Friday - Aug 23, 2019

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Foles Gold

First
and foremost,
Nick Foles
is a rookie quarterback. What rookie
quarterbacks in recent memory have been adequate weekly fantasy starters? We’re
currently blinded by the success of rookies
Andrew Luck
and
Robert Griffin III
and second-year player
Cam Newton
, but has anyone else had much fantasy
success in their first year in the league? Despite his team’s success,
Ben Roethlisberger
was not a fantasy asset.
Neither was
Matt Ryan
, Matthew Stafford,
Sam Bradford
 or
Peyton Manning
. What do all of these guys have in
common? They’re all early first-round picks, something Foles is not. So even if
you don’t buy into the scouting argument below, history tells you he
is not a good investment, either.

That said, I’m not just saying Foles isn’t the answer to the 2012 Eagles
problems; he’s not any answer to any of their problems. I’m speaking from a
long-term perspective. If given the starting job in 2013, he is looking at a
career trajectory that would have mirrored
Kevin Kolb
’s had he stayed in Philadelphia.
What’s funny is Kolb is now playing in Foles’ backyard, as Foles was the signal
caller at the University of Arizona before being drafted by the Eagles in Round
3 this year.

While it
would be unfair to point at the team’s record (19-19, 12-15 in conference play)
as an indictment of Foles, as the offense was potent under his leadership, but
he is not without blame. He completed nearly 70 percent of his passes in his
three years as a starter and increased his number of touchdowns each season.
However, a look at the tape says there’s more to this story.

He won’t fool anyone; he knows he’s a statue in the pocket. However, unlike
most quarterbacks that are not fleet of foot, Foles does a poor job of moving
the pocket, something an immobile quarterback must do to be successful. Tom
Brady does it, so does
Peyton Manning
, and his brother
Eli Manning
. Philip Rivers and
Carson Palmer
used to, but have been regressing
in this regard in recent years and it’s shown on the field. This is not a skill
that gets developed at the pro level, it’s learned when players get here.

He
does not have good foot work to begin with, which makes this ability to move the
pocket all the more challenging. With the speed of the game, Foles is going to
find it incredibly difficult to adjust. His internal clock must be shorter than
most (regardless of the state of his current offensive line) because he can’t
change position in the pocket, making pass rushers adjust to him and then
adjusting his throw to the spacing inside the pocket.

This weakness is compounded by Foles’ inability to read the field. His college
offense was very simple – every play was a pre-snap read. This was the Arizona
Wildcats’ best method at masking Foles’ deficiencies. If he knows where he’s
going with the football he can maintain proper footwork and use his big arm to
rifle the ball in there for a completion. The problem is once the play is in
motion, the game goes too quickly for Foles. He gets confused, doesn’t know
what to do with the football, his footwork breaks down, and he is prone to
making sloppy throws.

This
is something that just can’t be worked through in the NFL like it can in
college. Not every play will go according to plan post snap, and this is
when Foles’ weakness emerges. Instead of working to the second and
third option, he knows he is not effective at working through his progressions
so he would throw it in wide receiver
Juron Criner
’s direction and hope for the best.
This was the best decision for the Wildcats because Criner was exceptional at
bailing him out consistently, but it is not going to do any good in helping
Foles develop as a quarterback at the next level.

When
he wasn’t going to Criner he was checking down to options at the line of
scrimmage. Similar methodology being utilized, the defense is letting him dump
it and then swarming to the ball carrier. The offense can move down the field
doing this, but it’s difficult to score without special playmakers. This attack
helped contribute to Foles’ impressive completion percentage. Unfortunately, it
also led to a very concerning yards per attempt. It improved each season in
school, but it topped out at 7.4, which is a decent average in the NFL but not
in college.

People who watched the Philadelphia Eagles game this past Sunday surely noticed
similar tunnel vision for
Jeremy Maclin
. If the initial play wasn’t there,
Foles zeroed in on Maclin and leaned on him to bail him out. This can work for
the short term (good news Maclin owners), but long term it will not. This is a
big reason why the Wildcats got routinely crushed against better opponents or
when Criner was not on the field. Good defenses adjusted to Foles’ tunnel
vision and he had no bail out without Criner on the field. This problem will
only compound at the NFL level.

A carryover effect from the issues identified above is Foles’ ability to bounce
back off a bad play. He doesn’t have it. The best quarterbacks have short
memories – they won’t repeat bad mistakes – but they also don’t let them affect
their next play. The same is not true with Foles, his bad plays come in
bunches. Rattle him with a few jaw-rattling hits or jump a couple of his
checkdowns and things unravel around him. These are the sorts of mental
meltdowns that cause quarterbacks to lose their jobs and coaches to get fired.
It’s not as if Foles has only been guilty of this a few times either, this
occurred frequently throughout his collegiate career.

When
the going got tough, Foles clamped up. This was on full display when the Eagles
were in comeback mode late in the game this past weekend. Deep in their own
territory needing a last-second miracle drive, Foles did the one thing he
absolutely could not do, and then compounded the error … twice. First, he took
a sack, without any timeouts to boot. Additionally, he held onto the ball way
too long staring down field as he couldn’t identify the open receiver. Finally,
he was caught by surprise (which is surprising given how long he held onto the
ball) as he dropped the ball before hitting the ground as the Dallas Cowboys
wrapped up the ball for the game-winning touchdown. Vintage Foles – when the
team needs a play and things are not going well around him he makes the
backbreaking mistake that clinches the loss.

This is the type of player that is not going to get much of a leash from his
coach even while he has the job. The run game, yes, even one coached by Andy
Reid, will be leaned on heavily and complimented with the short passing game.
The short passing game will be challenging as defensive backs will be squatting
on every route looking to jump it as the threat to go up top is non-existent
when a coach doesn’t trust his quarterback in five- or seven-step drop backs
and he is not athletic enough to effectively and consistently bootleg. This
prevents Foles from doing everything that he can do because his best asset is
his strong arm, but if his coach can’t trust him in the pocket then he can’t
trust him to wait for the big play to develop. It’s an impossible situation for
all involved, and, unless the defense does a complete 180, there really isn’t
any way for them to be successful doing it.

Therefore, those Foles owners out there, dynasty owners anyway, this is your
opportunity to sell. Do not expect much. He was acquired very cheaply and
you should not expect much more coming back. Maybe try to upgrade your
fifth-round rookie pick to a second or target an injured reserve player like
Vincent Brown
to stash for next year. It isn’t
much, but it is an improvement, something Foles won’t be. Redraft owners?
Hopefully you didn’t use waiver priority to pick him up. You won’t get anything
for him via trade, so just send him back to the pool and hope another owner
uses him against you. There really is nothing positive that will come from this
for the Eagles or your fantasy team. Sometimes the best moves are the ones that
just aren’t made at all.

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