Vikings respect Foles and his pocket presence

Michael Vick is the quarterback that has burned the Vikings running the ball, but Vick lost his starting job to a different style of quarterback. Enter Nick Foles, who has quickly gained the respect of defenders for his presence in the pocket and his decision-making.

When the Philadelphia Eagles hired Chip Kelly as their head coach, he promised to bring his high-octane offense to the NFL and make the Eagles the fastest show in town. For defensive players, the thought of Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson playing a pinball style of offense was frightening.

But, as plans often do, the result hasn't been what the Eagles expected. As has been a trademark of his career, Vick has missed time due to injury. However, this time around, the Eagles found that their offense has been more efficient and successful with Nick Foles running the show. He has thrown 20 touchdowns with just one interception and has been instrumental in the Eagles' five-game winning streak – currently the longest in the NFL.

For Vikings defensive players, not having to game plan for Vick, who has made his share of dynamic plays against Minnesota, is something of a blessing. Vick's ability to make plays with his legs has made him one of the most lethal quarterbacks in the league when healthy and creates mismatches in the open field. In some respects, the Vikings are happy that the planning phase won't include a ton of contingencies on keeping Vick contained in the pocket.

"They each pose their own set of problems," defensive end Jared Allen said. "You get a guy like Michael Vick who can pull the ball down and run. But I think there's some advantages to playing him, as far as athletic quarterbacks will sometimes run themselves into a situation. Sometimes they can rely heavily on their legs. It's not fun. I've played against him a couple times. Fortunately I was able to get him. He is an incredible athlete and makes that dual threat."

But what is hard to deny is that the Eagles have been a more successful team with Foles at the helm than Vick. All of the comparative stats fall in Foles' favor.

Foles has a better completion percentage than Vick (61.9 to 54.6), more yards per attempt (9.04 to 8.62), a vastly superior touchdown-to-interception ratio (20/1 to 5/3), a better touchdown percentage (9.2 to 3.5), a better interception percentage (0.5 to 2.1) and a much higher passer rating (120.0 to 86.5). Throw in that Foles has resurrected the Eagles from the dead from 3-5 at midseason to 8-5 now and in sole possession of first place and it's easy to see what Foles has meant.

"He is a really good quarterback," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "Michael Vick brings his own big-play ability, but he's healthy and didn't get his job back. That was because Foles has played that well. Any guy who can throw, what was it, 17 touchdowns before he threw an interception? That's incredible. When you watch him on tape, he looks confident, he delivers the ball on time and reads defenses well. He finds the hot receiver and gets rid of the ball quick. It's not a coincidence that he came in when Vick got hurt and didn't give the job back to him. He's on fire right now."

It doesn't hurt that Foles has the NFL's leading rusher in the backfield. Allen joked that the best thing Foles does is turn around and hand the ball to LeSean McCoy, but quickly added that he has a unique skill set that jumps out on film.

"Foles is doing a heck of a job at handing the ball to McCoy because that dude is just going crazy," Allen said. "But even that, their play-action, what he's doing ball security-wise, I mean that dude's putting the ball in the right place at the right time. He has his own thing going for him as well. I give him almost like that (Joe) Flacco/(Ben) Roethlisberger pocket type of presence. He's doing things in the pocket. He may not be outrunning people to the corners, but if you give him a lane up the middle he's going to pull it down and get what he can get. Overall, he's a guy that's going to sit back there and throw the ball when you rush."

Foles has won the starting job by virtue of talent and execution, something that has always been a hit-and-miss proposition with Vick. While Vick has the home run capability on any play, defensive end Brian Robison thinks that Foles gives them more consistency.

"The thing about Vick is that you could rattle him if you put pressure on him," Robison said. "He gets rid of the ball quick if you've knocked him down a few times. I don't see that in (Foles). He stands tall in the pocket and will take a shot to deliver the pass on time. We have to get to him quickly. He won't escape and take off like Vick can do, but he does so many things at a high level, you have to be impressed when you watch him play."

For a season that started with Foles as the backup and looking over his shoulder when the Eagles drafted USC quarterback Matt Barkley, as Philadelphia makes what it expects to be a playoff run, it's Foles who is front and center and he got the job the old-fashioned way – he earned it.

"When you look at what he's done, it's no surprise why he's the starter," Greenway said. "He's made the most of his opportunity and, at the end of the day, all that really matters is whether you win or lose. Philly has won their last five games with him as their starter and he's a big reason why they've won those games. He's a different style of quarterback from Vick, but what he's doing is working and, when you have somebody rolling with a hot hand, you stick with it."


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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