Game Review: Evaluating Foles’ Performance

Nick Foles completed 32 of 51 passes for 381 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Eagles’ 23-21 win over the Bucs Sunday afternoon.

Below is a breakdown of how the rookie performed after having re-watched all of his throws. Look for the All-22 review later this week.

Let’s start with throws by distance. Short is 5 yards or less. Middle is 6 to 15 yards. Deep is 16 to 25. And Bomb is more than 25.

 
Completions
Attempts
Yards
Short1720140
Middle1118138
Deep3564
Bomb1439

As you can see, Foles was efficient in the short game. The Eagles ran a lot of WR screens, specifically to Jeremy Maclin. Dion Lewis took a short pass 28 yards. And of course, the game-winning touchdown to Maclin was from 1 yard out.

Foles completed 61.1 percent of the Middle throws. Not bad, especially considering he was without Brent Celek, one of the offense’s primary options in that area of the field.

The Eagles took their shots downfield and came away with mixed results. It looked like Foles had Marvin McNutt open deep in the first, but he overthrew him. Foles was hit on the play. Late in the first half, he had Riley Cooper down the left sideline, but overthrew him. Foles had Cooper again on the final drive, but misfired. Initially, I thought he had Maclin open on that play too. But after watching the replay, Maclin didn’t separate from the defensive back until after the ball was already in the air.

There were good moments too with throws downfield. In the second, Foles felt pressure from both sides, stepped up, scrambled to his right and completed a 39-yard bomb to Jason Avant. Really nice play. Good patience and good touch in the fourth, lofting one to Maclin for a 22-yard gain on 3rd-and-10. And of course, there was the 22-yard strike to Avant that set up the game-winning touchdown

THE TARGETS

Here’s a look at who Foles threw the ball to.

 
Completions
Targets
Yards
Jeremy Maclin913104
Jason Avant710133
Clay Harbor6652
Riley Cooper4837
Bryce Brown236
Damaris Johnson2220
Dion Lewis1228
Brent Celek111
Marvin McNutt020

When you throw the ball 51 times, there’s going to be plenty of room to spread it around. Foles completed passes to eight different receivers and targeted nine different receivers. On throws to Maclin, he was 9-for-13 for 104 yards and a touchdown. On throws to Avant, he was 7-for-10 for 133 yards.

And Foles completed all six passes that went Clay Harbor’s direction, including the 11-yard touchdown.

* If you add up the targets and get 47, that’s because he threw the ball away four times. Foles spiked it once, but I counted the two-point conversion attempt here.

ON THE MOVE

There has been no shortage of jokes today about Foles’ speed after he didn’t exactly remind anyone of Usain Bolt on the 10-yard touchdown run. But the truth is, Foles did a really nice job of escaping pressure and making plays. It might be the No. 1 thing to take away from this performance, actually.

NFL quarterbacks need to be able to operate under less-than-ideal circumstances. The offensive line played poorly Sunday. Foles was sacked six times, hit 13 times and pressured many more. But he showed the ability to get away from defenders while keeping his eyes downfield. In the first quarter, he scrambled to his left and hit Cooper for a 16-yard gain. The touchdown pass to Harbor was another good example. And Foles avoided pressure before finding Maclin for 23  yards on 3rd-and-14 on the final drive.

Against the blitz, Foles performed well, completing 11 of 17 passes for 133 yards. Early on, he got rid of the ball quickly to Cooper for a 10-yard gain before an unblocked defender could hit him. Later, he stepped up and found Avant over the middle against a six-man blitz.

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

You know I like numbers, but they don’t always tell the whole story. Before Foles hit Avant for 22 yards to set up the game-winning score, he made a terrible decision, looking for McNutt on a throw that should have been intercepted by cornerback Danny Gorrer. Sometimes, the ball just bounces your way. Can you imagine what we’d be talking about today had Gorrer made the play there?

Earlier, Foles threw low to Maclin on a short out. And he was late with his throw to Lewis on the two-point conversion. Foles also needs to hit on the deep balls when he has a chance for big plays.

But overall, it was another encouraging performance by the rookie, who continues to improve. Foles was playing against a bad pass defense, but he was also playing with an offensive line that struggled, no Celek, no DeSean Jackson and no LeSean McCoy.

As I’ve written before, this is not about asking him to play at a Pro Bowl level. It’s about Foles correcting his mistakes and showing signs of becoming a good player. He didn’t show much in his first two starts, but has been much better in the last two. Improvement will continue to be the focus as the Eagles close out their season against Cincinnati, Washington and the Giants.

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