Foles got big-game experience in high school

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Foles got big-game experience in high school

“After watching the game today, I'm a Nick Foles believer 100 percent. If he keeps working hard and getting better, that kid’s going to make millions in the NFL.”

That’s not a quote following Nick Foles’ performance against the Raiders or Bears this year. It’s not from Foles’ career with the Eagles at all. It’s not even from his college career.

It’s an anonymous post made by somebody going by “Texasfrog” on a Texas high school football message board on Dec. 24, 2006.

Seven years ago this week. And just a few hours after Foles’ final high school football game.

Foles, then a senior at Austin Westlake High School, completed 24 of 43 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions that day against the No. 1-ranked high school team in the U.S., Southlake Carroll.

Westlake led 15-7 early, but Carroll rallied for a 43-29 win to take the Class-5A championship before about 30,000 fans at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Who says Foles has never played in a big game?

On Sunday night in Arlington, Texas, about 300 miles north of San Antonio, Foles will play in an even bigger game.

Eagles-Cowboys. Playoff berth at stake.

“State championship in Texas is pretty high,” Foles said. “Bowl games are really high, but that was a big game, growing up.

“At the time in my life, I hadn’t been through college football and you’re playing with all the guys you grew up with and on a big stage against at the time … the No. 1 team in the country.

“We ended up losing but we played them really, really well, and that was tough, but all those games that I’ve played in have. I’ve taken a lot from them. Those were the guys I grew up with. It was family. I knew them forever, since I was in elementary school, so that was a special time.”

With 25 touchdowns and just two interceptions, Foles is the NFL’s highest-rated quarterback with a 118.7 passer rating -- third-highest in NFL history.

The Eagles are 8-2 this year when he’s played more than a half, 1-4 when he hasn’t.

But Sunday night will be by far the biggest start of his career. On the road, in front of 80,000 Cowboys fans and a national TV audience, against the only team that shut him down this year, with a playoff berth hanging in the balance.

That’s all.

Foles played in a couple bowl games at Arizona, but he said that Texas state title game seven years ago is the biggest game he’s played so far.

“I remember warming up in that game and just thinking, ‘This is a dream come true,’" Foles said after practice Thursday.

“To be playing varsity high school football in the state of Texas for Westlake High School and be playing for a state championship, that was a dream.

“And the thing about that season, the beginning of the season, we had a lot of adversity that went on with the team and the players and injuries and stuff like that, so it was how we got there. We didn’t always play well, but we turned it on in the playoffs and we stuck together as a team.

“Sort of like this year. We didn’t start out very well, [but we] started to figure each other out, new identities and stuff like that. You stick together and you believe in each other and you play for each other, and that’s how it was my senior year at Westlake. We believed in each other and we fought for each other.”

Foles played in two bowl games while at Arizona: the Holiday Bowl vs. Alex Henery and Nebraska in San Diego following the 2009 season, and the Alamo Bowl vs. Oklahoma State a year later. The Wildcats lost those two games by a combined 69-10.

Foles was just 6 for 20 for 28 yards and an interception vs. Nebraska and 32 for 50 for 280 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions vs. Oklahoma State.

As big as Texas high school football is and as big as college bowl games are, Sunday night’s game vs. the Cowboys will be the biggest game of Foles’ life.

“It’s great going back to the state of Texas,” he said. “I was born in Austin, I’m a Texas boy.

“It’s great because there’ll be family there, but when I go there, I’m strictly business. It’s time to play football and when I’m in that stadium, I’m going to zone out everything and just focus on that field and focus on playing with my teammates.

“Of course it’s exciting, but I know what’s important and I can’t let the other stuff distract me because I know what’s on the table.”

A win would give the Eagles their first NFC East title and their first playoff berth since 2010 and make Foles the second-youngest quarterback ever to lead the Eagles to the playoffs.

Foles will be about 24 years, 11 months on Sunday. Donovan McNabb was about 23 years, one month, when the 2000 Eagles reached the playoffs as a wild-card.

“It’s pretty much playoffs because if we lose we’re done,” Foles said. “And we don’t want to be done.

“It’s fun, and we want to keep playing football. It is a different game because it is a do-or-die game, and it’s been fun playing with these guys. I’ve enjoyed every moment of it, and I want to keep playing.”

Report: Eagles showed 'real interest' in Anquan Boldin

Report: Eagles showed 'real interest' in Anquan Boldin

Veteran receiver Anquan Boldin is signing with the Detroit Lions to replace future Hall of Famer Calvin Johnson. 

He could have replaced Riley Cooper instead. 

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapaport, the Eagles and Saints were two teams that had "real interest" in Boldin's services before he reached a deal to join Detroit. 

The Eagles' reported interest in the 35-year-old wideout could show some concern with the current group of receivers, which includes Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle, Josh Huff and Chris Givens. While Matthews has blossomed into a pretty good slot receiver, Agholor is coming off a disappointing rookie season and Huff hasn't lived up to his potential. Meanwhile, Randle and Givens are veteran question marks. 

Boldin, originally a second-round pick of the Cards in 2003, ranks 12th in NFL history with 1009 receptions in 13 seasons, 17th with 13,195 receiving yards and 30th with 74 touchdown receptions.

He’s had seven 1,000-yard seasons, most recently with the 49ers in 2014. Last year, he caught 69 passes for 789 yards and four touchdowns for the 49ers. 

Eagles training camp Day 2: 10 observations

Eagles training camp Day 2: 10 observations

Still not a ton of exciting stuff going on at training camp yet. 

With just 38 players on the field again Tuesday — the rest of the team reports Wednesday and practices Thursday — a bunch of mostly rookies practiced in shorts again. Really, not many of these players have a shot to make the roster. 

It’s still football, though, and we love football. 

So here are 10 observations from today’s practice: 

• A ton of drops today during the 7-on-7 portion of practice. They came from a few different players — Hunter Sharp, Byron Marshall, Xavier Rush, to name a few. It wasn’t pretty, but remember this: Most of these players aren’t going to make the final 53-man roster.

• One receiver who had a pretty good day was Paul Turner out of Louisiana Tech. The 5-foot-10, 193-pound rookie isn’t too physically imposing but showed off some impressive hands and worked in the slot for a while. 

• Turner was on the receiving end of the best play of the day. Sam Bradford hit him on a 25-yard pass down the right sideline, hitting him in stride over his shoulder. JaCorey Shepherd had tight coverage, but the throw was better. (More on Shepherd here.)

Bradford had a very good day. 

• Another tough day for quarterback-turned-tight end McLeod Bethel-Thompson. (Bethel-Thompson is a camp arm, but thanks to a lack of numbers right now, has been playing tight end.) Bradford tried to hit him with a pass in 11-on-11s, but overthrew him. Bethel-Thompson got a hand on the ball, but just tipped it to former CFL cornerback Aaron Grymes, who picked it off and went the other way. Quarterback-on-quarterback crime. 

• Not long after that play, Bethel-Thompson settled into a route and was wide open. Carson Wentz fired a ball to him, but linebacker Travis Long made an impressive diving pass breakup. 

A note about Long: It’s hard to believe, but this is Long’s fourth straight training camp with the Eagles. In 2013, he ended up on the practice squad. He tore his left ACL during training camp in 2014. He tore his left ACL again during the preseason finale last year. Now, he’s back again, although he probably isn’t a fit for Jim Schwartz’s defense. 

• Here’s a Wentz note because we know you care: He might not be the sharpest quarterback on the roster just yet, but he’s clearly the most athletic. On one play during 11-on-11, the pocket collapsed and Wentz didn’t hesitate to take off downfield. He did it again during goal-line work. That’s one aspect of his game that Bradford clearly doesn’t have. 

Aside from that, saw some inaccuracy from Wentz today. That’s probably the area of his game that needs the most work. 

• An up-and-down day for Marshall, the undrafted running back out of Oregon. During 7-on-7s, he had a ball from Wentz tipped away by corner C.J. Smith, then on the next play, dropped a ball on an out pattern. Later in the morning, he did redeem himself by catching a ball in traffic during 11-on-11s. Marshall’s hands are what make him stand out. He caught 97 passes for 1,293 yards and eight touchdowns in 46 games at Oregon. 

Marshall played running back and receiver for the Ducks, but said the Eagles haven’t asked him to play wideout in Philly. They want him to strictly focus on being a running back. 

• Jalen Mills, of green hair fame, made another big play today. This time he broke up a deep pass down the sideline from Chase Daniel. Mills can definitely play in shorts. Now, I want to see him do the same when the pads come out on Saturday. 

• It’s fun getting to watch offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland coach up close. It's just be the beginning of training camp, but he’s in midseason form. Today, he got on rookie OG Darrell Greene a little bit. 

• I watched rookie long snapper John DePalma snap the ball into an orange-padded goal post for about five minutes. Training camp must be lonely for a long-snapper with no one to snap the ball to. 

Healed from torn ACL, CB JaCorey Shepherd eager to show how time off helped

Healed from torn ACL, CB JaCorey Shepherd eager to show how time off helped

The hardest days were game days. Sunday afternoons. When his teammates were playing football and JaCorey Shepherd was stuck on the sidelines watching.

“It was tough, man,” Shepherd said Monday. “I never had to miss a season. I never had to really miss a game. Missed two games in college but other than that, I never missed anything.

“Game days were the toughest. Sitting on the sideline and I couldn’t do anything. Practice was tough, but I got used to it. But games? That was the hardest.”

Shepherd, then a rookie sixth-round cornerback out of Kansas, was having a very good preseason last year when he tore his right ACL during practice in early August in a sideline collision with running back Darren Sproles.

Season over.

“Second half of the season it started to get easier because the season was starting to wind down,” Shepherd said. “I’m in the moment, but I was also looking forward to moving forward.”

There are two ways to go when you’re hurt. You can feel sorry for yourself, tune out and wait to get better. Or you can make use of every single moment available to you during your rehab.

Shepherd, always a workaholic, always a film hound, always the hardest worker on the roster in college, didn’t hesitate to make the right choice.

As disappointed as he was, he made sure his 2015 rookie year didn’t go to waste.

“JaCorey, you could tell it was really hard for him to not play,” said veteran corner Nolan Carroll, whose 2015 season was also cut short. “But he made the best use of his time last year.

“Chip (Kelly) let the injured guys stand on the sidelines for games and even brought them to road games, and when me and Walter (Thurmond) and Malcolm (Jenkins) would come off the field, he was always right there listening when we went over what just happened with (defensive backs coach Cory Undlin).

“You could see that he wanted to make the best of his situation and learn as much as possible, even though he couldn’t play. That’s not always easy for a young guy to do, but JaCorey, you could tell he just wanted to learn as much as possible.”

You have to give some credit to Undlin — Kelly’s defensive backs coach last year and still here this year under Doug Pederson — for taking the time to coach up a rookie sixth-round pick who was on injured reserve.

“Coach Cory, he always made the time for me,” Shepherd said. “The defense would come off the field and he would be like, ‘Watch this on this side,’ ‘Watch this route concept,’ just making sure I’m staying in tune.

“They kept me occupied and busy and preparing like I was still playing. ... The older guys would always question me to make sure I was on my P’s and Q’s so that way when I got back, I had the mental part down and it was really just a matter of getting my feet down under me and I’d be ready to go.”

Now that training camp is here, Shepherd is fully healed, 100 percent healthy and certainly not lacking in confidence.

His practice Monday on the opening day of training camp for rookies, quarterbacks and players who finished last year on injured reserve was his first real workout in a year.

“Two years I haven’t played in a game, man,” he said. “So it feels real good just to be out here. This has been a big test for me, but I think it’ll pay off. I learned some patience. That’s one thing I’ve always needed to work on, my patience, and being a smarter player.

“I feel like I’m a lot smarter than last year after sitting on the sideline for a year having to pay attention and learn. I feel like I’m a better player this year than last year even though I didn’t play a snap.”

Along with guys like Jalen Mills, Randall Evans, Jaylen Walker, Eric Rowe and Denzel Rice, Shepherd is one of a number of promising young corners on the Eagles’ roster.

Shepherd loves the competition. He embraces it.

“All of us love to compete,” he said. “That makes it fun. It’s not like, ‘Oh man, it’s a job.’ It’s fun because we’re all out there competing against one another and having fun together.

“We know we’re fighting for spots, but at the end of the day, if you’re having fun and just competing? You don’t want to be thinking about that. Especially around this time. You really can’t afford to because why are you worried about something you can’t control?”

How can Shepherd separate himself from all the other young corners?

After all, he’s not one of Pederson’s guys, he’s not one of Jim Schwartz’s guys. He’s a Chip Kelly draft pick, so he may have to do a little bit more than others just to open some eyes.

“All I can do is continue to do what I do and control what I can control,” he said. “You know? That’s the way the game is. There’s always going to be competition. Frankly, I love competition, so that doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve never been worried about competition, and I’m not going to start now. Just going to do what I do.

“If there’s not a job here, there’s a job somewhere else. All I can control is give it my all on every play.”

Shepherd said Monday’s initial practice was a big step for him, and another comes Saturday, the first practice of the summer in pads.

But the big one, the date circled on his calendar, will be Aug. 18, the preseason opener and Shepherd’s first game since Kansas-Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, on Nov. 29, 2014.

“Everybody wants to know what JaCorey is all about,” he said with a laugh. “Keep watching. I’m planning on showing them.”