Forget Draft Position: Nick Foles Defining Performance Gives Eagles Hope for the Future

Forget Draft Position: Nick Foles Defining Performance Gives Eagles Hope for the Future

There are going to be some folks who either can’t or won’t
enjoy the Eagles 23-21 victory over Tampa Bay. I feel sorry for them.

Was the win ultimately meaningless? Yes. Did it have a
negative impact on their rising draft position? Yes. But dammit, this was an
important win for Philadelphia.

It cemented Nick Foles as the future of their franchise.

No one can promise Foles will lead the Eagles to the
promised land. We’re not putting him on the next plane to Honolulu, nor planning
his enshrinement ceremony in Canton, Ohio. Long-term, nobody even knows whether
Foles will enjoy a lengthy run as a starting quarterback, let alone achieve
varying levels of greatness.

If the Birds are to ever win a Super Bowl though, the past
decade tells us they will most likely need an elite quarterback in order to do it.
Prior to Sunday, I would have said there wasn’t a player of that caliber on the
roster.

Now there is hope.

Down 21-10 with 7:21 to go in the fourth quarter, Foles led
the offense on back-to-back touchdown drives of eight and 13 plays, finally pinning the ball on Jeremy
Maclin in the end zone as time expired. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

Perhaps it is just as unfair to declare Foles’ career is
suddenly filled with tremendous promise after one great game as it was to say he wasn’t
necessarily ever going to become that player. It’s not as if there weren’t signs already.

The Eagles chose Foles in the third round with the blueprint
of grooming him to one day become a starting quarterback. He had an outstanding
preseason that suggested he was light years ahead of schedule. Since coming on
to relieve Michael Vick, he has made measurable improvements each and every
week.

But there is a difference between the athlete who is a
relative unknown, a preseason darling, or a young, developing quarterback, and the
player who proves on the field, when it counts, that he has “it.” By leading
the Eagles on that 64-yard touchdown drive with 2:44 remaining, Foles made the
leap from just another guy to legitimate prospect.

How good was Foles against the Buccaneers? Oh, he only had
the best performance by a rookie quarterback in club history. The kid
connected on 32 of 51 attempts for 381 yards (7.5 YPA) and two touchdowns, plus
added another score on the ground. He dropped back 60 times, but committed zero
turnovers.

Numbers don’t really do the outing justice. Foles made big
throw upon big throw during the comeback, especially on the final drive. 3rd
and 14? No problem. 4th and 1? He’ll take it himself. 4th
and 5? How ‘bout 22 yards. 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line with
two seconds left? Piece of cake. In fact, Foles accounted for all 136 yards on
the Eagles’ last two possessions.

All day long, Foles maneuvered around the pocket, faced the pressure, and delivered strikes down field. He had the look of a seasoned
veteran, which is quite possibly the best compliment you could pay a 23 year
old in the NFL.

Would we still be heaping all of this praise upon Foles had
Tampa Bay’s Danny Gorrer held on to an errant pass only three plays before Maclin
made a sliding grab by the sideline in the end zone? Maybe not to the extent
we are now, but a single poor throw would not have undone or erased the body of
work. This was a strong outing any way you slice it.

Besides, there are always bumps along the road. Foles has a
long way to go before anybody believes he is ready to put the football team on
his shoulders on a weekly basis. He is going to make mistakes, mistakes that are
the reason the Eagles taste defeat. It’s all part of the process.

Yet simply put, he is passing the eye test. There was an
increasing level of comfort setting in with the direction the Eagles are
heading at the position. Now that Foles has added a defining win to his resume,
there is going to be a genuine buzz over his next act. How does he top this?

At this point, Foles is a lottery ticket. He could fail
spectacularly, and the Eagles toss him aside. He could grow into a competent
quarterback that leads the team into the next era, and you enjoy it while it
lasts. Or, as we caught a glimpse of for the first time today, Foles might be
the next big thing, the grand prize so to speak.

Whether or not the Eagles picked a winner, we’ll have to
wait for the drawing to find out. We know now though that Foles was definitely worth the investment.

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College hoops wrap: Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue

College hoops wrap: Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue

Villanova headlined Philly college basketball action today with a 78-68 win over Providence, led by Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins (see full recap). The win is dampened with the news that Phil Booth is increasingly unlikely to return this season as he still deals with knee discomfort (see story).

Here's a snapshot from the rest of area hoops today.

Penn State steamrolled by No. 21 Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- The way it played this week, No. 21 Purdue is acting like a team that is determined to be in the race for the Big Ten championship all the way to the end of the regular season.

Caleb Swanigan had 19 points and 12 rebounds, Purdue built an 18-point halftime lead and coasted to a 77-52 victory over Penn State on Saturday, four days after shooting 60.4 percent in a 91-68 victory against Illinois.

Against Penn State, the Boilermakers (16-4, 5-2) got 13 points from freshman guard Carsen Edwards and 10 each from Dakota Mathias and Vince Edwards.

"I would just say we were coming out ready to play," said Vince Edwards, who added seven rebounds and three assists. "Our goal is to win the Big Ten. Our focus is to take care of business."

Josh Reaves led Penn State (11-9, 3-4) with 12 points. The Nittany Lions made only 20 of 64 field goal attempts (31.3 percent) and were outrebounded 39-30. Purdue shot 56.6 percent (30 of 53) (see full recap).

Drexel drops road game at CAA-leading UNC Wilmington
WILMINGTON, N.C. -- Devontae Cacok scored 12 points and set a Colonial Athletic Association record with 24 rebounds, helping UNC Wilmington stay perfect in conference with an 87-74 win over Drexel on Saturday.

Cacok, whose previous career-high rebounding was 16, broke the school record (21) and conference record (22) late in the second half as the Seahawks cruised to their ninth straight home win, tying the best mark in program history.

UNC Wilmington (19-2, 8-0) led 53-51 with 15:01 left before four players combined to rattle off 12 straight points. Cacok capped the run with one of his 11 offensive rebounds and a dunk to give the Seahawks a 65-51 lead with 11:23 remaining.

UNC Wilmington is off to its best start ever and has won 24 of its last 26 conference games, including 12 straight. Chris Flemmings led the Seahawks with 17 points.

Sammy Mojica had 15 points and Rodney Williams added 14 for Drexel (7-13, 1-6), which has lost seven of eight (see full recap).

Delaware swept in season series with Towson
NEWARK, Del. -- Mike Morsell and Arnaud William Adala Moto pulled down a dozen boards as Towson won its fourth straight and a season sweep of Delaware with a 75-58 win on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers are fresh off a win over Hofstra that saw them erase a 16-point first-half deficit, and momentum carried over when they built a 17-point lead at halftime.

Alex Thomas and John Davis added 13 and 12 points, respectively, but Towson saw its streak of three-straight games shooting better than 50 percent end. The Tigers hit 26 of 55 shots from the floor (47.3 percent), including 6 of 15 from deep.

Delaware snapped a six-game losing streak Thursday with a win over Northeastern. Ryan Daly scored 21 points for Delaware and became the first freshman in school history to post six 20-plus efforts in a season. He reached double-digits for the 12th time in 13 games (see full recap).