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.
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.
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