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InFocus: Inside The Numbers On Foles

Posted Dec 21, 2012

InFocus

With six games, five starts, 391 snaps and 236 drop backs into his young NFL career, there is finally a reasonable sample size of data we can use to examine quarterback Nick Foles.

How often does he throw to the tight end? Is he going deep more or less often than other NFL quarterbacks? Is he scrambling much? Today, I’ll dive into several key areas of his game.

Target Distribution
  Back Wide Slot IL TE
Foles 16% 38% 30% 15%
NFL Avg. 19% 43% 26% 13%

Our first chart shows us which players Foles is most comfortable throwing to based on where they line up on the field. Obviously, personnel has a lot to do with this, but we can still find trends. We see here that Foles isn’t terribly far off the league averages. He doesn’t go to the outside wide receiver (split end/flanker) very often, but considering that he’s been without DeSean Jackson for a healthy chunk of his snaps, that tends to make some sense. Jason Avant has taken on an expanded role with Jackson out. We see proof of that here with Foles using the slot man at a rate above league average. Although previous research of mine has shown that rookie quarterbacks do not target the tight end more than veterans, we do see here that Foles has gone to Brent Celek and Clay Harbor when they’re lined up as an in-line tight end at a rate slightly above the field.

Effectiveness By Target Location
    All Back Wide Slot IL TE
Adj. Comp % Foles 71% 91% 56% 73% 83%
  NFL Avg. 72% 87% 65% 72% 75%
YPA Foles 7.0 5.2 5.4 10.0 6.8
  NFL Avg. 7.6 6.2 8.0 7.8 7.7
aDOT Foles 7.7 -2.3 10.6 10.7 5.3
  NFL Avg. 8.9 0.2 12.7 9.4 7.6

Next up, we’re taking a look at Foles’ effectiveness on throws to several different positions. Our adjusted completion percentage is very much like regular completion percentage except that drops are added to completions before the numerator is divided by aimed throws. An "Aimed Throw" is simply a pass attempt minus batted balls, spikes, throw aways and balls disrupted by a hit during the throw. We eliminate these attempts so as to determine to the best of our ability Foles’ skill in creating a catchable ball for his pass-catchers. "YPA" stands for yards-per-aimed-throw and "aDOT" refers to average depth of throw.

We can definitely pick up a few of Foles’ early-career strengths here. Foles is doing a nice job finding his slot receivers down field. The most noticeable proof of this is a 10.0 YPA, which is significantly higher than league average.

In terms of completing passes, Foles has had the most success going to in-line tight ends. He’s completed an impressive 24-of-29 balls this season. Of course, part of the success here has been a lot of short passes. Note that Foles’ aDOT on these throws is only 5.3, which is well below the 7.6 league mark.

Miscellaneous Comparables
Category Foles NFL Avg.
Scramble/DB 1.7% 3.4%
Sacks/DB 6.8% 5.9%
Throw Aways/Att. 6.5% 3.1%
TD/Aimed 2.6% 4.5%
INT/Aimed 2.1% 3.2%
Drops/Aimed 4.6% 6.6%
YAC/Comp. 5.6 5.4

Our final chart examines a handful of important statistical categories. Shown is Foles’ production as compared to league average over the last five NFL seasons.

Scrambles – Although his pocket presence and ability to create time to throw in the pocket has been impressive, Foles is by no means a running quarterback. His scramble rate is almost exactly half of the league-wide rate. Note that Foles has averaged 2.66 seconds between the snap and each of his pass attempts this season. Only 10 qualified quarterbacks have had/created more time to throw.

Sacks – Since taking over as the Eagles’ starter in Week 11, only nine quarterbacks have been sacked more than Foles’ 13. His 6.8 percent mark, however, isn’t significantly above league average. Foles has averaged 3.40 seconds between each drop back and sack this season, which is the league’s 14th-highest mark.

Throw Aways – Despite only starting five games (and appearing in six), Foles ranks 14th in the NFL this season with 14 throw aways. His 6.5 percent throw away rate is more than double league average.

Touchdowns – Foles has only four passing touchdowns as a starter, which ranks as the seventh-lowest mark in the league over the last five weeks. His 2.6 percent touchdown rate is nearly half the league average. Of course, the offense is currently minus nine offensive starters (assuming you include fullback Stanley Havili), so, it’s hard, frankly, to expect a ton of production. Consider that the Eagles are averaging 1.8 offensive touchdowns-per-game this season after putting up a 2.6 mark from 2008-to-2011. Foles will find paydirt more often when the offense gets healthy and he gains experience.

Interceptions – Another area Foles has done well in is the interception department. He’s thrown just four on 217 attempts. That 2.1 percent mark is a very significant 1.1 percentage points below league average, and well below the 4.3 rookie mark. The aforementioned low average depth of throw is part of the reason for this, but regardless, he’s protected the ball relatively well.

Drops – We accounted for these earlier with our adjusted completion percentage, but it’s still worth noting that Foles’ pass catchers have actually helped him out by not dropping many balls. He’s suffered only nine drops on 195 aimed throws this season. That 4.6 percent mark is two percentage points below league average. Drop rates tend to regress, so this is not something Foles can count on going forward.

YAC – YAC (or yards-after-catch) is tricky. Although the skill of the pass catcher is a major factor, a good throw can maximize said receiver’s post-catch production. In Foles’ case, his receivers are getting him an average of 5.6 yards after the catch, which is slightly above league average.

Foles has given Eagles’ fans a lot to be excited about. His excellent pocket presence and ability to create time to find an open receiver has been apparent since the preseason. He’s shown steady improvements as he’s gained experience over the last month and a half. Foles’ future as an NFL starter looks bright, especially if he can continue to progress over the team’s final two games.

That’s a wrap for this week. Check out InFocus throughout the season for the most comprehensive Eagles analysis on the web.

Mike Clay, @MikeClayNFL on Twitter, is the Director and Managing Editor at Pro Football Focus Fantasy. He also works as an NFL Writer for NBC's Rotoworld.com.

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