I vividly recall studying Nick Foles in the process leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft.
While most tall quarterbacks tended to be light and lanky in college, he was rather wide and built proportionate; a hefty athlete at 243 pounds one might say. He primarily operated out of shotgun sets and had wicked arm strength — the kind that people tend to label as being “off-the-charts”.
But his footwork was something else, and by that I don’t mean impressive. Instead, it sometimes appeared that his body was being manipulated by Photoshop, with the upper-body still, and then the lower finally coming into the picture. His muscle memory above the waist was simply not on the same page as it was below. And despite his arm strength, he was quite streaky with his downfield accuracy, sometimes nailing the throw in between the receiver’s numbers, while other times appearing to only nail the dome of the peanut vendor in the upper deck.
Despite his fundamental flaws and inconsistencies, he had talent to work with, and if he went to the right coach he could potentially prove to be a real find in the mid rounds. A few months later, he went to the right coach when Andy Reid selected him in the third round, 88th overall.
In the first nine weeks of his rookie season, Foles fittingly sat on the sidelines, learning the game vicariously from starting signal-caller Michael Vick. But then Week 10 struck and Vick sustained a concussion, forcing Foles into action against the geographically distant rival Dallas Cowboys. During that game, Foles unexpectedly threw 32 passes, completing 22 of them at 6.8 yards a pop. He threw a touchdown and an interception, and showed off his physical tools while also proving he had to improve on the mental aspect of the game — all things expected of a rookie passer.
One of Foles’ shining moments came on a 44-yard lob to Jeremy Maclin in the middle of the field.
Standing in shotgun with “11″ personnel, he eyed the field and prepared to launch what would become a pass across the hashes of the middle of the field. The play-call was three-verticals and it appeared — admittedly, I’m unsure of this — to be a Cover-3 concept from the Cowboys’ defense.
Foles’ three deep receivers would all come from the short side of the field, with the furthest wide-out running a nine route to clear out the cornerback while the closest to the formation, tight end Brent Celek, ran a post pattern underneath the safety, hoping to draw the defender up. The key would be the second receiver in the slot, who ran in between the No. 1 receiver and tight end, and through the Cowboys’ zone defense.
Upon catching the ball, Foles faced pressure from his left where a blitz from the near defensive back was coming, so he rolled right. He continued to roll right, buying additional time and keeping his eyes down the field before finally stopping roughly two yards outside of the right hash. At this point, the Cowboys blew their coverage assignment and one of the two safeties (it appears to be the deep middle safety who was undisciplined with his eyes) was out of position. Consequently, Maclin was all alone about a yard inside of the far numbers. That’s is a difficult throw to make for quarterbacks. We’re looking at the launch point being outside of the far hash and the delivery being inside of the opposite hash.
And Foles nailed it with ease.
Per the norm, highlights come with lowlights and vice-versa. One of the lower lights of the night also came on a completion.
While watching Foles at Arizona, I duly noted his propensity for going through his reads quickly. It signaled that the game was, perhaps, sometimes too fast for him to process. Although that was a concern of mine when he come out, it’s something that he could very well improve upon, but not right now in his rookie season. He’s in the infant stages of his career as a passer, and it’s simply unreasonable to expect him to improve so quickly in this area. However, it is worth illustrating.
Flanker Drive was the concept of choice from the Eagles on this play, and Foles was going to be progressing from the shallow cross (slot) to the dig route (tight end) in the middle of the field before finally finding his outlet (running back) in the flats, if deemed necessary.
The outlet wasn’t necessary after Foles scanned the field and he abruptly determined that the dig wasn’t either despite it being open for a first down, so he threw the ball to his shallow cross — his first read. He was locked in on his first read throughout the play and appeared to be going to him regardless of other openings.
Again, this is something the Eagles will work on with Foles. The game has to slow down for him mentally if he wants to be an upper echelon quarterback in the National Football League, and along with that, his footwork still needs to be cleaned up. On his fourth-quarter interception to Cowboys’ cornerback Brandon Carr, the ball placement was outside on an inside-breaking pattern — a quarterbacking sin — because of his lack of proper weight transfer.
Luckily, these flaws can be corrected. And if they are, other areas of Foles’ game will improve, like his ball placement. But for now, it’s safe to say Foles has talent worth developing, and he’s got the right coach to do it — Andy Reid.