Eagles rookie Foles keeps pace with talented draft class of quarterbacks

If rookie QB Nick Foles - who really hasn't been tested this preseason - does well as a starter against the Browns, he might get the nod to be Michael Vick's backup. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
If rookie QB Nick Foles - who really hasn't been tested this preseason - does well as a starter against the Browns, he might get the nod to be Michael Vick's backup. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: August 25, 2012

Before they were starting quarterbacks in an NFL game against each other, Nick Foles and Brandon Weeden were counselors at a summer camp.

One summer ago, Foles and Weeden were college players at the Manning Passing Academy in Thibodaux, La., trading notes with other top quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck, now the starter for the Colts, and Ryan Tannehill, the rookie starter for the Dolphins.

On Friday, Foles will start for the Eagles and Weeden for the Browns in the Birds' third preseason game.

Michael Vick and Mike Kafka are sidelined with injuries, so the Eagles turned to the star of the team's preseason for this game. The start puts Foles, a third-round pick, in the spotlight along with some of the high-profile quarterbacks selected before him in this year's draft.

"A lot of the players, we got to know each other last year at the Manning Camp, so we all bonded there," Foles said. "That was our first meeting. And then you go to all these different things, you get to meet [them.] I know all of those guys, been all around them."

Like Weeden, Luck, and Tannehill, Robert Griffin III of the Redskins has been named as opening-day starter, and Russell Wilson is competing to earn the nod for the Seahawks. The only other quarterback selected ahead of Foles was Denver's Brock Osweiler, and both Foles and Osweiler could see time this season if Vick and Peyton Manning, the starter in Denver, succumb to injuries.

Foles' association with the top quarterbacks started before the draft. It came while he learned from Peyton and Eli Manning last summer and befriended the other top college arms.

"Do we make or break [quarterbacks]? No," said Buddy Teevens, the Dartmouth head coach who is the associate director at the Manning Passing Academy. "But we create an environment that maybe a greater comfort level exists, maybe an awareness that didn't exist prior to their time with us. This is fun for all of us, watching these guys and say, 'Son of a gun!' And they all mention it, that they were down at the Manning passing camp. We take a lot of pride in that."

Besides being exposed to the Mannings, top passers from different conferences and different offenses discuss football. The system that Luck and Tannehill ran resembled a pro style, while Weeden and Foles came from spread-based offenses. But the common ground was the propensity of passing plays and the variety and complexity of the defenses they encountered.

Eagles coach Andy Reid acknowledged Monday that he could not remember a quarterback with the same type of preseason success of Foles, who is 24 for 38 for 361 yards and four touchdowns in two games. One of the reasons, Reid said, is because of the way the college game has evolved since Reid first became an NFL head coach in 1999 and drafted Donovan McNabb as the franchise quarterback.

At that time, it was common to sit a quarterback for a season in an apprenticeship role. Now, top rookie quarterbacks are expected to start - and some achieve success never witnessed from rookies as recently as one decade ago. Foles was selected as a developmental prospect, although he has an opportunity to earn the No. 2 job behind Vick because of how quickly he has transitioned.

"I'm seeing the differences, but I can just tell you what I saw in college," said Foles, who played at Arizona. "We threw it so much that teams tried to really move the safeties, change the coverages a lot, bring a lot of blitzes from different directions. In college, almost every snap was a different coverage. The first part is having your offense down so you know where everything is, and then you can really just let everything naturally take over."

Reid said that when Foles entered the game after Vick's injury in the first quarter against the Patriots on Monday, the Eagles did not cut anything from the playbook. Reid later conceded to slight reservations when evaluating rookie quarterbacks in the preseason because defenses are not necessarily revealing what they might do or make adjustments that they would in a regular-season game.

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said Foles was unruffled upon arriving in the huddle with the starters, a sentiment expressed by other Eagles. Center Jason Kelce said most rookies arrive shy and timid, while Foles has no trepidation about becoming "one of the guys."

The praise, combined with Foles' performance, raises the question of how Foles slipped to the Eagles in the third round. Quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson visited Foles during the predraft process and alleviated some of the concerns of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Foles said the Eagles were the only team to have him work out, which is why he no longer cares that he slipped to the No. 88 overall pick.

Among the reasons he was available in the third round was the caliber of quarterbacks selected before him - four of whom are already starters, including the one on the opposing sideline on Friday night.

Vick's health. In an interview with USA Today, Vick said that his injured ribs were 80 percent healthy and that he was aiming to return in time for the season opener Sept. 9 in Cleveland.

In response to criticism that he is still not taking the necessary precautions in protecting himself, Vick said that he was "trying to do the best" that he can.


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

|
|
|
|
|