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Eagles Film Study: Hold final judgments on Foles

ray didinger csnphilly

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Posted 18 December 2012 - 12:01 PM


Eagles Film Study: Hold final judgments on Foles

December 18, 2012, 9:00 am

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This time last week Nick Foles was being hailed as a star in the making. Now many of the same people who were lavishing praise on Foles are writing him off as a rag-armed stiff.

Mood swings? In this town? Gee, who knew?

I received a flood of e-mails following the Eagles’ 34-13 loss to Cincinnati. The majority were ready to dump Foles and begin the search for another quarterback. The line that kept coming up was: “Foles is another Bobby Hoying.”

The fact is we didn’t know Bobby Hoying was Bobby Hoying until well into his third season when the glow of a few good games wore off and reality set in. So we don’t know what Nick Foles is just yet. Give him time.

That’s the one advantage of being 4-10. The Eagles can play the young players and not worry about whether they win or lose the game. They can let Foles take every snap and see how he does against the Bengals, Redskins and Giants, teams fighting for a playoff spot. It is a good test for the rookie quarterback.

Let’s give him the rest of the season before we start drawing conclusions. If the praise for his comeback in Tampa was over the top so, too, was the criticism of his play against the Bengals. The kid took a step back, yes, but he didn’t fall off a cliff.

The most frequently asked question concerned his arm strength or lack of it. My opinion, having watched Foles in college and now seeing him play six regular-season games with the Eagles, is that his arm is adequate. Not great, but good enough.

He doesn’t have a cannon like John Elway, but he doesn’t have a pop gun like the Detmers either. I would grade his arm as slightly above average.

Most of the arm strength talk stemmed from two throws in the Cincinnati game: the first was a slightly underthrown pass to Jeremy Maclin in the second quarter and the second was the deep ball (also intended for Maclin) that came up way short and was intercepted by Leon Hall.

After viewing the tape, here are a few observations …

On the first play, Foles fools the defense with a pump fake and Maclin sprints down the sideline. He is five yards in the clear when Foles releases the ball. It hangs in the air and Maclin has to slow down to make the catch. The defense has time to recover and though the play gains 46 yards it could have gone for a touchdown if Foles put the ball out ahead of Maclin.

But on tape you can see Foles is in a hurry. He pumps and then reloads so he can get rid of the ball quickly. He throws the ball flat-footed. He sees the defense bite on the fake and he wants to throw the ball right away, so he doesn’t step into it the way he normally would. As a result, he doesn’t get quite as much on it.

“(Brett) Favre hit a lot of big plays like this but he had a great arm,” said NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger. “He could stand flat-footed and throw it 50 yards. There aren’t many guys who can do that. Nick can’t do it, but it doesn’t mean he has a weak arm. It just means he doesn’t have Brett’s arm.”

I also think Foles may have been playing it safe. He saw Maclin wide open and rather than try to lead him and risk an overthrow, he just floated the ball and made sure his receiver could make the catch. It is not really a matter of arm strength.

The second play was a bigger one because it started the four-turnover landslide that buried the Eagles. Foles has good protection and he is able to step into the throw. His footwork is fine, everything looks good. Maclin is running down the sideline with a step on Hall.

Foles’ throw travels 44 yards in the air but it is a wobbly duck that comes down almost 10 yards short of the intended receiver. Hall makes the easy interception and returns it 44 yards. The Eagles led 13-10 at that point and the Bengals weren’t doing much, but that turnover changed everything. The Bengals scored the next 24 points.

On tape, it is hard to tell what happened on the throw. Foles has enough arm to make that throw. It looks like he just threw a bad pass. It didn’t appear the ball came out of his hand cleanly. Quarterbacks talk about “spinning” the ball; that is, throwing a tight spiral. Foles didn’t do that. He threw a wobbler and it died short of the target. He can make that throw; he just didn’t make it that time.

Keep in mind, quarterbacks can gain arm strength. That is particularly true of tall guys like Foles. As their bodies fill out and they spend more time in the weight room, they get stronger all over. Tom Brady came into the NFL as a skinny kid with an average arm. He is much stronger now. The same can be said for Matt Ryan. He is a lot stronger now than when he came out of Boston College in 2008.

So Foles doesn’t have a weak arm. His arm is at least adequate but if his mechanics -- his footwork, his release -- are off, he can come up short. The good news is he can get better.

So hold the Bobby Hoying comparisons, for now.

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net.