Why Nick Foles needs to play vs. Cowboys

Why Nick Foles needs to play vs. Cowboys

This should have been a no-brainer. 

This should have been Nick Foles playing for three quarters and Nate Sudfeld getting some mop-up touches to close out a meaningless game while Carson Wentz holds a clipboard with a ski cap on. And off the folks of the Delaware Valley would go into 2018 with visions of a Super Bowl title dancing in their heads. But life doesn’t work that way and neither does sports. 

So let’s deal in reality: With everything wrapped heading into the playoffs, the Eagles may have more questions than any 13-2 team ever. Nick Foles' performance on Christmas night was downright frightening. He was that bad. Bad enough that it erased a solid game the week before vs. the Giants, fair or not. Back was the inaccuracy, the kind that could get a pass catcher killed and nearly did. The holding the ball too long, the seeing ghosts in the pocket, the back-pedaling, the gift interceptions. The Eagles were fortunate to play an awful team with a quarterback, Derek Carr, who is a shell of his 2016 self. 

If you’re looking for solace, the defense played better than it did against the Giants. But is better good enough? Jalen Mills is a mess right now and opposing coaches smell blood. He wasn’t alone, by the way, on that uncovered Amari Cooper touchdown. Rodney McLeod also took the cheese. Also alarming was the Birds’ run defense that has been so good all season. They allowed the Raiders 137 yards on the ground (4.2 average). To the defense’s credit, it gave up only 10 points. But the teams — and in particular the quarterbacks — the Eagles will be facing in the postseason will exploit these issues in a big way if they are not corrected. 

And really that’s what this is all about — what lies ahead. To a healthy degree, it sounds like classic fan nit-picking to be so critical of a team that has accomplished so much. What the Eagles have achieved this season is nothing short of spectacular. Best record in the NFL, division title, bye, home-field advantage throughout. They’ve done this despite significant injuries. It’s been a thrilling season when most optimists thought 10 wins was the ceiling. The front office, the coaches and the players deserve every accolade thrown their way. But that’s in the rearview. It’s not about what could have been had Wentz still been working his magic under center with Jason Peters protecting his blindside. Or if Jordan Hicks was still patrolling the middle on defense. This is about playoff readiness now with what you have.

With that said, Foles needs to play against the Cowboys. He demonstrated he’s not playoff-ready. Even a game with no real stake for either team is much more of a proximity than him wearing a red shirt in practice. This also means the other healthy starters on offense need to play so they can get on the same page. Same goes for the Eagles' corners. 

Is there an injury risk? No question. But if this team performs in the playoffs the way it did the last two games against inferior opponents, it will be one-and-done. The Eagles' wideouts totaled five catches for 40 yards against the 23rd-ranked Raiders pass defense. Alshon Jeffery was a ghost of Christmas present — two targets, no receptions. Again, this will not cut it. Foles and his receivers need to get near the same page. Going 1 for 14 on third down is a recipe for a first-game home loss in the postseason. 

So Doug Pederson needs to roll the dice Sunday against Dallas and do whatever it takes to get these guys better. 

Not the way they would have drawn it up, but the way it is.

Nick Foles delivers powerful speech after winning Best Championship Performance award at ESPYS

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Nick Foles delivers powerful speech after winning Best Championship Performance award at ESPYS

A year ago at this time, Nick Foles was preparing for a season on the bench as he just tried to stick around the NFL after falling back in love with the game.

He has a little higher profile now.

While Foles is preparing to possibly head back to the bench in favor of Carson Wentz, he is now the reigning Super Bowl MVP and added another trophy to his case on Wednesday night, when he was given the Best Championship Performance award at the ESPYS.

During his acceptance speech, Foles thanked a bunch of folks, used the word “y’all” more than enough times to remind everyone he’s from Texas and spoke candidly about the incredibly unique path his career has taken.

Here is Foles accepting the award from comedian (and Jim Schwartz’s former college teammate … seriously) Jim Gaffigan.

No, an ESPY is no Super Bowl MVP, but it’s a pretty nice honor and Foles is certainly deserving after leading the Eagles to their first-ever Super Bowl. Just a reminder, Foles completed 65 percent of his passes for 373 yards and three touchdowns in Super Bowl LII.

Here’s his full speech from Wednesday night at the ESPYS:

I’m honored to be in front of all y’all. I never planned a speech. I quite frankly never expected to win this award or to even be in this moment. I just want to thank the good Lord for giving me the ability to play the game I love. You know, thank my wife Tori, she’s gone through her own battles the last five years. You’ve always been an inspiration. A lot of my family is here, so thank y’all for always supporting me.

It’s been a crazy career. If any of y’all know my career path, it doesn’t make sense. But you know, I’m here right now. My teammates, coaches, you know what, we faced so much adversity this year, we have an amazing team. It’s so much fun to go to work in that locker room every single day. I couldn’t have done it without y’all. We see what happened. We won the first Super Bowl in Philadelphia history, so we’ve got a special group of guys.

And then to the Philadelphia fans. Y’all get a (bad) rap everywhere, but the passion, y’all bring it every single day. So thank y’all. And finally, there’s a lot of kids watching this and it’s kind of been the theme. There are going to be people who doubt you. Don’t listen to them. What matters is what’s in here (taps on chest) and the people who love you and support you. Go out there every day and be bold. Thank you.

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Roob's 10 observations: Brian Dawkins' Hall of Fame, Nate Gerry & Zach Ertz vs. Jason Witten

Roob's 10 observations: Brian Dawkins' Hall of Fame, Nate Gerry & Zach Ertz vs. Jason Witten

Carson Wentz's remarkable consistency, expectations of Nate Gerry, questions at wideout, a Zach Ertz stat you absolutely won't believe and the rarity of Eagles Hall of Fame teammates.

Roob's 10 random Eagles observations don't get much more random than this!

1. Can we take a moment to talk about how insanely consistent Wentz was before he got hurt? Wentz’s lowest passer rating last year was an 83.0 in the loss to the Chiefs. He threw for 333 yards with two TDs and one INT and that was his worst game of the year. Wentz is one of just four quarterbacks in NFL history to open a season with a rating of 83 or higher in every game through the first 13 games of a season. Which of course is when his season ended. Including the last week of 2016, Wentz goes into 2018 on a streak of 14 straight games with a rating of 83 or higher. That’s seventh longest in NFL history, and the longest active streak. Wentz’s 21 career games with a passer rating of 83 or higher are tied for third most in NFL history by any QB after two seasons, behind only Dan Marino (23) and Russell Wilson (23). And he missed the last three games of the season. What a talent.

2. I’m curious to see Gerry this summer. With Mychal Kendricks off to the Browns and Paul Worrilow out for the season, there are roster spots to be won and playing time to be earned behind Nigel Bradham (out for the opener) and injury-plagued Jordan Hicks. After starting his rookie season on the practice squad, Gerry got an October promotion onto the 53 and got into 10 games and all three playoff games, almost all of it on special teams. He looked bigger and stronger in spring practices as he continues to transition from safety to linebacker. With a good summer, he can definitely find himself in the mix.

3. Ertz had nine third-down catches for first down in the 2017 playoffs. Jason Witten had eight playoff third-down catches for first down in his 15-year career.

4. And Ertz’s nine third-down catches in last year's postseason are the most by any tight end in a single postseason — and second most by any player — in the last 30 years.

5. The Eagles converted 61 percent of their third downs during the 2017 postseason, which is insane. That’s the fourth highest in NFL history by any team in a single postseason (among teams playing at least two playoff games). The Broncos converted 75 percent in 1997, the Rams 63 percent in 2004 and the Colts 62 percent in 1995.  

6. You thought Vaughn Hebron was fast? His daughter, Sanaa, won the AAU national title for the 400-meter dash this weekend in 55.31. That would have placed her fourth in the Big East championships this year. She’s 13 years old. Vaughn’s sons, competing in the 17-18 age group, are no slouches, either. Savion ran 10.78 and 21.68 for the 100 and 200, and Savaughn ran a 2:00 split on the Trenton Track club’s 3,200-meter relay team. So Vaughn right now is at best the fourth-fastest person in his own family. But he does have a couple Super Bowl rings.

7. So many questions at wide receiver behind Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor. Will Mike Wallace slow down at 32? Can Mack Hollins make a big jump in Year 2? Will Shelton Gibson show enough in camp to work his way into the roster mix? Can Markus Wheaton regain the form that made him so dangerous with the Steelers in 2014 and 2015? Can speedy Bryce Treggs make any sort of impact in his third year? Potentially, an exceptional group.

8. Nick Foles is the third-youngest active quarterback in the NFL with at least three career playoff wins. Foles turns exactly 29 years, six months on Thursday. Cam Newton (29, 68 days) and Andrew Luck (who turns 29 in September) also have three postseason wins.

9. Interesting that during 2004 and part of 2005 the Eagles had two future Hall of Famers, Brian Dawkins and Terrell Owens. What was the last Eagles team before 2004 with two Hall of Famers? It was actually 1997, when Dawkins and Richard Dent were briefly teammates. Before that, it was 1987 through 1989, with Reggie White and Cris Carter. Before that, you have to go back to 1968, with Bob Brown and Mike Ditka. So the 14 games that Dawkins and Dent played together during an otherwise forgotten 1997 season are the only Eagles games in the last 50 years where two future Hall of Famers played alongside each other on the same side of the ball.

10. Dawkins didn’t make a Pro Bowl until his fourth season and didn’t make All-Pro until his sixth. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding that “so-and-so can't play” two weeks into his rookie training camp.

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