Paul Domowitch: Can Nick Foles deliver at quarterback for the Eagles in the regular season if Michael Vick goes down?

Nick Foles, delivering a pass against the Jets Thursday night, had a league-best 110.1 passer rating in the preseason.
Nick Foles, delivering a pass against the Jets Thursday night, had a league-best 110.1 passer rating in the preseason. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: August 31, 2012

NICK FOLES' eventful preseason ended uneventfully Thursday night, with a third-and-6 incompletion to Chad Hall late in the first quarter of the Eagles' 28-10 preseason win over the Jets.

The impressive-looking rookie, who could be the Eagles' starting quarterback as soon as the next time Michael Vick sneezes, completed four of six passes for 46 yards and called it a night.

He finished the preseason with a league-best 110.1 passer rating and a .634 completion percentage. Averaged 8.7 yards per attempt and threw six touchdown passes and just two interceptions. All in all, a pretty good summer for the 6-6, 243-pounder.

Foles dropped back 61 times in the preseason before finally getting sacked for the first time Thursday when the Jets' Quinton Coples chased him out of bounds for no gain on the Eagles' second series. That speaks more about his ability to get the ball out quickly than it does about the quality of protection he received from his offensive line.

"He's been impressive,'' a scout for an NFC team said. "Guys that don't get sacked in this league, guys like Peyton [Manning] and Drew Brees, they don't get sacked because they get rid of the football quickly, they know where their safety valves are, they're not afraid to throw the football away and they have real good functional mobility.

"That's what he does.''

That's what he did in the preseason. But to borrow a popular term used by a certain soon-to-be-divorced NFL owner, the preseason is fool's gold.

Yes, Foles has looked absolutely terrific in the Eagles' four exhibition square dances against the Steelers, Patriots, Browns and Jets. And while that certainly is better than not looking absolutely terrific, it still is no predictor of how he would do if Vick goes down in Week 1 and the regular-season klieg lights shine on the third-round rookie.

Even coach Andy Reid measured his words carefully after Thursday's game whether he would be comfortable going to Foles if something were to happen to Vick in the first two or three games.

"I think he's performed well enough where he can be a '2' for us,'' Reid said. "It looks like he's very comfortable in there. It looks like he trusts his protection and makes the throws he needs to make. I think he's performed worthy of [being the backup].''

Reid acknowledged last week that the regular season is nothing like the preseason.

"Everything is 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 in the regular season.''

Foles is smart enough to know what he still doesn't know. But his impressive performances in both training camp and the preseason have given him a lot of confidence. So far, he has handled everything that his coaches and the opposition have thrown at him.

"I feel like I definitely excelled through it and made some good plays,'' he said in the locker room after the game. "I feel I've grown as a player. I feel confident going in [to the regular season] and hope to continue to improve.''

And if something should happen to Vick, does he feel he could step in and not play like a deer in headlights?

"I definitely feel a lot more comfortable now than 3, 4 weeks ago,'' he said. "Just playing in games against another opponent definitely builds confidence. It's something we all have inside of us, but you've got to prove it by going out there and playing at a higher level.

"You've got to play the what-if game. What if they do this? What if they do that? If there's an answer you don't know, you've got to find that out. If you've seen it in a game, you already know what's going to happen, and it becomes second nature to react to it.''

Maybe the Eagles will never have to find out if Foles is ready to play on the big stage. Maybe Vick will stay healthy and do wonderful things and lead the Eagles to the playoffs. Maybe.

More likely, Vick will be getting hurt again at some point, just like he did 2 years ago when he tore rib cartilage in a game against the Redskins, just like last November when he fractured a couple of ribs against Arizona, just like the first preseason game against the Steelers when he hit his thumb on center Jason Kelce's helmet, and just like 2 weeks ago when he left himself exposed for a shot to the ribs by the Patriots' Jermaine Cunningham.

Vick insists he is not injury-prone, but history indicates otherwise.

He has missed seven games the last two seasons and will head into Week 1 with just 12 preseason snaps under his belt. There is a reason they called him "China Doll" when he played for the Falcons.

Vick's inability or refusal to slide when he runs only increases the chances that we'll be seeing Foles at quarterback again soon.

"Aaron Rodgers ran six times for 52 yards and two touchdowns the other day,'' said the NFC scout. "On three of his runs, he slid in the open field. Nobody touched him. He got up and ran back to the huddle.

"I don't know how in the world you can't make Mike Vick slide. I mean, why wouldn't you work on that with him in the offseason? To continue to enable him and say, 'Well, that's what he does and we can't stop it,' I think that's just foolish. And it's stupid.

"He's your $100 million property. Why in God's name wouldn't you teach him how to slide? Why wouldn't he work on it on his own? People work on weaknesses all the time. I don't buy this bull that he's in his 10th year in the league and that's who he is.

"I watch all these other quarterbacks. They escape the pocket, they get out and then they get down. Why can't he get down? I don't want to hear he's too fast or doesn't know how. To me, that should've been the focus of the offseason with him. It's bad coaching on the part of the Eagles to continue to let him do it.''

The Eagles have sat Vick down several times and explained to him the importance of staying in one piece. Reid has given him the speech about how all four teams in last year's conference championship games were piloted by quarterbacks who didn't miss a start.

And yet, he continues to get hurt.

"[Staying healthy] is not an exact science,'' owner Jeff Lurie said Thursday. "You're going to have things happen. You just have to up the odds. There are things Mike can do to increase his chances of staying healthy.''


Contact Paul Domowitch at pdomo@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @Pdomo. For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' blog at eagletarian.com.

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