Eagles Wake-Up Call: QB Training Camp Preview

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Leading up to training camp on July 25, we’ll have a position-by-position preview of the Eagles’ roster. We started with the defensive line. Now it’s on to the quarterbacks.

The pressing question: What will Nick Foles do for an encore?




In the coming weeks, you're likely to see a lot of national pundits make bold statements like: There's no way Foles can repeat his performance from a year ago.

Of course, that's not exactly going out on a limb. The Eagles' signal-caller had 29 touchdowns, two interceptions and posted the third-highest QB rating in NFL history. In all likelihood, there will be some kind of statistical dropoff.

Jason Wood of FootballGuys.com put together a good piece that showed just how rare Foles' numbers were from last year. Even with some regression, he predicted a 4,065-yard season with 29 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. It might not seem like it given how Foles performed last season, but that would be fantastic production.

I wasn't an over-the-top Foles guy last year. I gave him credit for a spectacular 2013 campaign, but maintained that I wanted to see more before jumping on board with both feet. Having said that, I expect Foles to pretty much pick up where he left off. The numbers might not be as spectacular, and there could be some bumps in the road. But overall, he's proven to be a great decision-maker with a firm grasp of the offense.

We've pointed this out before, but according to Football Outsiders, even if all of Foles' "dropped" interceptions turned into picks, he still would have had the eighth-lowest INT rate in the league last year. In other words, that's not an area where he got especially lucky compared to his peers.

The summer focus should be on taking fewer sacks and getting on the same page with his receivers. It's Chip Kelly's job to find a way to manufacture plays downfield without DeSean Jackson. That might be Foles' biggest challenge, but still, expect big things out of No. 9 in 2014.

Roster battles

Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley will square off for the backup job. If the spring is any indication, Sanchez has the inside track.

Expect the spots behind Foles to be decided during the preseason. Kelly has spoken previously about the value in evaluating quarterbacks when they're going up against opposing defenses in a game environment.

G.J. Kinne is the fourth QB on the roster. Some observers, like ESPN's Adam Caplan, noted during the spring that there wasn't much of a difference between Kinne and Barkley at practice. So it's not totally out of the question that Kinne pushes for a roster spot.

One thing I think

Losing Foles for an extended period of time would doom the Eagles' season. Kelly constantly talks about how you need two quarterbacks to win in the NFL. Last year, they could have won some games with Michael Vick as the No. 2 guy. I don't think that's the case with Sanchez and Barkley.

The two most indispensable players on the roster are LeSean McCoy and Foles. Maybe I'll be proven wrong, but I don't think the Eagles can withstand an injury to either this season.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The first training camp preview piece focused on the defensive line.

All-22: The great Coach Flinn stopped by to explain an Eagles red zone concept: double posts and a variation.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly looks at which veterans could be surprising cuts:

That leaves Graham and Fletcher, both of whom who are in jeopardy of not making the team because of salary and competition. Graham is an expensive reserve at $1.2 million and the Eagles have Smith, Bryan Braman and Travis Long looking to make the team. If Fletcher loses his job to Carroll, he’s probably not going to be a backup making $3.275 million, especially if fourth-round pick Jaylen Watkins can do the job.

At this moment, Graham and Fletcher are the two veterans with the loosest grip on a roster spot. But, hey, stranger things have happened.

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz on Billy Davis:

There is reason to be optimistic about Davis and the defense. Players got better as the year went along and the overall defense had an impressive streak of holding 9 straight opponents to 21 points or less. Young players were taught well and you could see definitive growth in their performances. Davis is competent with X’s and O’s, maybe better. We do know he can teach and develop young talent.

The Eagles defense isn’t likely to ever post great numbers because of Kelly’s playing style and how many plays the defense has to face, but the group can still make plays and be a key to winning. Let’s see if the hot stretch from the end of 2013 carries over to 2014. If the defense can play like that, Davis might turn out to be a great hire by Kelly.

COMING UP

We will get you your football fix.

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  • DoctorRick

    10 days…

  • knighn

    10 days until training camp
    24 days until first preseason game
    54 days until first regular season game
    201 days until the Super Bowl

    • JosephR2225

      204 days until the Parade?

      • myeaglescantwin

        YYYYYYYYYYYEAH!!

      • knighn

        It is the time of the year for optimism. Why the hell not?!

        (cue the “realistic” party-poopers)

        • JosephR2225

          Those “reasonable” and “realistic” people never let me have any fun.

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            I think it’s important for us to be realistic and admit that we may lose in week 17 when we rest all of our starters after the 15-0 start to the season, before going on to sweep the playoffs in a trio of one sided beatdowns. Get your d@mn head out of the clouds and admit it.

      • Broadcasting Wisdom

        If they win the Super Bowl, they better not make the city wait until Wednesday for the parade.

    • Eagles1018…Please no more du

      See you at the super bowl I hope….

  • knighn

    As a side note. Again: what a difference a year makes.
    These articles about QBs in 2013 started all-out blog wars.

    • Dominik

      Definitely something I do not miss.

    • anon

      Still do if you say something bad about Foles.

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        That’s right. So don’t do it. :)

      • knighn

        It’s not the time or place.
        There may come a time here at http://www.phillymag.com/birds247 to legitimately criticize Foles. It isn’t now. Now is the time to look forward with hope.
        As for the place: it’s a website that is probably run by Dutch, #7 or the poster formerly known as “A Big Butt And a Smile”.

    • Broadcasting Wisdom

      That’s because of the majority of posters were clueless Vick supporters!

      • knighn

        To be fair: it was fairly balanced between people wanting to see Foles get a shot and people who didn’t realize that Vick was the bad combination of injury-prone, turnover-prone, and aging… way too quickly.

  • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

    I don’t think anyone can expect Foles to produce the numbers he put up last year. Those are once in a career kind of numbers. I do believe he will entrench himself as an upper echelon QB in this league however. I see a realistic stat line of 3,850 yds, 31 TD’s and 9 picks.

    Truthfully I’m very excited about the defense. I don’t see a top 10 unit, but a middle of the pack unit that’s opportunistic. The way defenses are rated handicaps the birds a bit, but if they can get turnovers like last year and improve on the third down defense then the Eagles will be a tough scratch on anyone’s schedule.

    Can’t wait!!! Fly EAGLES Fly!

  • Andy Six Score and Four

    We’ve pointed this out before, but according to Football Outsiders, even if all of Foles’ “dropped” interceptions turned into picks, he still would have had the eighth-lowest INT rate in the league last year.

    Of course, that’s only if you don’t count other quarterbacks’ “dropped” interceptions against their interception rate.

    I also think 29 is a pretty darn conservative estimate for Nick’s touchdown passes. Not insultingly low, but low. As much as we’re a running offense, I think Nick is just so good in the red zone that his touchdown numbers will stay high.

    • PhillySean

      That, and the fact that out red zone is bigger :)

    • Jason

      Nope, 25 is the number. Cause I have Foles and my brother in law has Shady in our keeper league. That means Shady will have 35 rushing TDs

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        I think I could live with Foles throwing for 25 if it meant Shady rushing for 35. That’d be like a record or something.

  • Kev_H

    I don’t think Foles missing time would doom the season. They can compete and win games with Mark Sanchez at QB. I’m not sure how a guy who has won games at QB in the NFL all of a sudden becomes trash upon joining the Eagles. I expect he’d be even better with experience and in Kelly’s system.

    Just for perspective, take a look at Sanchez’ playoff resume: 4 wins, 2 losses, completed 60% of his passes with 9 TD and 3 INT with a 94.3 passer rating, against the Colts (x2), Steelers, Patriots, Chargers, and Bengals. He played fine in the conference championship games: 37-63 for 490 yards, 4 TDs and 1 INT, with two touchdown passes each game.

    It certainly wouldn’t be smooth and the games would probably be uglier, but if the Eagles can’t win more than they lose with a healthy Mark Sanchez at QB, then they hired the wrong coach.

    Same thing about McCoy. Kelly could surely succeed with the back up running backs they have or, again, he isn’t NFL caliber. Now if they lost Peters or a couple of other offensive linemen, then they’d be in trouble.

    • Andy Six Score and Four

      I believe the reasoning is that he’s regressed since then. And I think that’s true. He’s gotten worse over the years. The hope is that the blame falls largely on Ryan and the mess that is their offensive side of the ball, and that our staff can undo the damage and get him playing well again should he be called upon.

      • anon

        When you have a good QB you try to put more on his shoulders — move from run first to west coast. That’s what ruined him-he was never that good.

        That’s why you see teams w/ crappy QBs talking about being run heavy offenses. I’d be interested to see what Buffalo is like next year, probably have the best RB class in the league.

        • Andy Six Score and Four

          That’s as likely a scenario as any. But you can’t deny that the Ryan family is like bad voodoo for quarterbacks and offense in general.

          That’s why you see teams w/ crappy QBs talking about being run heavy offenses.

          Like San Fran and Seattle? :)

        • Kev_H

          But he’s good enough to win games with if the approach is right. The team shouldn’t be doomed if he is at QB. Obviously, if he was good enough to carry a team on his own, he wouldn’t be a back up.

          • anon

            Have you seen the Jets defense? You see what they did to NOLA, Pats, etc. last year. I don’t think MS is putting up 24 points on anyone. With the jets he could win putting up 10-14, they wont a lot of games on field goals, a luxury we don’t have.

            You’re point about having no weapons is valid. But there are no gamebreaking WRs on this team either.

          • Kev_H

            Again, made up stuff not borne out by facts. Early 2010, five game winning streak scoring 28, 31, 38, 29, 24 points. Sanchez throws for 9 TDs with 2 INTs. Four game winning streak in November of that year scoring 23, 26, 30, 26. Sanchez throws for 7 TDs and 4 INTs.

            2011 points scored in Jets wins: 27, 32, 24, 27, 27, 28, 34, 37.

            Only at the end of 2012, when Sanchez and the Jets were really struggling, was he part any low scoring wins (I didn’t look at his rookie year because it was his rookie year).

            Ultimately, the point is that the season should not be doomed if he is playing. He has won games and put up points in the NFL under far worse conditions than what he will experience here. Your comments just come across as uninformed. It’s as if the Eagles should have said “no way! I saw that butt fumble on TV” when they had the opportunity to sign Sanchez.

          • anon

            he did toss a lot of tds in 2011 (26), compared to 12, 17 and 13 in his other years in the league. Look I like MS more than MB, hopefully foles stays healthy.

        • Kev_H

          Your showing your hand as being uninformed. Since when is Tony Sparano (the Jets OC in 2012) a west coast guru? The burden put on his shoulders that ruined Sanchez’ 2012 season was trying to QB an offense with a crap offensive coordinator and no legitimate NFL receivers.

          • anon

            was referring more to Shotty under whom he attempted over 500 passes in 2010 and 2011, numbers that increased steadily during Shotty’s tenure. Even under a run first guy like Sparano sanchez managed 18 picks (and 8 fumbles) on only 400 throws – so even a run first offense doesn’t help him protect the ball (or make good decisions with it).

          • Kev_H

            But he was able to put up points and win games in the NFL in 2010, 2011, which is the only relevant point here. He showed career progression as a starter until 2012 under Sparano and he missed all of 2013. If you were bringing in the 2011 Mark Sanchez as a back up, that would be universally lauded as a coup. 2012 and an injury year is why he has his doubters.

          • anon

            2011 he still had 18 picks and 8 TOs. In 2009/2010, his completion percentage ranked 29th out of 31 qualified starters – worse than i thought. But he’s a backup — hopefully he’ll be a good one.

          • Kev_H

            That wasn’t a WCO. Schotty runs “Air Coryell”, which isn’t exactly a great fit for Sanchez’ ability. That’s why they brought in MM, because they felt WCO and its short passes were a better fit for Sanchez and their personnel. The vertical game is going to keep the completion percentage low and the turnovers high for a substandard QB. He’ll do much better in the See Coast offense.

          • OldDuckMcDoc

            Not true. I not only doubted, but was fully on board the “Mark Sanchez is a dreadful QB carried by a very good defence” train long before 2012. He’s just not good enough to be an average starter in the NFL IMO. He makes bad decisions, isn’t accurate and struggles to consistently remember which colour of jerseys he’s meant to be aiming for.

            As a backup? Geez, I dunno. You go through the list of backups they’re mostly either not very good or unproven. If he has to play any extended time we’re screwed, but I guess he’d be more able to get us through a game or two than somebody with zero NFL starts. The flip side is an inexperienced guy has more potential to grow into the role and win you games if he needs to start for a longer period of time.

      • Kev_H

        Uh. He had a rough year on a disorganized team in 2012 and missed the entire 2013 year to injury…He is the back up. But to the point, are you saying you don’t think the Eagles could win more than they’d lose and compete for a playoff spot in the NFC East with Sanchez at the helm?

        • Andy Six Score and Four

          Nope, didn’t say that at all. Just trying to illuminate both points of view. I’m not making any projections until I see him play in this offense.

          • anon

            I’m saying that. Who do you think Sanchez can beat considering we don’t have a top 5-10 defense? I don’t think Sanchez is materially better than MB.

          • Kev_H

            I think the Eagles would win more than they would lose with Matt Barkley too. I don’t see a lot of unstoppable, juggernaut offenses among Houston, Jax, Tennessee, St. Louis, NY Giants, and Washington, which accounts for half the season. Among the supposedly tougher teams the Eagles play- Carolina, Seattle, and the 49ers, were bottom half of the league in terms of yards gained last year too. The Eagles’ defense should be able to hold its own in those 11 games based on last year’s results and they did fine against Arizona (ranked 12th in yards) and Dallas last year.

            So maybe the Eagles wouldn’t have the offensive firepower against Dallas, Green Bay and Indianapolis to compete with Sanchez at QB, but why wouldn’t they be able to win most of the games? Are Chad Henne, Jake Locker, and Ryan Fitzpatrick clearly better than Sanchez?

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            Let’s say Sanchez had to play all 16 (I just got nauseous), I still think we could pull off 4-2 in the division, sweep Jax, Tenn, and Houston, and pull off an upset somewhere else to go .500.

            Gotta remember to account for Kelly’s schemes, Shady’s effect and hopefully some legitimate NFL coaching for the first time in his career. I believe you put a lot of stock in to Jaws saying Foles was throwing to wide open receivers a lot. Even Sanchez can hit those guys pretty often.

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            Wait, didn’t you just say you weren’t making any projections? Liar.

        • Kev_H

          Also, during that rough year, the Jets weren’t exactly stocked with receiving weapons: Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens, and Jeff Cumberland were the receiving “threats” and there were no pass catching threats coming out of the backfield.

          The previous year he had LaDanian Tomlinson catching passes out of the backfield and Dustin Keller, Santonio Holmes, and Plaxico Burress. Not exactly great, but at least NFL caliber unlike 2012.

          If the Eagles had Kerley, Schilens, and Cumberland and no pass catching threat out of the backfield, their season would be doomed with or without Foles, Sanchez, or Johnny -freaking- Unitas.

  • OddBall

    If we lose Foles, it will not be pretty. If Sanchez and Barkley are the answer at backups, then someone in the FO asked the wrong question.

    • anon

      The question was probably how can we avoid another QB competition. I think it had to be this way, Foles couldn’t make it “HIS” team with a guy like Vick around — he was too respected / revered by the younger guys. Think that would have been true of any “vet” they bought in that wasn’t a Sanchez type.

      • Kev_H

        Teams aren’t set up to coddle individual players. Which QB who was available is better than Mark Sanchez? If I’m looking for a back up, beyond the basics, I want a guy who can hold down the fort in the case of a long injury and a guy who can step into a big moment without being mentally overwhelmed.

        As Kelly stated upon the signing, Sanchez has started a lot of games in the NFL and he didn’t keep his teams from winning most of them. He also has playoff experience and a far better conference championship passing resume than, say, Donovan McNabb. So both of those qualities are met. If the Eagles lose Foles in an important game, Sanchez has been there before and shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the moment.

        • anon

          You’re kidding right? You trust his ability to make good decisions? We’re not a ground and pound offense, package plays require accuracy and good decision making, i don’t think Sanchez has exhibited those in the past two years.

          I can see what Kelly was going for if your theory is that MB was “overwhelmed” by starting, but i think the reality is MB just isn’t good — I almost feel bad for him.

          • Kev_H

            It’s a shame you aren’t running things. You clearly have a better grasp on this situation than Kelly. What was he thinking?

          • anon

            I agree — you should let them know. The reality with good backups is that you have to draft them or pay them. We weren’t going to pay anyone last year so we got a guy on the cheap.

          • Kev_H

            So, who are the good back ups you’d rather have? Which ones were available and would have voluntarily came to a situation with what appears to be a well established starter (999 more years)?

    • Kleptolia

      If Denver loses Manning, they’ll be just fine.

  • Andy Six Score and Four

    How many teams have backup quarterbacks better than Mark Sanchez? Are we supposed to have a guy who would be one of the better starters in the league sitting on our bench?

    • anon

      We did last year.

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        Yeah, but then he become the starter and that wasn’t the case any more.

        burn

        • anon

          Vick is probably the best “backup” we could ask for. “Gotta have 2 – you’re only a chin strap away”

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            Oh I know. It was a joke.

        • OddBall

          Who exactly did get burned by that response?

    • OddBall

      Every team in our division.

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        Oh, so you’re just trolling then. Got it.

        • OddBall

          Nope. You asked. I answered.

          • http://www.corcommunity.com/ Kelce’s Beard

            incorrectly.

          • OddBall

            Let’s hope neither one of us has to be proved right.

      • 76mustang

        Giants – Ryan Nassib, Curtis Painter
        Skins – Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy
        Boys – Brandon Weeden, Caleb Hanie, Dustin Vaughan, maybe Kyle Orton

        Don’t see any of those backups winning a lot of games for their team.

        • anon

          as compared to our guys?

          • 76mustang

            As compared to GMaddox assertion that every other team in NFC East has better backup QBs.

        • Jason

          Kirk Cousins is better then the current starter in WA

          • 76mustang

            Then what happened to him last year?

            5 games, 52.3% completions, 4 TDs, 7 INTs, 3 Fumbles, 26.5 QBR, 58.4 Rating

            Pretty similar to Sanchez 2012 numbers

    • Broadcasting Wisdom

      Mark Sanchez would not be one of the better starters in the league. Did you mean to say one of the worst? I think he is probably the 50th best quarterback in the world, which means he’ll be a career backup from this point forward.

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        That’s my point. People seem to be very concerned that the guy sitting on our bench isn’t one of the better starters in the league.

        Without looking at a list, 50th best seems pretty fair, and right in the middle of the pack for backups.

  • 76mustang

    Best fan analysis I’ve read concerning Foles (thanks NJBammer at BGN!):

    I don’t care who the coach is, what the scheme, or how good or bad the teams, you cannot put up the kinds of numbers Foles did last year and still somehow suck. According to the NFL QB rating, his worst 4 games last season were: Dallas 10/20 (didn’t play the whole game), vs. Detroit 12/8 (blizard), @ Minn 12/15, and Wash 11/17.

    If he replicated his stats for those 4 worst games, he’d end up with a line of 276 for 500 (55%) , 3,940 Yards (7.88 YPA), 16 TDs and 8 INTs, with a rating of about 82. That would put him 9th in yards, 24th in TDs 1st in fewest INTs, and about 22 in rating (tied with RG3) for all of 2014. Other than Peyton Manning, I’m guessing that if you take most QBs 4 worst games, you would get something less than an average NFL QB.

    Just for fun, if you take Foles’ best 4 games over a full season, you get 4,640 yards, 76% completion percentage, 60 TD and 0 INTs, with a rating about 143. So that’s his ceiling, it would seem.

    • myeaglescantwin

      my nips just perked up.

      • CSpangler

        I’d give that reply a +100 if I could. Hilarious

  • Sconces

    “even if all of Foles’ “dropped” interceptions turned into picks, he still would have had the eighth-lowest INT rate in the league last year.”

    Is this comparing Foles to to other QBs’ INT rates, or are we counting dropped INTs for the other QBs too?

    • Andy Six Score and Four

      Pretty sure it’s not counting dropped INTs for other QBs too.

      • OldDuckMcDoc

        Is correct.

  • Max Lightfoot

    The national commentators (common ‘taters?) travel in packs and are masters of the obvious. Glad we have you and Tim, Sheil. You guys are the best!

  • Steve

    Sheil, you’ve referenced the 29/2 figures before, but other outlets show Foles threw for 27 TDs, not 29. I thought maybe you were accidentally including rushing TDs, but it looks like he ran for 3. Just wanted to call your attention to it. Thanks for all the great work you do for us!

    • http://thetaoofchipkelly.com EVERY BLADE OF GRASS

      Sheil added the 2 TD passes, 0 picks against New Orleans in the playoff game.