The Philadelphia Eagles are a tale of two (or three) quarterbacks this year. In games in which Michael Vick or rookie Matt Barkley received the majority of the snaps, the Eagles are 1-4. In games primarily played by Nick Foles, they are 6-1. Foles lost the starting quarterback competition to Vick in training camp this year, but he has begun to thrive under head coach Chip Kelly's new offense.
The athletic 6'6, 243-pound second-year player busted onto the scene this year in Week 9 against the Oakland Raiders, when he threw for 406 yards and an outrageous 7 touchdowns. The most incredible thing about that stat line is that he only threw the ball 28 times on the day for an average of 14.5 yards per attempt. While that must partially be the fault of the defense, it shows the trend of just how efficient Foles is in this run-first offense.
Foles' most talked about statistic is his 19-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Foles obviously doesn't hesitate to throw the deep ball, but a combination of luck and accuracy gives him a clean interception sheet. That does not mean his season has been perfect.
In Week 7's matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, Foles went 11 for 29 for only 89 yards. In that game, he went from being the most accurate downfield passer (58.3% completion rate) to going 0 for 8 on passes traveling more than 15 yards. The Cowboys also sent pressure and sacked him 3 times. Foles may have lost the starting job after being injured in the Cowboys game, but his replacement, Barkley, was even worse and threw 3 interceptions.
Aside from the Dallas game, Foles has been the picture of efficiency. Foles has the highest yards per attempt rate in the league at 9.14 and the highest quarterback rating by over 10 points at 125.2. If that number seems high, it is. The single-season record, set by Aaron Rodgers in 2011, is 122.5.
Anyone who watched Foles last year, or any fantasy coach sucked into his hype, might be shocked by Foles' sudden production. He was okay last year, throwing 6 touchdowns to 5 interceptions and completing 60.8% of his passes for an average of 6.4 yards per attempt. However, that is a far cry from this year's touchdown to interception rate, completion percentage of 63.3 and yards per attempt of 9.14. So what changed?
Ironically, the biggest change was the emphasis on the running game. Running back LeSean McCoy has been dominant this year and Kelly has been all too happy to feed him the ball. Last year, the Eagles ran the ball 40% of the time. This meant that in 2012, Foles put the ball in the air more than 30 times in six of his seven starts. This year, the Eagles run the ball 49% of the time and Foles has thrown more than 30 times in only two of his seven games.
The Eagles sport the second best running game in the league with 1,762 yards and supplement that with Foles' efficient play. He has been the perfect quarterback to manage a run-first offense. He takes care of the ball and takes what the defense offers as they try to stop the run. Further evidence of this is seen by the fact that Foles spreads the ball very well. Six different Eagles players have more than 20 receptions, 300 yards and a touchdown.
So what are the Detroit Lions to do? Let's hope the coaching staff analyzes the Eagles-Cowboys game very closely, as it laid out a nice blueprint for beating the Foles-led Eagles. Step one, stop the run. The Cowboys limited McCoy to 55 yards and a 3.1 average, which forced Foles to throw 29 times in just three quarters. That is not the Eagles' ideal game plan. The Lions run defense has been dominant of late, so I feel comfortable there even against a back of McCoy's quality.
Step two, put pressure on Foles. Pressure has been Foles' Achilles heel all season. Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, Foles' quarterback rating went from 112 to 52.5 when facing pressure. Of the 15 times he felt pressure, he went 4 for 11 and took 5 sacks. Obviously, the Lions' defensive line needs to pick up where it left off on Thanksgiving and meet at the quarterback.
Finally, I think it's time Foles threw an interception.