Paul Domowitch: Eagles quarterback Nick Foles making most of his chances so far this preseason

Posted: August 24, 2012

IF ANYONE in Philadelphia still thinks Michael Vick will be able to make it to the starting line for 16 games this season, I have a sweet piece of real estate in West Virginia with a great view of a coal mine you might be interested in.

To review, Vick lasted only six plays and 20 minutes before getting hurt in the first preseason game against the Steelers (bruised thumb), and made it through only six plays and 9 minutes of Monday's game against the Patriots before getting KO'd (bruised ribs).

If my math is correct, he should be due to get hurt again sometime during pregame warmups of the Sept. 9 season opener against the Browns.

Coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that Vick won't play in either of the Eagles' final two preseason games, but will be a go for Week 1.

That means the Eagles, whom many have been touting as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, will open the season with a starting quarterback who will have taken only 12 snaps and attempted seven passes in the preseason.

"Mike's a warrior," rookie quarterback Nick Foles said. "He hates to miss anything. He's getting healthy. He'll come back strong and be ready to go. He's the leader of this team."

One man's misfortune often is another man's gain. Vick's injuries and a hand injury to backup quarterback Mike Kafka have made it possible for Foles to get a lot more practice and game reps than the third-round pick out of the University of Arizona ever expected when he reported to training camp last month. And he has made the most of the opportunity.

Through the first 2 weeks of the preseason, Foles leads the NFL in passing with a 118.4 rating. He's thrown four touchdowns and only one interception, has averaged 9.5 yards per attempt and has yet to be sacked in 38 pass attempts. Did I mention that the two previous preseason passing leaders were Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers? No?

Foles wasn't supposed to play until the second half Monday night against the Patriots. But when Vick got hurt on the first play of the Eagles' second offensive series, he went in and led the Eagles to four scores in nine possessions. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in less than 2 1/2 quarters.

"We didn't cut anything back," Reid said. "We had a full load of plays. It was good experience for him, from the standpoint that he's been a starter at the college level, a very successful starter. And then to learn to be a relief pitcher, that's a learned experience that you have.

"To get him that experience where you're not taking any reps with the 'ones' [during the week leading up to the game], it'll be very similar to what he'll face during the season in a backup position. When you get called on, you've got to be ready to step in and fire and drive the team downfield and make plays and do the things that he did a pretty good job of the other night."

It still is uncertain what the Eagles' quarterback picture will look like when they open the season in 2 1/2 weeks. They plan to keep three on their 53-man roster. Vick, obviously, will be the starter for as long as he can remain healthy, and Foles will be one of the two backups. The third spot will go to Kafka or veteran Trent Edwards.

Teams no longer have to designate a No. 2 and No. 3 quarterback. But if Foles continues to play well in the preseason, he probably would become Reid's first option if/when something happens to Vick.

That's something that Foles isn't spending a lot of time thinking about.

"I'm really just focusing on getting better," the 6-6, 243-pound rookie said. "That's all I can do. I just want to continue to excel and improve and show the guys around me that I can play at a high level."

Foles has benefited greatly from all of the extra reps he's gotten because of the injuries to Vick and Kafka.

"They've been very valuable," he said. "You get more and more comfortable every time you rep a play. Especially in a game. Getting the game feel, the game speed. Being in that environment, being on the road, every rep is very, very valuable."

Foles' teammates have been very impressed by his poise, both on the practice field and in games. There has been no deer-in-the-headlights looks. There has been very little indecision or confusion.

"I have been totally impressed by him," left guard Evan Mathis said. "To be as far [along] as he is right now, this soon, is a good sign. But it's important that the growth doesn't stop. He needs to keep growing as a quarterback and as a player. And with the coaches we have here, that's likely to be the case."

While Reid has been very pleased with Foles' progress this summer, he acknowledged that this is only the preseason.

"Everything's so vanilla right now, from an offensive and defensive standpoint," he said. "People aren't going to blitz you like they do [in the regular season]. You're not seeing the exotic blitzes defenses are going to throw at you once the season starts.

"But every rep is an important rep for a rookie quarterback. Just to see it. To make sure you manage it the right way. But he's not seeing what he'd see in the regular season. None of the rookies are."

So, what if Vick gets hurt again in Week 1 or 2 or 3? What if Foles has to step in and play? Will he be ready? Could he play well enough to keep the Eagles' Super Bowl hopes from derailing?

"Is he ready right now and prepared to go in Week 1 if he had to?" center Jason Kelce said, repeating a reporter's question. "Not yet. But he's making a lot of strides. He's had a very good preseason so far. If he continues to progress, he could be ready."


Contact Paul Domowitch at pdomo@aol.com.

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