The Eagles insist that their offensive system doesn't change when Nick Foles is in the game. But the presence of Foles could change the offense.
Opposing defenses can play the Eagles differently when Foles is on the field -- if not in scheme, then certainly in what they emphasize. This could come into play Sunday when the Eagles visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; it is likely that Foles will be the starting quarterback.
Michael Vick participated in practice on a limited basis again on Wednesday, and coach Chip Kelly offered no update on whether Vick could play Sunday.
One noticeable difference after Vick left Sunday's win with a pulled hamstring was LeSean McCoy's lack of effectiveness in the running game. McCoy rushed for 48 yards on 12 carries before Vick exited the game. He rushed for minus-2 yards on eight carries after Foles took over.
McCoy and Kelly said that the results were not because of the change at quarterback and that the New York Giants did not change their scheme in the second half. Rather, the Giants were effective with stunts at the line and the Eagles could not muster much of a running game.
But it's undeniable that defenses do not need to worry about Foles keeping the ball to run, as Vick often does.
"I think it's definitely a different threat when Mike's at quarterback from an ability to run the ball, and Nick is still a good quarterback for sure," McCoy said. "I think it's a difference. As a defense, if you had to pick a guy to stop as a running threat, it would obviously be Mike. So in that sense, yeah, I think it changes."
Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said he expects the Eagles offense to remain the same, but the emphasis could change.
"Will we see as many of the quarterback sweeps as you see with Mike if ... Foles is playing? Probably not," Schiano said. "But you know what? The offense causes you to defend all of that no matter who's in there, because the one time you choose to load up on this, he'll pull up and run it and it'll be a big play and you'll sit there and kick yourself in the rear end."
Kelly similarly praised the Buccaneers defense on Wednesday, noting Tampa Bay's speed at linebacker and saying that defensive tackle Gerald McCoy might be the best three-technique lineman in the NFL. That aids the Bucs in their rushing defense, which is fourth in the NFL, allowing 94.3 yards per game.
Their secondary has been bolstered by the additions of two-time Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson (free agent) and four-time Pro Bowler Darrelle Revis (in a trade with the New York Jets).
Kelly said Revis is among the best cornerbacks in NFL history. Revis' matchup with DeSean Jackson will receive considerable attention and will be pivotal to the success of Foles.
Jackson praised Revis on Tuesday and also sounded eager for the matchup before adding that he didn't think Revis could run with him.
"I guess that's what fast people say," Revis said Wednesday. "He's entitled to say that. He's fast. Personally, that doesn't mean nothing to me."
Revis said Tampa Bay had not finalized its game plan, but he wants to follow Jackson around the field. Jackson was limited to two catches the last time they met, when the Eagles beat the Jets in December 2011. That was with Vick at quarterback, and Revis has not yet played against Foles.
Revis said Foles is a "very good quarterback" from what he watched on film, capable of throwing accurately and rolling out to buy time. But he noted how much of a threat Vick is in the running game, especially when paired with McCoy.
"Our key is we definitely have to stop the run," Revis said. "(McCoy) is one of the best in the league, if not the best. And their running attack is very explosive."
McCoy said that's the way teams have played against the Eagles the last four games, so he expects the Buccaneers to focus on stopping him. He said defenses played that way even with Vick at quarterback.
"Not sure how they'll do it, but some way, that's what it's going to come down to," McCoy said. "And Nick's going to stand up and make plays."
That's part of what makes Sunday's matchup so compelling. If Tampa Bay commits to stopping McCoy and entrusts Revis with blanketing Jackson, then Foles will need to carry the offense. With Vick on the field, the defense still needs to worry about the threat of the quarterback running. So even if the Eagles offense doesn't change with Foles, the quarterback changes the offense.
"I still think we're going to be successful running the ball, throwing the ball," McCoy said. "As a defense, you've got to cover everything, no matter if it's deep balls or myself or whoever it is."
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