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.

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

Brandon Manning to face hearing for hit on Penguins' Jake Guentzel

As if Saturday night's deflating loss to the Penguins at Heinz Field wasn't enough, the Flyers could be coming out of the defeat minus a defenseman in the lineup.

Brandon Manning will have a hearing with the NHL's Department of Player Safety on Monday morning for his hit on Pittsburgh forward Jake Guentzel during the second period of the Stadium Series game.

That means a suspension is looming.

Just over three minutes into the second stanza on Saturday, Guentzel tried to corral a bouncing puck as he exited the Penguins' zone. He did not see Manning, who flattened him with a huge hit.

While the hit did seem a bit late in real speed to the naked eye, no interference penalty was called and play continued. Manning did look to leave his feet to the deliver the hit and make contact with Guentzel's head, though, so both could work against him during the hearing.

Video of the hit in question can be seen above.

Guentzel was not injured on the play, stayed in the game and finished the evening with two assists.

Manning has a clean history as he has never been suspended in the NHL.

If Manning does get suspended by the league, Michael Del Zotto is likely to draw back into the Flyers' lineup Tuesday against visiting Colorado.

Del Zotto, who is a prime candidate to be moved before Wednesday's trade deadline, has sat out the past three games as a healthy scratch.

Sixers' trio of double-doubles overshadowed in loss to Knicks

Sixers' trio of double-doubles overshadowed in loss to Knicks

NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony stole the show on Saturday with 37 points and a game-winning shot against the Sixers.  

His dramatic bucket was the difference maker in the Knicks 110-109 victory (see story), but a deeper look into the box score tells another story of a strong comeback attempt fallen short.

While the Knicks were led by one player (Derrick Rose had 18 points and was the only other Knick to score more than 14), the Sixers fought back with standout efforts from a trio of starters.

The frontcourt of Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington and Dario Saric combined for 67 points and 35 rebounds. That’s 61.4 percent of the Sixers' total offense and 70 percent of their production on the boards.

In a game remembered for one shot, don’t forget about these performances.

Okafor: 28 points, 10 rebounds (six offensive), one assist, 28:45

Okafor scored a season-high 28 points (three shy of his career-high) starting in place of the injured Joel Embiid. He was aggressive from the start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter alone. He followed that up with another 11 in the fourth. Down the stretch, Okafor scored the Sixers' final two baskets, including the critical go-ahead jumper with nine seconds left.

“There was a real bounce even at the start,” Brett Brown said of Okafor, who received treatment after the game and was not available to speak to the media. “He is such a gifted scorer when he has that fluid nature that we saw at the start. … I feel like there was a real mentality for Jahlil to look to score.”

The most significant aspect of Okafor’s game, though, was in the rebounding column. He has struggled on the boards -- his defense has been the knock on him since he entered the league. On Friday, he grabbed just two rebounds against the Wizards while Richaun Holmes had 10 off the bench.

That changed on Saturday. Okafor pulled down six rebounds … in his first 11 minutes. That equaled his total from the past two games combined. Okafor gave the Sixers a glimpse into what they hope to see more of from their man in the middle.

“Jah did an amazing job on both sides of the court,” Covington said. “He made a bunch of tough plays on the offensive and defensive end. He got a couple big rebounds for us, he does that a lot but we’ve just got to get him to keep doing it more consistently.”

Saric: 19 points, 15 rebounds (six offensive), five assists, 39:34

How do you keep up with 20 points and 11 rebounds on Friday? Post a 19-point, 15-rebound double-double the next night (a career-high in boards).

Check out Saric’s total numbers from in his last two games: 39 points, 17 for 36 field goal shooting, 26 rebounds, nine assists and 73 minutes. Saric ranks second among all rookies in double-doubles (seven) behind only teammate Embiid.

“That’s massive numbers by any standards,” Brown said. “His versatility and his skill package, all under the roof of how competitive he is, makes him a very, very unique rookie.”

There has been an increase in Saric’s ball movement of late. His comfort level and growing team chemistry is translating into more assists.

“I just think he’s just so at peace within himself, and so his game takes the same type of shape,” Brown said. “It’s not forced.”

Saric’s game has been driven by effort from the beginning of his rookie season. He approaches each play with a high level of intensity and his stat lines reflect his mentality.

“We fought until the end,” Saric said. “We never gave up.”

Covington: 20 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks, 38:53

Covington’s locker was crowded after the game as he was the one who guarded Anthony on the final shot. Yet, in spite of being tasked with Anthony, Covington still posted a 20-and-10 double-double and came up with a major defensive play down the stretch.

With the Sixers trailing 108-107 with just over 30 seconds to play, Covington picked off Lance Thomas’ pass to start a fast break. This steal started a Sixers possession that eventually led to Okafor scoring the go-ahead basket. Covington is averaging 3.4 steals in his last five games.

“He helped us coach him to being a two-way player. Now he’s for real,” Brown said of Covington before the game. “I look at him as somebody that has just grown right before us all and bought in as a wonderful teammate, is a two-way player, is amongst the NBA’s elite wing defenders when you look at his position and can guard multiple people. That has come through work."