Time to put Foles, 'Franchise QB' convo on hold... for now

Time to put Foles, 'Franchise QB' convo on hold... for now

Sure, Nick Foles has made some history. Last week tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a game, was one of only three guys even to do it without an interception, and was the only one to do it with a perfect quarterback rating. On Sunday became one of only three passers to start a season with 16 or more touchdowns and no interceptions, one being Peyton Manning, the other being a guy from 1960. Oh, and he posted the highest single-game quarterback rating at Lambeau Field. Ever.

But while it's good and fun to debate whether Foles should be the starter for the rest of the season and projects as a franchise guy, or merely finds himself at the middle of a fun and fortunate convergence of events, with the Eagles 27-13 win over the Packers this Sunday, the conversation has shifted, been put on hold.

Now, it's whether the Eagles can make the playoffs, and what it means for Foles if he leads them there.

First, on the Birds' road to January.

At 5-5, the Eagles sit a half-game behind the Cowboys in the NFC East, thanks to a tiebreaker coming in the form of that time Foles played less than good. Their chance for a season series split, and at closing the one-game difference between their in-division records, comes in Week 17, at Dallas.

Until then, the Eagles have a pretty manageable schedule. Their opponents -- Washington, Arizona, Detroit, Minnesota, Chicago, Dallas -- have a combined 26-29 mark. Only two division leaders, though one is the Cowboys. Only one at two games over .500. (Lions.) Toughest defense they'll face (Cardinals, coincidentally led by... Todd Bowles), comes after Philly's bye, in Week 14. Only one hour-plus time zone change, at 2-7 Minnesota. Four of six at home, and the Linc Stink has to subside sometime, right? (Right?)

Dallas, though, has it even easier. Combined opponents' record for the rest of the way: 24-31. Three games against teams at three games under .500. None against teams at two over. Chicago, in Week 14, may be without Jay Cutler. Samesies for Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, their next opponent. What may be the de facto NFC East championship game, the regular season finale against the Eagles, is in the Cowboys' house.

Dallas is the current Vegas leader to win the division, at an even money line. The Eagles are +150.

As for a wild card berth: read today's MMQB. Probs not gonna happen. As for the Giants and Washingtonians: I may be crazy to go here with the Eagles. Not crazy enough to go there with them.

Of course, the focus will eventually double back to Foles' long-term prospects, and rightfully so. Finding a franchise quarterback isn't just Jeffrey Lurie's No. 1 priority. It's just kind of what you do in the league.

If he doesn't win, the argument against Foles being cemented as "the guy" moving forward through the draft and into training camp next year will make itself. But what happens if he does win? Then what?

Here's a list of guys who've won at least seven games in a season in any of their first two NFL seasons dating back to 1984, Dan Marino's first year. Why seven? Two reasons. One, it's probably going to take seven Foles wins to get the Eagles into the playoffs safely. He has three already. (Remember, he didn't start in Week 5 in New York.) Two, lowering the bar to seven accounts for guys taking over mid-season, like Foles.

Rk Player Year Age Tm Lg GS W L T
1 Dan Marino* 1984 23 MIA NFL 16 14 2 0
2 Peyton Manning 1999 23 IND NFL 16 13 3 0
3 Ben Roethlisberger 2004 22 PIT NFL 13 13 0 0
4 Kurt Warner 1999 28 STL NFL 16 13 3 0
5 Marc Bulger 2003 26 STL NFL 15 12 3 0
6 John Elway* 1984 24 DEN NFL 14 12 2 0
7 Bernie Kosar 1986 23 CLE NFL 16 12 4 0
8 Jay Schroeder 1986 25 WAS NFL 16 12 4 0
9 Tom Brady 2001 24 NWE NFL 14 11 3 0
10 Dieter Brock 1985 34 RAM NFL 15 11 4 0
11 Daunte Culpepper 2000 23 MIN NFL 16 11 5 0
12 Joe Flacco 2008 23 BAL NFL 16 11 5 0
13 Andrew Luck 2012 23 IND NFL 16 11 5 0
14 Eli Manning 2005 24 NYG NFL 16 11 5 0
15 Donovan McNabb 2000 24 PHI NFL 16 11 5 0
16 Ken O'Brien 1985 25 NYJ NFL 16 11 5 0
17 Carson Palmer 2005 26 CIN NFL 16 11 5 0
18 Matt Ryan 2008 23 ATL NFL 16 11 5 0
19 Mark Sanchez 2010 24 NYJ NFL 16 11 5 0
20 Russell Wilson 2012 24 SEA NFL 16 11 5 0
21 Derek Anderson 2007 24 CLE NFL 15 10 5 0
22 Drew Bledsoe 1994 22 NWE NFL 16 10 6 0
23 Andy Dalton 2012 25 CIN NFL 16 10 6 0
24 Josh Freeman 2010 22 TAM NFL 16 10 6 0
25 Shaun King 2000 23 TAM NFL 16 10 6 0
26 Kyle Orton 2005 23 CHI NFL 15 10 5 0
27 Christian Ponder 2012 24 MIN NFL 16 10 6 0
28 Kyle Boller 2004 23 BAL NFL 16 9 7 0
29 Chris Chandler 1988 23 IND NFL 13 9 4 0
30 Kerry Collins 1996 24 CAR NFL 12 9 3 0
31 Andy Dalton 2011 24 CIN NFL 16 9 7 0
32 Joe Flacco 2009 24 BAL NFL 16 9 7 0
33 Robert Griffin III 2012 22 WAS NFL 15 9 6 0
34 Neil O'Donnell 1992 26 PIT NFL 12 9 3 0
35 Jake Plummer 1998 24 ARI NFL 16 9 7 0
36 Ben Roethlisberger 2005 23 PIT NFL 12 9 3 0
37 Matt Ryan 2009 24 ATL NFL 14 9 5 0
38 Mark Rypien 1989 27 WAS NFL 14 9 5 0
39 Russell Wilson 2013 25 SEA NFL 10 9 1 0
40 Vince Young 2007 24 TEN NFL 15 9 6 0
41 Drew Brees 2002 23 SDG NFL 16 8 8 0
42 Brett Favre 1992 23 GNB NFL 13 8 5 0
43 Tarvaris Jackson 2007 24 MIN NFL 12 8 4 0
44 Byron Leftwich 2004 24 JAX NFL 14 8 6 0
45 Mark Sanchez 2009 23 NYJ NFL 15 8 7 0
46 Michael Vick 2002 22 ATL NFL 15 8 6 1
47 Vince Young 2006 23 TEN NFL 13 8 5 0
48 Troy Aikman* 1990 24 DAL NFL 15 7 8 0
49 Sam Bradford 2010 23 STL NFL 16 7 9 0
50 Aaron Brooks 2001 25 NOR NFL 16 7 9 0
51 Kerry Collins 1995 23 CAR NFL 13 7 6 0
52 Jay Cutler 2007 24 DEN NFL 16 7 9 0
53 Trent Dilfer 1995 23 TAM NFL 16 7 9 0
54 Tony Eason 1984 25 NWE NFL 13 7 6 0
55 Trent Edwards 2008 25 BUF NFL 14 7 7 0
56 Boomer Esiason 1985 24 CIN NFL 14 7 7 0
57 Chad Henne 2009 24 MIA NFL 13 7 6 0
58 Danny Kanell 1997 24 NYG NFL 10 7 2 1
59 Cam Newton 2012 23 CAR NFL 16 7 9 0
60 Alex Smith 2006 22 SFO NFL 16 7 9 0
61 Ryan Tannehill 2012 24 MIA NFL 16 7 9 0
62 Tim Tebow 2011 24 DEN NFL 11 7 4 0
63 Mike Tomczak 1986 24 CHI NFL 7 7 0 0

Lot to like, the cases in point being, Marino, Brady, Peyton, Brees, Luck, Wilson, RG3, Roethlisberger, Favre, Aikman. Lot of yuck, too, such as Tomczak, Tebow, Kanell, Trent Edwards, Aaron Brooks, Kyle Boller, Shaun King, Ken O'Brien, Dieter Brock and a whole mess of other guys I have to use two names to reference.

Point being, the same point I made to counter people ready to anoint Foles on the basis of a couple of NFL records alone: end of the day, elevating a guy to "franchise QB" status isn't about stats, records or superlatives. It comes down to evaluating his performance on the field, in terms of abilities, and projecting how that performance should translate in the future.

Things that will be fun to debate on sports talk radio for, well, ever.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MKH973 Catch him every Saturday from 12-2 on 97.3 ESPN-FM. 

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

The Eagles have vowed to get better. 

They desperately don't want to have a performance from their run defense like the one against Washington, when they gave up 230 yards on the ground. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the run defense is "a pride thing" and the guys responsible for the performance, Jim Schwartz included, say things will get better. The defensive coordinator cited bad angles as a reason there were so many missed tackles on Sunday afternoon. 

In all, the Eagles missed 10 tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact — both more than they had given up in the first four games of the season. 

Washington's rushing yards came in some big chunks. Here's a look at some of the key running plays from Sunday as we try to figure out what went wrong: 

This is a key 3rd-and-7 from the Washington 13-yard line. On this drive, Washington ends up scoring a touchdown to go up 14-0, but it doesn't happen without this key third down conversion. 

The Eagles collapse the pocket and force Kirk Cousins to his left. That's exactly what Schwartz said he wants, to force the quarterback to his non-throwing side. Everything at this point is working out perfectly. 

Here's the angle that's really troublesome. At this point, Nigel Bradham (circled in green) has Cousins in his sights, while Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (farther behind) are in pursuit. Curry and Graham seem to let up in their pursuit when it looks like Cousins will go out of bounds. But he doesn't. 

Schwartz talked about bad angles, and this is the perfect example from Bradham. He overshoots it and when Cousins makes his cut back inside, all of Bradham's momentum is heading toward the sideline. Curry ends up making the tackle but tackles Cousins forward for a big first down. 

This next play was just a little counter draw that ended up going for a huge 45-yard gain. Rob Kelley takes the handoff, which looks to be going right. The entire Eagles' linebacking group bites hard. Still, right end Connor Barwin is free and has a chance to make the play. 

He doesn't. Just a missed tackle. 

Kelley finds some open field. Rodney McLeod is the next guy to beat and Kelley simply turns him around. You'll see Mychal Kendricks enter the frame. Kendricks showed great recovery speed to get back in the play and has a chance to finally bring the running back down. 

Nope. Can't do it. Eventually, McLeod recovers to bring him down. 

This last play ended the game on Sunday. The Eagles punted the ball away with the hope that their defense would stop Washington and give them the ball back. Instead, Matt Jones broke off a 57-yard run on 3rd-and-7. 

Jordan Hicks over pursues, probably thinking the run was going wide. But he loses his gap and Jones is off to the races. 

Once Jones gets past the first down, it doesn't really matter that it was a 57-yard run. It could have been an 8-yarder and the game was over. 

So what did we learn? 

Well, Schwartz was right. Angles absolutely killed the Eagles on Sunday. But when they have a guy wrapped up, they need to bring him down. Sure, that's not Earth-shattering, but they couldn't do it on Sunday and it led to a loss. 

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."