Marcus Hayes: Reasons to keep Foles in the garage a while

Quarterback Trent Edwards, shown at Eagles Flight Night, has the experience needed to serve as backup to the oft-injured Michael Vick.
Quarterback Trent Edwards, shown at Eagles Flight Night, has the experience needed to serve as backup to the oft-injured Michael Vick. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 28, 2012

IT IS NEAR the end of the preseason, and if anything has been determined it is who should be the Eagles' backup quarterback.

Mike Kafka? He broke his left hand, and he was unimpressive otherwise.

Nick Foles? A talented rookie . . . but no.

Trent Edwards?

No question.

LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin: The Eagles have the engine of a Jaguar.

That is fine, as long as Michael Vick is driving. He's a world-class driver.

But Michael Vick gets hurt.

Vick has played an entire season just once. He has been concussed and fractured and sprained enough to warrant a private internist. He has been injured twice in 12 plays this preseason. This time, he got hurt trying to throw a broken-play bomb in an exhibition game.

With Kafka sidelined and with Edwards a nonentity, Foles, a third-round pick, was given the chance in Vick's absence. And Foles shined.

Against the Steelers' third-string lineup.

Against a Patriots team that didn't play its starters.

Against a Browns team the Eagles face in Game 1.

He faced tougher defensive challenges in spring ball at Arizona.

Honestly: Why give the keys to the Jag to a kid with a learner's permit?

Especially when you don't have to?

Foles shows great poise, great promise, great presence. No one realizes this better than Edwards.

"Strong arm. Accurate," Edwards said. "Everything you would need."

Everything . . . except experience.

Consider:

The Eagles face the Ravens, Steelers and Giants in the first five games. The first two teams have legendary defenses; the third rode 48 sacks to the playoffs and a Super Bowl win.

The Eagles will be without injured left tackle Jason Peters, their best player. Peters' replacement, Demetress Bell, is so flawed that he cannot keep perpetual backup King Dunlap off the field.

So, Dunlap would be protecting the rookie's blindside.

And Edwards', too.

Foles has been a revelation this preseason: a 112.3 passer rating, six touchdowns, two interceptions, completing 63.2 percent of his passes. Edwards has equaled it: a 96.9 passer rating, two touchdowns, no interceptions, a .667 completion percentage.

Edwards hasn't faced a notable defense this preseason, either . . . but when he took his first NFL snap, he did line up with Junior Seau scowling at him from the A-gap.

Then again, without the injury to Kafka, Edwards' 48 passing attempts might be more like, well, zero. So no one would know if Edwards is viable.

Not even Edwards.

"I don't know if I'm surprised," Edwards said. "I'm excited about how things have gone the last couple of games."

He should be.

The Raiders cut Edwards in September last season. No one else touched him.

All of that lousy, postlockout quarterback play last season . . . and nobody touched Edwards.

Edwards is 30 years old, 6-4 and 230 pounds, with 33 starts in four NFL seasons. He has a pedestrian 75.4 passer rating, but he completes 60.5 percent of his passes. Oakland was his third team, so he had a taste of different schemes and languages.

How could Edwards remain jobless?

Perhaps he wasn't healthy. Perhaps he was coming off some injury.

Eagles coach Andy Reid twice Sunday stated that Edwards underwent surgery that affected his performance.

Edwards said, "I've never had surgery before in my life."

Either way, Edwards is physically and fundamentally more sound today than at any time in his life.

As such, he should be the one with the spare set of keys in his pocket.

"Here, he was able to kind of get his arm where he needed to get it without a ton of reps," Reid said. "Being a smart guy, having played and been a starter in this league, he picked up the mental reps. You could progressively see his arm get better and better as camp went on."

Edwards landed with the Eagles, in part, because he saw what Reid, coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson did with Vick's mechanics despite Vick's programmed poor habits.

"He was dropping his elbow a little bit and balls were sailing on him," Reid said. "He's worked to correct that and hasn't put any added strain on his arm. He's using his legs a little better, which helps increase velocity and accuracy. Consistency, all the way around."

Edwards allows that he had developed a habit of raising his front shoulder. He credits a stronger core and a comprehensive stretching routine with making him an impressively smoother and stronger passer than the player who is 14-19 as a starter, with 26 touchdowns and 30 interceptions.

Edwards credits a harrowing four seasons with the Bills with seasoning him, with allowing him to understand the concepts of a collapsing pocket and getting rid of the ball and looking to his bailout targets. Often playing behind suspect offensive lines, Edwards was sacked in bunches. He has suffered two recorded concussions as well as wrist, groin and knee injuries.

He has had the sense knocked into him.

"That's the type of player I am right now," said Edwards. "I've been in the league long enough to know if the [pass] is not there downfield, I've got to find my back and get the ball out of my hands. I also know where [running backs] Chris Polk . . . and Bryce Brown are going to be. That's to my advantage. The game has slowed down."

"He makes decisions, and you can see he's been around," said wide receiver Jason Avant.

Avant said nothing disparaging about Foles; he was not asked about Foles.

Reid was asked about Foles, at length. He has praised Foles, but it has been qualified praise.

Reid stressed that what Foles has faced bears little resemblance to what he would face when the bullets are live.

None of which is Foles' fault. Granted.

And, of course, the best argument against making Edwards the backup - indeed, the best argument for cutting Edwards outright - is Edwards' own rookie success.

Like Foles, Edwards in 2007 was a big, bright, third-round pick. Edwards took over for Bills starter J.P. Losman on the third play of the Bills' third game.

Edwards was competent in that game. He then won five of his first six NFL starts.

The difference?

That Bills team never was a playoff threat. That Bills team didn't have Jackson and McCoy and Maclin.

That Bills team was a 10-year-old Chevy. It didn't matter who was driving.


Contact Marcus Hayes at hayesm@phillynews.com.

 

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