Sports discussion in Philadelphia this week will obviously be dominated by the topic of who should start at QB for the Eagles the rest of the season: Michael Vick or Nick Foles?
Foles has thrown just 61 passes this season, which doesn't even qualify him to be listed statistically with the rest of the QBs around the NFL on major sports websites like ESPN.com or NFL.com. Because of his small sample size, it is perhaps a little unfair to compare him to other QBs who have attempted 200+ passes, but if you did, here is where Foles would rank in comparison:
In his limited opportunities, Foles has been tremendous. He has outplayed Vick, although it's not as if Vick has been bad.
The debate is pretty straightforward, and is really just an extension of the one that carried on for weeks during training camp:
One guy is aging, probably not in the long-term plans of the team, has a reputation for not reading defenses all that well, is always getting hurt, but is one of the most physically gifted athletes to ever suit up in the NFL, and can still make huge plays out of absolutely nothing.
The other guy is a more traditional passer, who seemingly makes better decisions, is more accurate, has the advantage of youth on his side, is currently playing at a high level, but lacks a certain "wow factor."
Philly.com ran a poll on which QB should be the guy. The 2nd guy in the descriptions above is the overwhelming choice among the fans:
It might have been convenient for the Eagles if Foles had taken a stranglehold of the QB job during training camp. They could have gotten an extended look at Foles during a season in which they weren't going to be realistic Super Bowl contenders, which would have enabled them to determine what they have in their 2nd year QB. If Foles played well and proved he could be "the guy," then great. If not, the Eagles would at least know that Foles is not the answer and could formulate an offseason plan to figure out the QB position accordingly.
Instead, Vick pulled away during the preseason, and 6 weeks into the regular season, we're right back where we started with the Vick vs Foles debates.
From the long-term philosophical standpoint, Foles makes more sense for a team that may be on the rise, but not quite ready to contend with the big boys. However, at the same time, the Eagles are playing in the worst division in football, and can make a huge statement this Sunday with a win over what appears to be their only competition in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys.
After all, if the Eagles can pull off their 3rd straight win, they'll have a full game lead in the division, with a head-to-head win over their biggest threat, in addition to a perfect 3-0 record within the division, 2 of which were on the road. A home playoff game for winning the NFC East division (crappy as the NFC East may be) sounds very fun, and very tempting.
Ignoring the philosophical long-term reasoning for picking one QB over the other, let's evaluate who gives the Eagles the best chance to win in just this upcoming game against Dallas.
The argument for Vick
In the first half against Washington Week 1 when the Eagles ran 50+ plays in the first half, the Eagles rolled out their extreme tempo hurry up offense. People were wowed by it across the country, but the Eagles have not run that extreme pace since. Many have wondered why not, and when the Eagles will show it again.
Washington was visibly gassed in that game, but the Eagles have still managed to tire out other opposing defenses, without even running the extreme hurry up. In the game against the Broncos, defensive lineman Derek Wolfe said it was the most tired he has ever been in a football game:
This Sunday against the Cowboys could be the right time for the Eagles go back to that extreme hurry up, and the reasoning is simple. The Cowboys have a paper-thin defensive line, and the Eagles can beat them on the ground.
Here are the Cowboys' starters along the defensive line:
• LDE George Selvie: This is Selvie's 4th year in the NFL. He is on his 5th team. The 2011 Rams (2-14) cut him. The 2011 Panthers (6-10) cut him. The 2013 Jaguars (!!!) and 2013 Buccaneers both cut him. Both of those teams are winless so far this season. In fact, the combined records of the 4 teams who cut Selvie is a combined 8-35. With Anthony Spencer and 2nd year player Tyrone Crawford out for the season, Selvie is starting at DE for the Cowboys.
• LDT Nick Hayden: Hayden was cut his rookie season (2008) by the Panthers, who signed him to their practice squad. The Panthers activated him at the end of the season, and he stuck on the roster, starting 13 games, until the Panthers cut him once again in 2011. He then signed with the Bengals, where he played just 33 snaps before suffering a high ankle sprain the following training camp. He was out of the league until this year, when the Cowboys signed him off the street. With Jay Ratliff on the PUP list, Hayden is starting at DT.
• RDT Jason Hatcher: Very good player, but a far better penetrating pass rusher than an anchoring run defender.
• RDE DeMarcus Ware: Certain Hall of Famer, and one of the best pass rushers in NFL history. However, despite a reputation for being a good run defender, the Eagles have specifically exploited Ware on several occasions in the past. Ware also had to leave the Sunday night game against Washington with a quad strain. His status for this Sunday is to be determined.
In other words, the Cowboys' starting defensive line is comprised of two "off the street" type guys in Selvie and Hayden, and two great pass rushers who aren't so great against the run, with the status of the best player on their team (Ware) up in the air.
As you might imagine, a team starting two replacement level players likely doesn't have much depth. If the Cowboys are forced to go to their reserves on some series, here's the DL personnel off the Cowboys bench:
• Kyle Wilber: Speed rusher, who is vastly undersized, generously listed at 250 pounds. Wilber would likely take Ware's spot if his quad acts up. Jason Peters vs Wilber in the run game would almost be unfair.
• Edgar Jones: Cut 7 times in his career.
• Drake Nevis: Only 24 years old, and two teams have cut him.
• David Carter: Cut by the Cardinals prior to this season.
• Caesar Rayford: Playing with the BC Lions, Spokane Shock, and Utah Blaze, before ending up with the Cowboys.
The Eagles ran the ball for 138 yards (4.2 yards per carry) last Sunday with Foles as the starter. The Eagles run game won't be broken if they start Foles. They still have one of the best running backs in the game, and an athletic offensive line that excels at getting to the second level and springing long runs.
However, there is no debate that the Eagles' run game is more dynamic and downright frightening with Vick running the show. Here's is what the Eagles run game did in the first 4 weeks:
6.1 yards per carry is astronomical, and the Cowboys would be more ill-equipped to handle that rushing attack than any other team the Eagles have faced so far this season. The Cowboys are allowing 4.4 yards per carry (tied for 8th worst in the NFL), despite facing a number of really bad rushing offenses:
And oh by the way…
When Chip Kelly was at Oregon, Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was the defensive coordinator at USC. In the 3 times that Kelly's Oregon offense faced Kiffin's USC defense, the Ducks ran all over them, as they rolled up 946 rushing yards, or 315.3 per game.
Kelly has seen Kiffin's scheme, and destroyed it with the run.
The argument for Foles
All the above is moot if the Eagles move the ball in between the 20's and collect points in multiples of 3 instead of 7.
Give me Foles, please.