Eagles' Foles might be most solid QB in the NFC East

Posted: July 22, 2014

THERE ARE questions about quarterback Nick Foles as the Eagles open training camp this weekend for the 2014 season.

Last year at this time, he was second on the depth chart to Michael Vick and remained there, despite having a solid preseason.

Then Vick got hurt, and Foles parlayed the opportunity into a campaign that surprisingly ended with the Eagles' winning the NFC East and his being named the Most Valuable Player of the Pro Bowl.

Foles had a ridiculously amazing touchdown-to-interception ratio, tossing 27 scores and only two interceptions, and had the jersey he wore against the Oakland Raiders sent to the Hall of Fame after he tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes and had a perfect passer rating of 158.3.

However, even though Foles has given fans a lot of hope that he might indeed be the quarterback who can lead the next era of Eagles football, there will be plenty of questions surrounding the third-year player from the University of Arizona.

How will Foles, 25, respond now that defensive coordinators have a solid book on him and will game-plan to take away his strengths and exploit his weaknesses?

Certainly, there are numerous areas of concern about Foles, and yet, there is a good argument that the Eagles will enter training camp with the most solid quarterback in the NFC East.

That might seem strange, considering New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has won two Super Bowls, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a three-time Pro Bowler, and Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was the talk of the NFL only two seasons ago.

But each of those quarterbacks finished the 2013 season with serious issues that need to be addressed if their teams are going to make some noise in 2014.

Foles is the only NFC East quarterback who comes into the season having made serious strides forward in 2013. The other three are coming off seasons in which they took huge steps backward.

In Dallas, all eyes will be on the 34-year-old Romo, who is coming off the second surgery on his back in less than a calendar year. The Cowboys are saying the healing process, which included no work at OTAs or minicamps, has Romo ready to go.

But this is football and, for a quarterback whose mobility has been a major factor in his effectiveness, Romo will be a question mark until he shows he can again withstand the NFL pounding.

Considering Dallas signed Romo to 6-year, $108 million extension, with $55 million guaranteed, before 2013, his December surgery to fix a herniated disk must be a huge concern. (He had surgery the spring before to remove a cyst.)

The Cowboys have made only three postseason appearances and won one playoff game since Romo became the starting quarterback in 2006. There have always been doubts that Romo is the quarterback who can lead Dallas back to the Super Bowl. Now there are even more.

If there is a quarterback who plays at more extremes than Manning, he would be difficult to find. While big brother Peyton has been the model of consistency, Eli is the "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" of NFL quarterbacks.

In his 10-year career, Manning plays like either a potential Hall of Famer with two Super Bowl titles or like a quarterback who has never fully grasped the complexities of the NFL.

It's all or nothing with Manning - rarely an in-between effort.

In 2013, it was "Bad Eli" who threw 18 touchdowns, the lowest total since his rookie season, and a career-high 27 interceptions. It wasn't all Manning's fault, but the G-Men finished 7-9, their first losing season since 2004.

At 33 and with a decade of experience, Manning should be done with these ups and downs, but he's also at the point at which a lot of quarterbacks begin to decline, so perhaps something else is at work.

Considering how much of his team's future Washington owner Dan Snyder mortgaged to move up to second overall in the 2012 draft to select Griffin, it is hard to deem this a "make-or-break" season for the 24-year-old signal-caller.

Still, he needs to show significant improvement from 2013, when the former Heisman Trophy winner regressed from being the 2012 Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year to being benched for the final three games of last season.

Some will argue that RGIII's struggles in 2013 were from the lingering effects of the ligament tears he suffered in 2012.

Others will say that his 2013 campaign, when he had only 16 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, as Washington won only three games, was due to his failure to progress as an NFL quarterback.

With his knee injury a full season in the past and head coach Mike Shanahan fired, RGIII is out of excuses.

If he cannot return to the form that led Washington to the NFC East title in 2012 and made him a Pro Bowl selection as a rookie, Washington will be hard-pressed to improve dramatically.

Rookie head coach Jay Gruden, whose head-coaching experience was limited to the Arena Football League, has the task of rebuilding RGIII.

Washington has expressed nothing but faith in Griffin, but it is interesting that backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, who came in the same draft as RGIII, was not traded.

So, yes, there are questions about Foles going into the 2014 season, but look at those surrounding the other three quarterbacks in the NFC East.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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