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Westbrook on how Foles commanded the Eagles' offense
Nick Foles has thrown just two interceptions in his last 248 passes. (USA Today Images)
In his first NFL start, Nick Foles threw two interceptions.
Since then, he’s played in nine games, chucked the football 248 times and been picked off precisely ... twice.
Young quarterbacks are generally prone to turnovers, but no quarterback in NFL history has thrown interceptions less frequently in his first two seasons than Foles.
Since making his NFL debut in relief of an injured Michael Vick against the Cowboys at the Linc last Nov. 11, Foles has just five interceptions in 326 attempts.
That’s one every 65.2 pass attempts. And that is exceptional.
Among quarterbacks with at least 250 pass attempts in their first two years, Robert Griffin III (one every 60.2 attempts), Mark Brunell (one every 53.3), Shane Matthews (one every 48.9) and Vick (one every 48.5) round out the five least interception-prone QBs through two seasons.
Since throwing two interceptions against the Redskins in Landover last November in his first start, Foles has thrown only two interceptions in 248 attempts.
Foles has thrown 97 consecutive passes without an interception. The last time he was picked off was by Redskins linebacker London Fletcher with 6:26 left in the second quarter of the Redskins-Eagles game on Dec. 23 at the Linc.
“I think just preparation,” Foles said when asked the key to his lack of turnovers.
“Our guys are doing a great job too of running their routes, guys up front are doing a great job blocking. It takes everybody being on the same page for that not to happen.”
In parts of four games, including a start in Tampa Sunday, Foles this year has completed 67 percent of his passes (41 for 61) with six touchdowns and no INTs. His 127.9 passer rating is second-highest in the NFL behind Peyton Manning (128.8) among quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 50 passes.
“I think he sees the field well, he understands, he studies, he works at it, he understands what’s a good play and what’s a bad play,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.
“He’s an accurate passer, and he throws a friendly ball that’s catchable, and I think because he works at it, he will continue to improve, and I think those are all good things.”
What’s really amazing is that both Vick, who threw only two interceptions in five starts, and Foles are not only among the best in the NFL in not throwing interceptions but also getting the ball down the field better than almost anybody.
Vick is second to Manning at 8.98 yards per pass attempt, and Foles is fourth at 8.89, behind only Manning, Vick and Aaron Rodgers.
“No. 1, you’ve got to be comfortable with the progressions we’re running and know where you’re going first, second, third and fourth,” Shurmur said.
“You’ve got to be confident and trained to get the ball out on time, and then you’ve got to just kind of understand when the ball’s going into harm’s way. Those are all the things you’re trying to predict when you draft a guy, and once you get him, you just try to continue to develop those things.”
Vick has been hampered by a hamstring injury and missed the Buccaneers game. His status for the Eagles’ game against the Cowboys Sunday is unknown, but it appears he'll again be sidelined (see story).
Vick has always been careful with the football, too. He’s thrown just 84 career INTs in 3,021 attempts, one every 36 attempts. That’s 17th-best in NFL history among QBs who’ve thrown 3,000 or more passes.
The top of that list includes Tom Brady (one every 48.8 passes), Neil O’Donnell (47.5), Donovan McNabb (45.9), Jeff Garcia (44.3) and Mark Brunell (43.0).
This year, Vick has just two interceptions in 132 passes, sixth-best in the NFL among 37 QBs who’ve thrown 50 or more passes.
Between the two of them, Eagles quarterbacks are tied with the Broncos for fewest INTs this year.
Their two combined interceptions ties the franchise record for fewest INTs after six games of a season, set in 2006 and matched in 2007 and 2010.
“It’s really just understanding what’s going on with the defense, going through the reads, not trying to force the ball, and just being smart with it,” Foles said.
“Turnovers can be a big determining factor in the game, so just trying to be smart with it.”
Since 1990, the Eagles are 113-121-1 when their quarterbacks throw at least one interception, 31-52-1 when they throw at least two and 10-20-1 when they throw three or more.
When they don’t throw any, the Eagles are 95-43-1 since 1990.
Shurmur has been around a lot of young quarterbacks, including McNabb his rookie year with the Eagles, Sam Bradford his rookie year with the Rams and Brandon Weeden his rookie year with the Browns.
Nobody’s been more careful with the ball than Foles.
“There are some young guys that are pretty cavalier with the ball,” Shurmur said. “You try to coach against it. When I was with Sam Bradford, he didn’t throw that many. Brandon Weeden did. And they weren’t being taught anything different. ...
“I think you want to be aggressive, but by nature -- and I think this is some of what we preach -- you’ve got to have a real healthy respect for the football and how a turnover can change the game.”
Most likely, at some point this year, Foles will throw an interception. Probably a bunch of them.
That’s OK. Everybody does. It’s inevitable.
For Foles, it’s just a matter of how he responds once he does get picked off.
“There’s always a chance it will happen,” Foles said. “And the big thing is if you do throw a pick, you’ve always got to come back firing.”