Breaking Down Nick Foles' First Career Start for Philadelphia Eagles

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles drops back to pass against the Washington Redskins during the second half at FedEx Field on November 18, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

In a team sport with 22 men on the field at all times, nothing's black and white when assessing an individual's performance. The Philadelphia Eagles' offensive line is a depleted mess, so that has to be taken into consideration as we evaluate what rookie third-round pick Nick Foles was able to do in his first career start. 

It should also be noted that Peyton Manning threw three interceptions in his first start. John Elway completed just one of eight passes in his, while Joe Montana was 5-for-12. The point is that it's not fair to draw long-term conclusions based on what goes down in these games. 

But we'll still pick apart the performance Foles delivered in Washington Sunday with a critical eye. Because that's what we do. 


Nothing to Report on Big Throws

In relief of Michael Vick last week, Foles was babied. He threw only two passes that traveled 20-plus yards, and one was a touchdown on a blown coverage while the other was a throwaway to avoid a sack. And it was a similar story Sunday, with Foles throwing only three incomplete passes (one of which was intercepted) on 20-plus-yard throws (according to Pro Football Focus).  

As a result, his yards-per-attempt number dropped from 6.8 to 4.4, which is almost ridiculous. There isn't a quarterback in the league who's under 5.9 in that category. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have become non-factors as a result. 

That, and the facts that Brent Celek has been unreliable and the Eagles had five dropped passes against the Redskins, make it more difficult to get a good read on Foles. 

His first interception was a team effort, but the second one was all on Foles. The Redskins got pressure up the middle, but Foles had a chance to plant his feet and throw without any interruption. He just didn't make a good throw into a tight spot, sailing it to Brandon Meriweather...

His best pass of the day, though, came when he threaded a needle to Celek in the third quarter, gaining 22 yards. 

The jury's still out on his ability to make big throws, but there were indications Sunday that if he can get better support, he has the ability to make some high-velocity throws into tight spots. 


Cool Under Pressure

Excluding three throwaways and counting a drop as a catch, Foles would have completed 60 percent of his passes when facing pressure against the Redskins, according to PFF. That's a positive, especially considering he was 7-for-9 in the same situations in Week 10. 

Again, I know it's a small sample size, but Foles has actually been 36 percent more accurate than Vick was under pressure, according to PFF. He's been sacked more often, though, despite the fact he's faced less pressure overall and the fact he's been getting rid of the ball three-tenths of a second faster than Vick did before going down with a concussion. 

He did a great job climbing the pocket before firing a rocket to Riley Cooper here, picking up his longest in-the-air completion of the day. 

And another nice example came on another second-quarter series, where he again stepped up against pressure and hit Jackson with a perfect strike...

He did fumble twice when facing heat, but was lucky enough to have both recovered by teammates. Overall, I'm more confident in Foles' ability to deal with pressure than Vick's. 


Everything in between

Foles completed only 21 of 46 passes, but with five drops, four throwaways and two batted passes, he was going to be hard pressed to do much better than that. His numbers would have been a lot more respectable had his receivers not let him down and had he not faced so much pressure. 

Plus, his first interception came off a deflection that should have been a Brent Celek catch...

But he made some bad throws on easy intermediate routes, such as this one wide of an open Damaris Johnson in the first quarter...

Later, he panicked despite no pressure at all, throwing a pass out of bounds in Celek's direction and failing to recognize Jackson, who was apparently open or getting open in the end zone. It was a big miss on third down...

Apart from that, it was a lot of dinking and dunking. Sixteen of the 21 passes he completed were on pitches, screens, bubble screens and checkdowns at or around the line of scrimmage or into the flats. 

Overall, the performance was better than the numbers would indicate. The circumstances are tough right now, so the jury's far from out. Early indications still probably don't favor Foles becoming a stud quarterback in this league, but at least he's still capable of delivering some hope to Eagles fans who are ready for the post-Michael Vick era to begin.