Eagles

Don't forget Nick Foles' stunning comeback last time he bottomed out

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Don't forget Nick Foles' stunning comeback last time he bottomed out

Nick Foles’ performance on Christmas Day wasn’t the worst game of his NFL career. Not even close.

Foles completed 50.0 percent of his passes for 4.3 yards per attempt with a touchdown and an interception in the Eagles’ 19-10 win Monday over the Raiders — and the quarterback’s performance was even more brutal than that line would indicate. Inaccurate. Holding the ball too long. Throwing off of his back foot. Risky decision making.

Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for the Eagles’ upcoming playoff run. But it wasn’t Foles’ worst.

There are several games that could objectively qualify as Foles’ worst, though one comes to mind for its relevance. The sixth-year veteran once completed 37.9 percent for a 2.3 average in a 17-3 loss to the Cowboys, experiencing many of the same issues we witnessed against Oakland. Inaccurate. Holding the ball too long. Throwing off of his back foot. Risky decision making.

Yet, whatever similarities may exist between those two contests is not what brought Foles’ dreadful Cowboys performance to mind. It’s what happened afterward.

It turned out Foles sustained a concussion at some point during that 2013 outing against the Cowboys and would miss the next game against the Giants. Then upon returning one week later, he was suddenly unstoppable.

Foles immediately followed perhaps the worst game of his career with his best, completing 78.6 percent of his passes for a 14.5 average and tying the NFL record with seven touchdowns against the Raiders. That was only the beginning. He threw 23 touchdowns to only two interceptions over a span of nine games, including the playoffs, leading the Eagles on a 7-2 run during that span.

That’s Foles. One week, he can do no wrong, throwing for over 400 yards and multiple touchdowns. The next, he could struggle to lead a scoring drive or so much as complete a pass, and all his worst habits will rear their ugly heads at once.

To borrow a term from The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia, Foles is a “high-variance” quarterback. And while that may not be ideal for an Eagles team with Super Bowl aspirations, what it means is his bad game Monday isn’t necessarily reason to panic, either.

The book is out on Foles. Give him time in the pocket and weapons, and he can pick you apart. Get him thinking too much and make him move his feet, and he’s prone to slumping.

But the nice thing about Foles coming off a bad game is he typically doesn’t let that carry over into the next one.

Almost every time Foles has played what could objectively be considered one of the worst games of his career, he’s bounced back with a solid performance. Ten times Foles has posted a passer rating below 70.0 in a start — seven times, he responded with a rating of 85.0 or better the following week.

All three exceptions were right in a row, leading to Foles losing his starting job with the Rams. Of course, Foles didn't have time in the pocket or the weapons he does with the Eagles, and until Christmas, he had played well in starts or relief appearances since.

There's still no telling whether Foles is good enough to lead the Eagles deep into the playoffs. However, basing that opinion on how he performed in one game seems faulty, when he's shown an ability to correct mistakes and adapt throughout his career.

In other words, don't be surprised if Foles comes through with a much stronger performance when the playoffs open in January. Time will tell whether it will be enough to take the Eagles anywhere, but don't count Foles out just yet.

Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

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Eagle Eye: Eagles facing a unique situation with Darren Sproles

In the latest edition of Eagle Eye, Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks discuss Darren Sproles' upcoming retirement. Does it put the Eagles in an awkward position on game days? Why do players care so much about their ratings in Madden? Also, Barrett shares how he decided on his jersey numbers throughout his football career?

1:00 - Derrick is back! What did he do with his time off?
5:30 - Barrett spent time with his grandson ... who ate pancakes with ketchup.
10:00 - Darren Sproles says 2018 will be his final year.
15:00 - Why do players care so much about their Madden ratings?
19:30 - If you can script your career, how would you want to retire?
22:30 - How did Barrett decide on his jersey numbers?

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

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Howie Roseman using what he learned from Andy Reid

One thing Andy Reid was spot on about during his long tenure with the Eagles was the importance of building around both lines. 

Big Red always made the offensive and defensive lines a priority, and during the Eagles’ stretch of deep playoff runs — from 2000 through 2009 — the O-line was anchored by guys like Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jermane Mayberry and Todd Herremans and the D-line by Corey Simon, Trent Cole, Mike Patterson and Hugh Douglas.

During that 10-year stretch, the Eagles had the most wins in the NFC and the third-most wins in the NFL, and the one constant during that stretch was solid line play. 

Donovan McNabb was very good when healthy most of those seasons, and the Eagles always had good running backs and corners, but the heart of those teams was up front.

Just look at how Big Red drafted. Eight of his 11 first-round picks were linemen. After taking McNabb in 1999, all six of Reid's picks in the first half of the first round were linemen.

They obviously didn’t all work out, but Reid was committed to both lines, and Howie Roseman, then a young, rising personnel executive, was paying attention.

The Eagles have done a lot of things differently in the five years since Reid's final season here, but one thing Doug Pederson and Roseman believe in is building around the lines, and it sure paid off last year.

According to figures on salary cap website Spotrac, the Eagles in 2017 were the only team ranked among the top five in the NFL in both offensive line and defensive line spending.

And the only team that had a parade in February.

And they’re only going to spend more this year.

The Eagles will spend 22.36 percent of their 2018 cap money on the offensive line, fourth most in the league, and 28.84 percent to the defensive line, fifth most.

That’s more than half their 2018 payroll on the big guys up front.

The Jets — sixth in O-line spending, 10th in D-line — are the only other team in the top 10 in both.

Seven of the Eagles’ 10 highest-paid players last year were linemen, as are eight of their 13 projected highest-paid players in 2018.

And five of those guys — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Jason Kelce, Vinny Curry and Jason Peters — are actually holdovers from the Reid era.

Think of them as Reid’s parting gifts to the 2017 championship team.

Creating a Super Bowl roster was a complicated process for Roseman, and to be able to make this sort of financial commitment to the two lines means you just don’t have much money left for everything else. 

The only way to make that work is to build with cheap labor elsewhere. 

And that means younger players on bargain-basement rookie contracts, cheap but productive quarterbacks and low-round picks and undrafted players with cheapo contracts excelling.

It means drafting well and making exceptional free-agent decisions without overspending.

It’s a crazy juggling act, and Roseman juggled all those things magnificentely last year.

In fact, according to Spotrac’s data, the two lines are the Eagles' only positional groups ranked even among the top 15 in the NFL.

The secondary and QB positions rank 16th in cap allocations, tight end 18th, running back 21st, wide receiver 27th, linebacker 31st and special teams 32nd.

These numbers are all based on the 53 highest-paid players currently under contract, so they will change slightly once the final roster is set, but they won’t change much.

The Eagles were very good in a lot of areas last year — really, in every area — but their offensive line was the best in football and the best in Eagles history, and the defensive line was easily one of the two- or three-best in football.

Everything the Eagles did, everything they accomplished, started up front.

Put Peters back on the O-line and add Haloti Ngata and Michael Bennett to the D-line with an increased role for Derek Barnett, and both lines could conceivably be even better this year.

It’s going to get harder for Roseman to keep paying the Eagles’ linemen the way he has. Once Carson Wentz signs his next contract, the Eagles’ entire salary cap balance will change. 

Those $25 million annual cap hits for one guy have a tendency to make roster decisions way more challenging.

So it will be tricky for the Eagles to re-sign Graham. He wants a fortune, and he deserves a fortune. 

But even if Roseman can’t get that done, Barnett has three more years on his rookie deal, and that’s the key to making this whole thing work. 

You can’t re-sign everybody, so if you want to remain elite, you have to draft well so you can replace the people you invariably lose.

You lose Patrick Robinson, you have Sidney Jones waiting. You lose LeGarrette Blount, there’s Corey Clement ready to go. You lose Mychal Kendricks, you hope a Nate Gerry can contribute. Trey Burton leaves, and Dallas Goedert is cheaper and better.

You get what you pay for. And the Eagles right now are paying for the best in the business.

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