PHILADELPHIA – Nick Foles can move. The perception that the Philadelphia Eagles’ backup quarterback is as immobile as the Rocky statue probably stems from two understandable factors.
One, Foles just doesn’t look like a great athlete. He’s 6-foot-6 with a solid build. He’s neither lean and rangy nor big-shouldered and muscular.
Two, Foles is generally being contrasted with a guy named Michael Vick, who may be the fastest man ever to play quarterback in the NFL. Not many guys are going to compare favorably to Vick when it comes to athleticism.
But Foles can move. For proof, let’s look at perhaps the single best play he made against the New York Giants Sunday after coming into the game in relief of the injured Vick.
It was right after Mychal Kendricks' interception gave the Eagles the ball at the Giants’25-yard line. Foles lined up under center, which is unusual enough in Chip Kelly’s offense to take notice.
Foles took the snap, faked a handoff to LeSean McCoy. The play fake froze Giants safety Ryan Mundy for just a beat, long enough for tight end Brent Celek (who lined up on the left) to cut across and get a slight head start on his route. Mundy turned and ran with Celek.
Meanwhile, Foles carried out the bootleg, looping back to his left, turning and setting up. He threw a perfect ball without hesitation. But for all the talk about Vick holding the ball too long and Foles’ quicker release, it took 3.9 seconds from snap to release on that play.
“It depends on what you're calling,” Kelly said. “I've said that all along. I don't think you can put a clock on a quarterback the entire game and say it's out, it's not out. If you're calling a seven step drop with max protection and trying to throw a post route 35 yards down the field, it's not going to come out as quick as a quick slant.”
Celek caught the pass near the back of the end zone, more than 40 yards from where Foles released it.
Foles’ second touchdown pass was an entirely different matter. Lined up at the 5, with DeSean Jackson to his right, Foles took a shotgun snap and flipped another perfect pass. The ball was out in 1.25 seconds. In this case, Jackson’s stop-and-start fake on the route made the play.
Right before that, Foles ran a read-option play that led to him keeping the ball. The defensive end stayed with McCoy, making the quarterback run the right read. But linebacker Jon Beason was hiding behind the end and stayed with Foles. Vick might have a shot at beating Beason to the corner. Foles doesn’t, but he still picked up 3 yards to help set up the touchdown.
Finally, I looked back on Foles' first drive after replacing Vick. He took over on second-and-10 at the Eagles' 6-yard line with 1:25 left in the half. It was a strange drive. Foles kept throwing checkdowns and little screens. By the time the Eagles got to midfield, the clock was down to 25 seconds.
An offside penalty on Jason Pierre-Paul gave the Eagles a first down at the New York 39. Foles threw the ball away on first down, so there were just 9 seconds left on second-and-10 at the 39. Not much time. But Foles found Jackson sprinting toward the right sideline and fired the ball (2.30 on release). Jackson made a terrific adjustment, turning his body, catching the pass and getting out of bounds with :04 left. The Eagles kicked a field goal there.
So Foles was able to squeeze three points out of a situation -- backed up, starting quarterback hurt -- that could easily have led the Eagles running out the clock and getting to the locker room to regroup. In a small way, that shows that expectations for the offense remain high when Foles is in for Vick.