Ex-QB Dilfer a big Foles fan

Posted: January 10, 2014

NICK FOLES was the seventh quarterback taken in the 2012 draft, 87 picks after Andrew Luck, 86 after Robert Griffin III, 80 after Ryan Tannehill, 66 after Brandon Weeden, 31 after Brock Osweiler and 13 after Russell Wilson.

The Eagles selected him with the 25th pick in the third round, which was about where most draft analysts had him going. Most, but not all.

"I had him in the first round," ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer said. "That was well-documented. People laughed at me. I made a statement when I was evaluating his tape at Arizona that if he had been in the SEC, he would have been a Heisman Trophy candidate. I thought that much of him as a college player."

Dilfer thinks even more of the kid now after his impressive 27-touchdown, two-interception season that saw him put together the third highest passer rating (119.2) in NFL history and help the Eagles jump from a four-win joke to a 10-win division champion.

"I don't believe this year was a fluke by any stretch of the imagination," Dilfer said of Foles' impressive sophomore performance. "I go back to something Chip [Kelly] said. He said the biggest misconception about his offense is that the quarterback needs quick feet. He said what his quarterback needs is a quick mind.

"So much of that offense is about having a quick mind and making . . . these decisions after the ball is snapped on whether it's run, whether it's pass outside [or] pass middle, whether it's zone read. A lot of these really high-level, post-snap decisions. And Nick does a great job of that."

Dilfer was impressed by what he saw from Foles at Arizona, impressed by the poise he displayed as the quarterback of an Arizona team that wasn't very good.

"He had very little help there," he said. "It was kind of a dysfunctional situation. But he thrived in it. Nick has a lot of really good passing DNA. The nuances of the game. He plays very well in clutter. He has incredible anticipation.

"He actually, for not a great foot athlete, he actually is very effective on the move throwing the football. He was that way in college as well. He does a lot of stuff that you look at from a passing standpoint and you go, 'Wo, put him in the right system where he's able to make decisions to buy himself a little space and he's going to be very effective.' "

Dilfer thinks Foles has found the right system. He thinks he can flourish in Kelly's offense for a long time. He thinks the Eagles can win a Super Bowl with him.

"I think what he can do to get better, I think every athlete can improve," he said. "Tom Brady has proven this. Tom was a much better athlete 10 years into his career than he was his first 3 or 4.

"Nick can work on transferable, functional football moves in the offseason that will help him in the season. I think Nick's one of those guys [who can get a lot better]. Tons of core strength [work], footwork strength. Twitchy-type movements that are going to help him get twitchier.

"If there's a hole in his game, it's that he can be [too] methodical at times. If he can get a little more twitchy, get a little more suddenness in his game, it'll just help him that much more.

"But I look at Nick having a tremendous career in Philly. Not just a good one. A tremendous one."

Picture of health

None of the Eagles' five starting offensive linemen missed a start this season. They collectively missed a total of just 98 snaps - 88 by left tackle Jason Peters, nine by center Jason Kelce and one by right tackle Lane Johnson. Guards Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans didn't miss a snap.

Compare that to the Giants' offensive line. Their five starters missed a total of 31 starts and 2,100 snaps.

Or to the Eagles last year, when five starters missed 42 games and 3,478 snaps.

"It's pretty rare to get that lucky and avoid injuries like we did this season," Mathis said. "Some of it's luck, but most of it is how well we take care of ourselves here."

Mathis is 32. So is Peters. Herremans is 31. But there was no decline in their performance this season, even with Peters coming off two Achilles' injuries and Herremans coming off a broken foot. Mathis and Peters were Associated Press first-team All Pro selections, and Mathis was selected the league's top offensive lineman yesterday by the website Pro Football Focus.

"When we start slowing down, then you can tell us how old we are all you want," Mathis said. "We've got a lot of football left in us. I don't think any of us slowed down this year. With the staff we have here and the methods and habits they've instilled in us, it's going to go a long way in extending our careers."

Figuring the Eagles

* The Eagles struggled in short-yardage situations down the stretch. In their last four games, including their playoff loss to the Saints, the Eagles converted just six of 15 third downs of 3 yards or less (40 percent). In their first 13 games, they converted 71.4 percent of their third downs of 3 yards or less (30 of 42).

* The Eagles turned the ball over just three times in the red zone this season. It was their fewest red-zone giveaways since 2010, when they had two. They had six last season, nine in 2011.

* The Eagles ran just 57 offensive plays in their playoff loss to the Saints. That equaled their season low (Oakland). Their season-high was 77 plays, in Week 1 against the Redskins and again in Week 5 against the Giants. They finished 13th in plays per game this season (65.4), and last in opponent plays per game (71.6).

* The Eagles' quick-strike offense slowed down significantly in the final weeks of the season. In their first 10 games, 15 of their 28 touchdown drives were four plays or less. In their final seven games, just seven of their 26 TD drives were four plays or less.

* The Eagles used "11" personnel (1 running back, 1 tight end, 3 wide receivers) on 42 of 57 offensive plays against the Saints. They used "12" personnel (1 back, 2 tight ends, 2 wide receivers) on the other 15 plays.

* For the moment at least, Nick Foles has the best interception percentage in NFL history. He's thrown just seven picks in 582 career regular-season attempts (1.2 percent). Aaron Rodgers is second at 1.8 percent (52 interceptions in 2,955 attempts) and Tom Brady is third at 2.0 percent (134 in 6,586).

* Connor Barwin had seven batted passes this season. That tied him for the league lead with Bengals defensive ends Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap, and Jaguars defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks.

* A breakdown of the 49 draft picks the Eagles have selected in the last five drafts (note: nickel corner Brandon Boykin, the team's 2012 fourth-round pick, is considered a starter):

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013

Picks. . . 8 13 11 9 8

Starters. . . 1 2 2 4 4

Backups. . . 1 2 3 3 2

With Other Teams. . . 3 6 5 2 2

Out Of League. . . 3 3 1 0 0

Inside the Eagles

* DeMeco Ryans played 1,189 snaps this season, which was more than any other linebacker in the league. The main reason Ryans was on the field so much was because the Eagles' lack of depth at cornerback and safety effectively prevented defensive coordinator Bill Davis from using a dime package (six defensive backs). Assuming the Eagles are able to improve their depth on the back end in the offseason, Davis almost certainly will play more dime next season and Ryans will get a few more breathers.

* LeSean McCoy and the Bears' Matt Forte are the 12th and 13th running backs in the last 5 years to have 360 or more touches in a season. McCoy had 366 and Forte had 363. Of the previous 11, just one - the Ravens' Ray Rice - managed to have more yards from scrimmage the year after having 360-plus touches. Rice, who had 1,776 yards from scrimmage in '10, followed it up with a 2,068-yard season in '11. The average drop in yards from scrimmage for the other 10 was 552.8 yards. Much of that was injury-related. Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley is hopeful that McCoy will stay healthy next season and have another outstanding year. "He takes care of his body," Staley said. "The sports science definitely helped him. He got more lifts in, which helped him stay stronger late in the season. Because that's when your body breaks down."

* Anybody else find it interesting that two of the top three-rated safeties potentially headed for the free-agent market - the Browns' T.J. Ward and the Bills' Jairus Byrd - both played at Oregon. Byrd played there when Chip Kelly was the offensive coordinator. Ward's last year in Eugene was Kelly's first as head coach. If either or both remain unsigned and their teams don't use the franchise tag on them, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Eagles make a play for one of them. "It's been a hard position for us, that safety position," said general manager Howie Roseman. "And all options are on the table to try and improve. The longer Brian Dawkins has been away, the more and more appreciation you have for how great a player he was. A Hall of Fame-caliber player at a position that's so hard to find. We were spoiled." If Ward and/or Byrd aren't available or end up being too expensive, the safety Roseman should go after is the Titans' Bernard Pollard. The 6-2, 225-pound Pollard is one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league and has a Dawkins-like swagger that would mesh well with cornerback Cary Williams' feisty attitude.

* Zach Ertz had to play catch-up last summer after missing all of the Eagles' spring OTAs because of the silly NFL rule that prohibits rookies from participating in offseason workouts until the completion of final exams at their school. He still ended up having an impressive season, playing 40 percent of the offensive snaps, and catching 36 passes for 469 yards and four touchdowns. Twenty-five of his receptions went for first downs. The 6-5, 250-pounder needs to add 10 to 15 pounds of muscle this offseason, but many scouts who watched the kid play this year think he can eventually be to the Eagles what Jimmy Graham is to the Saints. Ertz thinks so, too. "I need to get stronger, obviously," he said. "But from a physical and mental standpoint, I thought I had a very good year. There's a lot of room to improve and I think that will come with more coaching this offseason since I didn't get to OTAs last year. I think I'm going to come in humming next year. I want to be one of the best tight ends to play the game. I know I have a lot to improve on, but I'm going to set myself to a very high standard and just continue to work to get up there."

Around the league

* Dolphins owner Steven Ross has asked his longtime friend and business associate, former Chiefs president Carl Peterson, to sit in on interviews with candidates for the team's vacant GM job. Peterson is helping Ross assemble a list of candidates. That's not good news for Scott Pioli, who has been mentioned in some media reports as a potential candidate for the job. Pioli replaced Peterson in Kansas City 5 years ago and fired many of the Chiefs' longtime employees who had worked for Peterson. I can't see Peterson recommending Pioli for any job in the Dolphins' organization, with the possible exception of cleaning toilets. Ross has made it clear that he wants someone young for the job. Two years ago, he almost didn't hire his current head coach, Joe Philbin, because he thought he was too old. Philbin was 50 at the time.

* A lot of people think the Lions' head coaching opening is a plum job because of the presence of quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has thrown for 17,457 yards and 109 touchdowns in 60 starts. But there are growing questions about just how teachable Stafford is. The guy has thrown 52 interceptions the last three seasons, but doesn't seem to think there's a problem.

* The good news for Redskins fans is that Dan Snyder finally has gotten over the Big Coaching Name syndrome with yesterday's hiring of Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden as the team's new head coach. The bad news is they still don't have anybody in the organization who knows the first thing about evaluating talent. GM Bruce Allen is a former agent who has been living off his father's name for years. He and Jay's brother Jon won a Super Bowl in Tampa with players left over from the Tony Dungy-Rich McKay regime. But they made the playoffs just once after that because Allen wasn't able to replenish the roster. He's had the same difficulty in D.C.

2-minute drill

FROM THE LIP

* “If you look at my career, I’ve been pretty comfortable projecting people. People thought I was crazy when I hired Andy Reid.” — Browns CEO Joe Banner, on interviewing Packers quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo for the Browns’ head-coaching job

* “I don’t think you'll ever see a 2011 kind of free-agent splurge [by the Eagles] again.” — Eagles general manager Howie Roseman

* “It’s like that old Patti Page deal. ‘Is that all there is?’ At some point in time, you’ve got to get some satisfaction for what you’re doing. I want one more, man. I want one more. That makes you crazy.”

— Tom Brady Sr., father of Patriots QB Tom Jr., on his son’s 8-years-and-counting Super Bowl drought

THE WISDOM OF CHIP

“It’s a players’ league, and it’s always going to be a players’ league, and it should be a players’ league. They’re the ones that are out there playing. Our job [as coaches] simply is to create an environment where they have an opportunity to be successful and then get out of the way and let them go play.”

BY THE NUMBERS

* Fifteen of the 24 position players voted to the Associated Press All-Pro team were selected in either the first (11) or second (4) rounds of the draft. Five were third-round picks. Two were taken in the fifth round, and two — Eagles offensive tackle Jason Peters and Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert — were undrafted free agents.

* Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, the No. 1 seed in the NFC is 19-4 in the divisional playoffs and the No. 1 seed in the AFC is 13-10. The top seed in the AFC has lost in the divisional round 5 of the last 8 years. The top NFC seed has lost four of the last 6 years.

* The Jets had the fewest games lost by starters to injuries this season (20). The Chiefs and Redskins were second with 22. The Eagles were fourth with 29. The two teams with the most games lost by starters to injuries were the Colts (83) and the Giants (91).

* Tom Brady, who already holds the record for most postseason passing yards (5,949), needs just four more touchdown passes to break Joe Montana’s postseason record of 45.


Email: pdomo@aol.com

On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian.com

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