Inside the Eagles: Eagles have enough evidence to make decision on Nick Foles

Posted: December 24, 2012

Six starts should be enough. 

Even with all the injuries on offense, the deficiencies on defense, and the general malaise hanging over a team with a lame-duck coach, the Eagles should be able to make an honest evaluation on whether Nick Foles will be their starting quarterback next season. 

The trick, of course, will be making the correct evaluation. But that is what general manager Howie Roseman and whomever he and team owner Jeffrey Lurie select to succeed Andy Reid as coach will be paid to do. 

The Eagles can't let the surrounding talent in Foles' last six games and in next week's season finale against the New York Giants cloud their decision on whether to forge ahead with the rookie or not. 

They have to look at both the good and bad - and there was plenty of both in Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Redskins - and decide if Foles is a franchise quarterback. That may sound like a hyperbolic statement to make, but the Eagles are in the position to make such a choice because they will be starting over from the bottom.

Reid didn't have that luxury in recent seasons. He tried to reload with Kevin Kolb and Michael Vick without taking the expected step back and could not sustain the levels he reached with Donovan McNabb. 

In the last offseason, Reid flirted with the idea of drafting the Redskins' Robert Griffin III or signing free agent Peyton Manning. It was clear then, and even more so now, that he did not think Vick was his best option for 2012. 

But Reid did not have the ammunition to acquire either, and he was stuck with Vick. 

The worst-case scenario for the Eagles is to be stuck with a quarterback who is neither great nor bad, but somewhere in between. That's where most NFL quarterbacks fall, but Roseman and the next coach have the opportunity to save the Eagles a year of uncertainty if they conclude that Foles is a middle man. 

After six starts, he sure looks like one. He went from bad to a little better than bad to decent to good in his first four starts. The progression was a positive sign. He seemed to learn from his mistakes and showed some moxie in a comeback win over the Buccaneers in the last of the four games. 

But he took a step back against the Bengals and threw a costly interception that turned the momentum of the game. He did little to improve upon that performance against the Redskins, although he did have his moments. 

First, the good: 

An 11-play, 76-yard drive on the Eagles' opening possession in which Foles converted two fourth downs - one with his arm, the other with his legs. 

The 27-yard touchdown pass he floated to Jeremy Maclin in the end zone that capped the drive. 

The 38-yard heave to Maclin in the third quarter that led to a field goal. 

An 18-yard hookup with Jason Avant on the final drive in which he bought several extra seconds outside the pocket. 

His drive that took the Eagles to the Redskins 5, coming within a dropped pass by Evan Moore from tying the game. 

And, the bad: 

Inexplicably fumbling deep in Washington territory late in the first quarter when Ryan Kerrigan sacked him from behind.

Tossing a second-quarter interception from the Eagles 20 that led to seven points for the Redskins. 

Skipping a throw to a wide-open Maclin in the end zone that would have knotted the score with seconds to play. 

Foles said the throw felt good upon release, but it either died in the wind or something was wrong with his mechanics. Reid has said Foles has a strong arm, but he has already had several deep throws flutter short. 

"I just have to drive the ball," Foles said. 

Talent evaluators had questions about Foles' footwork entering the draft, and his inability to step into a throw when he needed it most is an obvious concern moving forward. He has looked solid when he has to make throws on the move. 

Foles did play with a hand bruise. He said it did not affect his passing. He completed 32 of 48 passes for 345 yards, although most of the attempts were in the 5- to 10-yard range. 

The continuing struggles on the offensive line certainly did not help the 6-foot-6, 243-pound rookie. Foles was sacked five times. The last one occurred in the third quarter, however, when he tripped over tackle Dennis Kelly's foot. 

The Eagles will get one more chance to evaluate Foles. They should have enough film to decide whether he's the one or not one. A new coach will get a year of grace, but halfheartedly sticking with Foles for next season could set the franchise back even further.


Contact Jeff McLane at jmclane@phillynews.com or on Twitter @Jeff_McLane.

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