What’s next for Nick Foles?

What’s next for Nick Foles?

Like everybody else, I’m having a little trouble wrapping my head around what Nick Foles accomplished in an Eagles uniform on Sunday. On one hand, I don’t care who you are or what the situation is, seven touchdowns in one game is damn impressive. There’s a reason only six other players in the 94-year history of the NFL have done it.

On the other hand, it was against the Raiders. Forget the rankings, they looked clueless. Oakland’s pass rush was nonexistent, cornerbacks were falling down all over the place and nobody even bothered to cover LeSean McCoy on his 25-yard touchdown reception. That was a bad team.

Then there is Foles’ baggage. He was a third-round draft pick. He lost an open competition for the starting quarterback job to Mike Vick over the summer (however narrowly). And when the opportunity presented itself again for Foles to cement himself in that role, the second-year passer played the worst game of his career against Dallas.

In the span of three games, Foles went from Offensive Player of the Week to a 37.9 completion percentage and 2.8 yards per attempt to etching his name into the record books. Foles is 24-years-old and has made nine career starts, yet he’s already experienced unimaginable highs and lows.

Who is Nick Foles? Nobody knows for sure right now—but everybody should be intrigued.

The numbers speak for themselves. Foles is averaging 8.7 yards per attempt this season. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns passes with zero interceptions. His 127.4 passer rating would lead the league if he had enough attempts to qualify.

It’s the things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet though. Even as a rookie playing in his first NFL preseason game, Foles seemed to possess almost uncanny pocket presence. He instinctively slides away from pressure, but his eyes remain locked down the field rather than on the 300-lb. defensive lineman inside his facemask.

Foles is tough like that. He’s not afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit. He’s got a prototypical 6’6”, 243-lb. frame, so he can absorb a few.

Foles’ arm strength is better than advertised as well. He’s usually very accurate, makes sound decisions with the football, and has what’s been dubbed as “functional mobility.”

Sounds like a great player. Why are we so mind-blown over his amazing performance on Sunday?

It’s his pedigree. The overwhelming majority of NFL starting quarterbacks are taken in the first round of the draft—Foles went in the third. He never produced a bowl victory at the esteemed University of Arizona, where he compiled a 15-18 record as a starter including a four-win season his senior year. You can understand why people are hesitant to label this kid a franchise quarterback.

It’s his track record too, or lack thereof. With the win over the Raiders, Foles’ record in the NFL improved to 3-6. Those three victories are against opponents with a combined 10-22 record. And while Foles has typically demonstrated steady improvement from one game to the next, there are still outliers such as his abysmal game against the Cowboys in Week 7.

There is only one way Foles can put those doubts and more to rest and that is by beating some decent teams or at the very least stringing together several quality weeks in a row. He hasn’t acchieved either of those feats yet, and until he does it’s perfectly fair to be skeptical even of seven-touchdown performances.

But it’s never really been about labels or what people believe. Neither Chip Kelly nor Howie Roseman and not even Jeffrey Lurie can wave a magic wand one day, and poof, Foles is the franchise quarterback.

There are only two ways a player is elevated to that status. One is he’s selected in the first round of the draft and handed the reins. The other is he plays his way into that position.

Fans and analysts can’t petition for somebody to be named a franchise quarterback. He simply is or he isn’t.

Time will tell whether or not Foles ever earns that status in Philadelphia—he hasn’t yet. Franchise quarterbacks all had to ascend from somewhere though, and labeled or not, Foles’ history-making afternoon on Sunday may very well have been the origin of one.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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USA Today Images

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.

Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

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Best of MLB: Blue Jays get walk-off win vs. Red Sox

TORONTO -- With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the Toronto Blue Jays' repeated comeback efforts on Saturday were starting to look like they might come up agonizingly short.

But with Justin Smoak, Russell Martin and Devon Travis all facing consecutive two-strike counts against Boston Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, a four-time All-Star, an unlikely thing happened.

They all cashed in, and the Blue Jays walked off with a 10-9 victory, their fourth straight against Boston and their third walk-off win of the year.

"With the potency in our lineup, I feel like no lead is really big enough," said Martin, who went 3-for-5 and hit his third home run in four days in the sixth inning. "We can always find a way to get runners on and also if the other team makes a mistake, capitalizing on those mistakes. I think that was the key for us today. I think there was a couple miscues on defense for them and we were able to take advantage of that."

Martin kick-started the rally in the eighth that led Toronto back from a four-run deficit to tie the game at 8. But he really got things going in the ninth, with Ezequiel Carrera on as a pinch-runner for Smoak, doubling a fastball into left field to tie the game at 9 (see full recap).

Royals score 7 in 9th to beat White Sox; Perez hurt
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brett Eibner wondered whether anything could surpass the Kansas City Royals' rally Friday night, when they overcome a four-run deficit to beat the Chicago White Sox in his major league debut.

He did not have to wait long to find out.

Eibner singled to cap the biggest ninth-inning comeback in Royals history, a seven-run rally off David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle that lifted the World Series champions over the Chicago White Sox 8-7 Saturday.

"I didn't think I could beat yesterday and, sure enough, we come around and do this," said Eibner, who also doubled to helped spark the inning. "It's super fun. There's nothing like it. I don't think I've ever experienced that."

Kansas City's Salvador Perez was injured in the ninth when third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert slid with a forearm and elbow into the left thigh of the All-Star catcher, who called off Chien-Ming Wang (3-0), settled under Adam Eaton's foul popup about 30 feet from the plate near the third-base line and snagged the ball just before he was hit.

Perez was taken for a MRI after the game and the extent of his injury was not announced. The preliminary diagnosis was a bruised left thigh (see full recap).

Braves beat Marlins to lock up first home series win
ATLANTA -- Braves interim manager Brian Snitker says Gordon Beckham is "bouncing around like he's a teenager."

That makes sense, because the return to his childhood hometown has helped Beckham add new life to his career.

Beckham hit a three-run homer, Nick Markakis drove in two runs and Atlanta beat the Miami Marlins 7-2 on Saturday to secure their first home series win of the season.

Beckham, 29, an Atlanta native and former University of Georgia standout, spent most of his first seven seasons with the Chicago White Sox before signing with the Braves as a free agent. He is hitting .317 while earning more starts at third base and second base than was expected at the start of the season.

"I feel good," Beckham said. "I enjoy putting on this uniform every day. It's a lot of fun for me, being from Atlanta."

The Braves improved to a still-dismal 4-20 at Turner Field by winning the first two games of the three-game series. Atlanta rallied from a 2-0 deficit for the second straight day (see full recap).