Foles reopens conversation about QB of future

Posted: November 06, 2013

NOW IT gets interesting.

Now this Eagles season has a definite point, for a while, at least.

As regular readers of this space know, I haven't been certain there was much to be gained from the Eagles fielding a poor-to-middling team with a 33-year-old quarterback who's here on a 1-year contract. If Chip Kelly ends up drafting "his" QB next May, and the Eagles start to build around that guy, this will have been little more than a "tread-water" year.

But now Nick Foles has reopened the conversation about whether he is the quarterback of the future, and that gives us something meaningful to watch this weekend at Green Bay, and probably beyond.

Foles didn't prove he was "the guy" Sunday in Oakland, any more than his previous start against the Cowboys disqualified him from ever again being considered for that title. The Eagles' brain trust did not convene yesterday in a NovaCare conference room to burn all the scouting tapes of college quarterbacks, because Foles threw seven touchdown passes against the Raiders. Scouting doesn't change week-to-week, based on how the team is doing - "OK, after this game I think we're gonna focus more on linebackers."

There is still plenty of time for Foles to prove decisively he is or is not the quarterback of the future. Nobody knows what the Eagles are going to be thinking at draft time. The Eagles don't know what they're going to be thinking at draft time.

Here are a few things I think I do know: Given a choice, Kelly would prefer a more mobile, dynamic QB. Foles is going to have to be really, really good the rest of the way to keep Kelly from wanting to draft that QB.

But Kelly isn't crazy. If Foles plays really well, hey, franchise QBs are the NFL's Holy Grail. You don't toss one aside because he might be the wrong kind of franchise QB. If Kelly is convinced he can win with Foles, he will recalibrate and start doing that.

But Foles still has quite a hill to climb. I know the Eagles are determined to move forward behind a franchise QB, not just a guy who can be good sometimes, against the right sort of team. I know they are cognizant of how the Seahawks and the 49ers ended up with Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick - they drafted and traded for other quarterbacks they thought had the right stuff, but even so, they kept swinging until they cleared the fence. Seeing the value in that approach was part of the Eagles' rationale for drafting Matt Barkley last spring.

I'll say one more thing in Nick's favor, though. Look at that list of QBs who've thrown for seven TDs in a game, and find me someone on there who was a career backup just having a fluke of a day. Sid Luckman, Adrian Burk, Peyton Manning, Y.A. Tittle, Joe Kapp, George Blanda - every one of them at least played in the Pro Bowl, and Luckman, Blanda and Tittle are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. (Manning will be, of course.)

Maybe, as some national pundits suggest, the fact that both Manning and Foles joined the seven-TD club this season means offensive emphasis and numbers have just gotten out of whack in the NFL of 2013. Maybe Foles makes a mockery of a distinguished list. Or, maybe not. We are gonna find out, though. And that might be fun.

* On the Eagles’ first touchdown Sunday, blitzing corner Tracy Porter jumped the snap. The offside flag was thrown, but Jason Peters still picked up Porter easily and Nick Foles hit Brent Celek for the touchdown.

* On that 32-yard Bryce Brown run near the end of the first quarter — the longest run the Raiders have allowed this season — Jason Kelce really showed what he can do, flying upfield to nail Oakland linebacker Nick Roach.

* Brandon Boykin might have gone all the way on his 41-yard kickoff return, had Boykin not run up the heels of blocker Chris Polk, Boykin tripping over Polk and stumbling down.

* Did any of those other guys who’ve thrown seven touchdowns in a game do it in just 26 throws, as Nick Foles did Sunday?

* D.J. Hayden was NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock’s top corner available in the 2013 draft, and the Raiders took him 12th overall. Hayden was at ground zero of the Eagles’ nuking of the Oakland secondary. He gave up the first two Riley Cooper TDs and later was beaten for a 59-yard DeSean Jackson catch that set up a touchdown.

That when it came to figuring out the Black Hole, Nick Foles would turn out to be Stephen Hawking?

In Connor Barwin’s 58th NFL game, the Eagles’ linebacker made a diving catch of a Patrick Chung deflection for Barwin’s first career interception.

Rewatching Sunday’s game, I was struck by how well the Eagles’ offensive line played. Watching live, I’d sensed a little more pass-rush pressure on Nick Foles than was actually the case. Foles rolled away from pressure on some big throws — after spending time in the pocket and not seeing what he was looking for downfield — but he was not getting hit. In fact, I don’t think there has been an Eagles game this season where the QB was hit so little.

We’ve been waiting for what should be a dominant offensive line to play that way, and in Oakland, it did.

“I thought they did a really, really good job,” Chip Kelly said yesterday. “For most of the day, Nick wasn’t pressured very much, so he had an opportunity to set his feet and get the ball out on time most of the day in the pocket, and that always helps.”

“I think everybody was fighting really well in pass pro,” left guard Evan Mathis said. “At times they were getting our edges, and bull-rushing us well, but to get past us, it seemed like they’d have to beat us more than once. Everybody just fought ... And Nick had unbelievable pocket presence. He trusted that we were gonna be on our blocks.”

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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