No need to worry yet about Foles

Nick Foles tossed two interceptions, but there's a reason they play four preseason games.
Nick Foles tossed two interceptions, but there's a reason they play four preseason games. (YONG KIM / Staff)
Posted: August 10, 2014

CHICAGO - If Friday night's game counted, Nick Foles' two interceptions in one quarter would have been as many as he tossed last season.

It didn't count. Now take a deep breath.

Would the Eagles have preferred that Foles and the first team-offense looked more efficient in their preseason opener against the Bears? Sure. Would Chip Kelly have rather had his starting quarterback not throw two picks that were clearly of his own doing? You bet.

But three series and 13 plays of sloppy football - the Eagles committed four penalties in that span - isn't going to offset the trust Foles gained from last year's Pro Bowl performance and it won't set off any alarms.

The play-calling was uncharacteristically in favor of the pass and the plays were familiar to keep any new Kelly innovations off film. There's a reason they play four of these exhibitions. The first one can help knock off any rust that had developed over the long break.

Foles looked rusty. In what was technically the first preseason start of his career, he completed 6 of 9 passes for 44 yards, and had two passes for 33 yards called back by penalties. But two of his three incomplete throws were awful interceptions (read: his fault) and the other errant pass was nearly picked off, as well.

There was pressure on each occasion. But Foles still bought time, stepping up or aside in the pocket. His problem was either how he set himself to throw or the decision he made when forced to get rid of the ball.

On the first interception, he had defenders bearing down on him, but chucked a ball to wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah that was off his back foot and up for grabs. Bears safety Ryan Mundy fielded the pop-up.

Foles talked extensively during training camp about limiting sacks. He was sacked 27 times as the starter last season. Projected over 16 games it would have been the fourth most in the NFL. But he probably should have eaten the ball and taken a sack on the Mundy interception.

On the final series, Foles, with the help of newly-acquired running back Darren Sproles (three carries for 11 yards), brought the Eagles into Bears territory. But on second down, he forced a throw to a covered Zach Ertz that was behind the tight end. Chicago cornerback Sherrick McManus made the easy interception.

Foles didn't receive any favors from his offensive line. Guard Evan Mathis (twice) and tackle Jason Peters were called for holding. The blocking wasn't crisp against a Bears defense - one with a few offseason additions - the Eagles embarrassed last December. Tackle Allen Barbre, who will start the first four games of the season for the suspended Lane Johnson, was shaky.

Foles knows how to rebound from bad games. An NFL-record-tying seven touchdown passes against the Raiders, following a disastrous outing against the Cowboys, was proof. He has a few scrimmages and Friday's preseason game against the Patriots in Foxboro to expunge this effort.

If he lays another egg, it won't be enough for Kelly to panic. But, as the coach has said on numerous occasions, Foles isn't a finished product. That could mean he hasn't reached his potential. It could also mean that he isn't as good as last season suggested (8-3 as a starter, a 119.2 passer rating).

There isn't, as Donald Rumsfeld might say, an known unknown.

The same could be said of Mark Sanchez, who completed 7 of 10 passes for 79 yards and drove the Eagles to their first touchdown, in the second quarter. Some have written off the former New York Jets quarterback, but he's now in an entirely new offense with Kelly pushing his buttons.

There is no quarterback controversy, but Sanchez will be a trustworthy No. 2. He feathered a 34-yard beauty down the seam to Ertz, and went back to the budding second-year tight end for 18 yards a play later. The drive was capped by a Michael Tucker 4-yard touchdown run.

The backup quarterback competition Kelly spoke so fondly about in May has not materialized. Matt Barkley, now in his second season, looks more confident running the offense. But his throws are a mishmash because the arm strength can't overcome accuracy issues.

Kelly's offense, overall, looked pedestrian - a far cry from last season's preseason games that announced the arrival of an innovative mind. He often gets too much credit, though, and Foles is viewed by some as a puppet hanging by his strings.

Both coach and quarterback will put this game behind them. It shouldn't count against them.

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