Season Predictions: What’s Next For Foles?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

As we count down to the start of the regular season, Tim and Sheil try to answer some of the big questions facing the Eagles. Yesterday, they discussed life without DeSean Jackson. Today, the topic is how Nick Foles will perform in his second season with Chip Kelly.

BIG QUESTION: What will Foles do for an encore?




Kapadia: The numbers have been recited among Eagles fans all offseason long: 27 and 2 - Foles' touchdown to interception ratio in 2013.

In the history of the NFL, two quarterbacks have thrown for 25+ touchdowns and five or fewer picks in a season: Foles and Tom Brady (36/4 in 2010). Foles' 9.12 YPA was tops in the league, and his 64 percent completion mark ranked eighth.

Foles was up and down during the preseason, but I thought he looked comfortable for most of the summer running the offense - especially considering he was often playing with backup wide receivers.

The skill that sets him apart is not his arm or his athleticism, but rather it appears to be his decision-making. I expect him to carry that skill over with him to the 2014 season and play well.

McManus: As great as Foles was last year, the coaching staff really wants the quarterback to focus on getting the ball out of his hands faster.

 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. He was sacked an average of 2 1/2 times in 10 starts. They're trying to get that number down, mostly in the name of trying to keep Foles healthy.

It will be about impossible for Foles to improve statistically but he's working on the nuances of the game that can lead to long-term success in this league. In that respect, he can actually take a step forward this year.

OVER/UNDER: 31 touchdowns

Kapadia: Football Outsiders projects him for 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Brent Cohen of Eagles Almanac suggests more of a 35/10 split. So we split the difference and set the over/under at 31.

I'll take the over, but I think the interceptions rise as well. Put me down for 32 and 13. Kelly believes he's put together a group of pass-catchers who can win 50/50 balls and make contested catches. If the Eagles continue to see a lot of man coverage, that will mean Foles throwing to covered receivers. They'll make their share of plays, but the turnovers will see a bump as well.

McManus: Over. He had 24 touchdowns in 10 starts last season. Project that over 16 games, and that's 38 touchdown tosses. Even if you factor in a slight dip in production and a missed start or two, he should still reach that mark.

On the other side, Bovada has placed the over/under on total Foles interceptions at 9 1/2. I will take the over there.

BOLD PREDICTION

Kapadia: Foles will become the first 4,000-yard passer in franchise history. That mark isn't what it used to be (nine QBs reached it last year), but no Eagle has ever done it.

In games that he started and finished last season, Foles averaged 276 yards per game. Extended over a 16-game season, that translates to 4,416 yards.

There's no guarantee that Foles will average that number again this year, and he'll have to stay healthy to have a shot. But I think Foles has a very good chance of getting to 4K.

McManus: For at least one week, the "Should the Eagles go with Mark Sanchez?" topic will dominate sports talk radio. Foles has shown both on the college level and in his short time in the NFL that he can get into a bad funk on occasion. He has also gotten injured in each of his first two seasons in the league.

Sanchez could get some playing time this year. He was dynamite in the preseason (albeit largely against second-teamers), displaying a comfort level in this offense that few were expecting. If he shows the same kind of command in regular season action, it will create some buzz.

That buzz will be short-lived. The week-to-week overreaction is part of what makes the NFL season so fun. But Foles will show why the Eagles placed him in the captain's chair.

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  • Kelly’s Hero’s

    Kinne back on the Practice Squad

  • BleedGreenJames

    I don’t understand why him getting hurt in 2012 always come up, like it’s some kind of Vick/RG3-esque shot at him that he doesn’t take care of himself. The offensive line was in shambles and he had no playmakers to ease the pain either, everyone had mailed it in. Granted, the play where he suffered the concussion against Dallas last year was very moronic, I believe Foles is one of the toughest QBs in the league and very durable.

    This is by no means a shot at SK or TM, I know it has to be stated for the sake of being factual, but a lot of people use it as an attempt to say Nick is injury prone or something.

    • Adam

      He’s missed time due to to injury every season he’s been in the league. While he may not have the track record that a guy like Vick has, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on and I don’t think he’s earned the “very durable” title.

      • Dominik

        You’re right. Nick is tough, he played through injuries in his career. But Vick was tough, too. Being tough is great, but I’d take that (non existing) wimp that’s never injured all day. ;)

        • Andy Six Score and Four

          Maybe we can try to draft that guy in 2113.

          • OldDuckMcDoc

            If you’re going for the 1000 years thing, I think your math is a little out.

            Going to put that down to you being drunk with excitement about Kinne making the practise squad.

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            Thou shalt not edit thine embarrassing f-ups.

      • BleedGreenJames

        yeah, very durable was probably a bit much on second thought.

    • OverreacSean Jackson, #culture

      Very durable? Dude’s been in the league two years. Each year he’s gotten hurt. Those are facts. He’s gotta get through a season before we pronounce him “very durable.”

    • Kev_H

      If you watch his college highlights, he won’t be able to survive in the NFL playing like that and has to learn that “true valor lies between cowardice and rashness”– Cervantes

      I want my QB’ s heart rate to be low, for him to barely be sweating, and for his jersey to be clean. That’s the hallmark of great NFL quarterbacking in today’s game.

      • OregonDucker

        I think it was the Super Bowl game where Montana, while in the huddle, pointed to the Skyboxes – “Isn’t that John Candy up there, sure looks like him”, he told his teammates. That’s a cool, composed SOB in the huddle, puts everyone at ease. If memory serves, he then drove the team 90 yards or so down the field for the winning touchdown. (But I’m old so I may be off about the drive. too lazy to research too.)

      • MagatBrackendale

        Like the quote.

  • MediaMike

    65% complete. 4200 yards 36 tds 12 ints

    • Robert Baer

      INTs come late in the 3th quarter while running up the score before Mark “Nail in the Coffin” Sanchez finishes, relief pitcher style.

  • DirtyWaters

    Sports Stalk Radio. I don’t know if that was a typo but I think I like it.

  • Kev_H

    Two things that are often overlooked but are in Foles’ favor. First, why should the interceptions go up significantly? He finished his first NFL start with 3 interceptions. Since then he has thrown 4 over 504 passes. Additionally, according to the Wall Street Journal the other week, he led the league in fewest passes defended (or touched by defenders). The 2 interceptions in 317 attempts last year isn’t as much of an outlier as it seems to be.

    (***update edit: he has thrown 4 interceptions in his last 540 passes. He got intercepted in his first relief appearance and in his first two drives as a starter***)

    Secondly, while I’m sure he is working on avoiding sacks, the seconds per throw stat isn’t reliable on its own. Foles threw long passes downfield at a greater rate than any other QB last year. That accounts for much of that time. Also, his passer numbers are insane/out of this world when on the run outside of the pocket. Ultimately, you don’t want him taking hits, but he has had a lot of success and made big plays be keeping plays alive and waiting for things to develop. He seems particularly adept at moving to his right and hitting someone coming across the field. It’s tough to find weaknesses in his game last year as he was excellent in all sorts of situations with all kinds of throws. You don’t want your QB taking sacks, but you also don’t want him to give up early on potential big plays either.

    • Dan

      Agreed all around and great point on the passes defense.

      One thing worth pointing out is prediction vs. explanation. What he did in the past was crazy impressive. When predicting forward, history shows that in basically any field outliers move towards the mean, so here i would expect both picks and passes defensed to rise, but not massively.

      Also a good point on time to release. i don’t think he was as bad as the numbers (although worth noting wilson scrambles a lot too, as do all the guys at the bottom of that list), but you do have to overlay the eye test. there were certainly a bunch of times when i cringed a little while yelling “throw the damn ball!” at the tv. there is some room for improvement.

      • Kev_H

        Here’s a link to the WSJ “Nick Foles: Lucky or Good?” http://online.wsj.com/articles/nick-foles-lucky-or-good-1407797879.

        One would expect actual interceptions to fluctuate more than passes defensed. As you can see by the leaders and laggers, the leaders are the guys who are the best QBs and the best at taking care of the ball (Foles, Rodgers, Brady, P.Manning), the guys at the bottom are the opposite (Flacco, E. Manning, Kaepernick, Cassel). What’s interesting is that Kaepernick experienced the most luck in interception totals last year and will likely throw many more this year.

        Given those numbers and his performance in 2012- 2 interceptions in his last 225 attempts- it is hard to imagine him throwing more than 10 interceptions unless he throws over 600 passes.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          I think Sheil makes a good point in that more contested throws into traffic means more risk. Still I don’t think he hits double digits. But if he does it’ll be much closer to 10 than 20.

          • Kev_H

            I don’t really get that point. It is going to be the same offense designed to get people open and he’ll be looking for the open receiver just as much as always. Foles had a lot of success throwing guys open (see just about everything to Cooper) rather than throwing balls up for grabs. It’s part of why he has been close to interception proof over two seasons in two different systems. I don’t get why he’ll start throwing balls up for grabs or why the Eagles would want to move in that direction. Sometimes these guys analyze things into irrationality and I think this is one of those times. What’s to be gained from throwing more contested balls and why would they do it?

          • Dan

            I think his point (I totally disagree with it) is it will be more compressed without Jackson there to spread it deep. Now if we had just kept Momah, def would have solved this issue, am I right?

          • Kev_H

            Yeah, that makes no sense to me. From following All-22 analysis on this blog I see all of these pick plays and crossing routes (that Jackson didn’t seem to be much of a factor in) designed to get (big) guys open in space. Even the terminology is illogical and irrational. To wit- “Kelly believes he’s put together a group of pass catchers who can win 50/50 balls and make contested catches” (Kapadia).

            That sentence makes no sense at all in today’s NFL.
            1. 50/50 balls are a sucker’s bet in a league where the top QBs complete almost 70% of their passes.

            2. If you can regularly win 50/50 balls they aren’t 50/50 balls by any understanding of math.

            3. Contested throws are a bad thing. Every play is designed to get guys open and for the QB to find and hit the open receiver. Foles is really good at knowing where to go and making the right decisions and the way they call illegal contact and holding, contested throws = mistakes = would be interceptions in my mind. To say Foles will have more interceptions because he will throw more contested balls is like saying he’ll have more interceptions because he’ll throw more interceptions.

          • Kev_H

            Just for some examples- Foles first two TD passes last year vs. the Giants (a 2:50 and 3:33 on this highlight vid: http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000257396/Week-5-Eagles-vs-Giants-highlights). He’s throwing to guys who are covered in man coverage, but the only guy who can get either ball is wearing white. That’s what we should see against man coverage.

        • Dan

          agreed passes defensed is a way better stat – more samples means less variance of the average.

          But let’s suppose his “true” skill is 10 picks per 400 passes. We can estimate then that in any given year, he’ll throw between 3.75 and 16.25 picks (roughly – i went up and down 2 standard deviations).

          So agree his passes defensed won’t move around as much, and maybe they indicate his true skill is actually 6 picks per 400. but just by randomness those INTs are going to move a lot.

        • Jerry Pomroy

          One thing I’ll add to the main reason for those low passes defensed numbers was Foles ability last year to throw receivers open and also trust them to make the catch.

    • eagle12

      Great! Well said!

    • MagatBrackendale

      Foles is all that and more. However, he does seem to be a bit indecisive sometimes, which is most likely an aspect of still learning how to be a mature NFL quarterback.

  • eagle12

    4,312 yards 38tds, 7ints.. Eagles go 13-3

    • Dan

      Bold! who are the 3 losses?

      I think 4,400 – 35 – 12.

      I think the Eagles have an 80% shot in each division game, so call that 5-1.
      Colts, Panthers and Niners are 50%-50% while seahawks and packers are 65%-35% them. Titans, Cards and Rams are 75%-25% us and Texans and Jags are 85%-15% us.

      Add it up and I get 10.95 wins.

      • eagle12

        We go undefeated in the division. I don’t see anyone who can really beat us. The current state of our division combined with our masterful head coach leads me to believe that we don’t loose there. A loss to GB, ARZ, &SEA WILL BE NARROW. BUT ARE GOOD LOSSES CONSIDERING WE ARE LIKELY SEE THOSE TEAMS IN THE PLAYOFFS, IN WHICH ILL TAKE KELLY IN A REMATCH !!! The fact that our division is craps leads me to believe we get a bye week. Especially when you consider the divisions the other teams play in. In the South the Falcons, Bucs, and Panthers will give the Saints trouble. In the North Detroit, Chicago, and Green Bay are all good depending on how well there qb plays and the west is the Best. All we have to do is take care of these 2nd tier teams and we are in the Championship game. Keep in mind with sports science that we will probably be healthier than the team we play.

        • Dan

          More caps = more truth

          • eagle12

            Yeszir

      • Kev_H

        I think Panthers and Niners will be 6-10 teams this year. The Eagles should win those games, and I don’t think they should be on the wrong side of 65-35 against anybody. On the other hand, I’d put the Cardinals into the 50-50 column. They were a FG short of the playoffs and beat the Seahawks in Seattle in an important game for both teams in week 16. The Rams will be much tougher than that too.

        • Dan

          Yeah but they’ve lost all the talent on their defense. Dockett, Cambell, Washington, Mattheui coming off injury. very different team.

        • eagle12

          What was the importance for the Seahawks… Please refresh my memory

          • Kev_H

            Seahawks could clinch top seed with a win and had yet to clinch their division or a wild card berth.

          • eagle12

            Oh ok

      • cliff h-MOAR white goons

        seattle got hosed in scheduling. eagles have 10 days off, and it’s sandwiched b/t 2 SF games. plus, right now, 1pm kickoff. though i’ll about 100% guarantee that game is at least flexed to 4pm national game.
        .
        Panthers are not going to be good. WR are trash, OL is 4 new guy, secondary is in schambles and greg hardy is going to trila for DV. they have 5/11 or 6/10 written all over them.
        .
        i agree though, have Eags at 11-5, think Colts game will tell us alot. nice early test.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    On average, Foles will get rid of the ball quicker simply with DJax no longer in the mix. That’ll just be a natural byproduct of that change. Also, with receivers that can make contested catches and also RAC, these will also help that number fall. But I would have to agree with Sheil in that we’ll see the INTs rise with those contested throws.

    I’ve got Foles at…

    65% comp, 4100yds, 33TDs, 9INTs, 4 rushing TDs

    • eagle12

      Not bad

    • ia

      Red zone effectiveness will also be better then last year with DJax gone. Big guys beat up little guys in the endzone.

  • Coach mike

    Why not the eagles. I know the game and I trust my eyes. So tell me why this team is not as likely to play in SB as any team. I will respectfully discuss this with any true football guy. All teams have questions and we have as few as any other.

    • shady25

      I agree with you. Every team has flaws it’s just a matter of who covers them up better. I think with our defense everyone knows or flaw is 3rd down. I think we will be better in that area this year from finally having a dime package. We have the right personnel for every situation defensively now also. Let’s see the Saints try a QB sneak on us now. Let’s see KC try to complete 3rd and long on us now. I am more confident about situations like that this year than I was last year.

      • mtn_green

        Depth in secondary and ILB, are concerns, lack of pass rush too.
        Plenty if flaws, but good enough yes. All teams that win Super Bowl have some element of luck.

        • shady25

          Or depth had improved in the secondary by adding Carroll and we have Wolff as backup safety. So I feel better about this year than last year. Jenkins and Chung cancel each other out, but Carroll was a huge addition for depth. ILB? Well that’s another story…. Was hoping we would grab someone off the waiver wire. That position had now turned into as priority going into next season. Wet got lucky with OL depth improving, but we are screwed at ILB.

          • wee2424

            Jenkins and Chung cancel each other out? Ithink Jenkins is a definite upgrade.

          • shady25

            Yeah let me clear that up. I meant from a defensive addition standpoint. Lose one gain one. I didn’t think I had to state the obvious but yeah Jenkins is an upgrade.

          • wee2424

            Clearly what you meant to say is not what you said. So yes i had to state the obvious.

    • joeblow

      Dude have you seen the Patriots, Denver or Seattle play? I love my birds but they just are not at that level of play yet.

  • William Marchionni

    How about everyone leaving the kid alone and let him play. Last year wasn’t any fluke. This is the NFL not HS or College, he is a solid fundamentally sound QB. This year in my opnion will be better because it was his job to loose more less.

  • John J. King

    I don’t believe he can do what he did last year. Not because of ability but the stratospheric numbers that kind of performance would generate seem impossible. If he can stay healthy however, he will still be in the top 3 or 4 in QB ratings and we will have a 12+ win season.

  • TNA

    With the expanded playbook and on-going development of tougher throws, I expect Foles to stumble stats wise out of the gate with a few INTs. However, I think we’ll see consistently stellar play the second half of the season (although he faces some tough defenses right after the bye week). Gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette.