The Philadelphia Eagles surprised many ardent NFL draft followers when they selected Arizona quarterback Nick Foles in the third round with the 88th overall pick of the 2012 NFL draft. To me, the pick was an unexpected one as well. I did not see the Eagles targeting a quarterback that early in the draft. Perhaps, head coach Andy Reid and the Eagles front office are smarter than many believe.
In the first two preseason games, everyone has seen the fragility of starting quarterback Michael Vick. Vick’s durability issues have now become legendary. In the Eagles first game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Michael left the game due to a thumb injury after only six offensive plays. Vick’s throwing arm follow through smashed on the helmet of Eagles center Jason Kelce. Eagles fans held their breath awaiting the x-ray results, which eventually came back negative.
During Monday night’s contest against the New England Patriots, Michael Vick went down yet again. This time, the midsection of Vick was the injured area. The injury occurred when Vick reversed rolled out of pressure. After he spun around, Vick released a deep ball down field. Upon his throw, Vick took a solid helmet shot in the stomach. Michael tried to get to a vertical base, but inevitably succumbed to the pain and took a knee. Once again, Vick left the game for impending x-rays. The ESPN announce team informed their viewers that the x-rays were negative.
With Vick’s shortened stints, Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles garnered more playing time. Foles took full advantage of the opportunity. Against the Steelers, Foles was slotted as the third string quarterback behind Mike Kafka. When Foles took the field, he rallied the team. In his limited action, Foles finished 6-10 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Foles posted a 143.8 quarterback rating.
Going into the Eagles prime time match-up with the Patriots, Foles was deemed the immediate backup to Michael Vick. Vick only lasted two series, so the rookie took over for the majority of the game. Foles looked poise and calm, leading the Eagles on two scoring drives. This time, Foles finished the game 18-28 for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Foles only blemish was a second half ending interception that lowered his quarterback rating to 96.9.
What impressed me about Foles was his pocket presence. Foles is a large man, listed at 6’6 243 pounds which allows his field vision to be terrific. With that being said, their was one key moment in the game that made me a believer in Nick Foles. On a play that was flagged against the Patriots for roughing the passer, Foles took a brutal shot. The big man was smashed, sending him hard to the turf. Foles bounced up, shaken up a bit. On the next play, Foles gathered himself for a first down completion. Upon watching the replay of the impactful hit on Foles, I could not stop pondering how Michael Vick would have taken a similar shot. I personally do not think Vick would have recovered from the blow like Foles did.
Foles finished his collegiate career 15-18 as a starter at Arizona. That is not particularly impressive, however, Foles put up big time numbers in his final season. Foles threw for 4334 yards with 28 touchdowns and an impressive completion percentage of 69.1 in just twelve games. Some scouts were concerned about Foles lack of foot speed and long release. The Eagles obviously were not.
It is early to effectively evaluate Nick Foles as a potential NFL starting quarterback. It is not too early to discern how valuable Foles is as a backup to a team with a starting quarterback that has a history of injury vulnerability. It is important to the coaching staff, team and fans, that if Michael Vick does get injured, the season is not lost. Foles looks like he can provide hope that the Eagles could still win games and make the playoffs. That is something that Mike Kafka and third/fourth string Trent Edwards do not provide. It looks like with Foles, the 2012 season will not be in question.