By: Hays Carlyon
Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles will likely be a Jaguar around this time next week. What will the Jaguars be getting if Foles signs as a free agent on March 13?
The short answer: A significant upgrade.
The 30-year-old Foles has had mixed levels of success in his career. However, there’s only one aspect of his play that should be focused on. That’s his past two seasons with the Eagles.
The highlight was his Super Bowl MVP performance in a win over New England; his strong play goes well beyond that night.
People somehow forget he completed 26 of 33 passes (78.8 percent) for 352 yards with three touchdowns and no picks (141.4 passer rating) in the 38-7 NFC Championship Game victory over Minnesota. The Vikings had the second-best overall defense in the NFL that year behind the Jaguars.
Forget the distant past with Foles.
I don’t care about his awful season with the then-St. Louis Rams in 2015. I also don’t care about his Pro Bowl year with the Eagles back in 2013 when he threw 27 touchdowns and two interceptions.
The evaluation has to focus in on what Foles is right now. Today. What will he be this season for the Jaguars?
The last two years tell us Foles will be an incredibly accurate passer compared to what the Jaguars are used to having at quarterback.
You’ll see people refer to Foles as 10-3 as a starter over the last two years. Technically, that’s true, but it counts a game against Dallas in Week 17 during the Super Bowl season when Foles played 19 snaps before the starters were pulled. The Eagles lost the game, as Nate Sudfeld played the final 40 snaps in relief of Foles. Philadelphia had already clinched home-field advantage.
Really, Foles has started a dozen meaningful games over the past two seasons. He went 10-2, including 4-1 in the playoffs. He faced quality defenses in eight of those games: Atlanta (twice), Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, Houston, the Rams and Chicago. Six of the 12 were road games, five were at home and one was neutral (Super Bowl).
The numbers speak for themselves over that 12-game span.
Foles completed 67.8 percent of his passes, averaging 271 passing yards a game with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He scored two other touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) while losing two fumbles. Foles was sacked 15 times, something he deserves credit for as well.
Foles completed over 70 percent of his passes in six of those games. He posted a passer rating of 100 or better in six of those games. He achieved one of these two marks in eight of the 12 games.
If we expand Foles’ numbers in the 12-game span to a full 16-game season, what would his production look like? The kind of production that with a strong defense could lead to a special season.
Foles’ 16-game projection would be 4,334 yards with 28 touchdowns and 13 picks. He also does a good job avoiding sacks, projecting to just 20.
That blows past the passing numbers Blake Bortles put up in the 2017 regular season when he helped lead the Jaguars to a 10-6 season, AFC South title and eventual AFC Championship Game appearance. Bortles completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,687 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was sacked a franchise-best 24 times.
Foles is clearly better than Bortles, even at Bortles’ best run of success. No, that isn’t the benchmark, but it also can’t be ignored.
The Jaguars aren’t signing an elite quarterback in Foles. They are signing a quarterback that can get them into the playoffs (and is clutch when he gets there) while the defense is loaded with talent.
It’s a gamble worth taking, especially with Jaguars coach Doug Marrone hiring offensive coordinator John DeFilippo to coordinate the offense. DeFilippo served as Foles’ quarterbacks coach in his Super Bowl season. Foles should have a more immediate comfort level with the Jaguars than the normal free agent.
The Jaguars will still be a team that wins with defense. Foles doesn’t change that.
The formula is simple. If Foles can give the Jaguars 12 good games, the defense should turn that into a 9-3 mark. If the defense can win one of the four games when Foles struggles, that gets them to 10-6 and probably in the tournament.
There’s risk in any major decision involving quarterbacks.
The percentages feel like they are in the Jaguars favor with this acquisition if they make it.
(You can email Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon)