Paul Domowitch: Foles short on mechanics, not strength
After 169 consecutive passes without an interception, Nick Foles finally had another one picked off Thursday night. The fact that it was an underthrown wounded duck that fell to earth well short of its intended target, Jeremy Maclin, seemed to be a much bigger subject of concern Friday than the fact that it was the turning point in yet another double-digit loss by the Eagles.
After 169 consecutive passes without an interception, Nick Foles finally had another one picked off Thursday night.
The fact that it was an underthrown wounded duck that fell to earth well short of its intended target, Jeremy Maclin, seemed to be a much bigger subject of concern Friday than the fact that it was the turning point in yet another double-digit loss by the Eagles.
Suddenly, everyone is questioning the arm strength of the 6-6, 243-pound rookie.
Andy Reid insists you're barking up the wrong tree.
"He's got one of the stronger arms we've had here, one of the stronger arms in the league," the Eagles' head coach said. "But you've got to make sure your feet are right; that your drop is right. You've got to learn those things. That's one of the tougher things for a young quarterback to do."
In other words, any problems Foles is having with the deep ball are mechanical, not physical.
"On that particular play, instead of taking a normal five-step drop, he took what would be a normal seven-step drop," Reid said. "And he held too long on the safety, trying to look the safety off. Those are rookie mistakes. He'll learn from that. He's very diligent about those things. And he'll get it right. But it wasn't a lack of arm strength that caused that [interception]."
According to several scouts I spoke to, arm strength wasn't an issue with Foles coming out of the University of Arizona and isn't an issue now. They acknowledged that his vertical passing is one of the areas he needs the most work on, but said it has more to do with his accuracy on the deep ball rather than his ability to throw it.
The throw to Maclin wasn't all that far - only about 45 yards in the air. He just didn't throw it very well. It started to wobble as soon as it came out of his hand.
Foles has a 76.8 passer rating this season on throws that have traveled 20 or more yards in the air. He is 8-for-22 for 226 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. That's not particularly good. Then again, Michael Vick, who has one of the strongest arms in the league, has only an 83.6 passer rating (11-for-36, 364 yards, four TDs, two INTs) on 20-yard-plus throws.
Drew Brees has a .425 completion percentage this season on throws of 20 yards or more. Peyton Manning's is only .483.
Don't rush to judgment on one throw.
One tough Colt
I'm not sure Colt Anderson is big enough or durable enough to be a 60-play-a-game safety. But after watching him play the last 2 weeks, I think he deserves a chance to prove he is. So does Andy Reid, who indicated Friday that he will keep Anderson in the starting lineup even if Kurt Coleman is healthy enough to play next week against Washington.
"I haven't sat down and talked to Todd [Bowles, defensive coordinator] about that," Reid said. "But I would tell you he's played good football, good enough to consider keeping him in that position."
Anderson is just a shade over 5-9. He's listed at 194, but that's with 5-pound weights in his pockets.
"I have always had confidence in my ability to play," Anderson said. "It was the same thing coming out of high school. I was a walk-on. Everybody thought I was too small, not fast enough. So my back's always been against the wall.
"You can't worry about what other people think. You just have to go out there and perform the best you can."
During Thursday's broadcast, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Anderson has displayed the most aggressive safety play he's seen by an Eagle since Brian Dawkins.
Anderson tore an ACL last December, but he has played in 12 of the Eagles' 14 games this season and said his knee no longer is an issue. I'll never forget him limping off the field in Seattle last year, knowing he had just blown out his knee and still walking all the way to the locker room without help.
"I had a little setback early on in the season," he said. "But the whole time I've always had a positive outlook. Everything happens for a reason. I just kept showing up for work, kept trying to get better, kept trying to get my knee better.
"It's just fun being out there and not having to worry about making the wrong cut or anything. I've been able to play loose. I have a lot of confidence in my knee."
* Bryce Brown had another fumble Thursday. That's five in 115 touches, including four that have been recovered by the other team. The kid's got a lot of talent, but he's raw. You can see it in the reckless way he holds the ball. You can see it in his tendency to take everything to the outside rather than locate a seam inside. We're talking about somebody who came to the Eagles with just 104 rushing attempts since high school. It's going to take him a little while to realize he's not in Kansas anymore. But I think he's going to be worth the stumbles. "You see improvements," Reid said. "You see most of it in the pass game. The routes and the protections. You see some subtle little things in the run game. But he needs to play. That's why I haven't sat him down because of the fumbles. He missed a lot of football. The thing he needs to do most is being out there playing and learning the game."
* Who knew Marvin McNutt would block an NFL punt before he would catch an NFL pass? And who knew that punt would be off the foot of his own punter?
* Poor Bobby April. He has spent years building a reputation as one of the league's better special-teams coaches. And in the span of 14 games this season, that reputation is looking like a car that's bombed by a flock of birds.
* Joe Banner really, really wants to fire Browns GM Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur and bring in his own people. But they're making it tough for him to do that. The Browns have won three in a row and five of their last eight to improve to 5-8. If they can find a way to win two of their last three games against the Redskins, Broncos and Steelers and finish 7-9 after going 4-12 last year, Banner and new owner Jimmy Haslam will catch holy hell from the fans and media in Cleveland if they can Heckert and Shurmur.
* After the Bengals' unimpressive offensive performance Thursday - just 249 net yards, a 74.2 passer rating from Andy Dalton - you probably can cross offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's name off the list of candidates to replace Andy Reid.
* Guards Evan Mathis and Jake Scott did a terrific job on Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins. Atkins, who entered the game with the most sacks (10 1/2) of any interior lineman in the league, didn't even make the stat sheet. No sacks, no hurries, no tackles, nothing. As I've mentioned before, Mathis is having a Pro Bowl-worthy season. He made just one mistake Thursday, though that was a big one. Mathis, who was playing on a bum ankle, let Pat Sims slip by him and force Bryce Brown's third-quarter fumble that Wallace Gilberry returned for a touchdown.
Figuring the Eagles
* Consider Bryce Brown's numbers in his first two starts and his last two starts. Against the Panthers and Cowboys, he rushed for 347 yards and four touchdowns on 43 carries (8.7 yards per carry. Twelve of those 43 runs gained 10 yards or more. Just six went for zero or negative yards. He had 19 rushing first downs in those two games. Against the Bucs and the Bengals, he rushed for 40 yards and no touchdown on 28 carries (1.4 yards per carry). Just one of his 28 runs in those two games gained 10 yards or more. He had 11 runs for zero or negative yards and one rushing first down.
* The Eagles have lined up in three- and four-wide-receiver sets this season on 614 of 939 offensive plays, or 65.4 percent of the time. Last year, they used 3-4 wides 59.8 percent of the time (620 of 1,036 plays). This year, they've used two-tight-end sets only 23 percent of the time (216 of 939 plays) compared to 31 percent (321 of 1,036) last season.
* Trent Cole's second-quarter sack Thursday was his first solo sack since the first quarter of the Eagles' win over Baltimore. In Week 2.
* The Eagles managed to end a five-game turnover drought Thursday by forcing and recovering a pair of fumbles. But their streak of games without an interception now is up to an unbelievable eight. They have just two interceptions in the last 12 games.
* The Eagles' five turnovers against the Bengals led to 31 points. They now have a league-high 34 giveaways, which have resulted in 123 points (3.6 points per giveaway). Making matters worse: They've scored just 33 points off their 12 takeaways (2.7). Last year, the Eagles scored 100 points off 24 takeaways (4.2) and gave up only 86 points off 38 giveaways (2.3).
* The Eagles have had 165 offensive possessions this season. Only 18 of them have started at their 40-yard line or better. Seventy-seven, or 46.7 percent, have started at their 20 or worse. By comparison, the Bengals started seven of their 15 possessions Thursday at their 40 or better, including six in Eagles' territory.