Game Review: Foles’ First NFL Start

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.We’ll get to the All-22 breakdown later in the week, but here’s a look at how Nick Foles performed in his first NFL start.

THE GAME-PLAN

It’s easy to look at the final numbers, see Foles dropped back to pass 51 times and kill Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. But those numbers are skewed by the fact that the Eagles were trailing, 31-6, in the fourth quarter. On two fourth-quarter drives, Foles dropped back 20 times, and the Eagles only had three called runs.

The throws early on were high-percentage attempts. Seven of the first eight attempts were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage (not counting a throw-away). The Redskins came in with a struggling secondary, but the Eagles were unable to take advantage, as Foles averaged just 4.4 yards per attempt.

Here’s a look at the throws by distance. Short indicates 5 yards or less from the line of scrimmage. Middle is 6 to 15. Deep is 16 to 25. And Bomb is more than 25.

 
Completions
Attempts
Yards
Short1420103
Middle51458
Deep2543
Bomb020

Overall, a lot of screens and checkdowns. On throws that traveled 6 yards or more from the line of scrimmage, Foles was just 7-for-21. He hit Damaris Johnson over the middle for 21 yards on 3rd-and-17 in the second. And Foles connected with Brent Celek for 22 yards on 3rd-and-5 in the third.

ACCURACY

Overall, the numbers show 21-for-46, or 45.7 percent, which is terrible, especially considering that opponents were completing 63.8 percent of their attempts against the Redskins going in. While Foles certainly missed too many throws, his receivers didn’t help him. I counted five drops – two by Celek, two by Clay Harbor and one by Riley Cooper. Add in five balls that were thrown away, and his completion percentage wasn’t as bad as the numbers indicate.

On several throws, either timing or accuracy was an issue. He got rid of the ball quickly, but was off-target on a throw to Johnson (who was open) in the first. He misfired to Harbor in the second. Initially, I thought that Harbor tripped, but after watching the replay, it looked like he was just lunging for the ball. And Foles threw short of Jackson on a 12-yard out in the fourth.

THE MISTAKES

The first interception was on Celek. Foles actually made a nice throw on the move. He had pressure in his face on the second interception, but made a bad throw. We’ll have to wait for the All-22 to see exactly what happened.

Fumbles were an issue. It’s foolish to only count them when the other team recovers since those are generally 50/50 balls. Foles fumbled three times. On one play, the Redskins brought a corner blitz with Josh Wilson, who came unblocked and sacked Foles, who lost the ball. Another occurred when LeSean McCoy was asked to block Ryan Kerrigan one-on-one. Kerrigan sacked Foles and forced a fumble. And the third one came when Foles panicked and threw low to McCoy behind the line of scrimmage.

THE TARGETS

Taking away the balls that were thrown away, here are Foles’ targets:

 
Targets
Completions
Yards
Riley Cooper8561
LeSean McCoy7667
Brent Celek7542
DeSean Jackson725
Clay Harbor61-1
Damaris Johnson2121
Stanley Havili219
Jeremy Maclin200

As you can see, 22 of Foles’ 41 attempts, or 54 percent, targeted running backs and tight ends.

The numbers to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were ugly: 2-for-9 for 5 yards. The two completions were screens to Jackson. Going forward, Reid and Mornhinweg need to give Foles more opportunities downfield.

LEFTOVERS

Jim Haslett blitzed Foles a lot – 22 times out of 51 dropbacks by my count. Against extra pressure, he was 9-for-21 for 92 yards. Early on, Foles did a good job of changing the play at the line of scrimmage and hitting Cooper on a WR screen for 15 yards. But overall, the Eagles handled the blitz poorly.

On 3rd-and-4 in the red zone in the third, Foles took a delay of game instead of calling timeout. It looked like Reid tried to call timeout, but didn’t get it. Still, the quarterback has to show better awareness in that spot.

So overall, a messy performance. The Eagles averaged 3.6 yards per play. They turned it over three times (and that number could have been higher). Foles was sacked four times.

It certainly wasn’t all on the quarterback, and it was only one game, but the rookie didn’t provide many encouraging signs in this one – especially considering the caliber of opponent. The smart move would seem to be to let Foles get more experience so that you can make an informed decision at quarterback at the end of the season. But Reid says he’s leaning towards playing Michael Vick when he’s healthy.

We’ll see if that means Monday night against the Panthers or down the road.

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  • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

    The hits clearly got to him. That panic throw to McCoy was to avoid getting hit and could have easily turned into a turnover. This line is no QBs friend. If Foles continues to play let’s hope he doesn’t end up with an acute case of David Carr Syndrome

    • stormchaser1983

      Agree. All the reason why vick really needs more credit. He took a beating and kept getting back. With a good line, he would be having a 2010 like season. the guy is a warrior. Too bad he is not tall and does not slide.

      • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

        If only he were even just 3 inches taller and 20lbs heavier. I think he’s been trying to slide…it just looks ugly though. But yeah Vick deserves a lot more credit than he’s getting for what he did with this putrid offensive line. 17 points a game is looking pretty miraculous now.

        • defroe81

          ill give credit to vick for having heart as ive always have but to give him credit for being a great qb i just cant i dont see it and he is not the savior of the eagles either number 1 draft pick with only 1 nfc championship game to show for it. i dont jump bandwagons i dont follow players i follow the eagles and other then 2010 and 04 with the falcons i havent seen him do much granted he was locked up for two years all his doing he isn’t elite. big butts and pretty smiles just how i like my woman lol

          • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

            Disagree on so many levels. Atlanta had NOTHING except M. Vick and the coaching was dubious at best. He carried the team in 2010. And had a defense that gave up 5 fourth quarter leads last year with a line that started badly and ended up better. This year his line is putrid. And the defense is as soft as ever. Vick hasn’t been playing well enough to carry the team on his own – but there are only a few QBs in the league who can do that. He has played well enough to win games IF the rest of the TEAM would step up.

          • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

            “big butts and pretty smiles just how i like my woman lol”

            LOL/ SMH

      • bentheimmigrant

        Not sure about that… he had a pretty good line last year, but he didn’t come anywhere near 2010 level of play. Don’t get me wrong – I give him plenty of credit for being tough, for improving against the blitz, etc… but I just don’t see any of that 2010 Vick.

        • stormchaser1983

          well the eagles were one of the most potent offenses last year. if not for the turnovers, they would have won a lot of games. Case in point: the SF game with the inexplicable ronnie brown pass at the goal line, maclin getting stripped when in field goal range etc etc. A lot also had to do with play calling

          • bentheimmigrant

            No doubt it was playcalling. MM is horrible at working out appropriate calls for a given situation. That’s why, imo, he’s historically best in the 1st half (obviously not this year, he’s crap all the time now), where he can just call the crazy plays he’s been drawing up all week, and not worry about the actual game situation. Once he has to make strategic decisions, the old Lions coach comes out.

        • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

          Well those 5 fourth quarter leads last year that the defense squandered might have had something to do with that. One of those games and they win the division. Also the line started out pretty horribly last year and got better as the season progressed. So he’s been playing behind an iffy line since he got here…this year’s is just unplayable.

          • bentheimmigrant

            The D hardly had any help in those games. The O scored 3 total points in those 4th quarters, while turning the ball over 8 times (4 on downs, 3 picks [two by Kafka, one on Vick], one Maclin fumble)*. You win in this league by scoring, not playing prevent with a lead. Vick in 2011 was a complete flop in the 4th quarter – not a trait seen in any championship QB I can think of. For all the complaints against Reid, my main one going back to at least 2005 has been that he doesn’t seem to understand how important offensive performance is to the D.

            *See: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/Five-Eagles-numbers-that-matter061812.html

          • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

            Sorry…but you can’t excuse FIVE fourth quarter leads on the offense – the D last year would often have a third down that they would let the other team convert that would have ended the game had they made one stop. This is a TEAM sport…the defense isn’t there just for window dressing.

          • bentheimmigrant

            Sorry, but where did I excuse them? I’m simply saying that if Vick and the O had stepped up for more than 3 points in FIVE 4th quarters, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. The D was awful in those situations, and gave up way too many points. The O meanwhile didn’t score, turned the ball over, and put a tired D straight back on the field. You’re right it’s a team game, and when your strength is offense you need your offense to step up when it really counts. They didn’t. So I blame both. Saying that Vick had a good year, and the D let him down is ignoring the fact that the entire team flopped in the 4th.

          • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

            And I remember a few of those games they actually played for those field goals. They went safe and well, we know how that story ends.

      • xlGmanlx

        Agreed, 7 is one of the few that shows up on game day and plays with 100% heart and determination. He puts it on the line, the results are mixed, but I think his commitment is there without question.

  • JofreyRice

    I’m all for holding off final judgment, and letting him develop, but…he’s got a long way to go. I was not encouraged by this game at all. Sure, he had some drops, and sure the protection was bad, but even on throws where he had time, he was either dumping it off, or inaccurate. Watching a young QB like Kaepernick deliver the ball with zip & accuracy to receivers in stride, with pressure in his face, it was kind of hard not to judge him against the efforts we’ve seen from Foles. Of course I know he’s been waiting in the wings for more than a season, and is in a run-heavy offense, etc., but just judging the throws, the balls look like they are thrown by an NFL QB, whereas, with Foles, it’s still very much a question.

    With Vick’s departure a foregone conclusion–and I think it’s called for, he’s not a franchise QB at this point–it’s a grim picture for Eagles fans in 2013.