Nick Foles will start at quarterback for the Eagles on Sunday against the Houston Texans, coach Doug Pederson announced Monday. The Eagles will not place Carson Wentz on injured reserve and continue to preserve hope he can play this season.
By making the announcement on Monday, Pederson avoided the cat-and-mouse mystery that marked last week. The decision was made because Pederson said “another week of rest will help” Wentz’s recovery from a stress fracture in the back. The question that Eagles fans cannot avoid is what Pederson would do if the team keeps winning with Foles, who went 24 of 31 for 270 yards and one interception in the Eagles' 30-23 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
“That’s a bridge we’ll cross if we get there,” Pederson said. “We still have a lot of football left. But right now, we’re going to stay committed to this week. I’m not going to look any further than just the Houston Texans this week, and one day, I’m sure we’ll cross that bridge.”
Pederson reiterated that Wentz will be the starting quarterback when healthy, and the Eagles received positive information over the weekend about Wentz’s recovery. The team considers Wentz “week-to-week," an improvement from the three-month timetable that Pederson mentioned last Friday. That’s why the Eagles will keep Wentz on the 53-man roster. The Eagles have only two games remaining in the regular season and the team maintains hope it can sneak into the postseason.
“Obviously when he’s healthy, he’s our quarterback and we’ll go from there,” Pederson said.
But “healthy” can be a relative term. The Eagles will not put Wentz on the field if there’s risk of making the injury worse, although Pederson would not speculate on what point in the healing process Wentz must reach to play. When asked if Wentz would play if he’s not fully healed but there’s no risk of further injury, Pederson deferred to the medical staff.
There’s little question that Wentz is pining to play. Wentz’s competitive streak is well known around the Eagles headquarters, and he takes his role as franchise quarterback seriously. Wentz pushed to come back for Week 1 after tearing his ACL last December, and though he’s supportive from the bench, he wants to be the one leading the huddle.
“It’s tough,” Pederson said. “Listen, he’s such a competitor and he’s won a bunch of games for us here and he will continue to win a bunch of games for us. The thing is with Carson, as much as a competitor, he’s so giving of himself. You saw him in the game last night, how engaging he was with myself. He was engaging with Nick and very supportive that way, as tough as it is and that’s a credit to him.”
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Pederson did not attribute to the offensive improvements to the quarterback change or how he calls a game with Foles. He explained that after the loss to the Dallas Cowboys, he met with offensive coordinator Mike Groh and said the Eagles must “condense the [game] plan.” That conclusion was reached before he knew that he would not have Wentz for the Rams game. They went over the new game plan with Foles, but Pederson said there were only a couple changes from their original plan.
Of course, Foles still makes the decisions on the field. He was aggressive, throwing the ball deep and trusting his receivers. He made quick reads. It was comparable to how Foles played during the playoffs last season. Pederson compared Foles to a “point guard in basketball,” which is how Foles has been described before. He thought Foles' even-natured demeanor helped the team, too.
Foles will have the chance to do it again for at least one more week. And if he’s successful, the same intrigue will greet Pederson next Monday.
There’s optimism that linebacker Jordan Hicks (calf) and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (back) will return to practice this week and might be able to play on Sunday against the Texans. It sounds like it will take longer for cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) and offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo (pectoral) to return.