Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) throws in the pocket against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
One of the most talked about topics regarding the Philadelphia Eagles is the ongoing quarterback competition that began with the arrival of new head coach Chip Kelly.
Both of these quarterbacks had similar seasons — statistically speaking — in 2012. Vick completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 2,363 yards, 12 touchdowns against 10 interceptions for a quarterback rating of 78.1. Foles was eerily similar. He completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 1,699 yards, six touchdowns against five interceptions for a quarterback rating of 79.1.
Productivity-wise, these quarterbacks were very even last season.
However, there happens to be two factors that give Foles the edge in the competition over Vick.
First, Foles was a rookie last season. He showed tremendous poise behind a shaky offensive line and delivered solid play to rival the veteran Vick. Foles has a tremendous upside and seems to have a higher ceiling than Vick at this stage. He may not be a threat to run the ball, but Chip Kelly will utilize other personnel to compensate for that difference.
Second, and possibly most important, Foles has tremendous pocket awareness for such a young player. He was sitting behind an offensive line that had been decimated by injuries last season and still managed to come away relatively unscathed.
The line should be improved in 2013 with the addition of first-round selection Lane Johnson and other members returning from injury. However, Foles’ awareness will still be a very large factor in the ultimate decision to name a starting quarterback.
Let’s take a look back to 2012 to gauge what makes these two quarterbacks different in these regards.
Vick has a first down at the Eagles’ 46-yard line here. He takes a deep drop and looks over the field. He is given a fair amount of time by his offensive line to find an open receiver. Two defenders free themselves up and begin to move in toward Vick, who is nine-yards away.
With two defenders bearing down on Vick — roughly five-yards away — Vick makes the decision to look to his outlet near the right sideline. This takes his vision completely away from the rush. He somehow does not feel the pressure of these two defenders closing in on him.
Ultimately, this results in a sack for a nine-yard loss. Vick could have done a much better job protecting his field position by throwing the ball away after assessing the tight coverage down the field.
Foles, on the other hand, does a very nice job with this same type of pressure. This is a third-down play against the Cincinnati Bengals — one of the better rushing teams in the NFL. Foles is looking downfield, but has enough awareness to see two defenders closing the pocket in front of him.
He uses his vision to find an escape route while keeping his eyes downfield. At this point, he has left the pocket — and the two defenders — well behind him. This buys him some extra time to find an open receiver.
Because of his quick thinking, Foles has created a huge pocket around him which gives him plenty of space to step into his throw and deliver an accurate pass.
This leads to a 25-yard gain to Jason Avant. The pocket awareness of Foles not only allowed the avoidance of a sack, but also lead to a big play and a first down.
This could very well be the deciding factor in the quarterback competition for the Eagles this season. It does not sound as though Chip Kelly is ready to announce a starter any time soon, so we will all have to continue to wait and see if this trend continues for Foles through training camp and the preseason.
All screen shots courtesy of NFL Game Rewind.