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.
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.