FOLES, PATS DEFENSE SET FOR HIS SLIGHT-OF-HAND BALL HANDLING
MINNEAPOLIS: It has been talked about, probably too many times, that Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is not as good as League MVP candidate Carson Wentz.
That is true if you compare their overall games. Wentz showed he is a franchise quarterback in just about every aspect of the position for the first 13 games of the 2017 season.
Except maybe one. Foles is really good as selling plays. His screens to running backs Jay Ajayi and rookie Corey Clement this season were by the book and have produced points since he took over for Wentz when he tore his ACL December 10 against the Los Angeles Rams.
It is that aspect of his game head coach Doug Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo hope to exploit when the Eagles take on the New England Patriots February 4 in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
“Play action is a big part of playing football, giving defenses different looks,” Foles said, talking from his riser Tuesday. “The more you can do with your hands, keep your eyes up, read the defense, it makes it difficult for them to see what’s going on. I can see more of what they’re doing.”
Foles, who was a Division 1 basketball recruit in high school, said the skills he learned from other sports has transferred over well to football.
“I think playing all the different sports growing up, getting the hand-eye coordination, getting the feel from basketball, I love basketball, I was a good basketball player…so all the hand-eye coordination and feel when it comes to that sport has helped me play football,” Foles said. “When it comes to that aspect, when I am doing play action and other different hand-off leads, it really helps.”
Foles was asked if all this slight-of-hand behind the line is meant to keep defenders eyes moving…he smiled.
“Depends on what we have called,” Foles said. “We have so many different options in those situations, and our playbook is huge, we can do a lot of different things.”
Eagles tight end Trey Burton said Foles handy work is great but to the sell the play, everyone has to be in on it.
“He does a great job,” Burton said. “But it doesn’t just end with Nick. We need the O-line and the running backs selling it as well. Foles has done a great job, but I think Chip’s (former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly) offense helped him out so he can do a whole bunch of those types of things.”
One guy who will have his eyes trained on the ball when Foles takes the snap is Trey Flowers, the Patriots third-year defensive end out of Arkansas.
Flowers said it’s the Eagles running game that sets up Foles and his successful RPO (run, pass option) plays.
“You just have to trust yoru instincts as far as where you think the ball might go or try to anticipate where you think the ball might go,” the 24-year-old said. “You just have to be disciplined and trust your eyes, trust your keys and when the play presents itself, you position yourself and make it.
“They are great at executing it,” Flowers continued. “The success they’ve had running the ball allowed him to have those RPO plays. They’ve got the linebackers and line reading run then they pop a pass. Their success on the run game is definitely one of the things that sparks them.”