SO, NICK FOLES' rookie season ends a game early, a development that brings us up short, a little like the ending to that Redskins game Sunday, where the officials had to huddle and deliberate before telling us it was over.
The next Eagles head coach will have to judge Foles' potential off six starts and seven appearances, in which he completed 161 of 265 passes (60.8 percent) for 1,699 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. He was sacked 20 times and compiled a 79.1 passer rating.
Andy Reid said his evaluation of Foles is that he's "a quarterback who gives your team the oppportunity to win." Reid noted that other rookie quarterbacks Foles is being evaluated against in this strong QB class have been playing all season (with better offensive lines in front of them and offenses that weren't missing key weapons). "He has enough skill and ability to play," Reid said. "It's been a valuable experience for him, but, yeah, you'd love to have one more game."
Reid said Foles "really just needs to play . . . Every week, I thought the game slowed down for him."
Some people are worried about deep balls, and about Foles missing key throws, like that short ball to a wide-open Jeremy Maclin in the final sequence against the Redskins. I'm not sure about all that; I think his mechanics problems are fixable, and he seems determined to fix them.
If it's up to me, I probably go forward with Foles as the starter next year, absent a chance to add a slam-dunk franchise quarterback. My most niggling worry is his tendency the past few weeks toward the big mistake.
On that floater pick against the Bengals, the bad mechanics of the throw bothered me less than the fact that he threw it at an awful time, with the Eagles fully in charge in the third quarter. It was a game-changer, starting an avalanche of Birds turnovers that transformed a win into a rout of a loss.
Similarly, though it doesn't show up in Foles' solid passing stats from the Sunday loss to the Redskins, that fumble-sack at the end of the first quarter was a momentum-sapper, easily avoidable, in my view. The Eagles were about to add to a 7-0 lead, the Redskins had nothing going, and then, boom.
More than anything else he can do for 2013, I want to see Foles cut out those plays, which had a lot to do with his 1-5 record as the starter.
Developing story lines *
With both Mike Patterson and Fletcher Cox sidelined, it's possible the Eagles will make a roster move to add a defensive tackle before Sunday. But then again, Darryl Tapp, inactive against the Redskins, is capable of taking some snaps inside against a less-than-dominant Giants offensive line.
* Andy Reid said Monday he probably would not have gone for two had the Eagles scored on that final drive against the Redskins Sunday. "By that point, you have a little momentum going, and we were playing good defense," Reid said.
* I was really disappointed with the way the Eagles used Bryce Brown - barely at all - when LeSean McCoy returned to the lineup. Reid has been talking for weeks about how raw Brown is, how every rep is important to his development, and so forth. "I wanted to see how McCoy was holding up," Reid said Monday. "Every time I pulled him out, he'd come up and want to get back in. He wanted to play. He was very excited about playing . . . He seemed to hold up pretty good."
The Eagles closed the books on their home season having not won at the Linc since Sept. 30.
That the Michael Vick chapter in Eagles history wasn't quite closed, after all?
Jeremy Maclin leads the Eagles with 65 catches for 835 yards and six touchdowns this season. In four seasons, Maclin has 246 catches, the most in franchise history by any receiver in his first 4 years.
According to the sultan of stats, ComcastSportsNet.com's Reuben Frank, Maclin is the ninth player in NFL history with at least 55 catches and 750 receiving yards in each of his first four NFL seasons. Roob also figured out that with Maclin not turning 25 until May, he is one of five wideouts all-time with 250 catches, 3,500 yards and 25 TDs before reaching that milestone. The others are Isaac Bruce, Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss and Hakeem Nicks.
Yet, a lot of Eagles fans don't seem all that thrilled with a decent, down-to-earth guy who devotes time and money to supporting youth football back home in Missouri and in West Deptford, N.J., where he lives now. You hear that he's fragile (missed one game this season, eight in four seasons, which hardly seems like a lot). You hear that he lacks dominant size and true burner speed, which is true, but since when do Philly fans only cheer for players who are physically superior? When did that happen?
The worst thing I can say about the guy is that when the Eagles drafted him 19th overall in 2009, I thought he might have made a Pro Bowl by now. But he's been sharing the spotlight with DeSean Jackson, and really, 2010 was the only year when Maclin enjoyed Pro Bowl-level quarterbacking, which is a big part of being a top wideout. In 2010, Maclin caught 70 passes for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns, all career highs.
Maybe he isn't a superstar, but, assuming he signs another deal here at some point before hitting free agency following the 2013 season, Maclin will end up with some franchise receiving records. A good many franchise receiving records, I'd say.
"He's battled through a lot of things over the last couple of years," Andy Reid said of Maclin, whose 2011 offseason was marred by a virus-like illness that sapped his strength for months. Then he played much of that season with a hamstring problem, suffered trying to get back into playing form too quickly. "I'm proud of him for stepping up the way he has. He's done a good job there."
Jackson went down with multiple chest fractures during the Nov. 26 loss to Carolina. Starting with that game, Maclin has 29 catches in five games from neophyte QB Nick Foles, for 286 yards.