Philadelphia Eagles: Dissecting Nick Foles' Performance vs. Dallas

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 12, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 11:  Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles calls out the play in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on November 11, 2012 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-23.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Eagles have some big decisions to make in the very near future, one of which involves who'll be their starting quarterback as another disappointing season winds down.

Michael Vick wasn't playing well before suffering a concussion in Week 10, but Vick still likely gives the Eagles their best chance to win right now. With Vick out for the entire second half and most of the second quarter Sunday against Dallas, rookie third-round pick Nick Foles threw his first regular-season passes as an NFL quarterback.

So was Foles' performance good enough for the Eagles to consider sacrificing a little right now in order to get him more work before time runs out on 2012? 

On paper, it was. Foles completed 69 percent of his passes, threw a 44-yard touchdown pass and was only intercepted once on 34 drop-backs. But let's look beyond that basic stat line to get a deeper read on the Arizona product. 

Foles' 44-yard touchdown completion to Jeremy Maclin wasn't as special as it sounded. It was a blown coverage from the Cowboys, leaving Maclin wide open in the end zone. Foles' throw was in the general vicinity, but it's a throw every single quarterback in the league is going to connect on 95 percent of the time. 

A look at how open Maclin was...

Aside from that, Foles only attempted one pass that traveled 20 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus. And that was a throw-away when rolling to get away from the pass rush.

When you break it down beyond the Maclin completion, Foles only averaged 5.6 yards per pass attempt, which would rank dead last in the NFL by a wide margin if he were eligible. The only eligible quarterback below 6.0 in that area is Blaine Gabbert (5.9). 

Of course, it's not completely fair to blame Foles for that. The Eagles, smartly, drew up a fairly safe game plan for him and we don't know what he would have done on that Maclin play had the coverage not been blown by the Dallas secondary. Plus, that number would have been boosted had Jason Avant not let Foles' first career pass hit him right in the helmet. 

But even with that touchdown, his average of 6.8 is quite weak, especially considering he completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. His yards-per-completion number of 10.0 would rank only ahead of Matt Hasselbeck and Christian Ponder, which is hard to believe considering that one of his 22 career completions was for 44 yards. 

So he wasn't tested a ton, but that only causes me to want to see more, especially considering that he held up well under pressure. When facing heat, PFF reports that Foles completed seven of nine passes and didn't turn the ball over. That's a small sample size, and it involves a lot of short passes, but it's still a completion percentage of 77.8. Vick's, for the sake of comparison, is 40.7.

An example of his brave pocket presence came on his first completion, when he managed to complete a pass to Clay Harbor despite being hit hard by DeMarcus Ware on the blind side. 

Later, he completed a big red-zone pass to Damaris Johnson, getting away from Ware and displaying a calm, cool presence in the pocket. Unfortunately, a penalty on King Dunlap erased that play. 

And I really liked the pocket presence he displayed on this fourth-quarter completion to Riley Cooper, which was also wiped out by a Dunlap penalty...

But neither of the sacks he allowed were really on him. In both cases, the rookie didn't stand much of a chance. And he deserves credit for buying a ton of time for himself in order to find Johnson on the 32-yard pickup that preceded Philly's final touchdown. 

It was also established by PFF last week that Vick spends more time in the pocket waiting to throw than every other quarterback in the league except Russell Wilson. But Sunday, Foles spent, on average, 34 one hundredths of a second less in the pocket than Vick has thus far. I'll reiterate one more time that the sample size is small, but that's encouraging nonetheless. 

There were a few glaring mistakes, namely his interception in the fourth quarter. The pick came off a deflection, but it was still Foles' fault. He threw it well behind DeSean Jackson, who nearly still made the play in spite of the bad pass. 

He has to do a better job leading receivers on slant routes because those passes were common from Foles on Sunday.

What made that so much more painful was that Foles had gotten away with a terrible decision only one possession earlier, when a Morris Claiborne penalty negated this throw right into Anthony Spencer's hands...

And he's very lucky this throw to Stanley Havili wasn't intercepted by Orlando Scandrick...

Scandrick probably should have had an interception on this attempt for Maclin in the fourth, but he couldn't hang on there, either. 

And I know this somehow resulted in a completion and that he was trying to make something out of nothing, but this is not the ideal position to deliver the football from...

But the good did slightly outweigh the bad and it was enough of a teaser performance that everyone in Philadelphia should want to see more. A report today from Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole suggests they'll get what they want, but nothing's been confirmed. 

Here's hoping Andy Reid does what's best for the future of this franchise, even if it might conflict with what's best for the future of Andy Reid. Or that, in the latter scenario, Reid finally gets overruled by a superior.