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Thread: Nick Foles' biggest challenge will be developing rapport with his receivers

  1. #1
    Head Coach Material Talon_60's Avatar
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    Jul 2005
    S. Jersey

    Lightbulb Nick Foles' biggest challenge will be developing rapport with his receivers
    Paul Domowitch

    Nick Foles has already proven he can play at a high level in the NFL. He has led the league in passing. He has thrown 27 touchdown passes in a season. He has been a Pro Bowl MVP.

    His greatest challenge replacing Carson Wentz in the Eagles’ final three regular-season games and however many playoff games they manage to hang around for will be getting on the same page with his receivers ASAP.

    Backup quarterbacks don’t get many practice reps with the first team during the season. So Foles hasn’t thrown much to wide receivers Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith and Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz, although he and Ertz played together back in 2013 and 2014.

    Complicating matters is the fact that Foles missed much of training camp and the preseason with an elbow injury. So, he didn’t even get to throw much to them during the summer.

    Just look at how long it took for Wentz to develop a rapport with Jeffery this season. It wasn’t until midseason before they finally started clicking.

    In the first eight games, Jeffery was targeted 62 times but had just 28 receptions – a 45.2 catch percentage that would have been the lowest of his career if it had been a full season. He had just three touchdown catches and 14 receiving first downs in the first eight games.

    In the last five games, however, he’s been targeted 44 times with 24 catches — a 54.5 catch rate – and has five touchdown catches and 20 receiving first downs.

    “You just have to work it out,’’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “It’s not just the reps in practice [that the starter gets]. There also are all the little side throwing sessions that Carson has with guys where they kind of work on some finer detail things. Nick will have some of those now. He’s going to bring his own twist to it.

    “I mean, there will be certain throws that Nick is not [just] good at, that he’s great at, and I won’t even get into all that. That I’m sure will come to bear over the next weeks that he’s in there, and he’ll find ways to take advantage of that with receivers. And he’ll have his side conversations and his side sessions with receivers to make sure that they know exactly what he’s thinking and what he’s going to do.’’

    This is Ertz’s fifth pro season. During those five seasons, he has played with six different quarterbacks – Michael Vick, Foles, Matt Barkley, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford and Wentz.

    His previous experience with Foles in 2013-14 should be beneficial. The only other Eagles receiver on the current roster who has caught a regular-season pass from Foles before this season is another tight end, Brent Celek.

    “It’s definitely not the easiest thing, switching quarterbacks,’’ Ertz said. “But I think there’s a lot of familiarity with Nick. The coaches understand what Nick does well. Doug [Pederson] was with him his rookie year” as the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach in 2012.

    “With Nick, he throws such an easy ball to catch that there’s not an adjustment period in terms of getting used to catching him. Some quarterbacks throw a tough ball to catch. But Nick’s ball is really easy to catch, and it makes it really easy for receivers.’’

    Foles has been an attentive backup this season. He has studied the Eagles’ receivers and has closely watched them run their routes. He knows their tendencies and how fast they come out of their breaks and where they like the ball. He has prepared for this moment. But he knows that’s not the same as playing with them over an extended period.

    “We’ll go out there this week and practice together,’’ Foles said on Tuesday. “I’ve watched them run their routes all year. I’ve been able in practice at times to throw those routes.

    “You just sort of build that database. I might not have been able to get the reps that Carson was getting. But I was always standing behind the play. Always watching film. Always watching [Wentz’s] drops. Always doing those drops in the background.

    “You just talk to them about what they like, how they feel, what they see this week. It’ll come really fast.’’

    Said Jeffery: “We’re going to go out there and let Nick play, and we’re going to try and make plays.’’

    One thing you can expect to see with Foles at quarterback is the running backs becoming more involved in the passing game. Since Darren Sproles went down in Week 3, Wentz hadn’t thrown much to his backs.

    But he didn’t need to. He had the mobility to elude rushers and extend plays, which afforded his receivers more time to get open.

    Foles isn’t going to extend many plays. He needs to get the ball out on time. He needs his offensive line to protect him and his receivers to get open as quickly as possible. If he can’t find an open receiver, he’s not going to hesitate to check the ball down to the running back.

    “Duce [Staley, the Eagles’ running backs coach] has been saying once Nick is back there, he’s definitely able to check it down to you,’’ said rookie running back Corey Clement. “He’s been doing it before. He was doing it when [LeSean] McCoy was here.’’

    When Foles led the league in passing with the Eagles in 2013, McCoy won the league rushing title that year but also was the team’s second-leading receiver with 52 catches, averaging 10.4 yards per catch.

    “Duce said when we’re running our routes, make sure you’re running them to catch the ball,’’ Clement said. “Carson was a guy who loved to keep a play alive. He loved to make big things happen. And you love that in a quarterback.

    “But sometimes it’s OK to check it down, and Nick is going to check it down to us. We have to be ready.’’

    The one problem there is that two of the Eagles’ top three backs – LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi – aren’t particularly good at catching the ball. Clement caught only 29 passes in four years at Wisconsin and has just eight catches this season for the Eagles. But two of them have been for touchdowns, including a spectacular end-zone catch against the Redskins earlier this season

    "E-A-G-L-E-S ... EAGLES!"

  2. #2
    From everything I've seen of the Eagles this season they are ready, and Saint Nick still has a few games left in the rest of the season to get adapted to starting. I think N/F can even better Wentz, because he'll be leading Eagles through the playoffs.

  3. #3
    Head Coach Material Talon_60's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    S. Jersey
    Thanx Gunder , this time of the season anything can happen , that said , a little luck will go a long way in the playoffs .
    "E-A-G-L-E-S ... EAGLES!"

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