Eagles aim to tailor offense to Foles

Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg wants to exploit Nick Foles' strong arm and ability to quickly get rid of the ball when the rookie quarterback makes his first NFL start Sunday against the Redskins in Washington.
Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg wants to exploit Nick Foles' strong arm and ability to quickly get rid of the ball when the rookie quarterback makes his first NFL start Sunday against the Redskins in Washington. (YONG KIM / Staff Photographer)
Posted: November 17, 2012

In Washington, the Redskins tailored their offense to rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III this season.

The Eagles cannot rework their offense in the 11th week for rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who is expected to start Sunday against the Redskins in place of Michael Vick. But offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he would adjust the play-calling to make Foles comfortable.

"As far as volume, we talked several times already," Mornhinweg said. "There are certain things he can do very, very well. Certainly, we'll play to his strengths. What we think are his strengths, and what his strengths are."

Foles has a strong arm, but he thrived in the preseason by throwing high-percentage passes and allowing his wide receivers to make plays. At 6-foot-6 and 243 pounds, Foles can stay in the pocket and withstand hits. Yet Mornhinweg praised Foles' ability to throw the ball quickly, which likely will be on display against the Redskins.

That will aid Foles behind a struggling offensive line - particularly one with problems in pass protection. Foles played behind a leaky offensive line at Arizona; come Sunday, that could prove to be valuable experience with a line missing three starters and having to protect a different blind side.

Danny Watkins was a full participant in Thursday's practice, and it looks likely that he will start at right guard. Dennis Kelly would move to right tackle; King Dunlap would go from right tackle to left tackle; and left tackle Demetress Bell would go to the bench.

The offensive players believe Foles will benefit from a full week of practice as the top quarterback, allowing him to develop a rapport with the starters and a better understanding of the adjustments needed at the line of scrimmage.

Foles prepares each week for the possibility he could play - one teammate said he went to the facility to pick up an iPad at 7:30 p.m. last Thursday and saw Foles studying film.

"No matter what type of situation I'm in, I treat it the same," Foles said. "You always prepare yourself when you're the starter. You always want to prepare yourself the same, because if something does happen, you don't want to have to change up your routine too much."

The Eagles have developed a trust in Foles during the last few months that belies his inexperience.

Running back LeSean McCoy praised Foles' "demeanor in the huddle."

Tight end Brent Celek discussed Foles' calm.

Coach Andy Reid described Foles as a "gym rat," and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said his belief in Foles was cemented when the coaching staff named Foles the backup quarterback after the preseason.

"He can throw the ball in places and put the ball in certain places that most guys can't in this league," Maclin said. "And in the preseason the poise that he showed is not what most rookie quarterbacks show."

The Redskins' pass defense ranks No. 30 in the NFL, so there will be opportunities for Foles and his receivers. Jason Avant will be sidelined, but Maclin was a full practice participant for the second consecutive day and is expected to play. Riley Cooper and Damaris Johnson will have enhanced roles without Avant, who plays almost exclusively in the slot. And DeSean Jackson has been healthy all season.

One way the Eagles can help Foles on Sunday is by establishing the running game. Even though the Redskins are No. 8 in the NFL in rush defense, the Eagles can force the Redskins to worry about the run by feeding McCoy the ball.

The Eagles are 3-0 this season when McCoy gets 20 or more carries and 0-6 when he has fewer than 20 carries. Mornhinweg said the statistic is misleading because teams run more when they're ahead, although the Eagles were trailing for large parts of their three wins.

But Mornhinweg pointed out that McCoy is eighth in the NFL in carries and fourth in the league in touches, evidence that the Eagles are not ignoring their Pro Bowl running back.


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

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