Nick Foles took the practice field Monday as the backup quarterback, a departure since his last training-camp practice with the Eagles. In 2014, Foles came off a Pro Bowl campaign and a playoff appearance and tried to prove he could be a franchise quarterback.
Months later, he was traded. After another year, he was a backup. Now he's back in Philadelphia, changing teams for the third consecutive year and entrenched as the team's No. 2 quarterback. The days of 27 touchdowns/two interceptions are reserved for record books. His job is to be Carson Wentz's backup, even if he's back in his familiar No. 9 and playing in front of the fan base that saw him at his peak.
"I would like to think I'm better [than in 2014]," Foles said. "You keep adding things to your game. You never want to stay the same. You want to be consistent."
Foles emphasized efficiency. Footwork is an area of focus – it's been a question he's taken since he was last with the Eagles – and he's working on the proper alignment. He's been exposed to different coaching styles, but he's in a system he likes. It's why he signed with Kansas City last year to play under Andy Reid, and he's still familiar with Doug Pederson from Pederson's time as Eagles quarterbacks coach in 2012.
The Eagles are not expected to split the practice reps as evenly as one year ago. Wentz is the unquestioned starter, and practice snaps will be distributed accordingly. But training camp allows the second-stringers to get more work than during the season, and that's especially the case in preseason games. So Foles will need a productive August to be ready for the season. What does he want to accomplish?
"Just being smooth, being smart," Foles said. "Getting through the reads in an efficient manner. I don't want to stay on receivers too long to where a bad decision is made. You just want to put the ball in play, whether I want to throw it downfield and it's not there so I check it down and it's a productive play and let the running back get a first down. Just keep the chains moving. Staying inside the chains on first down. Getting all the things down game-management wise, that's what I want to excel at."
Foles is unlikely to spend much time with the first-team offense this summer. It'll be more similar to his rookie season in 2012 than in 2013, when he competed to start. Foles said when Wentz is on the field, he must visualize the receivers' routes and see how they're running. He likes to study the footwork of quarterbacks and the routes of wide receivers "to build the database."
In Foles' five NFL seasons, he has not been on a team on which the starter played all 16 games. That should be evidence enough that he could be called upon this season, even though Wentz lasted 16 games last year. That was the first time since 2008 the Eagles had a quarterback start every game. There's a chance the Eagles could need Foles, which is why they upgraded the backup spot. Of course, Foles said his hope is that Wentz plays every game. Even if Wentz does, he'll have a hard time breaking the records from Foles' second year.