November 14, 2012, 6:53 pm
It might appear as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders, but Nick Foles is shunning any notion that he has to wear a Superman cape and be an indestructible force at quarterback for the Eagles to succeed against the Redskins.
Foles, who took all the first-team reps Wednesday in place of a concussed Michael Vick, will make his anticipated debut at FedEx Field on Sunday, but he insisted after practice that he alone can’t coax the Eagles back into the win column.
“I think that’s the key. When you play any football game, you play within yourself, you play within your talents,” the shaggy-haired rookie from Arizona said. “No matter what the situation, you play one play at a time. I have 10 other guys in the huddle that are going to play their butts off, but everybody has to do their job. If everybody does their job we’ll be successful.”
The reality is that the Eagles are 3-6, losers of five straight and the walls around them are caving in. Fans are calling for the head coach’s head and are already mulling his potential replacement.
If the outside world views Foles as the team’s savior, it’s understandable. But perceptions won’t make him spend any more time in the classroom or reviewing film than he already does, which his teammates and coaches have said is plenty.
“Treat it the same. I’ve said it before, no matter what situation I’m in, I’ll treat it the same,” Foles said. “You always prepare yourself like you’re the starter -- if you’re second, third or fourth string. You always prepare yourself the same because if something does happen you don’t want to change up your routine too much.
“There will be different things that come along with it -- like I’m doing media right now, so there’s different things -- but you always have to prepare yourself in a similar way.”
In some ways, Foles’ first start comes with more anticipation than Kevin Kolb’s 2009 starting debut in place of an injured Donovan McNabb.
Kolb was then seen as the future with McNabb’s career winding down. His 399-yard, two-touchdown effort against Kansas City helped ease concerns -- at the time -- about transitioning from the best quarterback in team history to a relative unknown.
When the Eagles plucked Foles in the third round this past April, few people on the East Coast were overly familiar with the former Arizona quarterback’s body of work. Nor did they suspect that Vick would struggle in the preseason as poorly as he did, while Foles showed much more promise than your typical third-round quarterback.
Preseason performance had already built higher expectations for Foles before he replaced Vick in the second quarter against Dallas and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes in a 219-yard relief effort.
“I’ve said it since Day 1, obviously his arm strength (stands out),” wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. “He has really good arm strength, he can really throw the ball in places and put the ball in places that not most guys can in this league. That’s one thing he definitely possesses. And when he got into the preseason the poise that he showed, that’s not what most rookie quarterbacks show. So i was impressed with that, too.”
Head coach Andy Reid hasn’t yet officially ruled out Vick and he’s equally reluctant to add to Foles’ expectations. Reid said Foles just needs to “be himself” and “run the offense.” Reid said Foles has already put in the time and preparation to be successful without putting any extra pressure on himself.
“He’s around here all the time, and he spends a lot of time in this building getting himself right,” Reid said. “You have to do that when you’re the relief pitcher as the backup. He’s used to that workload and he’s continuing on with that. He came in [Tuesday] and made sure he put in a few hours.”
For those believers in fate or karma, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Foles makes his starting debut against the Redskins almost exactly 13 years to the date McNabb made his NFL starting debut against the same NFC East rivals.
McNabb led a 35-28 victory over Washington on Nov. 14, 1999, after taking over for Doug Pederson, who happens to be currently serving as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach and the person who Foles spends most of his time working with each week.
“We’ve got to win games first before we can start talking about that,” tight end Brent Celek said. “But he’s a good quarterback. We’ve got to win behind him.”
Aside from protecting the ball better -- he threw an interception and lost a fumble against Dallas -- Foles said the concept he most took from his first NFL action was being unafraid to take risks and make plays.
“I think that’s the key, is play fast. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If i do make a mistake, keep firing,” he said. “To me that’s the big thing when you play quarterback is you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to fire the ball in there. Something is going to happen and the key is you’ve got to keep firing the ball no matter what.”
E-mail Geoff Mosher at firstname.lastname@example.org