Eagles' Foles not caught up in past

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Quarterback Nick Foles says, 'numbers from last year won't do anything for me this year.'
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Quarterback Nick Foles says, 'numbers from last year won't do anything for me this year.'
Posted: July 31, 2014

STATISTICALLY, Nick Foles has nowhere to go but down this season.

That doesn't mean he won't be a better quarterback or won't get another Pro Bowl invitation or won't throw the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLIX.

It just means that he's probably not going to match most of the unbelievable passing numbers he put up last season because, well, most of them are once-in-a-career stuff.

His 119.2 passer rating was the third-highest in NFL history, behind only Aaron Rodgers' 122.5 in 2011 and Peyton Manning's 121.1 in '04.

He led the league in touchdown percentage and yards per attempt and had the third-best interception percentage in league history, throwing just two picks in 317 pass attempts.

He led the league in passing in almost every significant situational category, including third down (111.0, 65.8 completion percentage), red zone (118.3, 69.6 completion percentage, 17 TDs, no interceptions), against the blitz (130.9, 64.4 completion percentage, nine TDs, no interceptions) and passes of 20 yards or more (124.0, 14 TDs, one interception).

A gaudy season like that early in a career has been known to adversely affect some players, who either think it's going to automatically happen every year, or put too much pressure on themselves to duplicate it.

Foles definitely isn't the former. We'll find out soon enough if he's the latter.

"Those numbers from last year won't do anything for me this year," he said last week. "They do absolutely nothing.

"I had a great coach tell me you can't let one play, good or bad, affect your next play. It's the same thing with one season. You can't let one season affect you, good or bad, for the next year. You're starting over clean.

"That's the way I think. It's a new year. I'm a new player. What happened in the past is meaningless."

He showed his resilience last year after that godawful performance in Week 7 against the Cowboys in which he went 11-for-29 before leaving the game with a head injury in the third quarter. Missed the next game with a concussion, but came back the next week and threw an NFL-record-tying seven touchdown passes in a 49-20 win over the Raiders. Might not even have gotten an opportunity to play against the Raiders if Mike Vick hadn't reinjured his hamstring the week before against the Giants.

"I think you're always looking to get better, but sometimes it doesn't happen," Foles said. "Our team isn't measured by my 27-2 [touchdowns-interceptions] or whatever. If we win and I throw 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions . . . well, hopefully I won't do that. I don't want to do that.

"But the big thing is can I be a good enough leader to where I can make these guys better players around me to where it makes the team better and we win? I might not ever reach those numbers again. I might never reach those statistics. I hope I do. I want to get better and I want to be a better player. But if you're just looking primarily at statistics, you might not ever [get better].''

The question of what exactly Nick Foles is still is open for debate. Is he a 1-year wonder? I don't think so, but nobody, including Chip Kelly, knows for sure yet.

I think it's safe to say he'll throw more than two interceptions this season. But he's never been reckless with the football. He has averaged just one interception per 81.1 attempts with the Eagles and averaged just one every 42.5 attempts in college.

Foles' completion percentage again should be well into the 60s, particularly with the addition of pass-catching running back Darren Sproles. And if he stays upright for 16 games, his touchdown total should be higher just because he'll be throwing more passes than he did last year when he made just 10 starts.

The two areas in which Foles needs to improve this season are intertwined. He needs to be a little more willing to make throws into tight windows, and he needs to do a better job of getting the ball out and avoiding sacks.

The Eagles gave up 46 sacks last year. That was the eighth most in the league and the most by a playoff team.

There's plenty of blame to go around for those sacks. The offensive line, of course. The receivers. And the quarterbacks. Foles was sacked once every 11.3 attempts, which was only slightly better than Michael Vick, who was sacked once every 9.4 attempts.

"I think Nick can improve on everything, and he'll be the first to tell you that," Kelly said. "Obviously, he's a lot more prepared going into Year 2. But what he's going to be facing is probably a little bit different too.

"You kind of see the little things, whether it's the footwork or the proper technique or looking off a guy so he can keep the free safety in the middle of the field a little bit longer so that the run after the catch is a little bit better.

"It's really working on the intricacies of the little things that help take a guy from good to great."

Foles feels he has one big advantage that will help him continue to improve this season: Kelly's offense.

"The thing I love about this offense is there's really an answer for every different situation," Foles said. "Now, the big thing is execution. You might have an answer, but if you don't execute it, the play won't work or something bad happens.

"But what I love is there's always an answer. There's always a reason. Different looks. I know where to go, it's just, can I make the throw? Can I move the pocket? Can we make that cut with the running back? Stuff like that. That's where execution comes in."


On Twitter: @Pdomo

Blog: eagletarian.com

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