Game Review: Foles’ First NFL Start
We’ll get to the All-22 breakdown later in the week, but here’s a look at how Nick Foles performed in his first NFL start.
It’s easy to look at the final numbers, see Foles dropped back to pass 51 times and kill Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg. But those numbers are skewed by the fact that the Eagles were trailing, 31-6, in the fourth quarter. On two fourth-quarter drives, Foles dropped back 20 times, and the Eagles only had three called runs.
The throws early on were high-percentage attempts. Seven of the first eight attempts were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage (not counting a throw-away). The Redskins came in with a struggling secondary, but the Eagles were unable to take advantage, as Foles averaged just 4.4 yards per attempt.
Here’s a look at the throws by distance. Short indicates 5 yards or less from the line of scrimmage. Middle is 6 to 15. Deep is 16 to 25. And Bomb is more than 25.
Overall, a lot of screens and checkdowns. On throws that traveled 6 yards or more from the line of scrimmage, Foles was just 7-for-21. He hit Damaris Johnson over the middle for 21 yards on 3rd-and-17 in the second. And Foles connected with Brent Celek for 22 yards on 3rd-and-5 in the third.
Overall, the numbers show 21-for-46, or 45.7 percent, which is terrible, especially considering that opponents were completing 63.8 percent of their attempts against the Redskins going in. While Foles certainly missed too many throws, his receivers didn’t help him. I counted five drops – two by Celek, two by Clay Harbor and one by Riley Cooper. Add in five balls that were thrown away, and his completion percentage wasn’t as bad as the numbers indicate.
On several throws, either timing or accuracy was an issue. He got rid of the ball quickly, but was off-target on a throw to Johnson (who was open) in the first. He misfired to Harbor in the second. Initially, I thought that Harbor tripped, but after watching the replay, it looked like he was just lunging for the ball. And Foles threw short of Jackson on a 12-yard out in the fourth.
The first interception was on Celek. Foles actually made a nice throw on the move. He had pressure in his face on the second interception, but made a bad throw. We’ll have to wait for the All-22 to see exactly what happened.
Fumbles were an issue. It’s foolish to only count them when the other team recovers since those are generally 50/50 balls. Foles fumbled three times. On one play, the Redskins brought a corner blitz with Josh Wilson, who came unblocked and sacked Foles, who lost the ball. Another occurred when LeSean McCoy was asked to block Ryan Kerrigan one-on-one. Kerrigan sacked Foles and forced a fumble. And the third one came when Foles panicked and threw low to McCoy behind the line of scrimmage.
Taking away the balls that were thrown away, here are Foles’ targets:
As you can see, 22 of Foles’ 41 attempts, or 54 percent, targeted running backs and tight ends.
The numbers to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were ugly: 2-for-9 for 5 yards. The two completions were screens to Jackson. Going forward, Reid and Mornhinweg need to give Foles more opportunities downfield.
Jim Haslett blitzed Foles a lot – 22 times out of 51 dropbacks by my count. Against extra pressure, he was 9-for-21 for 92 yards. Early on, Foles did a good job of changing the play at the line of scrimmage and hitting Cooper on a WR screen for 15 yards. But overall, the Eagles handled the blitz poorly.
On 3rd-and-4 in the red zone in the third, Foles took a delay of game instead of calling timeout. It looked like Reid tried to call timeout, but didn’t get it. Still, the quarterback has to show better awareness in that spot.
So overall, a messy performance. The Eagles averaged 3.6 yards per play. They turned it over three times (and that number could have been higher). Foles was sacked four times.
It certainly wasn’t all on the quarterback, and it was only one game, but the rookie didn’t provide many encouraging signs in this one – especially considering the caliber of opponent. The smart move would seem to be to let Foles get more experience so that you can make an informed decision at quarterback at the end of the season. But Reid says he’s leaning towards playing Michael Vick when he’s healthy.
We’ll see if that means Monday night against the Panthers or down the road.
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