He was 8-2 as a starter last year with 27 TD passes, 2 interceptions, and a 119.2 passer rating (which ranks 3rd all time by the way). He led the Eagles from last place in 2012 to an NFC East title in 2013. He was an MVP candidate despite starting only 10 games. So why isn’t Nick Foles higher on this list?
First, let’s talk about the good. Foles has all the tools of a franchise quarterback – a strong arm, accuracy and size. He plays the position with maturity. He hangs in the pocket until late in the play and reads through his progressions. He holds and moves defenders like a veteran. He’s not afraid to take calculated chances and throw the ball into tight windows. He’s shown the ability to throw with anticipation. In general, anticipation makes receivers open more often than they otherwise would be because defenders don’t have as much time to react. This is a vital skill for a quarterback to have and also one that doesn’t get a ton of attention in the media. The play below is a good example.
Here, Foles has already started his throwing motion. His intended receiver, tight end Zach Ertz, will end up running a post. At this point in his route, however, he is still moving upfield and even leaning to the outside to get the safety going with him. The safety is not completely fooled, and actually has decent positioning on Ertz. This is why anticipation is so important. Had Foles waited a split second longer, the safety would have had time to react and make a play on the ball. But because Foles is throwing this ball before Ertz comes out of his cut, the safety has less time to react.
As you can see, when Ertz catches the ball, the safety isn’t too far away from him. Because defensive backs in the NFL are so quick, quarterbacks must be able to throw with this type of anticipation to have consistent success.
Foles’ weaknesses are not so severe that they can’t be overcome or improved. Yet they’re enough to keep him from ranking higher on this list. For instance, sometimes when Foles moves in the pocket, his footwork breaks down, decreasing his accuracy. For a 6’5” quarterback, he has a lot of passes batted down at the line. This is largely because he has a tendency to drop his elbow when he throws. The low elbow slot also causes him to miss some passes because the ball sails on him.
Additionally, Foles still has moments where he gets fooled by coverage, or doesn’t recognize a blitz, or takes a bad sack. For instance, in the Wild Card playoff game against the Saints, he took a bad sack at the end of the first quarter that turned a 35-40 yard field goal attempt into a 48-yard attempt in the frigid cold. Alex Henery missed the more difficult field goal try and the Eagles eventually ended up losing the game by just 2 points. Do keep in mind that Foles is only 17 starts into his career, so moments like these could easily be chalked up to inexperience.
Overall, there’s a lot of good for Nick Foles to build off of, but in order for him to take the next step as a quarterback, everything he does needs to be done faster. From his release, to his feet, to his coverage recognition, Foles needs to speed up his overall process. If he can do that, he’ll end up a top 10 signal caller in the NFL for the next decade.