There were legitimate questions about Foles’ ability to throw the deep ball during his six-game run as the Eagles’ starting quarterback last season. Foles was much more accurate in the short and intermediate passing game and, on the occasions he did go for the home run, he seemed to have warning track power.
He under threw a wide-open Jeremy Maclin in a loss to Cincinnati last December. Instead of a touchdown, the ball was intercepted. Often, Foles would have to put so much air under a deep route that the defensive backs had time to recover and get to the receiver.
In an Andy Reid offense that had come to rely heavily, on the quick strike to Maclin and DeSean Jackson, that was a red flag.
But that was 2012. Pre-Kelly.
“I've seen Nick throw the deep ball well since we've got here,” Kelly said Monday. “I think that's something he does a really nice job of. I think you have two quarterbacks that can launch it. … It’s something we do every day. We throw it (deep) first period every day.“
It is a topic that gets the otherwise level-headed Foles to bristle just a little, just as Michael Vick gets tired of hearing about how he holds the ball too long or Donovan McNabb didn’t like questions about whether he should run more or less often.
“I feel like I can throw the deep ball,” Foles said. But he seldom did, even during his preseason competition with Vick for the starting quarterback job. That led to increasing suspicion that Kelly was avoiding having Foles throw deep for a reason.
The explanation offered was that Foles was just taking what the defense allowed. If teams were going to play soft in order to prevent Jackson from getting behind them, then the smart throws were underneath.
Foles has completed 67.2 percent of his passes this season. The average distance on his throws, according to ESPN Stats and Information, is 7.1 yards. By comparison, Vick’s average throw travels 11.3 yards, the highest number in the NFL. Vick is completing 53.8 percent of his throws.
“The time will come when we launch one out there,” Foles said, more than once.
In Tampa Sunday, he did. In the third quarter, Foles threw a perfect deep ball, catching Riley Cooper in stride for a 47-yard touchdown. His 36-yard scoring pass to Jackson might have been a little under thrown, but that was better than leading Jackson too much and throwing it beyond the end line.
“Nick did a great job of putting the ball where it needed to be,” Kelly said. “A lot of [times], the deep ball really depends on how the receivers run the routes, too. It's something as a coach you're excited about because it's something we work on every single day. We are not running 60 yards down the field, but we are throwing the ball up with trajectory and the receivers are trying to make sure that they are catching it over the shoulder so they can body position the defensive back. It's a great throw by Nick and really good job by Riley in that situation.”