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Week (at least) that Joel Embiid is expected to miss due to left knee soreness

Mind over matter

Posted by Gordon Glantz On July 25

The best offense is a good defense.

No matter the sport, the adage holds true.

So it stands to reason that when offended, it is natural for a close and passionate follower of a team to become defensive.

But with Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles, I am laying down my shield.

Go ahead and spit your spit balls. It says more about you than it does about him.

I am wholly confident Foles will pick up where he left off, and that the similarly maligned Riley Cooper – along with an ascending Zach Ertz, mending Jeremy Maclin and check-down option in Darren Sproles and league’s best all-around back in LeSean McCoy – will be the prime beneficiaries.

Want to downgrade the guy and call him a one-year wonder who won’t be the same without “DeSean Jackson making him look better than he was?” Go for it.

I could argue that Jackson had a career year because of Foles, not the other way around, but I am learning that Foles can defend himself against the doubters.

He doesn’t seem to care.

Why should the rest of us whom Foles made into early believers that he – as much as any other quarterback since Norm Van Brocklin led the Eagles to the top of the NFL mountain in 19 frrigin’ 60 (54 years ago) – lose sleep over it?

For all the needless national preseason ratings of players that last as long as the first torn ACL, Foles should take his perception as a “system” guy as a motivational tool.

Truth be told, he already has.

Foles’ greatest strength is a strong enough sense of self – self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth – which revealed itself with the way he handled himself after he initially lost what I saw as a slanted quarterback competition to Michael Vick going into last season.

Ironically, a lot of those who were slow to wrap their arms around Vick after his debt was paid to society are now harboring resentment toward Foles for alleging stealing Vick’s job when he wasn’t looking.

Sometimes, you just have to laugh to stop from crying.

Or, like Foles, rise above it.

Foles trait of inner strength is more evident than his desirable height (6-foot-6), quick release, decisiveness, accurate and strong arm and master’s degree – with an eye toward a doctorate – in coach Chip Kelly’s speed-of-sound system.

There is no need for him to be flamboyant or to act cocky, as he lacks none of the requisite and transparent insecurity that lurks just beneath the surface of players who do touchdown dances and make bold pronouncements.

Last year, when it seemed the Eagles’ own fan base was divided by Foles during his nearly flawless run, I wrote a tongue-and-cheek column suggesting a “Sons Of Anarchy” makeover, complete with tattoos and a minor brush with the law in the offseason.

Instead, the mature 25-year-old gets his Tom Petty-like locks cut to look even more like a choir boy, marries his longtime sweetheart and continues his golly-gee pronouncements about his parents being his role models how he “loves” all his “great” teammates.

And, above all, he says that winning is more important than duplicating last season’s surreal numbers: A 27:2 ratio of touchdown passes (seven of which came in one game) to interceptions, while leading the league in passer rating (119.2, the third highest in league history) and earning Offensive MVP honors at the Pro Bowl (where he was selected as an alternate and among the last players drafted in silly pick-up game format).

“I don’t even feel like I played in the Pro Bowl,” he was quoted as saying of the experience, where he was picture in a rare moment of showing personality by flashing the Hawaiian “hang loose” hand gesture while getting his MVP hardware. “I just felt like that was something I was amazed by. It just doesn’t feel real. I don’t even think about it.
“I guess I was just zoning it out because I don’t want to think about it, because I know what happens when you start thinking about all the accolades. You start thinking you’re unstoppable and then bad things happen.”

Yeah, we know, Nick.

But as much as people are rooting for you to fail, count me among those confident that you will prove them wrong.

As long as Foles stays within himself and pushes the right buttons on Kelly’s control panel, which stands to get more complex this season, there is no reason he can’t be at or near the top of league statistics again.

The preseason Fantasy Football guides rank him among the league’s top 5-10 quarterbacks but, while the local media seems to be coming around, the national “experts” turn a dubious eye toward Foles.

What they don’t realize is that, behind his cool venire, he is likely letting it fuel his fire.

There may be no player on the team who wants to win more, and it shows up in his work ethic.

While it seems he says all the right things to steer clear of conflict, it is starting to be apparent that he is the genuine article.

He is just a good kid who would love nothing more than be the quarterback – that quarterback – to take the Eagles where none since Van Brocklin have.

If it means never putting up similar numbers – which is unlikely in Kelly’s high-octane attack, with or without Jackson – so be it.

“I think it’s just life,” he was quoted as saying on the eve of training camp. “I think you’re always looking to get better, but sometimes it doesn’t happen. Our team isn’t measured by my 27-2 or whatever.
“If we win and I throw 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions and we’re winning … well, hopefully I don’t do that. I don’t want to do that. But that’s the big thing – can I be a good enough leader to where I can make these guys better players around me to where it makes the team better and we win?
“Now I might not ever reach those again. I might not ever reach those statistics. I hope I do. I want to get better and I want to be a better player. But if you’re just looking primarily at statistics you might not ever. But as long as you’re successful as a team that’s the most important thing.
“It was good that we were able to be that efficient. If we don’t reach it again, I hope that we’re winning more games. Because that’s the big thing.”
It’s true that stats, particularly in football, don’t tell the story the way they can in baseball. Quarterbacks on teams constantly trailing, and losing, are able to rack up yardage and meaningless touchdown passes against prevent defenses.

But the Eagles, once Foles was under center in place of Vick, starting winning enough to finish 10-6 and capture the flag in the NFC East a year after falling off the radar at 4-12 (Foles went 1-5 in six starts as a rookie, giving him a so-so 9-7 overall record as a starter).

With Foles, consider the following:
• His two interceptions were fewest ever by a quarterback throwing 300 or more passes.
• His 27 regular-season touchdowns were fourth-most ever by a quarterback throwing 350 or fewer passes.
• His 64.0 percent completion percentage broke the franchise record set by Donovan McNabb in 2004.
• His 9.2 yards per attempt broke the franchise record of 9.0 set in 1961 by Sonny Jurgensen and was sixth-highest by any quarterback in the last 30 years.
• His 2,891 passing yards were fifth-most in NFL history by a QB starting 10 or fewer games.
The scary part of the rest of league, one that still might not be taking him seriously, is that this is the first season where he will enter as the starter.
“In my mind, to be honest, all those things that happened last year, I know this year, people are going to recognize and realize that we did that, and they’re going to be even more ready,” he said. “I don’t even think about it. … When it comes to the pressure or whatever it was that I did last year, I just know that I’ve got to continue to work and work smart and work hard to give me an opportunity to play at a high level this coming season.
“I know I say it over and over again, but all those throws that happened last year, the TDs, whatever, it does absolutely nothing. It probably hurts me more now than it did last year because I did it, so now you’ve got to do it even better.

“In my mind, I want to do even better.”

In his mind.

His best defense mechanism.

And source of strength.

 

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