What We Learned About Foles This Week

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.Nick Foles had another successful outing against the Browns, completing 12 of 19 passes for 146  yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Here’s a breakdown of how he played.

RED ZONE

Foles and the offense benefited from great field position on both of the team’s touchdown drives in the first half. One started at the Browns’ 15-yard-line, the other at the Browns’ 3.

But the rookie has been impressive in the red zone, leading the Eagles to touchdowns instead of field goals. On the score to Brent Celek, Foles was initially looking left, but didn’t have a receiver open. Sometimes, holding onto the football isn’t a bad thing. He waited until the last possible moment – nearly five seconds after the ball was snapped – and found Celek on the right side. The Eagles tight end started the play helping out Dennis Kelly as a blocker on the right side before releasing off the line of scrimmage. It wasn’t a traditional blitz by the Browns, but by the time Foles got rid of the football, six defenders were coming after him.

In three preseason games, Foles has been the quarterback for five possessions in the red zone. The Eagles have scored touchdowns on all five. His numbers: 8-for-8 for 45 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. That’s right. Foles has yet to throw an incompletion in the red zone.

THE INTERCEPTION

On the Eagles’ first possession, Foles was looking for Jason Avant on a slant and then turned his attention to Celek. Neither guy was open. He rolled to his right and saw DeSean Jackson downfield. Foles let it fly on a pass that traveled about 58 yards in the air, but he needed to throw it even farther downfield to give Jackson a chance to accelerate and catch up with it.

Instead, Jackson had to slow down and wait for it. Two Browns defenders were in the area, and Joe Haden picked it off.

“I gotta throw that thing out there or throw it away or do something,” Foles said yesterday. “I’d like to throw it out there and give DeSean a chance.”

One thing we’ve seen from Foles is that he will consistently try give his playmakers a chance.

Sure, it’s only the preseason, but he showed great confidence in Damaris Johnson on the throw against Sheldon Brown in the end zone. Brown had Johnson covered, but Foles thought his fellow rookie could make a play and put the ball right where it needed to be. Johnson gave great effort, but couldn’t keep his feet in bounds.

We saw the same thing later. Foles faked an end around and threw one up for Johnson for a 45-yard completion. Johnson demonstrated great concentration making the catch.

ACCURACY

The one area I’d peg that’s most impressed me about Foles is his ability to fit the ball into tight windows. The touchdown pass to Dion Lewis had to be perfect. Lewis had a defensive back draped on him and a linebacker closing in. But Foles put the ball right where it needed to be, and the running back made the catch.

Overall, he’s 36-for-57, which equates to a 63.2 completion percentage. But keep in mind that Foles has either spiked or thrown the ball away on four occasions. And he’s had four passes dropped (including one by Marvin McNutt in the Browns game). In other words, 40 of his 53 pass attempts have been on-target.

ARM STRENGTH

The old There’s no throw he can’t make saying would seem to apply to Foles. He rifled a 7-yard out to Jeremy Maclin in the red zone. Good timing, good accuracy.

Later, he was on the left hash, had pressure and looked like he barely stepped into a throw to Chad Hall, who was on the right sideline. The ball traveled about 18 yards and was on the money as Hall had a defender on his back.

Foles is humble in the locker room. He talks about how Michael Vick is the team’s leader, credits his teammates and says all the right things. But you can tell by the throws he attempts that the rookie is not short on confidence.

On a pass to Hall in the middle of the field, Foles threw into traffic and almost fit the ball in between three defenders before the linebacker, who had his back turned to the line of scrimmage, got a hand on it at the last second. It’s clear when watching him that Foles knows he’s capable of making pretty much every throw.

WHERE HE’S THROWING IT

In the first two preseason games, Foles was 6-for-10 on throws that traveled more than 15 yards downfield. Against Cleveland, he was 1-for-5.

Foles was 8-for-9 on throws within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, and 3-for-4 on throws between 6 and 15 yards.

Now seems like a good time to remind you that 13.7 percent of Vick’s pass attempts last season traveled 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage, according to Pro Football Focus. That was seventh-most in the NFL. The point is that this is still a big-play offense that relies on getting the ball downfield.

That’s a potential strength for Foles and a potential weakness for Mike Kafka.

OVERALL

Don’t want to put too much stock into the preseason, but at the same time, Foles is showing many glimpses of the player he could eventually become.

Along with the numbers above, Foles has yet to be sacked on 57 dropbacks, and big hits don’t seem to faze him.

Five of the six quarterbacks taken ahead of him in the draft are going to be Week 1 starters. Given what Foles has shown so far, it seems perfectly reasonable that he begin the season ahead of Kafka as Vick’s backup.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.

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