He may not be fast, but Foles is deceptively crafty

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He may not be fast, but Foles is deceptively crafty

Eagle Eye: Eagles-Redskins predictions

November 15, 2013, 6:00 pm
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Nick Foles ran the 40 at the 2012 NFL combine in 5.14 seconds -- the slowest time of any player in the last four combines (USA Today Images)

Nick Foles wants to make sure he gets credit for every bit of speed he has.
So when he’s asked about the 5.2 he ran in the 40-yard dash at the 2012 NFL scouting combine, he’s quick to correct the questioner.
“I didn’t run a 5.2 at the combine,” he says with mock incredulity. “It was a 5.1!”
Which is kind of like saying, “I didn’t hit .215. I hit .217!”
Foles cracks up the press core as he begs for every 100th of a second he can claim.
But the fact remains his official time – 5.14 – was slowest by far of all the quarterbacks that ran at the combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
RG3 ran 4.41. Russell Wilson was timed in 4.55. Andrew Luck was 4.67.
Foles’ 5.14 was slower than five offensive linemen at the combine.
The next-slowest quarterback was Kellen Moore of Boise State, who ran 4.94.
In fact, Foles’ 40 time from last year in Indy is the slowest in the last four combines. The last quarterback to run slower was Hunter Cantwell of Louisville, who ran 5.22 in 2009. Cantwell was briefly on the Ravens’ roster but is no longer in football.
A funny thing has happened since that 5.14.
He’s gotten fast.
OK, not fast.
But faster. Definitely a lot faster. And – more importantly – he’s become an effective situational runner, which is crucial in Chip Kelly’s offense.
We know all about the record-setting touchdowns. We know all about the 173 consecutive passes without an interception. We know all about the bombs to DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, the Player of the Week awards, the jersey and cleats in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Maybe the biggest surprise of all has been the way Nick Foles has helped himself as a ball carrier.
He’s slow. But he keeps making plays with his feet.
Is he deceptively fast?
“I’d say deceptively crafty,” Foles said. “That’d be more like it.”
Foles had a four-yard touchdown run in Tampa, a nine-yard run on the Eagles’ first scoring drive in Oakland, a nine-yard run on a touchdown drive in Green Bay, a 16-yard scramble on a third-quarter touchdown drive and then another nine-yard gain for a first down as the Eagles were running out the clock.
He’s no Michael Vick. But Foles is clearly faster than last year, and he’s helping himself out in ways nobody could have imagined before he started playing a month ago.
“I’m not going to run a 4.3,” Foles said. “I might run a 4.3 30, but it’s not going to be anything crazy.
“But I definitely worked on a lot of endurance, a lot of cross training and different things to pick up speed and explosion. I’ll continue to work on it. Continue to work on foot speed and continue to excel at that as I get older. I’m hoping. That’s what my goal is.”
Foles may not be able to run fast, but he can think fast.
And this is an offense that demands quick decisions on every snap, whether you’re going to throw, hand off or keep the ball.
“The thing with Nick is, he may not be fleet of foot, but he's fleet of mind,” Kelly said. “He's a really, really good decision maker. Part of being a guy that can distribute the football throwing the ball, being a good decision maker is the same exact situations in the run game. You have to be a good decision maker to know when to give it and to know when to pull it.
“It's really just taking advantage of what the defense is. If they're all going to commit and try to take away the running back and no one’s responsible for the quarterback, you’ve got to be able to make them pay, and Nick has done that for us.”
Foles makes his 11th career start Sunday when the Eagles try to end their 10-game home losing streak with a 1 p.m. game against the Redskins at the Linc.
Last year, Foles averaged seven rushing yards per start, although he did have that lumbering 10-yard touchdown run against the Buccaneers.
This year, subtracting kneel-downs, he’s averaging 21 rushing yards per start.
Obviously, a big part of the increase is the read-option that Kelly runs occasionally. But Foles said it’s really just his comfort level in the offense and seeing the field and making good decisions.
And being a little faster.
“Just running the offense and getting more and more comforable with running,” he said.
“It’s a continued work in progress, but I’m getting more comfortable each week with doing it, as you saw in the [Packers] game. We picked up a few first downs with just me running it, so the defense has to start accounting for me, and when they do that, it opens up the run for Shady.”
Foles officially is 21 for 76 rushing, a 3.6 average. But take away six kneeldowns for minus-10 yards, and he’s at 15-for-86 – a 5.7 average.
Yes, higher than LeSean McCoy’s average.
How effective a runner is he?
He’s averaging 10 yards per carry on third down, with three conversions.
Even including kneeldowns, Foles has a 7.8 rushing average on third down, which is fourth-best among quarterbacks with five or more attempts, behind Luck (11.7 average), Vick (9.8) and Jake Locker (8.3).
Vick, hobbled since Oct. 6 with a hamstring injury, is the greatest running quarterback in NFL history, and he’s a big fan of Foles’ running prowess.
“He loves it,” Foles said. “He’s supportive of me. God gives us different abilities, and I’m just trying to take advantage of it and trying to get as many yards as I can and help us move the ball.”
Vick, Randall Cunningham and Donovan McNabb are three of the greatest running quarterbacks in NFL history, ranking first, second and sixth all-time in rushing yards by quarterbacks. Steve Young, Fran Tarkenton and Steve McNair are third through fifth.
Vick, Cunningham and McNabb have combined to start 23 of the last 27 season openers for the Eagles, so having running quarterbacks around here is the norm.
And maybe that won’t change if Foles becomes the Eagles’ permanent starter.
He’s no Randall. He’s no McNabb. He’s clearly no Vick.
But he’s showing he can move the chains with his legs, and that’s all that matters.
“The more I play, the more comfortable I get, I think it’s like anything else, the better I’ll be at it,” Foles said. ““Hopefully as I continue to play in the league I can continue to work on the speed and get things going a little more.”