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Foles isn't ready, so Eagles will stick with Sanchez

Nick Foles has not been cleared to return after missing six weeks with a broken left collarbone, so Mark Sanchez will continue to start at quarterback Saturday, when the Eagles play the Washington Redskins.

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)Read more

Nick Foles has not been cleared to return after missing six weeks with a broken left collarbone, so Mark Sanchez will continue to start at quarterback Saturday, when the Eagles play the Washington Redskins.

Foles' collarbone has not completed healed, coach Chip Kelly said Monday. The quarterback, who was examined Monday, has been out since Nov. 2.

"Until he gets fully healed, he's not going to be able to play with it," Kelly said. "They think he'll be able to throw a little bit more this week, but we can't have anything or anyone near him from a contact standpoint."

That means the Eagles' playoff hopes depend in part on Sanchez, who is 3-3 as the starter. Sanchez completed 17 of 28 passes for 252 yards and two interceptions Sunday, in a 38-27 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Kelly said there was "good and bad" in Sanchez's performance. He mentioned a "big-time" pass to Jeremy Maclin along the right sideline, but also two poor attempts. Kelly continues to contend that the Eagles are getting good-enough quarterback play to win.

"There's been good and bad at every position, and I think we have to be more consistent overall, and Mark will be the first to tell you that, and I think everybody else here will tell you that," Kelly said. "When we are not successful, we own it, and I think we own it as a group right now."

The Eagles' vertical passing game has struggled with Sanchez at quarterback. He attempted only two passes of more than 20 yards against Dallas - an incompletion and an interception. The Eagles had two passing plays of more than 50 yards - to Maclin and Josh Huff - but they came on yards after the catch.

Kelly said the lack of a vertical passing game was not because of Sanchez, but because of the way defenses are playing the Eagles. No one "lets us get behind them anymore," with coverages "from the top down" as opposed to last season, when there was more press coverage, he said.

But the numbers are also different than they were when Foles was the quarterback. Foles went 19 of 59 with nine touchdowns and four interceptions on passes of more than 20 yards this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Sanchez is 9 of 28 with one touchdown and three interceptions on those attempts.

Kelly said the coverage has changed since Sanchez became the starter, because of how Maclin played earlier this season.

"He was running post right by people, and we're not seeing that anymore," Kelly said. "If you watch the tape, the safeties are a lot deeper, and people are playing a little bit deeper on us now."

Kelly disagreed with criticism of Sanchez's arm strength, citing a preseason Hail Mary that traveled 70 yards in the air. He said he would like defenses to play tight coverage against the Eagles and give Sanchez the opportunity to pass deep.

"So, I don't think that's a question in terms of, 'Can he throw the ball down the field?' and I don't think people are defending that and saying, 'Hey, try to throw down the field,' " Kelly said. "I would love if someone would play us like that, so we could throw it up. We like to go over the top. We like to score on one play as opposed to 10 plays, but we are not getting those looks right now."

The other issue with Sanchez has been the interceptions. It was a problem when he was with the New York Jets, and it has remained one with the Eagles, with Sanchez throwing seven picks in nine games.

Kelly said there has not been a common thread with the plays, which makes it "hard to put your finger on" why they continue to occur. Although some passes were tipped, others were misfired. Kelly mentioned one interception Sunday that was 6 inches from Zach Ertz possibly making a first down.

"Tips and overthrows are always going to be part of your deal when you're talking to the quarterbacks about protecting the football," Kelly said, "but there has not been a recurring theme in terms of the interceptions that he's thrown."

Sanchez did not shrink from responsibility after the game. He was inconsistent during the Eagles' last two losses, and he has at least one more week - and potentially the rest of the season - to try to redeem himself.

"I'm better than that," Sanchez said. "Nobody is hiding from anything. There's no, 'Well, he could have caught it maybe if he would have dove further.' No, that's crap. No way. We have to take ownership of this thing, and it starts with the quarterback. I have to be a lot better."