Inside the Eagles: Eagles' Nick Foles: Cool, calm, inevitable

"It's my job to be ready," Nick Foles said. It seems just a matter of time before Vick is knocked out of a game.
"It's my job to be ready," Nick Foles said. It seems just a matter of time before Vick is knocked out of a game. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: October 01, 2012

They tell second-string players that you're only one play away, and for backup quarterbacks it usually takes only one hit to see the field.

In that case, Nick Foles is as close as any No. 2 quarterback to playing.

Michael Vick endures more hits than any other quarterback, and it may take only divine intervention to keep the Eagles starter from getting knocked out and Foles from jumping into his first NFL game.

"I'm praying for Mike to stay healthy and do what he does and lead this team like he's been doing," Foles said last week as the Eagles prepared for Sunday night's showdown with the New York Giants. "But if something like that ever did happen, it's my job to be ready."

Through three games Vick has taken a beating. He has been hit an average of 9.3 times per game. The league average for quarterbacks this season is 4.6 hits.

This subjective number, compiled in official stat books across the league, does not include hits past the line of scrimmage - like the one Vick took from Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington when he scrambled for 20 yards last week shortly before halftime.

Vick's body and helmeted head were slammed to the ground, and as he slowly picked himself off the grass Fox TV cameras panned to Foles standing on the sidelines with cap still on and an expressionless gaze.

Foles' teammates and coaches often talk about the rookie's even temper. They say it's a personality trait that makes him suitable to handle the backup job. They did not mention that it is a characteristic just as beneficial to a starter. They didn't need to.

"The thing that I like about him a lot," Trent Edwards said, "is that it doesn't seem like anything fazes him."

Take, for instance, Monday's drama when Andy Reid said that Vick was his quarterback "right now" and that he was evaluating the position "as we go." Whether he meant what he intimated, the comment was interpreted by many as the coach's putting Vick on notice.

Foles, who had more reason than any to consider the context of the comment, said that it bore no meaning once it was relayed to him.

"Nothing," Foles said. "Mike's our quarterback. He's the leader of this team. Like any quarterback, you're going to have ups and downs just trying to get to that steady point."

Reid later clarified his statement and affirmed that Vick was his starter, "period." Still, he felt compelled enough to meet with his 32-year-old quarterback and to assure him that "semantics" were responsible for what he thought was a misinterpretation of his original lukewarm endorsement.

Foles did not receive such a visit from Reid.

"He didn't need to. It was blown out of proportion," Foles said. "I didn't interpret it any other way. I just go about my business no matter what."

Even if Reid's intention was to put Vick on edge, it is unlikely he will bench his starter any time within the next three weeks. Three straight losses before the bye, coupled with more below-average quarterbacking, could force a change.

More likely, Foles' insertion will come because of injury. Edwards said the rookie is ready.

"He picks things up quickly and he does not let anything really bother him," the Eagles' third-string quarterback said. "I think a rookie in this league - especially at quarterback - you need to have those two qualities."

Foles' path to this point in his career is similar to that of Edwards. Both finished their college careers as fifth-year seniors. Both were drafted in the third round. Both beat out veterans for the backup spot in their rookie seasons.

In Edwards' first year in Buffalo he was thrown into the fire in Week 3 against the Patriots when starter J.P. Losman left with an injury. This was the undefeated Patriots in 2007.

"It was kind of, looking back on it, a surreal experience," Edwards said. "That was the first time I saw Tom Brady in person. Rodney Harrison and Junior Seau were on the defense and you're like, 'Holy ----.' Those were guys I idolized, and all of a sudden now I'm throwing a corner route to Peerless Price."

Edwards guided the Bills to a go-ahead touchdown on his first drive. The Patriots scored the next 35 points and won, 38-7. Buffalo won three of its next four, however, with Edwards starting. He then got hurt and did not return until the final five games. By that point it had been decided that Losman was out and Edwards was the future.

Foles and Edwards have known each other through mutual acquaintances for several years. After the Eagles signed the veteran and before they drafted the rookie, Foles and Edwards had lunch together. Six months later they're teammates and roommates.

Edwards beat out Mike Kafka for the third spot because of how he performed in the preseason, but his relationship with Foles couldn't have hurt. He has become a mentor, showing the rookie how to watch film on off days, condition during the workweek, and even make flash cards.

"Minor things that helped me along the way that will help both of us," Edwards said, "and in the long run help Nick."

That run may be a short one.


The Hits Keep Coming

It's no big secret. Michael Vick gets hit more than any other quarterback in the NFL. While hits compiled by an NFL official scorer are subjective, these numbers support that general belief.

If Vick continues to get pummeled at this rate, it's likely not a matter of if but when he'll get knocked out of a game, and rookie Nick Foles is called upon.

Here are the numbers (Avg. is average hits per game):

Player, team                    Avg. hits    INT QB Rating

Michael Vick, Eagles                9.3          6          66.3

Robert Griffin III, Redskins          7.3          1        103.5

Aaron Rodgers, Packers          7.3          2          87.0

Jay Cutler, Bears                   7.0          6          58.6

Sam Bradford, Rams             7.0          3         85.4

Andy Dalton, Bengals             6.0          3        105.0

Drew Brees, Saints                5.7          5          77.0

Blaine Gabbert, Jaguars          5.7          0          85.8

Carson Palmer, Raiders             5.3          2          89.3

Tom Brady, Patriots                5.3          1          97.0

Others

Peyton Manning, Broncos          5.0          3          85.6

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers       4.7          1        109.2

Tony Romo, Cowboys             4.0          3          89.3

Matt Ryan, Falcons                4.0          1        114.0

Eli Manning, Giants                3.0          3          97.1

Joe Flacco, Ravens                1.7          2        101.1

- Jeff McLane


Contact Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745, jmclane@phillynews.com or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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