But out of all the quarterbacks that have caught fire in the history of the league, Foles is one of only seven to finish the day with seven touchdowns. How did this happen? How is it that he went from the worst performance of his career to one of the best statistical performances in league history? And how should we feel about the QB after nine professional starts?
For answers, we turned to NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell.
“There are two elements to this,” said Cosell of the Eagles’ 49-20 romp in Oakland. “One, they played at the fastest tempo they have played all season. Two, the Raiders for some reason did not understand what the Eagles offense was about.”
First, the tempo. Members of the Raiders defense admitted they had no answer for the pace the Eagles were running at. Cosell echoed what Evan Mathis said immediately after the game: that when you run a tempo offense, you prevent the opposing defense from running exotic blitzes. There is no time for disguises; you are forced to line up and play. That took away a big facet of Oakland’s game.
To illustrate his point about Oakland’s lack of preparedness, Cosell pointed to the Eagles’ second offensive play from scrimmage — a bubble screen to Riley Cooper that went 42 yards.
“They made the game too easy for the Eagles,” he said. “That play is a staple of the Eagles offense, and they had two over three.” [Meaning two defenders against three Eagles receivers.]
The Raiders have no chance. They don’t have the numbers and they’re not challenging at the line of scrimmage. Easy pickings for Foles.
“That’s a throw you or I could have made. You start out with your first pass on the second play of the game and it gets 42 yards. You throw it eight yards behind the line of scrimmage and it’s a 42-yard gain because they played two-over-three with a very soft cushion.”
Foles was on point, no question. He made the right reads, didn’t settle for the easier throws when big gains were to be had, and threw the ball accurately. But he was clearly aided by a Raiders’ defense that didn’t do enough homework and a secondary that had trouble keeping its footing.
“They played the fastest [they have all season] and they played a defense that conceptually didn’t match up well. So it was sort of the perfect storm,” said Cosell.
“I don’t think this was a hard game in a strict sense. You’re not going, ‘Wow he’s making some difficult throws.’ Some guys were wide open.”
The ups and downs
We asked players and coaches this week: what is the sample size needed before you can pass judgement on a quarterback? How many games do you need to see them play? No one provided a straight answer. We presented Cosell with the same question, and he was kind enough to throw us a number. He went with 20 starts.
Foles is at nine — six his rookie season and three this year. He has been up and down. Some of that is about consistency of mechanics.
“He doesn’t have any glaring issues,” Cosell said. “He has a tendency at times to not drive through his throws, and he loses velocity and accuracy.”
Cosell also mentioned that when the second-year quarterback gets mobile, he will sometimes fail to reset before making the throw. He pointed to a pass to DeSean Jackson this past week in the second quarter against Oakland. Foles hit Jackson for a 20-yard gain in this particular instance, but it’s the type of throw that has gotten him into trouble before.
Interestingly, Cosell said that there were no technical flaws that stood out on the Dallas tape.
“It would be easy to say that he just needed to work on his footwork or work on his mechanics, but he also made a number of throws against Dallas where the footwork and the mechanics were fine and he was very inaccurate. It’s hard to say what was wrong against Dallas.”
That’s actually more concerning than if it was a technical issue; the more tangible the problem the easier it is to correct. The breakdown against the Cowboys is a little more difficult to diagnose. That is part of the reason why a larger body of work is required.
Cosell has seen more positives than negatives overall in Foles, but isn’t prepared to call it one way or another. As far as he is concerned, only half the evidence is in.
“It’s about consistency of execution,” he said.