Eagles Mailbag: What If Foles Struggles?

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

With T-Mac off this week, I’m subbing in with the Eagles mailbag. Let’s get right to it.

Jack added in a third Tweet making it clear that this would be his nightmare scenario, but it's a good question and one we really haven't explored.

We know that Nick Foles has challenges ahead. Howie Roseman has compared young pitchers to young quarterbacks on several occasions. Pitchers may have an easy time their first go-around through the lineup; maybe even their second. But the third time veteran hitters get up, they have a handle on what's coming, and reality sets in.

Foles started six games as a rookie, but the 2013 version might as well have been a different person from the 2012 version. Last year he was playing for a new coach in a new scheme, and maybe most importantly, he had a healthy offensive line to protect him. The results were far better than anyone could have expected, and the stats were some of the best the league has ever seen.

But let's say Foles experiences a massive dropoff in 2014. Defensive coordinators figure him out, he turns the ball over, takes too many sacks and fails to build on the progress of last year. What do the Eagles do? To me, the answer is pretty simple. Foles is still under contract through 2015. In this scenario, the Eagles don't renegotiate and extend him. Instead, they let him compete with a draft pick and/or a veteran for the starting job. In other words, it would be somewhat similar to the QB situation last offseason when the Eagles brought Michael Vick back.

The key point here is that the Eagles don't have to decide on Foles after this season. If he plays well and convinces them he can be the man going forward, both sides should be able to get a long-term deal done. If Chip Kelly and the organization have doubts, they can see how 2015 plays out and move forward from there.

For the record, I think Foles will play well in 2014. The one aspect of his game that gets overlooked when we discuss his arm strength and athleticism is his decision-making. Kelly puts a premium on that and believes the offense will work if the QB doesn't turn it over. To me, the most likely scenario is still that Foles plays well and gets rewarded at the end of the season.

Thanks for the question, Sean. Every year around this time, writers try to be bold and predict surprise cuts and surprise starters. And while things can change, the truth is a lot has already been decided.

But I know McManus would be upset if I dodged the question, so I'll go ahead and answer it. Let's start with the defense and one of the most impressive players during the spring: Nolan Carroll II. I think he has a legitimate chance to earn a starting job - potentially in place of Bradley Fletcher. Caroll has started 22 games the past two seasons and was brought to Philadelphia for a reason. If he turns in a strong training camp and preseason, he could unseat Fletcher.

It's difficult to come up with a second one, but I'll go with Zach Ertz. I know that won't "shock" anybody, but the TE situation is a fascinating one to monitor. We won't know until the season starts how much the offense misses DeSean Jackson. But if teams continue to play man coverage against the Eagles, and guys don't get open, Kelly will have to feature Ertz more. He's a superior option to Brent Celek in the passing game at this point.

If I'm putting money down, I still say Celek starts and plays more snaps - primarily because he's a much better run blocker. But the TE situation is one to keep an eye on.

Paul: During the draft process we heard a lot about the Birds' two-gap 3-4 and the difficulty in finding players who fit. We also hear that they play a hybrid and sometimes switch to a 4-3. Last year we learned about the 4-3 under. What are the Birds actually doing on D? Are they still in transition?

This was an e-mail, not a Tweet, but we'll go with it anyway.

Last year there was a lot of guesswork involved with what the Eagles were going to run. You are right, Paul, in that they said all along they were moving towards a two-gap 3-4, but would only get there if the personnel fit.

At some point, they decided that the value of gaining experience in the scheme they ultimately wanted to run outweighed potential obstacles in Year 1. That's why the defense struggled so much early on, but improved throughout the season.

I'm actually writing in-depth about the defense for this year's Eagles Almanac. But yes, they do in fact run a two-gap 3-4 base defense. In nickel situations, that usually shifted to a 4-2-5. Sometimes the Eagles would play with four down linemen in nickel; other times they would go with three and try to disguise where the additional pressure was coming from.

The focus of the defense is to stop the run and limit big plays downfield. They played a lot of Cover 3 on early downs and tried to clamp down with man coverage on third down.

Of course, there's still plenty of room for improvement. The team was 24th in the league in third-down defense a year ago, and the pass-rush needs to get better. There's no reason this can't be a top-10 unit against the run, and once again, expect them to lean heavily on creating turnovers.

Whether there is enough talent is a fair question. The defense could potentially feature just one new starter (Malcolm Jenkins). The buzz word around NovaCare when it comes to the 'D' is continuity. And to a degree, that's fair considering the massive scheme change this unit underwent last season. But there's a chance we'll be wondering a couple months from now why they didn't make more moves to upgrade the personnel.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Rambler

    I personally think that the most likely scenario for Foles this year is that he plays well. Maybe not as statistically well as last year, but definitely enough to warrant a new contract as a starter. I expect a better understanding of the offense, quicker decisions, more ball control type passes, and overall better efficiency. End result is a smoother offense with less stalled drives and hiccups. Brent at Eagles Rewind did a nice statistical analysis on Foles yesterday, and it fits well with my expectations for this year.

  • Token

    Why is there all this talk about Fletcher being the one replaced? Was I the only one who clearly saw he is better then Cary Williams? I know everyone loves Cary because of the false bravado, I get it people eat that stuff up. But isnt this supposed to be about letting the better players play regardless of if Howie gave Cary a horrendous contract?

    • Tom w

      Agreed completely. I could be wrong, but cwills cap hit probably prevents him from being cut, but benched in favor of Carroll isn’t outta the question.

    • Rambler

      I am not sure that it was clear to me, but I do agree that it could end up being a 3-way competition with Carroll. I think the things that are working against Fletcher though are his durability issues and Cary’s bigger contract. I think I trust the coaches enough to put the best 2 corners on the filed.

    • aub32

      You actually beat me to this question. I thought Fletch was definitely the better of the two when healthy. I get CW is making much more money, but that didn’t stop us from keeping Vick on the bench and letting Foles continue to start. My dream scenario would be Caroll beating out CW with Watkins getting the snaps that were unjustifiably given to Roc. CW can be the primary backup in case Fletch misses time again.

      • Eagles1018…Please no more du

        I don’t foresee Cary being cool with that how Vick was. I do feel like for the money and the Super Bowl win and being “the best” CB in Baltimore that we definitely didn’t get the same guy in Philly. This is be fine with him being a back up in his final year with us

        • Breathe 21

          To be fair, the best CB in Baltimore was Ladarius Webb. He was injured and Jimmy Smith was still better than CW. Smith was the one covering Crabtree in the SB

    • fran35

      Really glad that you brought this up. I have brought it up before and people have crucified me. I thought that Fletcher was clearly the better CB last year. CW has highs and lows, but his highs are not really too frequent and they are nothing special. Fletcher was very reliable and actually was never a liability, whereas CW was frequently a liability.

    • ohitsdom

      I haven’t seen an in-depth analysis of the 2, but my gut reaction is the same: I thought Fletcher played better.

    • deafdoc

      I totally agree! I thought Fletcher were more dependable and consistent than C.W. I would like to see Carrol beat out William and Watkins get some playing time in rotation.

    • Philly0312

      Token, completely agree. I am not getting it. Especially given Williams contract balloons way past his value next season.

      • Wiztopher

        I’m really impressed with how the birds are retooling at CB. Brought in Carroll which was a great value pick-up in FA then draft Watkins, yet another great value pick. They clearly had a great plan and are sticking to it. Too often franchises digress from their plans bc they give way to too many outside pressures

    • RIP illa

      So to answer your question, and hopefully for a final time, Yes you are correct that Fletch was better than Williams. As far as clearly, if you mean that the difference is so obvious, I don’t really agree too much with that. They both have pro’s and con’s that keep one or the other from being way better or way worse than the other. Yet, again, I do think Fletch has better cover skills, thus making him the better cover corner.

      http://profootballspot.com/_/nfl/nfc-east/philadelphia-eagles/evaluating-the-eagles-part-9-cornerbacks-r2168

      EDIT: Couldn’t find the stats/source, that I had earlier this year/after the season, but this should lay it out, and keep everyone from further asking who’s better and/or acting like one is so much greater than the other.

      • Token

        im not gonna sit and say Fletcher is the best corner in football. Hes far from that. But hes better then Cary without a doubt in my mind. His issue is staying healthy. But he has cover skills. Almost no ball skills though.

        Cary is gone after this year. I dont see the point in playing him regardless of his paycheck. If Carrol is even with him in camp/preseason he should start. Cary isnt part of the future of this team. Carroll could be. Fletch could be,.

        Cary Williams is Asomugha without the elite track record before coming to Philly. Cary has been a bum his entire career. Howie panicked when Lewis got signed in NO and threw money at Cary. A really bad deal.

        The only reason some people can look past Carys play or atleast not bash him to the extent Aso got bashed is because Cary talks like a tough big shot and fans cant get enough of that stuff.

        • RIP illa

          Agreed with most of that except the 3rd paragraph. Either way, that’s why I was so excited when we drafted Watkins and I really liked the Carrol signing (hopefully he doesn’t let us down). In a perfect world, I would love for us to be able to move on from both Fletch and C-Will after next year, and sign and/or draft another DB(s). I don’t want or see neither of the two being the future, or long term options. However I do appreciate what both have brought in year one of bridging the gap, and hopefully year two as well.

        • http://www.idonthaveawebsite.com theedevilsadvocate

          cary williams is asomugha. ok sure id still rather have williams over nonD any day watching people run right by or catching over him over and over again. williams gives that cushion and makes the tackle nonD not so much but sure whatever you say.

      • edro

        Will we see our CB’s playing tighter off the line (ie … less cushion) with hopefully more competent safety play behind them … if so, who would be the better fit at CB, Fletch or CW? … assuming they play more physical press corner.

        • edro

          I think the argument is a little closer in favor of CW in that scenario

    • Nick

      I totally I agree I felt like every play CW just gave the receiver like 10 yards of cushion for an easy completion then he would come up and make the tackle and the offense seemed to be able to pick up 8-10 yards easy on him. Fletcher’s man coverage seemed pretty tight and he’s the guy you would rather have playing anyway since Cary might not even be on the team this time next year with that contract.

    • All Things Bad@ss

      Yup.

    • Breathe 21

      I wouldn’t call his contract horrendous. We needed CBs and picked up a serviceable one in CW. He can get cut next year without issue, which is enough time to fix the issues at CB.

  • Kevin

    Has anyone heard anything about Lane’s pending suspension by the NFL? We are over two weeks out now since a ‘source’ said he would be suspended, but the NFL has released nothing official as far as I can find. Based on the timetable T-Mac laid out, I would have expected to hear something officially by now (and yes, I probably just jinxed the whole thing) or at least before camp starts in the next 9 days.

    • Tom w

      Or maybe domos sources spoke to soon and they tested the second sample and came back negative. Entire thing is weird and could be a lesson to be patient when trying to break a story

      • Kevin

        I agree Tom. This is the first time I have seen a PED suspension ‘leaked’ before the official announcement. So the whole timing and reporting aspect seems off. Not to mention, my understanding from T-Mac’s piece is that the testing is done by a neutral third party and the NFL is not even notified until the test is positive and confirmed by a second sample if the player in question requests it.
        If the second sample is ‘clean’ and this is mis-reporting, it’s ashame for Lane as now he has a brand of PED user attached to him.

        • aub32

          I don’t think PED user gets as bad a rap in football as in other sports. Sherman was supposed to be suspended for PED usage, but now you never hear that brought up whenever he’s in the discussion for best CB in the league.

    • aub32

      My guess is that there’s no real time table. We’ve known about Josh Gordon since the draft, but still there’s been no official ruling by the NFL. Yet Mathis got suspended seemingly out of nowhere. So there’s no real way to know when we will hear the NFL weigh in on this situation.

  • OMGitsWes

    I know for sure that Foles will play all 16 season games (if healthy) because you know we can’t trust Sanchez or Barkley no matter how bad Foles does. This year is going to be a year where he is going to be tested and defenses are going to know this offense, but I still think this offense will thrive. Once Foles goes 30/10 td/int, people will realize that he is our franchise QB.

    • Kevin

      My boring prediction for Foles is 225 Yards, 2 TDs and 0.5 Ints per game in Chip Kelly’s system, which turns into 3600/32/8 over 16 games. Maybe a little optimistic, but I think Chip’s offensive mind and a second year in the system will trump any defensive adjustments. They are adjusting to Kelly 1.0 – We are playing with Kelly 2.0.

      • aub32

        My worry would be less about defensive adjustments and more about caliber of defenses. Last year’s schedule was very beneficial, even more so when you consider Foles didn’t have to play KC or get into a shootout with DEN or SD. This year Foles will be tested by going up against what should be better defenses than what he faced last year.

        • MagatBrackendale

          Tend to agree, with the caveat that some of last year’s tough defenses have lost a player or two.

        • http://www.idonthaveawebsite.com theedevilsadvocate

          how do we know this years opponents wont have difficulties to deal with of their own? i guess kelly and foles cant adjust? ADP all day peterson son…

    • http://www.idonthaveawebsite.com theedevilsadvocate

      FOLES smarts is what makes him a good qb and thats why i say he will keep proving all the people saying we dont know what we have wrong. i know what we have a tough, big, tall, smart young qb. hate on haters all i hear is i hope foles regress so later on in the year i can come back to birds 24/7 and say i told you so.

  • botto

    what’s going to be great is everyone is caught up with djax gone but avant did not much last year and his replacement is whats going to make this offense go off on people. having a speedy and tough slot guy like Jmatt and huff is going to change everything.
    i love avant but his replacement in the slot is where its all going to happen. im excited adn you should be too.

    • aub32

      I think expectations are tempered because his replacements are rookies. Rookie WRs don’t usually set the league on fire. Granted Kelly may be able to change that with his ability to get players into open space. However, to think JMatt is going to come into the league without growing pains is a bit unrealistic.

      • botto

        thats true, i agree, but i think Huff will surprise some people this year with even limited touches.

        • aub32

          I think that will be difficult this season. Remember. Kelly eased in Ertz, who in my opinion had a higher floor and ceiling than Huff. Huff will likely be behind Smith to start the season. Even if he beats out Smith, Maclin, Cooper, Celeck, Ertz, McCoy, Sproles, and Matthews are all likely to see the ball and the field before he does. I really don’t see him doing much this season. He will likely take over what Maehl did last season.

          • Sankers

            Part of Ertz’s “slow” start was due to him missing OTAs. I’m not saying that OTAs will allow the new rooks to come in right away and be starters but it should speed up their progression.

          • http://www.idonthaveawebsite.com theedevilsadvocate

            but huff played for kelly so he might not need as much of a learning curve.

      • A Roy

        Actually, I view his replacement as Maclin. And I look at Avant’s replacement being Sproles. Anything we get from Matthews is a big plus.

    • MagatBrackendale

      Yup. Quite often it’s small unnoticed (by us) actions on the inside that can change the course of a game. Remember reading a quote from Noll about how his team won a game largely because the opponent’s left guard kept moving his feet wrong and therefore letting the linemen and LBs blow past him.

  • JosephR2225

    For the love of God Foles… don’t struggle in 2014. If for no other reason than I can’t take another training camp of “Foles had 14 reps with the first team…. Other guy had only 12″ every day.

  • myeaglescantwin

    if Foles struggles, we fans should think.

    “well, he was a third rounder”
    “maybe chip isn’t all that creative”
    “i guess DeSean really was that big of a deal”.

    But if he doesn’t, we should be thinking PLAYOFFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • jpate

      If he struggles I don’t think I would consider the desean factor. To me it’s Foles wasn’t good enough. Not like we lost megatron.

      • aub32

        Losing a #1 WR hurts a QB. DJax is not Megatron, but he’s definitely a #1 WR. I think Kelly can scheme well enough to make up for the loss. However, talented players also help make other players and scheme look good as well.

        • jpate

          I understand that, all I’m saying is that if Foles struggles so bad that we are talking replacement. That’s on Foles not on loss of any WR. Franchise QBs should be able to overcome that.

    • paul from nc

      A lot of the people that love Foles, hate Jackson and are happy he is gone.
      If he struggles, it will be interesting to see how many blame it on losing DJax.

  • myeaglescantwin

    My buddy is working with Fletcher at Velocity Sports Performance.

    He tells me that when he asked Fletcher about Huff,, Fletcher immedietly shifted the conversation to how good Jordan Matthews was. “real deal baller” was the term he quoted to me.

    He’s telling me Fletcher is the nicest person he has met through his work. That the guy never gives up and often request extra sessions.
    Don’t forget, Fletcher was coming off an injury in 2013 and was our best outside cover corner.

    • MagatBrackendale

      We saw the “never give up” aspect of Fletcher in preseason last year. Always like that attitude in an athlete. Or anyone else for that matter. ;~)

    • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

      yeah, fletch was definitely better than CW. Not sure why the speculation is that NC2 would replace fletch and not just make CW a high priced back up until he’s cut next year.

    • dnabrice

      So does that mean Huff’s not going to do much or Matthews is just going to be amazing?

      The few times Fletcher did give up stuff, it seemed more like an issue with the Safeties.

      • myeaglescantwin

        Fletcher was the best outside CB we had.

        & for the young buck WR,
        it’s more the fact that Jordan Matthews is so damn impressive.
        I’m not fibbing making some joke.

        Fletcher says this kid is the real deal. He’s been in the league 5 years and seen young talent come and go.

        • dnabrice

          I really hope this is true. Would love to bring in another ProBowl talent at WR after letting DeSean go.

  • Eagles1018…Please no more du

    Unrelated but sorta relevant story to my B247 brethren. My wife and I just closed on a house in North Carolina! Took a while to find but here’s the funny part. When we looked at the place the seller had his man caved decked out with Skins gear. So at the closing I let him know I’m redecorating EVERYTHING in midnight green lol. He just shook his head and smiled hahaha

    • myeaglescantwin

      respects.

    • Amar, CB who bought in

      I can send you the Holy Ganga water from here(India), to purify the place before you redecorate.

      Congratulations on the house !

      • Eagles1018…Please no more du

        Do it!

    • Max Lightfoot

      I can relate. I live in NW New Mexico and it is definitely Cowboys clown country (with a smattering of Broncos fools thrown in). My car is bedecked with Eagles regalia. Keep the faith, man. Go Eags!

      • myeaglescantwin

        respects

        • Max Lightfoot

          Thanks, my Eagles fan bro.

          • myeaglescantwin

            Damn right.

            How about this. Last night i was listening to all the philly callers revel in how great the 2004 season was.

            pissed me off to no end. I all saw was wasted talent and F.O. arrogance. we should have at least two titles from that erra. The most dominant team in sports for a decade with squat to show for it.

            Andy’s first year was as expected. Then he came into his own with the west coast flow and a young Dmac. After the TO fiasco, they went right down hill.
            I’ll point that to ONE reason alone. In 2005 – 2012, the eagles team had to rely on the talent that Andy had drafted for the past 5 years. THERE WAS NOTHING IN THE CUPBOARD!! The combination of played out scheme and non-NFL caliber talent sank Andy’s ship.

            The bright spot here?
            Chip comes into the league. He carries a much lauded offensive scheme, just like Andy did. EXCEPT, him and Howie “steely eyed” Roseman are bringing in the right talent, the right type of players. BIG PEOPLE BEAT UP LITTLE PEOPLE.

            When Andy got here, the immediate need was offensive talent and planning. He only had to build one side of the team while applying his scheme.
            Much like chip. He keeps everything Andy did right with this offense, and now needs to handle everything Andy did wrong for the defense.

            Howie & Chip (Howie McChipperson) are bringing in the right pieces. The past two drafts are loaded with starting talent. This roster is going the right direction. There are no questions on offense currently, so these next few years, we get to build and plan replacement strategies.

            This regime could be setting us up rrrrrrrrreal good my man!!

            You coming to Franklin Field??

          • Max Lightfoot

            Wish I could – but I live in New Mexico – hahahahaha! But I’ve been an Eagles fan since 1967, which makes me a Birds fan for life – at long distance, too!

            Andy Reid was very good at organizing stuff, scripting plays and motivating players, but his game-time decision making and drafting were horrible. He really cratered this team by the time he left.

            But as you said, Chip, Howie and crew are on the beam. I had some serious doubts about Roseman, but the guy has really gotten better at his job. We are about one draft away from going deep, deep, deep in the playoffs. I like how all the players are buying into Kelly’s system. Go Eags!

    • 370HSSV 0773H

      Did the room smell like misery and fear?

      • Eagles1018…Please no more du

        Yes. With a sprinkling of desperation (Jaccpot).

    • aub32

      Welcome to NC

      • Eagles1018…Please no more du

        Been here since December but thanks. Are you in or near Charlotte? I found a couple decent Eagles bars around the city. I think there’s one in Uptown as well. Let’s get up bro

        • aub32

          I live in Charlotte. I usually go to hooters on South. There’s a couple of Eagles faithful who meet up there regularly.

          • Eagles1018…Please no more du

            Steamers is an Eagles owned bar I found near Bojangles Coliseum off 27. Reasonably priced and all Eagles fans. They even sing the fight song after every touchdown and do Shadys dance when he scores. About 75 Eagles fans. It’s pretty cool

    • NickS FFLC/GM/DPP/Scout/HC/OC

      Congrats on the new digs.

      • Eagles1018…Please no more du

        Thank you brethren

    • paul from nc

      What town are you moving to? I retired to Pinehurst 5 1/2 yrs ago and am loving every minute. Good luck on your move.

      • Eagles1018…Please no more du

        I’m in huntersville right outside charlotte

  • 370HSSV 0773H

    If Foles struggles then we Hinkie the season and get a high draft pick and take Mariota.

    • borntosuffer

      “Hinkie the season” – I think you may have created a phrase.

  • Rick H

    Sheil you will never give up your covert effort to get another QB in Philadelphia. I like you Sheil but how many other questions did you sort through before you found the Foles question?

    • paul from nc

      I think a lot of people have that question, and should.
      One season doesn’t make him irreplaceable. He had a spectacular year, but let’s see what happens this year before we get all excited.

  • Eagles Nation11

    welcome to Philadelphia Mariota

    • aub32

      Winston?

  • RIP illa

    Is it me or is Jack reminiscent of a young American Psycho Christian Bale???

  • TheNest

    All that are saying Fletcher is the better player is absolutely correct. It’s really quite obvious on tape.

  • WEUer

    For the ‘unexpected new starter’, I was hoping for something more drastic. Like maybe Travis Long replacing Trent Cole. (just a random example)

  • Explorer51

    Why is the question always “if Foles” struggles”? Why not “what happens if Foles improves”? Sure his stats last season were other-worldly but maybe, just maybe, he could become a better, more consistent QB this year? He’s smart, with a great work ethic and he’s 24 effin years old; is it impossible to anticipate success rather than failure?

    Yikes.

    • paul from nc

      Because, if he improves, there is no issue. You resign him and that’s it.
      If he struggles, then you can certainly ask, what do they do?. Resign, trade, take a QB in the draft, trade for one etc

  • paul from nc

    If Jenkins is the only new starter on D, we’ve still got a problem. I thought we were working to get “scheme fit” personnel. So how is only one change solving this?

  • paul from nc

    To answer Jack’s tweet: “If Foles struggles so much that he is part of the problem and not the solution, I can’t see them bad enough to pick a QB in the top 5″

    Does the name Mariota ring a bell? They don’t give Foles a new contract, and they’d have a rookie QB for another 4 yrs on the cheap. Sounds like something the Eagles would do..

  • ICDogg

    I don’t see Foles having that type of regression if he remains healthy. Statistical regression, of course, because his numbers were unsustainable.

    The Eagles run the ball more than any team in the NFL and will continue to do so unless the defenses keep more guys in the box. And if they keep more guys in the box, Foles will find receivers open. But, the thing that worries me is that he sometimes holds onto the ball too long, takes a hit he shouldn’t take. I don’t want to see him out with an injury caused by taking unnecessary hits.

  • Fetty007

    Regardless of what cornerback we all agree or disagree is better, if we cannot start putting pressure on the quarterback, we can only rely on the secondary so much. I am afraid that all of these cb’s and safety will get worked down and will get a bad wrap because the the opposing QB’s will have all the time in the world to find the open guy. Is Marcus Smith really our answer to QB pressure?

    • Fetty007

      Just remember the glory days of Jim Johnson (RIP), we lived on pass rush which left when JJ left.

      • dnabrice

        He made our team what it was. That was an unbelievable loss.