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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Foles is the ‘wild card’ among the Eagles quarterbacks

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

When the Eagles play New England on Monday night at Gillette Stadium, rookie Nick Foles will be the second-string quarterback behind Michael Vick, and it will be very interesting to see how he does.

No one will be as interested as Mike Kafka, the previous backup, who is out with a hand injury, and Trent Edwards, the veteran who is getting a chance with the Eagles after failing to land an NFL job in 2011. Those quarterbacks know that Foles is going to cost one of them a roster spot unless he falls horribly flat against the Patriots. How well Foles does may also determine which of them is the odd man out.

There is no parlor game less meaningful than the one to decide which quarterbacks sit behind Vick and in which order. If Michael Vick is unable to play, the Eagles are in big trouble. He is that much of a game-changer and that vital to an offense that needs a quarterback who can get the ball down the field in a hurry.

Meaningless or not, the reserve quarterback situation is one of the few unsettled areas on the roster. In some ways, Kafka and Edwards are the same guy. They have average arms and would be counted upon to “manage” a game rather than win it themselves. If the past is a judge, the Eagles will stay with their former draft pick, Kafka, if the difference between them is a coin flip.

Foles is the wild card in the bunch. He is a rangy 6-foot-6 and can throw the ball out of the stadium. If Vick were to get hurt _ and if Foles were reliable enough to run the offense, a big “if” for a rookie _ it would be Foles who could actually keep the Eagles playing the same kind of football. He can’t run like Vick, but he can make a defense respect DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

There is no question Foles will make the team. The Eagles do not use third-round draft picks on quarterbacks they figure to cut. To illustrate the point, the last quarterback drafted by the Eagles with one of the first 100 picks in the draft who didn’t make the team was the immortal Jim Earl Wright in 1961.

In the 51 years since then, the Eagles have taken only seven quarterbacks among the first 100 picks in a draft. They all made the team, and here’s the list: Jack Concannon, 1964; John Huarte, 1965; John Reaves, 1972; Randall Cunningham, 1985; Bobby Hoying, 1996; Donovan McNabb, 1999; and Kevin Kolb, 2007. Foles, taken with the 88th overall pick, is the eighth. He’s on the team.

What the Eagles actually have in Foles will be the fascinating part to find out. He did well in the exhibition opener against Pittsburgh, but he was operating against the lesser lights of the Steelers’ roster. On the other hand, he was also working with a bunch of guys who either won’t be on the Eagles or won’t get a peek outside of special teams.

Still, Foles was 6 for 10 for 144 yards and threw two touchdowns, both on first-down bombs to open drives. He hit Damaris Johnson for a 70-yard score and Mardy Gilyard for a 44-yard touchdown. That accounts for 114 of Foles’ passing yards, but they were still highlight moments in a game that didn’t have many.

Against the Pats, when he takes over for Vick sometime in the second half, he’ll have the second-string unit with him instead of the guys who are further down the depth chart. Of course, he will be seeing a better defense, too. And that’s what makes it interesting. If he does well enough, Foles will open the season as the backup. This game could be that important to him.

“I really don’t think about that much. I just go to work and try to get better every day,” Foles said. “All that stuff is out of my control. What I do on the field and in the film room is all I can control. I just try to prepare myself to be the best quarterback I can be, and get better in any way possible.”

His path to this challenge went through prep honors in Austin, Texas, a stop that didn’t work out at Michigan State, and then a record-setting career at Arizona, where he finished as the Wildcats’ all-time leader in passing yards, completions, and touchdowns. He’s faced competition at his position before and hasn’t lost many battles. He’s not fighting to be a starter this time, but given Vick’s injury history, he’s definitely fighting for possible playing time.

“(Competition) is part of the game. I’ve played this game for a while. We have a great group here, and they’ve been very supportive and helped me a lot,” Foles said. “I’ve been fortunate to be here with these guys.”

When the regular season opens, one of the four quarterbacks will be gone. History says that Foles will still be here. It might be that Monday’s game against the Patriots will say it much louder.

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