Eagle Eye: Nick Foles vs. Buccaneers
Nick Foles is 2 for 5 for 11 yards and two touchdowns, no INTs and an 87.5 passer rating in the red zone so far. (USA Today Images)
Maybe it’s not a large enough a body of work to draw conclusions. Maybe it’s too early to even have this conversation.
Because the Michael Vick vs. Nick Foles conversation isn’t complete without acknowledging that at least so far, Foles has been the more productive quarterback in the red zone.
Which is the most important place on the field.
Overall, the Eagles are 30th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency, with seven touchdowns on 17 trips inside the opposing 20-yard line.
With Vick at quarterback, the Eagles are 5 for 14 (36 percent) converting red-zone chances into touchdowns and with Foles behind center they’re 2 for 4 (50 percent).
It’s not a huge sample. But take a look at their respective passing numbers inside the opposing 20:
Vick is 5 for 19 for 38 yards with one TD and a 57.1 passer rating in the red zone this year. That’s a 26 percent completion percentage.
Only Chad Henne (25 percent) has a lower completion percentage than Vick and only Carson Palmer (40.2) and Henne (33.3) have lower passer ratings.
Vick has been victimized by at least two red-zone drops, notably one by Brent Celek against the Broncos at the 4-yard line.
Foles is 2 for 5 for 11 yards but with two touchdowns and no INTs and an 87.5 passer rating.
Again, limited opportunities, but Foles, despite playing only 51 snaps this year to Vick’s 305, actually has more red-zone touchdown passes than Vick.
Foles is expected to make his first start of the year Sunday in Tampa when the Eagles face the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Vick left the Eagles’ game against the Giants Sunday with a hamstring injury and is expected to miss at least one start.
Let’s take the red-zone numbers back to last year, which was Foles’ rookie season. The two split time in 2012, with Vick starting 10 games and Foles six.
Vick last year completed 46 percent of his red-zone passes for 157 yards, with nine TDs and two interceptions – a 75.8 passer rating.
Foles completed only 42 percent of his red-zone passes as a rookie but had four TDs, no interceptions and an 89.1 passer rating – higher than QBs such as Andrew Luck, Eli Manning, Tony Romo, Colin Kaepernick and Sam Bradford. One of Foles’ red-zone TDs last year was the game-winner to Jeremy Maclin in Tampa, his only career win as a starter (see story).
Over the past two years, Vick is 26 for 65 in the red zone for 195 yards with 10 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 74.7 passer rating.
Foles during the same span is 15 for 36 for 91 yards with six TDs, no interceptions and an 88.9 passer rating.
Of the 33 quarterbacks who’ve thrown at least 30 red-zone passes over the last two years, Foles ranks 18th in passer rating in the red zone and Vick is 30th, ahead of only Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez and Chad Henne.
And here’s a surprise: Foles actually has a higher rushing average than Vick inside the 20 since the start of last year: 3.8 with one TD on 19 carries to 3.4 for Vick with three TDs on 51 carries.
Vick throughout his career has been pretty good in the red zone – 49 percent completion percentage with 90 TDs and 15 interceptions, an 82.5 passer rating.
Since joining the Eagles, he’s at 50 percent with 37 TDs, seven INTs and an 81.6 rating, along with 15 rushing TDs and a 4.1 rushing average that is the highest of anybody in the NFL with 50 or more red-zone carries since 2009.
What does this all mean?
In limited work, Foles has been just a little bit more efficient and productive than Vick inside the 20.
Overall, Vick has generated 106 points on 54 drives, 1.96 points per drive. Foles has generated 27 points on 10 drives, 2.70 points per drive.
It will be interesting to see whether Foles can maintain that sort of production this weekend, when he’s expected to start against the Buccaneers, who have the No. 8 scoring defense in the league.
Maybe it’s still too early to draw any conclusions, but it’s certainly possible that Foles’ style of play – quick, decisive, accurate – is better suited to the red zone than Vick’s style, since the compressed field inside the 20 to a great degree removes his biggest strength, which is running.
Maybe not. But it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.
“When you’re in the red zone, you really have to be efficient with your reads,” Foles said.
“Everything speeds up a little bit and you’ve got to be sharp. It’s a quick decision. It gets a lot quicker down there. Your drop’s cut down, the ball’s got to come out quicker, if it’s the running game, the running back’s got to find the whole quick and get it in the end zone.
“The key to the red zone is being efficient and keeping that tempo and getting through our reads quickly and being sharp.”
And so far, Foles has done a little bit better job of being sharp inside the 20 than Vick.