After last year, Foles must feel right at home
Les Bowen, Daily News Sports Columnist
Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012, 12:40 AM
NICK FOLES has been in this situation before, more or less. The Arizona Wildcats lost five in a row last season after an opening win. Their offensive line, decimated by graduation and injury, was a mess. After that fifth loss in a row, the athletic director fired head coach Mike Stoops, who had taken the team to a bowl each of the previous 3 years.
Maybe the biggest difference between then and now is that much to many fans' displeasure, Eagles coach Andy Reid will board the train to Washington for Sunday's visit with the Redskins. Another difference would be that Foles wasn't new to college quarterbacking last season, as an Arizona senior. But Foles, expected to make his first NFL start against the Redskins, will again fight to turn back panic and despair, just as he fought last year.
"Facing adversity throughout your life helps you with any situation," Foles said Thursday. "The more you face it, the more you overcome it, the more you fight through it, you learn to deal with it. You also learn what's important in your life. We've had a rough few weeks, but guys are still coming to work, guys have a great attitude; we're fighting, we're studying. We're a team, we're staying together. I think through it all, you think about the relationships you have and how you deal with one another."
Last year at Arizona, "Guys kept a good attitude," Foles recalled. "We had a great senior class; the coaches stuck together. When we lost Stoops, that was really hard, but coaches stepped up.
"I look back and just remember guys that fought through and loved the game and didn't give up, even through adversity."
Arizona broke the five-game skid with a 48-12 win at home over UCLA, then lost three more before winning its last two. In a deep quarterback draft class, Foles slid.
"He was running for his life," said Nick's dad, Larry Foles. "He learned to throw on the run. I told him his senior year, 'There's no better prep for the pros than what you're going through right now.' He had no time to set, I mean, no time . . . by the time he caught the ball, he had to be moving.
"All he needs is a few reps to get the rhythm and understand the speed, the routes . . . he's going to be fine."
When the Eagles drafted Foles , 88th overall in the third round, they talked about how he kept getting up last season. Sacked 23 times in 12 games, somehow he completed 69.1 percent of his passes, for 4,334 yards and 28 touchdowns, with 14 interceptions. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Thursday that a lot of the rap that followed Foles into the draft about improper footwork had to do with trying to throw on the run, throwing while falling down, while fending off pass rushers.
"I just told 'em to keep blocking," recalled Foles, who will take the field in Washington behind a similarly bedraggled Eagles o-line that retains only one starter from 2011. "I had faith in them. If you look at the film, they're young. We struggled as a unit early in the year. The guys grew every game, they kept fighting. They blocked as hard as they could. We all played as hard as we could . . . they came to work every single day and I never doubted them, one snap I took. If you know guys are blocking their butts off for you, that's all you can ever ask. You just have to play as hard as you can."
Mornhinweg emphasized Thursday that "league games are very different from preseason games." Foles completed 22 of 32 passes for 219 yards, a touchdown and an interception in relief of concussed Michael Vick last Sunday. In the preseason, Foles completed 40 of 63 passes for 553 yards and six touchdowns, with two interceptions.
"He'll see some things he just hasn't seen before - fronts, stunts, coverages, blitzes - and combinations of them," Mornhinweg said. "You don't have enough practice" to prepare a rookie for everything. "How he reacts to those [new wrinkles] will be important."
Mornhinweg said it might be wrong to assume the Redskins will do all sorts of crazy stuff to confuse the rookie. He said in his experience, some teams do that, others "tend to say, 'OK, let's see what he can do' " - play straight up and see if the rookie can beat you.
Mornhinweg's gold standard for rookie poise is Jeff Garcia, who had already won a Grey Cup in Canada when he stepped in for concussed Steve Young with the 49ers in 1999. Garcia won his debut over the Titans, 24-22, then struggled and was benched in favor of Steve Stenstrom before winning the job back down the stretch. Garcia finished his NFL rookie season with 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Andrew Luck aside, rookie quarterbacks don't tear up the NFL on a consistent basis. The Redskins' Robert Griffin III, for all his promise, hasn't quite done that. RG3 has two 300-yard passing games so far.
"Everybody's different," Mornhinweg said. "Some guys, it's sort of a seamless transition. That's rare, but it does happen."
Running back LeSean McCoy said he wants to make enough plays to keep the pressure off Foles. McCoy noted that the pace of a game is so different from practice, the time for, say, recognizing a blitz much reduced.
"He's a hard worker," McCoy said of Foles. "Some things you can't teach are heart and leadership. I think he has both of them. I think he'll be fine, for this game and the future."
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Posted 16 November 2012 - 12:13 PM