Frank Reich

Torn ACL, players' day off, and Wentz still helps Foles plan for Giants

Torn ACL, players' day off, and Wentz still helps Foles plan for Giants

They've been together every day since training camp began. Carson Wentz and Nick Foles.

And now that Wentz's season is over and Foles is the Eagles' quarterback?

That won't change.

"He'll be a huge help," Foles said Tuesday of Wentz. "He was around today. [I was] just having conversations with him and how grateful we all are that Nate (Sudfeld), him and I have gotten to spend so much time together developing that relationship.

"He's going to come back stronger than ever. I know his mentality, him as a person, him as an athlete, this is just part of his journey, and we all continue to pray for him. And he's going to be instrumental every single week here on out for this team."

What does it say about Wentz that Tuesday — the players' day off and just two days after suffering that devastating injury — he was at the NovaCare Complex working with Foles and going over what he'll face Sunday against the Giants?

But nobody who's been paying attention all year should be surprised.

"He's fully supportive," Foles said. "We've been together this whole year, preseason, OTAs, and that he's going to be there every step of the way and I know he's got my back, and that will never change, and that goes both ways."

Foles will make his first start since last November and first in an Eagles uniform since November 2014 on Sunday when the Eagles face the Giants at 1 p.m. at the Meadowlands.

A win gives the Eagles a first-round bye in the playoffs. A win combined with a Vikings loss to the Bengals gives the Eagles home-field advantage through the NFC Championship game.

Foles is 15-9 as the Eagles' starting quarterback, including a 14-4 record since his rookie year.

Wentz was 11-2 in his 13 starts this year and is a Pro Bowl lock and still in the MVP race despite the season-ending injury.

"I think Carson will be a huge support," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "I mean, first of all, I can't even tell you the kind of support Nick was for Carson, and I'm sure Nick will still be that kind of support for Carson going through what he's going through.

"That [quarterback meeting] room cannot, from a chemistry standpoint and from a character standpoint, it can't get any better. That room is the best room. So Carson will add into that. 

"Just getting to know Carson the way we all know him, he'll help, but he's a guy who has a lot of ideas, and he's very engaged like that, as is Nick. So I think Carson will have the maturity to understand, 'Hey, Nick's running the show right now, so just be there to support him in whatever way he can.'"

Because of the injury, Wentz likely won't be allowed on the sidelines with the other quarterbacks and coaches and work directly with Foles on game day.

But head coach Doug Pederson said he expects Wentz to be with the team Sundays and helping Foles in some capacity.

"A lot like Jordan Hicks and Jason Peters and these guys, he can be around and be in the meeting rooms," Pederson said.

"He can watch the tape [and] be there on game day and just be another set of eyes for the quarterbacks, for Nick, and just having his input and having him around … it would be a big boost.

"[It's] an opportunity for him now to kind of put the coaching hat on and to help Nick."

Chase Daniel was Wentz's backup last year, but the Eagles released Daniel on March 13, the same day they signed Foles to a two-year, $11 million contract.

Foles and Wentz have become very close over these last 10 months, and Foles said he'll draw on that now that he's replacing his friend.

"Right now, as a teammate, someone who cares a lot about him, you hurt, but you're there to support him, pray for him," Foles said.

"Carson is such a huge part of this organization and will be for a long time and he's done so much for this team on the field and in the locker room, and a big part of coming here.

"Well, my job now is to step in that huddle and keep this thing rolling, and that's what I plan on doing."

Eagles OC Frank Reich very familiar with situation facing Nick Foles

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Eagles OC Frank Reich very familiar with situation facing Nick Foles

As of Tuesday afternoon, Frank Reich hadn't yet shared any stories with Nick Foles about the 1992 NFL season, but maybe he will in the coming days. 

After all, if there's anyone who might have some idea of what Foles is going through, it's Reich. 

And this week, as Foles is getting set to take over for Carson Wentz, the Eagles' offensive coordinator can't help but think of his own experience as a backup quarterback, coming in for a transcendent talent and leading his team into the playoffs. 

"Absolutely. I can't not think of that," Reich said. "And (Jeff) Hostetler, when he stepped in and led the Giants to the Super Bowl right around that same time period, I was on the other side of that one. So Kurt Warner when he stepped in for Trent (Green), so on and so forth. There's other examples around, not just my example and Nick knows that. He's a smart guy."

Things worked out pretty well for Reich that year.  

Back in 1992, Reich was in his seventh NFL season and was cemented behind Jim Kelly as the Bills' backup quarterback. But after Kelly started all 16 games for the Bills, he hurt his knee in the season finale against the Oilers. 

The Bills needed Reich to start the next two games and he led them to wins in both, including the biggest comeback in NFL history. Against those same Oilers in the wild-card game, Reich orchestrated a comeback after the Bills were down 35-3. The next week, he led the Bills to a win over the Steelers before Kelly returned for the AFC Championship Game. Eventually, Kelly came out of the Super Bowl and Reich took over, but he couldn't pull off another comeback. 

Anyway … one thing still stands out about that season: People thought there was no way Reich could replace Kelly and things could keep on rolling. 

"I remember when in that year, everybody thought, well, hey, Jim Kelly, no-huddle offense and it was like, now the offense is going to have to change because the franchise quarterback was out and this backup was coming in who didn't have the same skill set," Reich said. "I remember as the backup going in and talking to our coaches and saying, ‘Don't change anything. This is the offense that I know. This is the offense that I want to run. This is the offense that our players are used to. Let's just keep this thing rolling. We'll get it done. We've got the guys in this room to get it done.’ This is our DNA. This is what we've built this upon, so let's just go in there and play ball. So that's what I expect from Nick."

Reich brought up that example to show the reasoning behind the Eagles' saying they're not going to change their offense just because they lost Wentz. The team is confident in Foles, even though they know he's not Carson Wentz. 

Back in 1992, Reich wasn't Jim Kelly either. 

A big difference between Reich in early 1993 and Foles right now is experience. Reich had started just six NFL games before starting in those playoffs. Foles has 36 career starts already under his belt and one start in the 2013 playoffs. 

At some point this week, Reich might tell Foles a story about the 1992 playoffs. It could be valuable. 

"But what Nick is going to draw on is his own experience," Reich said. "The guy went to the Pro Bowl. I mean, we have a backup quarterback who was the MVP of the Pro Bowl. Just credit Howie (Roseman) for having the foresight to get someone like Nick here for something like this."

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Eagles' offense 'full steam ahead' with Nick Foles at QB

Carson Wentz is out, Nick Foles is in. 

And the Eagles claim their offense isn't going to change. 

On it's face, that seems somewhat absurd. After all, Wentz is more than an average quarterback. He's the face of the Eagles' franchise and was an MVP candidate through 13 weeks. Foles was once a Pro Bowler, but there's a reason he wasn't a starter entering this season. 

So how will the offense look different? 

"I don't expect it will look different at all," Foles said adamantly.  

Why is that? 

"Because it's our offense," Foles answered. "This is the Eagles' offense. This is the one that is the DNA of this team. And we're going to do what we do. We have so many tremendous players on offense that can do a lot of different things. We just have to go out there and execute and have a great week of work and just keep moving." 

Offensive coordinator Frank Reich finally admitted that there will be "very minor tweaks" to the Eagles' weekly game plans with Foles in at quarterback. But he made the same point as Foles, that the system is built around the QB, but also around the other talent on offense. 

There is, however, one pretty significant difference between Wentz and Foles. 

"Now, Carson has some unique physical traits that he does exceptionally well, but it's nothing that Nick can't handle," Reich said. "We're full steam ahead."

The Eagles run plenty of run-pass option plays, but head coach Doug Pederson pointed out on Monday that the Eagles very rarely use their quarterback to run the ball in those situations. And as far as RPOs go, Foles has used them plenty before. 

Another part of the offense that has been tailored to Wentz is the autonomy the quarterback has at the line of scrimmage. Wentz has been able to make calls and checks pre-snap based on what the defense shows. It seems like Foles will have that same ability, which is something he's excited about. 

"Understand this, he's a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player."

Pederson said he and Foles will talk weekly to make sure his quarterback is comfortable with the plays that go into the game plan. So, theoretically, things could be different. But based on what the offensive leaders of the team have said, don't expect wholesale changes. 

Now, what might change about the offense isn't necessarily by design. Because of Wentz's unique physical gifts and escapability, he's able to make incredible plays. The escape in Washington, the throw to Corey Clement in the end zone, the deep flick down the sideline in Seattle, those are plays only a handful of guys in the world can make. It would be unfair to expect Foles to make them. 

But as far as game-planning goes, the Eagles are going to do what they've done. 

"I feel comfortable in this offense," Foles said. "I love this offense. We're going to run this offense. Nothing's going to change."

Foles dealt with elbow soreness during the summer, but says his elbow now feels "amazing" and is not an issue. That's good news for the Eagles, because at least Foles has plenty of starting experience. His backup, Nate Sudfeld, has never even been active for an NFL game. 

The Eagles' hopes in 2017 rest on the shoulders of Foles. 

"I've always been a gunslinger, just let it rip," Foles said. "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. ... I'm ready to step up and help this team win."