By Kevin McGuire
The youth movement, if you still needed confirmation, is in full motion with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rookie Nick Foles has been named the starting quarterback by Andy Reid for the remainder of the season, possibly signaling the end of the Mike Vick experience in Philadelphia. Running back Bryce Brown is showing flashes of potential filling in for LeSean McCoy as well. The young faces are still in search of a win though, with the Eagles looking to snap an eight-game losing streak this weekend when they head to Tampa Bay.
“I honestly just feel the same way,” Foles said Wednesday when asked about being named the starter for the rest of the season. “I’m going to keep preparing the way that I’ve been preparing. Like I said before, always prepare like you are the starter and I get to play another game with the guys. I can’t wait to go out there and play.”
In a season that has seen rookie quarterbacks make a splash, with Andrew Luck leading the Indianapolis Colts to a potential playoff spot and Robert Griffin III revitalizing the Washington Redskins, Foles is just taking the season one game at a time.
“One day at a time,” Foles said. “I’m very fortunate to do what I do, and we have a great group of guys. The opportunity to go out there and practice with them and play another game, I’m so thankful. The mindset stays the same, and just keep working hard.”
This week Foles will face the second worst pass defense he has faced since starting for the Eagles in place of Vick, still recovering from a concussion. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 66.7 percent of their pass attempts this season, with only the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans playing worst in pass defense in the NFL. Tampa Bay has also allowed a league-worst 309.4 yards per game this season (no other team has allowed 300 passing yards per game; Washington is next worst with 299 yards allowed per game), and those numbers should be an indication that Reid will hope to get Foles in a rhythm throwing the football. Reid has always been a coach willing to pass, pass and pass again on offense before trusting the running game.
If McCoy is not available once again for the Eagles, then look for Brown to continue being the go-to guy out of the backfield when it comes time to run the football. It does not seem as though Reid is rushing to have McCoy return to the field in a season that seems to have been lost weeks ago, but it is not yet out of the question.
“We’ll just see,” Reid said of McCoy’s possible return this season. “I’m going to see how it goes with the doctors with that. We’ll go from there, take it day-by-day here and see how he’s doing.
Brown has rushed for over 150 yards and two touchdowns in each of the last two games for the Eagles in losing efforts but he has also fumbled and lost the football three times in those games. Reid believes that giving Brown playing time will help him realize what he needs to do to protect the football better in the NFL. It should not be a shock to see Brown adjusting to ball control, as he only spent a brief time playing college football between Tennessee and Kansas State amid a cloud of NCAA investigations stemming from Miami. The potential always seemed to be there for Brown though, and the Eagles are hoping to see him reach some of that and protect the football better down the stretch of the regular season.
“Playing is going to help,” Reid said. “Just the sheer amount of reps that he’s getting, that’s going to help. Then, he’s got to make a cognizant effort of just keeping it high-and-tight, especially later in the game after a number of carries.”
Brown will be trying to find the holes and cracks in a run defense that may not have many. Tampa Bay will enter the week ranked first in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 82.3 yards per game, almost half as many yards as they allowed last season before Greg Schiano took over as head coach. Though Tampa Bay is coming off two straight losses, to Atlanta and Denver, the Bucs were steady against the run holding each team to fewer than 100 yards. The last team to rush for 100 yards against Tampa Bay was San Diego, with 103 yards back on November 11.
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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.