Years ago when I was getting some training from an NFL scout, he told me one simple phrase that stands above everything else – write what you see. Simple, but powerful words. So often we want to go off reputation or quick perception. We might check out stats. We see highlights. The scout’s message was to watch a player and write down what you factually see. Then go back and evaluate that information.
With that in mind, let’s talk about what we saw from Nick in the Dallas game. I’ll stay basic and focus on 4 main areas.
Composure – Nick Foles only had a couple of minutes to get ready. He was thrown into the game quickly and without a week of practice. You would not have known this from watching him in the huddle or at the line of scrimmage. He looked like a natural leader on the field. He read the defense and made pre-snap adjustments. The situation wasn’t too big for him. He was calm and cool. He stayed focused.
Physical – Nick certainly looks the part of an NFL QB. Koy Detmer always looked like he had no business being out there. Nick showed at least an average arm, if not better. He didn’t make any dynamic throws, but I don’t think anyone could come away from that game and think “he’s just doesn’t have what it takes to play in the NFL physically”. Nick once again showed better than expected mobility. He was able to move around in the pocket to buy time. He was able to run away from pressure for a second or two. He took big hits and wasn’t phased.
QB Skills – Nick has good mechanics. You’re always curious to see how players react to the speed of the game. Will that hurry up the delivery? Will it cause them to make physical mistakes? Nick wasn’t bothered by any of that stuff. He didn’t look rushed. On the TD to Maclin, he slid to the right, but didn’t run. He moved away from pressure and stayed under control. That allowed him to re-set his feet and get the pass off.
Nick was generally accurate. The TD throw wasn’t a great pass. He under-threw it and it should have been more to the middle of the field, but it was catchable. You sometimes see QBs panic when a player is wide open. Nick didn’t make a good throw, but it was good enough. The pass that hit Avant in the head was a very good throw. Jason just slipped as he came out of his break. There were some passes where Nick was off target. Maclin had to reach for a ball on the right side when Nick made an errant throw. The slant to DeSean was about a foot behind him and that led to the INT/TD. Nick can’t put the ball behind his receiver like that, but I do think timing was part of the problem there. Nick showed this summer that he could be very accurate. I think a week of practice and a full start will lead to better throws.
Nick showed good field vision. He spotted Maclin downfield on the TD. Nick threw the ball right and left. He threw to different players. He went to his right early, but got more balanced as the game moved along.
Nick anticipated routes well. The pass to Avant was thrown as Jason made his cut. That is good QB play. We haven’t had a QB anticipate routes in a while. Garcia? Too many QBs don’t trust plays/players and wait for guys to come open. By the time that happens, rushers can be in the backfield or cover guys can break on the receiver. You want the QB to get the ball out quickly and hit his targets as they come out of their break. Eagles WRs aren’t used to this so there will be some bumps in the road.
I thought Nick’s decision-making was up and down. At first, he was going to the right. A Dallas DB jumped the third pass that way and should have had a TD. Nick will learn you can’t go to one side that much in a row. He threw a pass to the right that was picked off by Anthony Spencer, but erased due to a penalty. The decision was poor, the throw made it look even worse. That was a rookie play. The play where Nick scrambled to the sideline and then threw a ball up in the air to the middle of the field…worked. But it was a bad decision. Maclin made the grab, but you don’t want the QB doing that unless it is a desperate situation that calls for a desperate throw. I won’t chart all the plays where he did the right thing. I’ve already mentioned several of them. Nick has mistakes to clean up, but he wasn’t making bonehead decisions left and right.
Intangibles – This is a lot more subjective, but I did think there were good signs here as well. After an early series, Foles was over on the sidelines talking to his OL. I think that is an excellent sign. A QB is only as good as the guys blocking for him and they did a solid job for him for much of the game. Nick wasn’t sacked until the 4th Qtr.
There were no wasted timeouts by the offense with Foles in the game. Think about that. We’ve had wasted timeouts for years. Vick had one early on (not necessarily his fault). Foles ran things smoothly and efficiently. He was prepared for the moment.
I thought Foles actually looked confident on the field. Felt like the players responded to that as well. He seemed like not only the QB, but the leader. That’s huge. A QB who the players don’t believe in is in big trouble. Felt to me that the players did believe in Nick.
We saw some good signs on Sunday. There were some things to be concerned about as well, but most of them felt like rookie issues rather than talent issues. We need to see him get coached up and play more to find out what is cleaned up and what remains a problem.
Nick looked the part of an NFL QB. He belonged on the field. There is something to work with. There is too much unknown at this point to make any definitive conclusions, but there is certainly reason for optimism.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep this game in context. Foles last played in a game on the Thursday before Labor Day. He’s been on the bench for the last 9 weeks. He hadn’t practiced with the starters in that time. He was thrown into action against DeMarcus Ware and a Top 10 defense and did some good things.
Eagles fans should be optimistic, but definitely cautious. A lot more tape is needed before we’ll know anything for sure.
* * * * *
Jimmy Bama and I talk about Nick Foles. And argue about DeSean Jackson’s quickness. And Jimmy breaks DeMarcus Ware’s i-pad.