PHILADELPHIA -- There was no handy, hidden reason given for Nick Foles' inept performance in his last start, Oct. 20 against the Cowboys. It would have been easier for fans to move past it if the second-year quarterback had been covering up an injury, or had accidentally ingested an hallucinogen in his sports-science smoothie that morning, or maybe if Jerry Jones had kidnapped Foles' dog and forced him to play horribly in order to get it back, like that TV show where Toni Collette is supposed to have to try to kill the president.
But what we were left with, when Foles emerged from concussionland and spoke to reporters this week, was mechanics, and the possibility that Foles just freaked out from the pressure, though, in fairness, he'd had plenty of chances to do that previously, without doing so.
"I think, when you go through everything and you analyze it ... there's not one thing," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "You just can't say, 'Aha! His step was nine inches and it should have been three inches, and we correct that step, we're good.' One play is different from the next play.
"Overall ... he can do a better job in his setup and getting his feet set a little better, and he can do a better job in terms of his shoulder plane and how he's delivering the football. Those are all things we work on. But when you go out there, you've still got to go play. And I think sometimes you can paralyze him, and I'll use the golf analogy. If you stand over the ball and you think about nine million things before you hit it, you're not going to hit it very well.
"Sometimes, as I told Nick, grip it and rip it, let's go. He's thrown a lot of really good passes since I've been around him, and he's been really good with the football. He's thrown six touchdowns, hasn't thrown an interception yet ... Let's just get him back in the flow. Let's get in a rhythm. That's the biggest thing. Can you get in a rhythm, can you get your feet set, can you throw the ball?"
Foles said he doesn't need an extensive external mechanical critique to make adjustments.
"I can feel it, when I do a throw, what went wrong," he said. "I can pinpoint it. That's just from playing this game ... I understand my body."
Foles allowed that there are times when a coach spots something he needs a reminder about, but to Kelly's point, he said this is why you have practice; he can't really adjust his mechanics during a game. (That might be as close as we get to an explanation for the Dallas game.)
"When you're out there playing, you can't worry about, 'Oh, I need to keep my weight (over my feet),' " he said.
Kelly also talked about Foles' confidence, which will be tested as much as his mechanics Sunday at Oakland.
"I know how confident Nick is in practice, but practice and games are different things," Kelly said. "But I think he understands how he played in the Dallas game and how he's practicing right now. He's practicing really well. We'll see ... Sometimes that position is a lot like a golfer. You can go one week and be in contention and you're leading and you have a great round, and the next week the guy doesn't make the cut ... What we need out of Nick is consistency, and he understands that."
GETTING A GRIP
One of the reasons the Eagles' defense couldn't get off the field through the first four games of the season was poor tackling, which among other things pretty much negated defensive coordinator Bill Davis' emphasis on giving up the underneath pass here and there to keep from getting beaten deep. Teams were completing passes underneath, then getting 40 or 50 yards after the catch. That isn't happening anymore.
"We work on tackling every day as a fundamental in practice," Chip Kelly said. "We've got a defensive staff that teaches it really, really well. There's obviously concern with tackling (in practice), how you get that done without injuring other guys, but I think they've done a good job since Day 1 ... The other thing that's always key to tackling is how many people do you get to the ball."
Kelly said collective bargaining agreement restrictions on padded practices -- only one per week is allowed -- are a challenge, but "you can still practice your approach -- long stride, short stride, stagger stride, all that stuff -- without taking guys to the ground. I think it's what you emphasize every day in practice. I think one of the things we want to pride ourselves on is being a good fundamental football team. The only way you can be a good fundamental football team is to practice it."
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