Eagles

Nick Foles returns to Eagles practice, coaches confident he'll be ready Week 1

Nick Foles returns to Eagles practice, coaches confident he'll be ready Week 1

Nick Foles, who has been battling elbow soreness all summer, returned to Eagles practice Monday, a week after his last practice.

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said earlier in the day he wasn't sure whether Foles would play in the preseason finale against the Jets on Thursday night, but his presence at practice Monday was an encouraging sign. Foles has yet to play this preseason.

The sixth-year pro from Arizona missed OTAs with an elbow injury he has said dates back to last year, when he was Alex Smith's backup with the Chiefs. He participated on the first day of training camp but didn't practice again for two weeks.

He returned Aug. 15, but after indicating he was 100 percent and saying "I feel good, I feel really good," Foles sat out the Bills preseason game, practiced one day against the Dolphins, then shut down again and didn't play last Thursday night against Miami.

But after skipping practice Sunday, he was back on the field on Monday.

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Foles will be fine going into the regular season even if he doesn't play at all in the preseason.

“The good thing in Nick’s situation is you certainly want to play every play you can, but he’s proven so much in his career, he’s been a winner at this level, proven that he can win big games, do what it takes to win big games," Reich said before practice Monday. "So we’re confident."

Foles wasn't at his locker during the 45-minute open session Monday and hasn't been available to the media since announcing last Tuesday he wouldn't be playing against the Dolphins.

Carson Wentz started all 16 games last year and only missed a few snaps in the second Giants game.

No. 3 quarterback Matt McGloin has completed 71 percent of his passes in the three preseason games but has one touchdown pass and an NFL-high three interceptions. He would presumably be No. 2 if Foles were unavailable.

Foles is 20-16 in his career as a starter and made the Pro Bowl with the Eagles in 2013. McGloin is 1-6 as a starter, with the one win coming in 2013 with the Raiders over the Texans in his first NFL start a week after making his NFL debut against the Eagles in the game Foles threw an NFL-record seven touchdowns.

Undrafted rookie Dane Evans from Tulsa is also on the roster.

“Nick’s worked good this offseason and getting ready for the season mentally, physically, in every way," Reich said Monday.

"I think all players have bumps and bruises along the way. (Foles has) had a little bump, and I think it will pass quickly and we’re ready for the season."

Foles said back on Aug. 15 that the injury was a serious one, but he was confident the worst of it was over.

“It sort of catches you off guard at first and you think it’s just something that’s going to go away, and then it gets worse and worse and worse and then you realize it’s something (serious)," he said two weeks ago.

"I’ve been trying to treat it but it just never went away. There’s days where it felt OK but never days where it felt great and then there were days where it felt horrible. So it’s just one of those things, but it feels great now."

While Foles was back at practice on Monday, the following players did not participate: Jordan Hicks (quad), Brandon Graham (elbow), Paul Turner (shoulder), Jalen Mills (hand), Ron Brooks, Nate Gerry, Najee Goode, Destiny Vaeao and Chris Long. Long was the only player who missed practice on Monday who was not mentioned by Pederson on Sunday. 

Nick Foles channels 'inner Carson Wentz' in 1st Eagles start in 3 years

Nick Foles channels 'inner Carson Wentz' in 1st Eagles start in 3 years

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Just think how crazy it all is. Nick Foles, traded away by the Eagles three years ago for his replacement, benched twice and then unwanted by the Rams, a backup for a year with the Chiefs, returns to the team that he took to the playoffs four years ago and does this.

Foles recalled his 2013 glory days Sunday, throwing four touchdown passes and no interceptions in the Eagles' closer-than-it-should-have-been 34-29 win over the Giants at MetLife Stadium (see breakdown).

In his first start in 14 months and his first in an Eagles jersey in more than three years, Foles made Carson Wentz's season-ending injury a little easier to take.

He was terrific.

“It’s really special," Foles said. "This whole journey and being back in Philly, it’s crazy, if I’m being honest. 

"Just wearing the Eagles jersey. To go back to Philly and wear it, I take a lot of pride in that. I can’t say enough about our guys. They made some big plays to help with those touchdowns, but it’s a special moment for sure."

Foles completed 24 of 38 passes for 237 yards in his second career four-TD game and first since the record-setting seven-TD game in Oakland in 2013 (see Roob's observations).

This is a guy who hadn't started a game since November 2016 for the Chiefs and hadn't started a game on the road since November 2015 with the Rams.

And he became the fifth quarterback ever to throw four TD passes and no interceptions while completing 63 percent of his passes against the Giants in East Rutherford (or New York).

"He was phenomenal," Corey Clement said. "I think everybody's doubt really fueled him today. He was definitely relaxed. We depended on him, and he came up huge, just like we knew he would."

The Eagles improved to 12-2 and for the first time since the 2004 Super Bowl season clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Foles improved to 16-9 in an Eagles uniform and 15-4 since 2013.

"I thought he played well, really well," head coach Doug Pederson said. "I'm sure there are some things he would like to do over, each game is going to be that way. But I thought he handled himself extremely well. A lot of poise back there. Took some shots but bounced up."

With his four touchdowns, Foles now has 50 in an Eagles uniform. He passed Carson Wentz (49) and into 12th place in Eagles history.

“He wants to be here so bad," Foles said. "He’s one of the greatest competitors I’ve played with and going out there and getting this win, I know he’s excited.”

There was one play where Foles actually looked like Wentz.

Foles isn't the slickest guy in the pocket, but he adroitly sidestepped Jason Pierre-Paul, buying himself time, then fired down the field to Torrey Smith, who drew a 32-yard pass interference down to the 5-yard line. Two plays later, Foles threw the first of his four TDs.

"I channeled my inner Carson Wentz right there," Foles said with a laugh. "Just made a play and tried to get him to move and step up, and then if the defender doesn’t hold Torrey and hold his arms down, it’s probably a touchdown, but Torrey did a great job fighting through it, we get the call, get down there and get this thing rolling."

Foles spread the ball around, with four guys finishing with between 40 and 60 yards (Jay Ajayi, Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor), and four guys catching touchdowns (Jeffery, Agholor, Ertz, Trey Burton).

It was a vintage Nick Foles performance.

“You get the butterflies, for sure," Foles said. "I think any game you ever play in, you get that excitement because it’s a big stage, there’s a lot going on. But once you get on the field you just play ball. 

"You live in the moment and there’s just something that comes out of you, and you just go out there and just play."

Wentz is out for the year with a torn left ACL, so this is Foles' team as long as the Eagles keep playing.

"Obviously, it sucks not having (Wentz) in there, but we knew all throughout the week, Nick would do his thing," Ajayi said. 

"We just let him play his game, as you saw. He played a great one. He did his thing, just operated like we thought he would. Just threw a bunch of touchdowns today."

Foles finished with a passer rating of 115.8, his eighth career game with a rating of 115 or higher.

That's sixth-most in Eagles history, even though he's 15th in franchise history in QB starts.

He can play.

After so much disappointment in his career — he even considered retiring after the 2015 season — this was quite an emotional day for Foles.

“Huge," he said. "Just getting back out there playing a full game on the road in New York. NFC East.

"There’s definitely some things when I go back and watch it that I can clean up, absolutely. The big thing is you keep playing when something does go wrong or you miss a throw or maybe the decision wasn’t what I wanted. 

"I can absolutely get better. There’s a lot to be improved on and I’m going to continue to do that."

Extra emphasis on special teams bails Eagles out

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USA Today Images

Extra emphasis on special teams bails Eagles out

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Eagles blocked three kicks Sunday, and they needed every one of them to secure a 34-29 victory over the New York Giants (see breakdown).

Derek Barnett blocked an extra point in the first quarter, a play that wound up putting the Giants behind the eight ball for the rest of the game. Kamu Grugier-Hill blocked a punt in the second quarter, which led to an Eagles touchdown. Then in the fourth quarter, Malcolm Jenkins blocked a field goal that could have given New York the lead.

It was, by far, the Eagles' best special teams performance of the season to date, one in which the unit had been preparing for all week.

"All week we knew we could do things here, pick apart them here," Grugier-Hill said, "so we went in with a really good plan and we executed."

It could've been the game plan devised by special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, or the hard work of the players in the film room and on the practice field (see Roob's observations). Or, as Barnett suggests, it might've been the Eagles finally playing to their capabilities.

“We executed," Barnett said. "That's about it. There's nothing else behind it.”

The Eagles' special teams had been uncharacteristically poor over the previous five contests. At one point, the coverage units allowed a kick or punt return of 39 yards or more in three straight games. But the biggest miscue of all came last week in Los Angeles — a blocked punt that nearly helped swing the outcome in the Rams' favor.

For a franchise that has routinely fielded some of the best special teams units in the league, the performance was unacceptable.

“Our standard is higher," Grugier-Hill said. "The last three or four years, we've been the top special teams in the league, so to have those down weeks, we've been really putting emphasis on everyone elevating their game and doing better.”

The emphasis paid off. The Eagles made a bit of history, becoming the first NFL team to block an extra point, a field goal and a punt in the same game since the Buffalo Bills did it in 1991.

More importantly, the Eagles were able to swing the momentum in their favor time and time again, and ultimately, they pick up the win as a result.

"We knew from some things that we saw on tape that we had a couple guys that we could attack," Jenkins said.

In addition to the game plan, the Eagles shored up their special teams this week with the re-signing of Bryan Braman. Furthermore, the Giants aren't exactly known for fielding in a quality unit in any phase of the kicking game.

The Eagles had a plan. They had the personnel in place. They were up against inferior competition.

But it all came back to execution (see report card).

“Just getting off the rock, playing physical, not stopping and just keep on going forward," Barnett said. "Schematically? I don't know the answer. That's a coach question. Whatever they do, we do up front, and if everybody executes it — it's all 11 of us, not just one — if we all execute, we'll get the outcome we want.”

Braman, who signed Tuesday and was back in action for the first time since 2016, gave a similar evaluation.

"Everybody comes off the ball like they're the ones that are going to be able to block it," Braman said, "and the scheme and everything ended up paying off."

The Eagles' stellar special teams performance also happened to be timely, as it was the first game without injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz.

Coming down the stretch, the club will be counting on contributions from all three phases to overcome the loss of a leader and an MVP-caliber player.

On Sunday, special teams held up their end of the bargain and then some.

“When a starter like Carson goes down, everyone needs to elevate their game," Grugier-Hill said. "It's not just defense, it's defense or even offensive guys, they need to individually pick up their game.”