Resting Nick Foles ahead of playoffs could be a risk Eagles would be wise to avoid


Week 17 is upon us. It feels like only yesterday that the season was just beginning for the Philadelphia Eagles and excitement engulfed the City. Now, with one last face-off against the Cowboys left before the Road to the Super Bowl that runs through Philadelphia truly begins, Doug Pederson is faced with an interesting decision. How many of his starters will he rest, knowing that a first-round bye lies around the corner? There is one player who should absolutely not be rested and that man is Nick Foles.

The struggles of Foles were prominent in the Christmas Day win over Oakland. Completing 19/38 passes for just 163 yards, Foles struggled throughout the contest. Passes sailed, open receivers went untargeted, Alshon Jeffery went without a reception and the offense moved the chains on a stunningly low 7% of third downs. This came as a shock to many after the unit appeared to go without missing a beat against New York just one week before. Foles tossed four touchdown passes in that game and was clinical throughout…but there lies the problem.

The Eagles simply cannot afford for Foles to drop another egg in the playoffs. Home field advantage is massive, but the teams they play may not give the Birds as much mercy or as many second chances as Oakland did.

“Listen, number one, it’s not about one person.” Head Coach Doug Pederson said earlier in the week, defending his quarterback. “There’s enough to go around offensively. Obviously the quarterback is the focal point because he touches the ball every snap. There’s enough to go around offensively to make the corrections and to get better.”

Pederson is correct. 38 pass attempts? That’s plenty to go around. The problem is that it didn’t. Foles sank into a comfort zone, slinging 14 attempts in the way of Zach Ertz and 7 to Nelson Agholor. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith accounted for 7 targets of the 38.

This isn’t Madden. Nick Foles may now have 21 wins in the NFL and six years of experience, but missing most of the offseason due to the arrival of his child and elbow soreness, the backup to Carson Wentz didn’t play in a single preseason snap and was absent for most of training camp. A chance to build a rapport with his receivers was missed. The lone two ‘receiving’ pieces who remained in Philadelphia throughout Foles’ tour through L.A and Kansas City were Zach Ertz and Brent Celek. Ertz has been targeted 23 times in the last two games and Celek 5 in his last three. Now Celek’s attention may not sound like a lot, but he has just 10 receptions on the season.

Finding familiarity is key for Foles, especially in an offense he knows so well, that is built on timing and rhythm. With the majority of traffic going over the middle against the Raiders, the offense looked reminiscent of how it did one year ago, with outside weapons rendered useless. The difference is now, those receivers are in a position to dominate defenses and open up the run.

There is going to be teething problems for Foles, it would be wrong to assume he would drop in against the Giants and throw four touchdowns in every game from there on out. With that in mind, the Eagles can’t afford to let Foles spend the final game of the season on the sideline. Instead, using it to experiment, play to his strengths and build a rapport on the field with his receivers.

“There are a lot of ways to create and make plays on third down, and Nick has proven that he knows how to do that.” Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said on Wednesday. “I think we’ve proven as an offense we know how to scheme things to get players open and put players in position, and I think our receivers and backs and tight ends have shown that they can win their match-ups.”

The problem wasn’t players getting open against the Raiders…as this Film Room piece dictates. It was simply down to Foles playing in one of his weaker games as a quarterback.

The Eagles will naturally want backup Nate Sudfeld to take to the field for some snaps on Sunday and that’s understandable. To have an insurance policy who has taken to an NFL field is certainly advantageous, but it should not come at the expense of Foles, who clearly needs all the time he can get to develop bonds with his receivers. Doing it on the practice field is one thing, translating it to a cold, windy gameday with it all on the line is another mission entirely.

If the Eagles begin to blowout Dallas as they very well could, then the case for Sudfeld can be made. Until then, the right decision is to ride Foles as deep into the game as possible, regardless of how well or how badly he is playing.

Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports