sees a “smart guy” with a “great arm” that has the confidence of his teammates.
“If you look at the job description of a backup quarterback, [it is]: Does a team have confidence in his ability to lead you to a win?” Schwartz said. “And I can speak for the defense that we do.”
Foles has attempted only 14 passes this season and throws often in practice. But he didn’t play at all during the preseason while nursing elbow soreness that came about with an increased workload. Foles insisted that the injury is behind him and that he has a recovery plan with the training staff to keep his passing arm healthy.
“Honestly, it feels amazing,” Foles said. “It’s been a non-issue. I’ve been back to being myself. … I’m ready to throw every single pass. It’s exciting to have your arm full strength and not have issue with it.”
|Sunday, Dec. 17||at Giants (2-11), 1 p.m.|
|Monday, Dec. 25||vs. Oakland (6-7), 8:30 p.m.|
|Sunday, Dec. 31||vs. Dallas (7-6), 1 p.m.|
|Jan. 6-7||Wild-card playoffs|
|Jan. 13-14||Divisional playoffs|
|Sunday, Jan. 21||Conference championships|
|Sunday, Feb. 4||Super Bowl 52 (Minneapolis)|
Foles has experience on both sides of quarterback injuries. With the Eagles, he has replaced Michael Vick and he has been replaced by Mark Sanchez. In Kansas City, he started one game as a replacement for Alex Smith. Foles said the biggest challenge for promoted quarterbacks comes when they “look too much at the big picture.”
“Fortunately, I’ve been there,” Foles said. “The advice I give myself is literally focus on the moment.”
The big picture for a team with the best record in the NFL in December is a potential Super Bowl trip. That seemed more plausible when Wentz raced to MVP candidacy. Foles might be a former Pro Bowler, but he’s also been traded and cut, and he’s been a backup the last two years. So even if he’s as experienced and successful as almost any backup quarterback in the NFL, he doesn’t inspire the same type of confidence in the fans as Wentz.
“That’s just part of this game, that’s part of what people are going to say,” Foles said. “I’m fully confident in this team. I’m fully confident in myself.”
Get insights on the Eagles delivered straight to your inbox with Early Birds, beat writer Zach Berman’s newsletter for Eagles fans. Click here to sign up.