It’s About Time For Musgrave, Foles

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings

Bill Musgrave doesn’t exactly have a major project on his hands here.

He is inheriting a quarterback in Nick Foles that finished with the best touchdown/interception ratio in league history in 2013 and a league-high 119.2 QB rating. Still, there is room for improvement, and the coaching staff has identified a couple specific areas for Foles to focus on as he prepares for the upcoming season. Much of it has to do with self-preservation. They want him to “ditch the ball earlier in the down” and reduce the number of hits he is taking in the name of staying healthy.

 Pro Football Focus tracks the time it takes a quarterback to get rid of the ball, from snap to pass attempt, while operating in the pocket. Foles had the highest average (2.88 seconds) in the NFL last year by their calculations. (Russell Wilson was second at 2.82). Similarly, his average time from snap to sack (4.69) was longer than any other signal-caller in the league.

When Foles held onto the ball for 2.5 seconds or less, he was sacked twice. The other 26 came when he held it for 2.6 seconds or more.

Some work to be done, then, for the seasoned coach and the budding QB, and they’ll continue that work during the team’s three-day minicamp, which starts today.

“We critique each rep out here at practice,” said Musgrave. “It’s great to go against our defense because it’s a multiple-look defense and they have a lot of talent over there. There are instances where Nick doesn’t have anyone to go to with the ball. We want him to be smart late in the down both with the football and also with his body.  We try to grade each and every play so they get feedback and so he can critique himself and know what he can do better.”

Musgrave’s coaching timeline dates back to 1987 when he served as the quarterbacks coach at Oregon (obviously). He joined the NFL ranks a few years later and has coached for nine pro teams in all, most recently serving as the Vikings offensive coordinator. This is his second stop in Philadelphia. He was brought in as an offensive assistant in 1998 and was named offensive coordinator for the final 10 games of the Ray Rhodes era.

The Eagles needed a quarterbacks coach after Bill Lazor took the OC job in Miami, and Musgrave was happy to be brought back into the fold.

“I was excited to learn this system, learn this culture and be a contributing factor on a team that’s really on the rise and had a lot of success in their initial year,” he said.

A lot that success had to do with the emergence of Foles, who is now on his third quarterbacks coach in as many years. Seeing as he is new to this offense, Musgrave allowed that he has as many questions for Foles as Foles has for him at this stage. But there’s plenty of knowledge the veteran coach can impart on the 25-year-old over time.

“Nick is his own worst critic. I know he has really studied his film like I have, so we want to keep getting better even though he [is coming off] a pretty stellar year statistically,” he said.

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  • Bert’s Bells

    One factor not included in clocking the time Foles holds the ball is play action. Didn’t the Eagles run the most play action in the NFL last year? This will clearly add time to the stopwatch.

    That’s not to say Foles can’t improve his read and release time, but that statistic is missing a critical factor.

    Also, great work by the OLine.

    • Roasty

      Pretty sure Foles was 2nd to Russel Wilson in play action attempts in 13.

    • Broadcasting Wisdom

      I never liked that stat. Part of the appeal of the spread formation is that the defense has to cover 5 players. Hard for the D to rush more than 5 guys when that’s the case (and usually D only brings 4 – and NO sometimes brought just 3), so as long as our O-Line holds up blocking 3 or 4 guys, it’s fine for Foles to take his time back there to find his receivers.

      • Reef215

        But wasn’t one of the main complaint about Vick was “he held onto the ball to long?”

        • Broadcasting Wisdom

          Vick who? Kidding, but a criticism with Vick is he would miss seeing open receivers while he was running around back there after his first read was covered, rather than hanging in the pocket and going through his progression. Nick hangs in, goes through his progression, and then throws the ball away (or in rare and terrible circumstances, takes a horrible sack that knocks us out of Henery filed goal range in a playoff game)

    • eaglefansocal

      That would be interesting, but I think that would only add 0.2 seconds per attempt or so.

    • HowieGambleChipsAllDay

      One big factor was the amount of plays he held the ball for 6-8 seconds rather than chucking it out of bounds, like the one in the Saints game that set up the game losing field goal attempt from 11yds further than it shoulder been after Nick took the sack. I’m glad to heat this is a point of emphasis. It is arguably his biggest weakness. Did a few times at Jerry World too. I have no doubt as he progresses in the system I’m certain his decision making will get sharper/quicker

    • tommy_the_k

      It’s kind of like time of possession,…in the pocket.

  • John E. Zang

    I don’t why they brought Musgrave in when Jordan Mathews is more than capable of serving that role.

    • Amar

      The amount of money Musgrave offered was too big to say No.

  • Bullwinkle

    I’m thinking that not waiting on DJax to do his thing might speed up Foles a little bit. I believe DeSean was the most targeted receiver.

    • NickS1

      You’d be correct, sir.

  • Glenn

    I remember when Foles held onto the ball too long in the Saints game and took a bad sack. That sack took us out of “Henery FG range”. That gave Henery a more difficult FG, that he missed. That miss was crucial, and likely cost us the game.

    • shady25

      I think because of that sack is why they want him to get rid of the football quicker. That was a huge sack to take. Gotta know down and distance. Don’t try to make something happen, get rid of it and take the not so automatic 3 points (Henery)

    • Septhinox

      The thinking that one play out of 60+ cost the Eagles the game is hilarious.

      • Glenn

        Sigh. I don’t believe the one missed FG in itself cost us the game. My point was that it is good if the coaching staff focuses on Foles getting rid of the ball sooner. That play was a great example of how important it is for the QB to know when to cut your losses, and get rid of the ball. The sack that Foles took was costly and crucial and unnecessary . It changed a relative chip shot FG into a 45 yarder on a cold night. You certainly must agree that three points there would have siginifcantly enhanced our chances to win.

        • NickS1

          Butterfly effect, man. If Foles doesn’t take the sack and Henery hits the 45 yarder, does the rest of the series of events happen as it did? We don’t know and, therefore, we don’t know that this one play truly cost us the game.

        • Kev_H

          2nd down play, which it was, field goal and field goal range should be the furthest thing from his mind. QB should be trying to make a play if he can and worry about field goal range on 3rd down. Harping on that one play is a total hindsight critique. It would only have merit if it had been 3rd down.

  • Reasonableeaglefan

    Anyone know Vick’s time to release? It always felt like he held it a long time, I wonder if my perception matched reality.

    As for Foles, it seemed like he got the ball out quick if his first or second read was there. If the guy he targeted pre-snap was covered, he got himself into trouble trying to salvage the play.

    • JofreyRice

      yeah, it was really long, as expected, 3.12 seconds averaged between 2011 & 2012, per PFF. The difference with Vick is that his rating was around a 74 when he held onto it for 2.6 or more. Also had fumblelitis which really intensified the importance of sacks he did take. In fairness, he produced some pretty big plays with his feet in those situations, but we’re talking about the craft of QB, here.

      Like I mentioned in my other post, in 2013, Foles had a 120 rating when holding onto the ball that long.

      • borntosuffer

        Yea, only a 120 rating? He needs to do better. Excellent points all around.

  • JofreyRice

    eh, I mean, yeah, he could get it out a little more quickly…but…he was the #1 rated QB from the pocket at 120. Peyton Manning was next closest at 104. Unlike some other QB’s we’ve had, the longer he holds it is not necessarily inversely related to the chance for a positive play. He seems to have a good feel for avoiding pressure, and finding receivers that are good at working back to him (Cooper, particularly, is good at this). If he can continue to lead the league in that category, why fix something that’s not broken? I mean, I guess some of those sacks can be costly, but he also produced a lot of really big plays while holding onto the ball, too. The good far outweighed the bad.

    • Andy124

      Yeah. Room for improvement, but it’s not a make or break kind of thing. I imagine one of the reasons he held on to the ball longer is because he could. Very good O-Line plus plenty of play-action and screens to slow the rush.

      And to add to what you said, for over a decade, I’d be screaming at the Eagles quarterback to throw the d@mn ball, and he wouldn’t, and usually something bad would happen. I screamed the same thing at FOles for most of the season, but calmed down a bit when it become apparent that it wasn’t disaster waiting to happen when the ball didn’t come out right away.

      What’s most important though, is what the coaches and Nick know that we don’t. On any given play, within the design of the play, did he go the right place with the ball at the right time. Nobody’s ever going to be perfect with that, so they’ll always work to get better with it.

      • you and JR pretty much nailed it.
        It really helps that Foles has the functional mobility, pocket awareness, and assist from the OL to help put a * next to this stat when evaluating his performance. I’m sure, along with the elevated INT rate, he maintained a pretty high completion % and YPA

    • Reasonableeaglefan

      Thanks for the Vick stat below. I worry about Foles holding the ball leading to big hits more than turnovers. I’m of course basing this off the concussion against the Giants, but I always think he looks awkward when he has to improvise. When it’s a designed roll or something he looks much smoother. Even late he usually gets rid of the ball fairly safely, but a defender is bearing down on him by then.

  • eaglesfan

    Granted quick release is valued but if the bottom two QB’s in this category are Foles with a 119 QB rating and last year’s Super Bowl winning signal caller, maybe this is an erroneous stat. just sayin.

    • Kev_H

      And you can adjust that stat for play action and downfield throws which the Eagles do a lot. By itself, it’s a useless stat.

  • Scott J

    They’re going to regret letting Lazor go. Even though he pals around with sketchy characters, he’s faster than Musgrave and can stretch the field.

    • tommy_the_k

      Musgrave is a better rapper, though.

  • myeaglescantwin

    What about the sacks that stem from the plays were Chip calls a ‘read option’ play?
    when he takes an additional 2 seconds before he can even attempt the pass?

    Half the reason that Foles only threw 2 regular season INT’s was his decision to take the sack rather than force a pass. I don’t really remember seeing him getting smashed. I saw tons of drag-down-sacks because the pocket collapsed after 6 seconds. He’s 6’7, he can take it.
    all he needs to do is put some more zip on that ball and he’ll be fine.

    • aub32

      The other half was luck :)

      • myeaglescantwin

        ha, i hearya,

        Do we believe that Nick and the WR’s practice the ol’
        “wobbly under-throw to the opposite side of the field, in double coverage, for a TD” play??

        • aub32

          Not without DeSean. We need someone fast enough to catch the rebound.

          • myeaglescantwin

            TIP DRILL !!

  • HowieGambleChipsAllDay

    Blows my mind that if Foles had gone 27-2 in say 1999, it’d have been earth shattering stuff. Nowdays, every swinging Richard throws for 4k yards and 30+tds, and the kid’s accolades are put back in the jar, as if that level of efficiency is commonplace. CAN NOT WAIT for September to see what Kelly has in store for the Antrelle Rolle’s of the league who think they’ve got it figured out.