Nick Foles came into the season with low grades and perhaps even lower expectations. The signal caller received a 6th round grade from National Scouting and was set to lead a squad that’d lost its last five games, including a brutal bowl game against Oklahoma State.
As a result, not many were surprised when Arizona was beat down in September by the same Cowboy squad. In addition to losing by more than three touchdowns, Foles appeared to solidify his draft rep. He simply was a mid/late round system QB: accurate but a very average arm; good in the short game but chronically bad vertically; and, perhaps most damning, not mobile enough to navigate the pocket and handle an NFL pass rush.
However, after some dismissed him, Foles quietly proved his worth. Instead of being a product of the system, Foles succeeded in spite of it. Though the team failed to accumulate wins, he was able to move the chains while saddled with a mediocre surrounding cast.
The Washington game provides a good example of Foles’ underrated overall game. The line play in front of him was inconsistent, and his receivers oscillated between making big plays and drive-crushing ones. The wideouts dropped several catchable balls and ran the wrong routes, with one miscommunication leading to an interception. Nevertheless, Foles put 31 points on the board; with USC’s line and wideouts, it would have been 50.
Unfortunately, Foles often has had pass rushers all up in his grill. It hasn’t always been pretty: at times, Foles will get panicky and lose his accuracy, even missing on easy swing passes. Nevertheless, he’s benefited developmentally from not being able to stand in a cushy pocket. Instead of feeling phantom pressure, he’s managed to cope with the real thing. As DB’s Eric Stoner has pointed out, that experience will be of big benefit to him, especially if he’s forced on the field early in his career.
In addition, Foles possesses underrated mobility. As Chad Reuter’s noted, the Arizona signal caller looks “goofy” out there but moves around fairly well. When improvising, he can get himself in trouble by forcing throws and struggles to throw a tight ball. However, he’s very effective on designed rollouts and shows the ability to sidestep pressure.
Foles’ big 6’5″, 240-pound build allows him to stand tall in the pocket and absorb hits. He’s also able to beat pressure in a Roethlisberger-esque fashion, avoiding sacks by pitching the ball with guys draped over him. Though no one will confuse him with Big Ben, he does enough with his feet to convince teams that his mobility won’t be a Ryan Mallett-esque major liability.
The one area where Foles has not quite exceeded expectations is his downfield accuracy. Despite possessing a good arm, he struggles to connect with his receivers downfield. The lack of touch on his deep ball may be his biggest flaw, one that could mar what should be a very good week for him in Mobile.
The Senior Bowl will afford him a great opportunity to show that he can outperform other QBs when surrounded with equal quality talent. Hopefully, his limitations as a downfield passer won’t offset an otherwise solid week — one that could push him into the late 2nd round.