Eagles

Nick Foles embracing new role as Carson Wentz's backup QB

Nick Foles embracing new role as Carson Wentz's backup QB

Nick Foles missed running onto the field at the Linc, he missed his teammates in the Eagles' locker room, he missed the City of Philadelphia. 

He even missed getting booed. 

"Crazy enough, you miss the boos from time to time," Foles said at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday afternoon. 

"I laugh just thinking about playing and getting booed but then going back and throwing a touchdown and hearing the eruption. It's the only place that you get something like that. It's a special atmosphere here."

Foles, the guy who Chip Kelly once infamously called the starting quarterback of the Eagles for "the next 1,000 years," is now the backup quarterback for at least the next two. 

Foles, 28, signed a two-year deal, reportedly worth $11 million, earlier this week to re-join the Eagles. He was once a third-round pick, who became a Pro Bowler, got traded, struggled and is now a backup where it all started. 

It's been a strange career so far for Nick Foles. 

"The journey has been up and down and sideways," Foles said. "But at the same time, where we are now, where we are, my wife and I, I wouldn’t change it for the world."

After his magical 2013 season, Foles got hurt in 2014 and played just eight mediocre games for the Eagles. Before the 2015 season, Chip Kelly shipped him to St. Louis as a part of the return in the Sam Bradford trade. Foles was the Rams' starting quarterback in 2015 but led his team to a 4-7 record in his 11 games. At his request, he was cut last July.  

Then he latched on with Andy Reid's Chiefs to be Alex Smith's backup in 2016, but Kansas City declined his option as free agency was about to kick off and Foles became a free agent. 

With no offers to go to a team where he could compete for a starting gig, Foles decided to re-join the Eagles and agreed to terms on Monday. 

"Everyone of us quarterbacks wants their opportunity to play again and be in the huddle," Foles said. "But at the same time, you can't have the mindset out there that far. In the moment, my role right now is to be the backup quarterback and help Carson in any way that I can. And I take that role with great pride and seriousness."

Foles got a taste of life as a backup last year in Kansas City, where he played in just three games and started just one. While he wasn't playing as much as he had in the past, Foles said he enjoyed the new role and responsibilities. Instead of huddling up with his teammates on game days, he worked with the scout team during the week and helped Smith prepare. 

But helping Smith, who has been in the league since 2005, will be much different than backing up Wentz, who is entering his second in 2017. Smith was able to help Foles learn as a quarterback. Now, Foles has to help Wentz grow.

The two have already been in contact and Foles praised Wentz as an athlete, quarterback and student of the game. Foles thinks his experience will help the guy who owns a job that once belonged to him. 

"The way it differs is, I've been a quarterback here," Foles said. "I've played a lot of games in the Linc. I've played a lot of games for the Eagles. So I know that Carson is going to go through different things throughout the years, so I can relate. I think when you have someone around you who can relate when you have a question or you're unsure about something. And if someone has been there and done it, it gives you more meaning when they give you an answer."

Foles certainly found success in Philadelphia. His 94.2 passer rating in his Eagles career ranks first in franchise history. And his seven-touchdown game against Oakland in 2013 is just one of eight seven-touchdown pass games in NFL history and just one of three in the modern era. Only Foles, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees have done it since 1969. 

To put that seven-touchdown game in perspective, Wentz threw seven touchdowns over the last nine games in his rookie season. 

And that seven-touchdown game was a part of an incredible season. Plenty will call it a fluke, and maybe it was, but his 2013 season under Kelly was absolutely magical. 

In that 2013 Pro Bowl season, Foles completed 64 percent of his passes with 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions and finished the year with a passer rating of 119.2.

Looking back four years later, what does Foles think of that season? 

"That player is still capable," Foles said. "That player is still here."

Now, that player is sitting on the bench. But at least he's doing it in Philly, boos and all. 

Foles 'absolutely ready' to quarterback playoff-bound Eagles if needed

Foles 'absolutely ready' to quarterback playoff-bound Eagles if needed

LOS ANGELES — He went in to play for one team that gave up on him against another team that gave up on him.

Such is life in the NFL as a backup quarterback.

Nick Foles, now 28 years old and in his sixth NFL season, relieved an injured Carson Wentz Sunday night at the start of the fourth quarter and engineered two field goal drives as the Eagles rallied past the Rams, 43-35, at L.A. Memorial Coliseum (see breakdown).

“He was unbelievable," tight end Trey Burton said. "He stepped in there and led us and took us where we needed to be.

"He’s an unbelievable quarterback. A lot of people sometimes might forget about that, but he’s won a lot of games and he’s set a lot of records."

Although there was no word from the Eagles, team officials believe Wentz has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, which would presumably end his season.

If that's the case, the 11-2 Eagles would go into the playoffs with Foles at quarterback.

“I’m absolutely ready," Foles said. "That’s why I’m here. I’m ready to go. Prepare every day, work every day, ready to go if need be. That’s my job. That’s why they brought me here."

Foles didn't exactly light up the Rams, but also, in his first extended playing time in more than 13 months, he didn't make any mistakes and made a few big throws under pressure.

He entered the game with the Eagles trailing 35-31 at the start of the fourth quarter and engineered two field goal drives — the second after a takeaway deep in Rams territory.

But his biggest play was a nine-yard completion to Nelson Agholor on a 3rd-and-8 with 1:52 left that enabled the Eagles to run out all but the last few seconds on the clock.

“They went two-man coverage and it was 1-on-1 inside, and Nelson did a great job of getting off his defender," Foles said.

"I threw it away from his defender, and he did a great job catching it and getting the first down and it allowed us to run a lot of the clock out, which was big."

Head coach Doug Pederson, who was Foles' position coach with the Eagles in 2013 and his offensive coordinator in K.C. last year, showed a tremendous amount of confidence in Foles on that third and long.

“I want the ball in my hands," Foles said. "I love throwing the ball. I love having the ball in my hands, making decisions.

"It’s one of those situations where, 'Hey, if it’s not there you either run (or) just don’t make it worse,' and Nelson did a great job. Coach Pederson showed a lot of confidence in me, and he knows I can go out there and play."

Foles led the Eagles to the playoffs in 2013 with a record-setting Pro Bowl season then went 6-2 in 2014 before getting hurt. He had a dismal 2015 with the Rams and then spent 2016 with the Chiefs before returning to the Eagles this past offseason.

Talk about full circle.

“It’s odd. It’s kind of crazy. But it’s one of those things you don’t really think too much about though," he said.

"You’re really just focusing on getting a 'W' and we did. A big one on the road."

The Eagles improved to 11-2 and clinched the NFC East title for the first time since 2013, Foles' big season.

"Hell of a job by Nick coming in and making plays when we needed it," Lane Johnson said.

"Nick’s a pretty good quarterback. People have forgotten the year he had a few years ago. Nick works his tail off, so I was confident he would do just fine. He was calm. Same Nick he’s always been."

Foles' numbers Sunday were modest: 6 for 10 for 42 yards plus a nine-yard scramble.

But he did exactly what he had to do (see observations).

"He prepares, he's had success before in this league as a quarterback," Malcolm Jenkins said. "We understand he's not Carson Wentz and there are some things he can't do that Carson can do, so we'll use common sense with that, but I think everybody feels good about him throwing the ball.

"That throw to [Agholor], that's a dangerous throw, but he put the ball right where it was supposed to be and allowed his receiver to make a play at a crucial point in the game. We've got a lot of faith in Nick, and we're going to lean heavily on him if Carson isn't out there."

Foles is 20-16 in his career as a starter and 15-9 as the Eagles' starter. Sunday in L.A. was his first extended playing time in an Eagles uniform in more than three years — since he suffered a season-ending broken collarbone injury in Houston midway through the 2014 season.

"I love it," Doug Pederson said. "This guy’s come in, he’s played a lot of football games in this league. He’s started in this league. Guys have confidence in him. I have confidence in him.

"Great way to step in under these circumstances and pull this game out. It’s huge for Nick."

Even hobbled and in pain, Carson Wentz shows toughness in L.A.

Even hobbled and in pain, Carson Wentz shows toughness in L.A.

LOS ANGELES — With a heavy black brace around his left knee, Carson Wentz hobbled through the postgame buffet line in the bowels of the LA Memorial Coliseum, just outside of the cramped visitor locker room.

Wearing black shorts, a black hat, a black long-sleeve AO1 shirt and headphones hanging around his neck, Wentz used a big metal spoon to scoop some catered Mexican food into a bowl.

From there, he settled himself on the back of a motorized cart that took him outside the stadium into the cooling L.A. night. He then hobbled his way again, this time from the cart, onto the team bus and out of sight.

Of course, he walked. That's just what Carson Wentz does.

After the Eagles' NFC East-clinching 43-35 win over the Rams (see breakdown), Wentz will fly back to Philadelphia with the rest of the team. Call it a 4 1/2 hour prayer session. Because Monday he'll get an MRI on his left knee. The Eagles fear he's torn it, a team source confirmed (see story).

Wentz left Sunday's game in the third quarter. He injured his left knee on a play where he scrambled and dove head-first into the end zone for a touchdown that was called back because of a holding call. 

Then he stayed in the game.

Wentz very well might have been standing on a torn ACL, but he stayed in the game for four more plays.

"It shows how tough he is, man," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "Shows how much this stuff means to him. Football means the world to him. He's a fighter. Moving forward, whatever the situation is, he's going to fight." 

Wentz's last play of the game — and possibly his MVP-like season — was a touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery.

It was his 33rd touchdown pass of the season, breaking the Eagles' single-season record. The record had stood since 1961.

"Carson's a hell of a player," Jeffery said. "A hell of a competitor. He's our MVP."

Several of Wentz's offensive teammates thought there was a chance he was hurt. After all, he did take a tough shot on that diving play. But Wentz didn't speak a word about it in the huddle. Some of his teammates didn't even realize he might have a significant injury until he made the long walk of about 110 yards from the sideline to the tunnel.

The play where the injury came is a pretty typical Wentz play. He gave up his body to try to score a touchdown. That's just the way he plays.

"That's one of the things that makes him an incredible player in this league," center Jason Kelce said.

After Wentz went inside, the team almost immediately announced he was out for the game, never a good sign.

"He's the ultimate competitor," safety Rodney McLeod said. "He stayed in strong, threw that pass to Alshon. It was one of the biggest plays of the day. We're going to celebrate. We got the win for him and we're going to move on."

As you might expect, the mood after this game was a little strange. The Eagles won the division, so they celebrated. They beat another NFC contender, so they celebrated. And they own sole possession of the top spot in the conference, so they celebrated. 

But you'll forgive them if the celebration wasn't over the top. Because, sure, they won the game, but they might have lost the heart and soul of their team (see Roob's observations).

"Yeah, it sucks, but there's nothing you can really do about it," Johnson said. "We came into this game hoping to win this game and clinch the division. That part's done. I have the utmost confidence moving forward." 

Head coach Doug Pederson said he had spoken to Wentz after the game. Pederson said Wentz was "fired up" and "excited" about clinching.

Not too long before Wentz hobbled his way to the team busses, he waited at the entrance of the visiting locker room as his comrades bounced inside after clinching the division.

Wentz was there congratulate Nick Foles and the rest of his teammates on the NFC East title.

A little while later, Wentz tweeted how proud he was of his team.

"You see his leadership, man, no matter what," linebacker Nigel Bradham said. "He's still going to be the leader of our team. He might not be out there, but he's definitely going to be out there in spirit."