Eagles

2017 Nick Foles much different than 2013 Nick Foles

2017 Nick Foles much different than 2013 Nick Foles

Nick Foles' first career with the Eagles ended abruptly in a heap just outside the painted Texans logo near midfield in NRG Stadium. 

On Nov. 2, 2014 Foles dropped back to pass on the last play of the first quarter in Houston, when outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus came from behind and slammed Foles to the ground with his full 250-plus pound frame landing on top of him. 

Mercilus ran off the field, receiving high-fives from his teammates, as Foles laid on the ground in the fetal position. His collarbone was broken. Unbeknownst to him, he had already played his last snap as an Eagle.

Even without the injury, 2014 just didn't have the magic from the year before. The Eagles were 6-2 heading into that early November game, but Foles wasn't having the same type of Pro Bowl season everyone saw in 2013. He just didn't seem like the guy who amazingly threw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions the year before and earned the starting gig. In 2014, Foles had already thrown 10 interceptions and just 13 touchdowns through those first eight games.  

As it turns out, the play in Houston wasn't Foles' last snap as an Eagle. He returned this offseason as the team's backup quarterback, but thanks to Carson Wentz's torn ACL, it's his job from here on out. 

Just don't expect Foles to be the same guy he was in 2013. Or in 2014, for that matter. 

He's a completely different quarterback and man these days. 

"I think with experience and age, you gain knowledge and wisdom," Foles said on Tuesday, the day after the Eagles announced Wentz was done for the season. "Obviously, life changes. You just sort of see the game more clearly. Even stepping into the game the other night (Sunday vs. Rams), you're in the fourth quarter, you're on the road, it's a big game. You really just go back to your training, you go back to your experiences in life. You know how to live in that moment, how to execute the plays to help your team win. 

"Since that moment in Houston, where I fractured my collarbone, I've experienced a lot more experiences in the NFL than I had up to that point. A lot of them great, some of them not so great. But they all go together to create this moment in time. I'm excited for this opportunity."

Foles didn't end up being the Eagles' starting quarterback for the "next thousand years" as Chip Kelly quipped in December of 2013. 

Foles was traded to the Rams in March 2015 as a part of the Sam Bradford trade and then signed a two-year extension with St. Louis. But things didn't go swimmingly with the Rams. In St. Louis, he played just one poor season, during which he was actually benched for Case Keenum. 

When the Rams drafted Jared Goff with the No. 1 overall pick, Foles was unhappy and wanted out. The Rams granted that request, releasing him in July 2016. Foles then signed with the guy who drafted him. He spent last season with Andy Reid's Chiefs as their backup. Foles played in three games and started one. And he actually played fairly well, but the Chiefs declined the second-year option on his contract, which made Foles a free agent for the second time in two years. This offseason, he came back to Philly. 

So, yeah, a lot has happened since the last time Eagles fans really saw Nick Foles. 

"I think he's definitely matured as a quarterback [in terms of] his leadership ability and his understanding of our offense and of defenses," said head coach Doug Pederson, who was gone by 2013, but was Foles' QB coach during his rookie season in 2012. "We always knew he was a very smart, intellectual quarterback and could process information. But he's been able to take it to the next level in his preparation. And just how he responds to the guys and how the guys have responded to him. A great example was in the fourth quarter of that game the other day. He comes in and nobody blinks. Nobody bats an eye. There was no hesitation and that's just the confidence that the guys have in Nick."

Perhaps one of the most important things to happen to Foles came this summer. Foles and his wife Tori welcomed their first child into their family. Daughter Lily was born in late June and there's just something about becoming a parent that seems to put everything into perspective. 

"Having a child, that's huge," Foles said this week. "I get to go home and hug my daughter. That's the greatest thing in the world."

So Foles isn't the same fresh-faced kid who became the Eagles' starter thanks to injury in 2013. He's not even the same guy who saw his first Eagles' career end in a heap in Houston. 

Foles is 28. He's a father. He's a veteran in the NFL. Maybe those things, more than anything else, make him more ready now to take over the starting gig than back in 2013. 

Foles was almost zen-like on Tuesday. He's mature, comfortable and confident. A lot has happened in a few years. 

"The wisdom and going in and playing, it almost just makes everything more simple," Foles said. "It clears your brain because you just go out there and play and let it rip. I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to play loose, count on the guys, lead this team. 

"There's no other place I'd rather be. That's why I came back here. That was a big reason why my wife and I sat down and the opportunity came up to come back here and be in this environment. Obviously, it was for a different role when I came here, but I'm ready to step up and help this team win." 

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

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USA Today Images

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

When you think about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, names like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of wideouts who have given opposing secondaries fits.

This season, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the perfect complement to each other. Thielen finished the regular season with 91 receptions (eighth-best in the league), 1276 yards (fifth-best) and his 20 catches for 20 or more yards tied for fifth-best overall. As for Diggs, he finished with 64 receptions for 849 yards.

Together, Thielen and Diggs accounted for 54 percent of the Vikings' receiving yards this season. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. In the Vikes' miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, they accounted for 66 percent of the passing game. They have been the safety valves for Case Keenum all season long.

Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the rare luxury of lining up either one of them on the inside or outside on any given play. Both are excellent route runners — whether it's doing deep or intermediate routes or crossing routes, and both are excellent blockers.

So how should Jim Schwartz defend against these two? Some believe help over the top on Thielen and playing single coverage on Diggs is the way to go. We may see that concept occasionally in the NFC Championship Game but I have a feeling Schwartz will come up with some variation we have not seen before. The Eagles are not going to completely shut these two down, but their damage can be minimized. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and the other DBs will put in a full day’s work shadowing these two.

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

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AP Images

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

As the Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, just a few days before hosting the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman stood next to owner Jeff Lurie and watched the team he created. 

Of the 53 members on the Eagles' roster heading into this championship game, 25 weren't on the active roster last season. Roseman had a very busy offseason, molding the Eagles into a Super Bowl contender. 

For his efforts, the 42-year-old Roseman, who began with the Eagles as an intern in 2000, has been named the NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. 

Roseman helped turn over a roster that went 7-9 last season into a team that went 13-3, earning the first-overall seed in the NFC. He built the team with enough depth to survive major injuries to Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis. 

Never afraid to make a trade, Roseman came back from his time away from football operations more aggressive than ever. He claims his year away from GM duties while Chip Kelly took over was both humbling and eye-opening. 

For this season, Roseman traded 25 spots in the third round to bring in veteran defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, traded away Jordan Matthews and a pick to bring in cornerback Ronald Darby and pulled the trigger on a midseason move to bring in Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi. 

In free agency, he signed Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Nick Foles, Patrick Robinson and Chance Warmack. He brought in several of those players on one-year prove-it deals, and for the most part, the team has gotten more than their money's worth out of them. 

He also helped hire VP of player personnel Joe Douglas to revamp the scouting department. That hire of a top personnel man was one of the conditions when Lurie reinstated Roseman to power following Kelly's dismissal. 

Roseman and Douglas spearheaded drafting a class that included Derek Barnett in the first round, an injured Sidney Jones in the second and some other contributors in the next five rounds. 

Aside from just bringing players in, Roseman has been able to manipulate the salary cap better than anyone in the league. It's been a strength of his since his arrival in Philly, so that should be no surprise. 

You could actually argue that Roseman's 2016 was more impressive. That's when he laid the groundwork for this playoff season by moving up and drafting Carson Wentz. But 2017 is when it all came together.