Pluses and minuses in Nick Foles' performance

Nick Foles throws the ball as Evan Mathis holds off Dallas' Jason Hatcher.
Nick Foles throws the ball as Evan Mathis holds off Dallas' Jason Hatcher. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: November 14, 2012

Nick Foles' performance against the Cowboys on Sunday was neither great nor bad.

The rookie quarterback was competent, perhaps even more so considering the circumstances, and he gave no indication that he could not handle the rigors of starting in the NFL.

But the sample - less than three quarters of football - remains a small one. With Michael Vick unlikely to play Sunday at Washington, Foles will get the opportunity to add to his resumé and perhaps lay claim to the Eagles' top job for the final six games.

"I can't project the future," coach Andy Reid said Monday when he was reminded that Vick originally won the job after Kevin Kolb suffered a concussion. "I'm just telling you what I'm telling you. Mike is the quarterback, Nick comes in, and he is a relief pitcher and does his thing."

If his thing is winning, there will be no need to go back to Vick. If it is losing and the Eagles fall to 3-7, well, there would be no point in delaying the future. And right now, Foles is the future.

The question, of course, is how bright is it? It's hard to glean much from his performance in the Eagles' 38-23 loss to Dallas. He did not look consumed by the moment and he did not do anything so grand to be deemed the next coming. Then again, he did not do anything so egregious to be called the next coming of Bobby Hoying.

But upon further review, there were a number of positives in Foles' debut.

He was composed. Reid said Foles "did a nice job of keeping his eyes down the field when he was under pressure." He appeared to have the physical skills to play the position. The size - 6-foot-6, 243 pounds - is evident. The arm isn't a rocket, but it looked slightly above average.

Foles took at least three big hits and bounced up. He was not required to throw the ball deep much. But when he had to get it to Jeremy Maclin more than 50 yards downfield, the ball was there, if slightly underthrown, for a 44-yard touchdown.

Foles' foot speed was adequate. He is not Vick. Some draft analysts said he had clog feet, but Foles did as much as any pocket quarterback should do when faced with pressure. He shuffled his feet, he slid his body outside, and he made some throws on the run.

The best was his zip to Damaris Johnson on a crucial third down in the third quarter as he moved to his right. A King Dunlap penalty brought the play back, however.

Foles completed 22 of 32 throws (69 percent), but was aided by a ball-control passing game. He wasn't terribly accurate on slants. He threw one ahead of Maclin and two behind DeSean Jackson, the second resulting in a tipped ball that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

The lack of practice time with the first team since the end of August likely attributed to the timing-based throws' being off. Foles will have a full week of repetitions before his first road game - another challenge along with learning the silent count.

Foles had a few throws - not many - in which he anticipated a receiver's route before he broke. Vick has struggled in this area.

As for the negatives, Foles made some poor decisions. He will have his share of mistakes in that department - all rookies do - but he must learn that turnovers are the ultimate sin.

Instead of just one interception, he could have had four. A short pass to fullback Stanley Havili should have been picked off by Orlando Scandrick after he stepped in front of the throw. Scandrick dropped the ball and another would-be pick on a pass to Maclin.

The other interception was negated by a penalty.

Foles committed a late-game fumble in the end zone, but the blockers deserved most of the blame for the turnover. Foles will face great adversity, but perhaps none as great as playing behind the Eagles' patchwork line.

It will take some time to figure out whether Foles is great, bad, or somewhere in between, which is where he most likely will land.


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com.

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