Eagles Wake-Up Call: How Foles Can Improve

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings

After the Eagles beat the Bears last season, right tackle Lane Johnson was asked to recall if he’d ever seen Nick Foles frustrated on the field.

“Usually he’s pretty calm,” Johnson said. “I know when we played Detroit, Coach [Bill] Lazor was going up to him telling him he was babying the ball, and they got into kind of an altercation because you couldn’t throw the ball too hard because it was so hard to see, so hard to catch and throw [in the snow]. So that’s probably one time.”

Posed with the same question, multiple other Eagles offensive players said they simply could not provide an example. They had nothing.

It’s one of Foles’ biggest strengths and something that Chip Kelly values: the QB’s inclination to stay even-keeled regardless of the circumstances. In the first meeting against the Cowboys last season, Foles had the worst game of his career and got knocked out with a concussion. The next time he stepped onto the field, he fired seven touchdowns in Oakland and took off on one of the more improbable runs by a QB in recent memory.

So what will Foles do for an encore? He’s coming off a 29 touchdown/2 INT performance in which he completed 64 percent of his passes and averaged 9.12 yards per attempt. Foles’ 119.2 passer rating is third-best in a single season in NFL history.

But there are changes on the way in 2014. For starters, he’ll now be working with his third different QB coach in as many years as Bill Musgrave takes over for Lazor. And from a personnel standpoint, Foles will be without DeSean Jackson. He’ll have Jeremy Maclin and Darren Sproles at his disposal instead.

“Everything. And I think Nick’ll tell you the same thing,” said Kelly last month when asked what the QB can improve on. “…I think the big thing with Nick, just like the other guys I talked to, Year 1 for a lot of those guys was just getting all the terminology down, learning if it’s this play, do this. Now it’s the intricacies of it, exactly what is my footwork, how is my ball-handling, how can I do a better job when I don’t have the ball, how can I do a better job with faking, what can I do to influence, now I understand what the coverage is, but how can I influence it? Or how can I move the safety? Because I really want to throw the post, but instead of just going, ‘Hey the safety’s on the post, I gotta throw the checkdown.’ Now what are the little, teeny intricacies of the game?

“And that’s the one thing about Nick that’s so encouraging is he always wants to get better. And he was constantly doing it. I think he improved as the season went along. And a lot of times you’ll see some players kind of plateau, but I think he continued to improve and I think we’re all hopeful. But knowing his work ethic, in Year 2, he’s gonna make a lot of improvement.”

From a numbers standpoint, chances are Foles will probably regress. The pace he kept up in 2013 is likely unsustainable. But as Kelly pointed out, the expectation is that his overall quality of play will improve.

For example, there were times last year on packaged plays where Foles made the wrong read. He was sometimes hesitant with the ball and took sacks. And the goal for all of the Eagles returning players will be to go faster when the offense is in its tempo package.

The offseason program (closed to the media) began on Monday. There will be no QB competition this spring and summer, but all eyes will be on No. 9 to see where he can take his game in 2014.

WHAT YOU MISSED

T-Mac introduces a late round pick who could interest the Eagles: Wisconsin NT Beau Allen.

My breakdown of Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin as a potential fit for the Eagles.

Evan  Mathis was in the house Monday as the Eagles began offseason workouts.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz chimes in on some cornerback prospects:

The 2nd round player I like is Bashaud Breeland from Clemson. He ran 4.62 at the Combine and re-timed 4.57 at his Pro Day. That hurts his value since he’s only 5-11, 197. He does have 31 3/4 arms. Breeland is quick, agile and has very good feet. He has outstanding ball skills. That’s something the Eagles value. They like a CB who can knock the ball away in the air. They teach very specific techniques for this. Breeland does it naturally, but could get even better with good coaching.

Breeland plays right, left and in the slot. That’s the kind of versatility the Eagles value. He will hit and tackle. He was booted from the FSU game for hitting Jameis Winston in the head. You don’t like that, but at least there is no hesitation before contact. If Breeland was a hair faster, he could be a 1st round player. His lack of long speed is an issue on deep routes. Breeland excels when allowed to press and be physical with receivers.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com mocks Ohio State CB Bradley Roby to the Eagles:

Roby is a talented cover man with the speed, athleticism and movement skills to thrive in an aggressive scheme.

COMING UP

We’ll take a look at Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks.

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