By Kevin McGuire
With starting quarterback Mike Vick recovering from a concussion suffered Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, rookie Nick Foles out of Arizona is preparing to make his first career start for the Philadelphia Eagles. Vick did not practice on Tuesday but head coach Andy Reid expects he will be available before the end of the regular season. Of course, it remains to be seen if the games will still have any importance by the time Vick does return. For now though, it will be the Nick Foles show.
“He’s around here all the time, and he spends a lot of time in this building getting himself right,” Reid said of his rookie back-up quarterback in preparing for his first start. “You have to do that when you’re the relief pitcher as the backup. He’s used to that workload and he’s continuing on with that. He came in yesterday and made sure he put in a few hours. He’s going to handle it like he’s going. Whether he does or not, we’ll see how that works out. That’s how we have to handle that right now.”
Foles had a shaky outing in his first significant amount of playing time against Dallas, a team that was utilized a heavy blitz package to disrupt the young quarterback often. Rookie mistakes were expected, and did develop, but Foles is looking forward to getting back on the football field and try to get off to a better start as the Eagles look to snap a five-game losing streak. Foles will make his first start on the road against rookie Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins.
“I’m ready,” Foles said. “I’m excited to just play again. Like I’ve said before, my prayers are with Mike (Vick) and I just want him to be healthy. It’s my time to just go out there, play, do everything I can for this team, and help in any way possible. We just have to play fast.”
Reid has a history of adjusting his play calling and offensive philosophy to protect young and back-up quarterbacks and despite being on the receiving end of plenty of criticism and negativity as the Eagles have dropped game after game this season, that should be expected to be the case once again this week. Reid can do all he can with the play calling with a battered offensive line, but the most important ingredient will be having a young quarterback who is as prepared and focused as possible to play with confidence.
“He needs to be himself,” Reid said of Foles this week. “If he has that opportunity, just be yourself and run the offense.”
Asked if Reid will hold anything back for Foles though, the head coach suggested everything would remain the same when it comes to game planning.
“He’s fairly comfortable with what we have in,” Reid said.
“This offense is the kind where you accomplish goals and we have plays designed so we can do things,” Foles said. “Just stay within the offense and try not to do too much. I have 10 other guys out there with me that I count on every single one of them. We just have to play together.”
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin believes Foles will be ready to play, especially after getting a dose of action last weekend against Dallas.
“It always is a benefit,” Maclin said when asked about Foles getting extra time to prepare for his first start. “To be able to just go out there and get the full reps and knowing that if you’re going to be the guy to be in the position to do that.”
The Eagles will hope to be able to provide a little bit more protection for Foles as he makes his first start. The team signed free agent offensive guard Jake Scott, a nine-year veteran who most recently played for the Tennessee Titans. The team will also be hoping to get Danny Watkins back on the field this weekend. Watkins has been working at right guard this week in practices after missing the last few weeks due to an ankle injury.
“We’ll see how he does,” Reid said of the newly signed Scott. “We’ll get him in and he played in this offense in college. Then, he knows (offensive line coach) Howard (Mudd)’s technique obviously so he can work in. He rotates everybody in.”
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Kevin McGuire covers college football for Examiner.com and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter (@KevinOnCFB). His work can be found on Examiner.com.