PHILADELPHIA-It's official: Nick Foles, not Carson Wentz, will start at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday against the Atlanta Falcons.
After months of speculation, Eagles coach Doug Pederson made the announcement on Monday. One day earlier, Pederson tried keeping the decision a secret, irritated at the mere inquiry for information. He decided to share what had become apparent.
"After consideration and everything about the football team and this decision, Nick Foles is the starter Week 1," Pederson said. "I wanted you to hear it from me. It is about the football team and the best interest of the 53 and Nick Foles will be my starter Week 1."
Wentz, the North Dakota State graduate who will be the Eagles' starting quarterback when healthy, has not received medical clearance to return from the knee injury he suffered in December. Wentz had been determined to return by Week 1 throughout the offseason, offering that target date back in January and not backing off it throughout the spring and the summer.
Foles was not available for comment on Monday. He is scheduled to speak with reporters on Tuesday.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP, Foles will start against the team he beat in the NFC divisional playoffs in January. The Eagles kept Foles this offseason and reworked his contract as valuable insurance, preparing for this possibility.
"We obviously love the fact that Nick Foles is here, and he's been our starting quarterback since Carson went down with the injury," offensive coordinator Mike Groh said. "We've had a lot of success with Nick. We've got a lot of confidence and faith in Nick and the way that he's going to play and the way that guys are going to play with him."
Foles has experienced extraordinary success in an Eagles uniform, although he's coming off a disappointing preseason-for whatever that should be worth. Foles finished 16 of 26 for 171 yards with no touchdowns, and two interceptions. He had been splitting practice snaps with Wentz in recent weeks, but Pederson suggested Sunday that the Eagles would devote the first-team snaps this week to the starter.
"We feel comfortable with the reps he's gotten and his preparation this week," Groh said. "He'll be ready to go."
There's confidence in Foles inside the Eagles' locker room-winning the Super Bowl sure helps. Wide receiver Mack Hollins told reporters than Foles showed he can "put jewelry on our fingers."
Two preseason games don't compare to what happened last winter. He played the preseason games without key offensive weapons, and there wasn't a sophisticated game plan in place. Foles won't have wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, but he'll have other top offensive options back. And the Eagles can tailor the game plan to Foles' skill set, like they did in the playoffs last year. One example will be incorporating run-pass options.
"Just be Nick," Groh said of his message to Foles. "He did a great job of distributing the football throughout the course of the playoffs and getting rid of the football and not holding the ball and putting the ball in our playmakers' hands and letting those guys do what they do best. He doesn't have to do anything extraordinary. He just has to continue to play like he did before and be the same guy."
It's still unknown how many games Foles will start. Pederson did not take questions-he has a scheduled Tuesday news conference-and only mentioned Week 1. The speculation that led up to this week's decision will continue until Wentz returns or until there is a time frame for it.
Although Wentz has been a full participant in practice, the medical clearance is a different threshold. Now he must wait. And the Eagles must figure out how to prepare Foles to play while also making sure Wentz is ready when the medical staff allows.
"We have to make sure we're getting him some reps ... so when the time comes that he's cleared, that he's gotten the work that he needs so that he can be ready to go," Groh said. "I think we'll just take it on a day-to-day basis and make that determination based on the way practice is set up and the situations for the day. He's certainly going to be involved with practice."
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