Nick Foles will remain the Eagles' starting quarterback – at least for one more week.
Carson Wentz has not yet been cleared to play in games, coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday, so Foles will start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday. The news was expected, but it's the latest update in the week-to-week intrigue about the Eagles' quarterback picture. The same song-and-dance will take place one week from now, too, because Pederson has stayed away from offering a timetable for Wentz's return.
"He has not been cleared," Pederson said, "and I'm focusing on today."
Wentz has worked with the scout team since the Eagles started regular-season practices. Pederson said Wentz looks "great" and confirmed an ESPN report that said the Eagles are encouraged by Wentz's GPS data during practices. The Eagles track a player's movement in every practice.
"That's what we've seen really since he came back into 11-on-11," Pederson said. "As training camp progressed, his strength, lower-body strength, his upper-body strength, all trending in the right direction."
Until Wentz returns, the Eagles will continue to start the Super Bowl MVP. That's not a bad fallback option. Foles didn't play like the Super Bowl MVP in the season opener, even though the Eagles escaped with a win. He finished 19 of 34 for 117 yards, with no touchdown passes and one interception. He'll start this weekend at the site of his first NFL victory, in 2012. He also won in Tampa Bay the following season.
Foles is in only his second week of taking a full allotment of first-team snaps in practice. The starting quarterback usually spends the summer with the full workload, but the Eagles split them while Wentz tried to return for Week 1.
"I think, if anything, it might affect timing a little bit with guys, but again, you're talking about two veteran players," Pederson said. "I thought Nick had a really good week of practice last week, leading into the game. You have to give credit to Atlanta defensively. They came out and battled us. It was a good defense we played last week. So, it's a little of both. Nick gets better each week, and the more reps he gets, just continues to get better."
For Foles, the main benefit of being the starter hasn't been the full allotment of snaps in practices. It's taking the full allotment of snaps in a game. Foles talks about being a rhythm quarterback, but he knew during the preseason that his playing time would be abbreviated.
"I think the big thing was just getting back into the season and playing in a full game," Foles said. "Just getting into the game atmosphere. The season is a jump from the preseason, just the way it goes, you're playing a full game. I feel good."
For a rhythm quarterback, though, Foles couldn't find much of a rhythm in the opener. The Eagles will be committed to getting him in that rhythm on Sunday. Offensive coordinator Mike Groh said the play-calling can help. The Eagles can devise plays that set up easy completions. Groh compared it to calling a play for an open shot in basketball to allow a shooter to find his rhythm. Pederson scripts his early plays, so that should be an emphasis on Sunday.
"We could hurry up tempo," Pederson said. "I think it's a good way to get the quarterback into rhythm. Then, early in games, find plays that are completion-type plays, that are kind of the no-brainer, you don't have to think a lot [passes]. You're not necessarily into the heat of the battle yet.
"You always have those types of plays in your game plan that are just — the ball is out. Whether it's a quick throw or quick play-action, or something of that nature that becomes a quick, little completion play for the quarterback, [it] can help him settle in and get into the game."
It also helps that the Bucs' defense might be vulnerable. They allowed 40 points last week to the New Orleans Saints, who accumulated 439 passing yards and found the end zone three times through the air. The Bucs also placed starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves on injured reserve Wednesday, and Philadelphia native Brent Grimes, another starting cornerback, has a groin injury.
So, there could be opportunities for Foles, although he's likely to play without top receiver Alshon Jeffery.