How Did Nick Foles Improve On His Rookie Season?

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was incredible during the 2013 season, throwing 27 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions. It can be hard to believe that Foles is only 25 years old and last year was only his second season in the NFL. I have always been a huge fan of Foles since I watched him in the 2012 preseason game against the Patriots; he showed exceptional poise in the pocket for a rookie. It is often said that the offseason between a quarterbacks rookie season and their second season is extremely important for a quarterbacks development, Foles proved this to be true. Despite struggling in his rookie season, Foles showed potential and I believed he had the ability to be a very good quarterback in the NFL.

However, Foles had a number of weaknesses he needed to correct in order to play at a high level. I went back and watched a lot of Foles in 2012 and I believe that there were 4 key areas of his game that Foles really improved during his second season and I will speak in detail about them below. These 4 key areas are: his deep ball, going through his progressions, his confidence and his mobility. I have not included areas which Foles excels at, such as decision making, pocket awareness and short accuracy. This is because Foles was very good at these areas in 2012 and although he continued to improve them, he did not improve them as much as the other areas.

Deep Ball 

Foles really struggled with his deep accuracy in 2012, he seemed to realize this and threw a lot more shorter throws because of this. Opposing defenses were then able to take away the short game and give him the chance to beat them deep which he could not do consistently. Foles even earned the nickname “Captain Checkdown” by some Eagles fans as he rarely took a shot downfield. In 2013, Foles played like a completely different quarterback and consistently took chances down the field and was extremely accurate when throwing deep. The table below shows how much better he was in 2013 at throwing the deep ball (Stats from Pro Football Focus, a throw is defined as deep if the target is 20 yards or more downfield).

To put into context how good Foles was in 2013 with his deep ball; his 14 touchdowns were 2nd highest in the league and his yards were 7th highest in the league, despite only starting in 10 games. He ranked 12th in competition percentage which is a huge upgrade over 2012 where he ranked 24th in the league. Foles yards per attempt went from 6.4 in 2012 to 9.1 in 2013, this highlights how much Foles was able to improve on his deep accuracy in 2013 and it was a big reason for his success in 2013.

Going Through His Progressions 

In head coach Chip Kellys offense, going through your progressions as a quarterback is vital as there are often a number of different options that a quarterback has on every play. Foles excelled at going through multiple reads in 2013 and this is one reason why he only threw 2 interceptions; he rarely stared down one receiver which meant it was hard for defenders to read his eyes and jump his throws. I found a great example of Foles going through his progressions against the Oakland Raiders on a 63 yard touchdown pass to Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper.

I have added the red arrows to show exactly where Foles is looking on all 3 pictures. He starts by looking to his right side but everyone is covered so he moves on to his next progression which is the tight end. He does not throw to the tight end because there is a safety where I have added the yellow arrow coming down towards the tight end as he has seen where Foles looks like he will throw it. He then knows that because the safety is just beyond the first down line he is not covering deep and that means that Cooper has a 1v1 matchup on the outside. The bottom picture shows Foles about to release a perfect deep ball to Cooper. Take a look at the time in the top left corner of the images; Foles goes throw all his progressions and releases the ball in under 3 seconds. To go through his progressions and release the ball that quickly is really impressive, especially for a second year quarterback. I discuss the other 2 areas he improved on the next page.