Chiefs coach Andy Reid stepped to the microphone Wednesday, addressed a few minor injury situations and quickly proceeded to give the strongest indication yet that Nick Foles will enter the season as the Chiefs’ No. 2 quarterback.
With the Chiefs set to play their first preseason game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday — against Seattle at Arrowhead Stadium — Reid announced that the first-string, featuring starter Alex Smith, will take the first quarter.
Then he said the 2s, featuring recently-signed veteran Nick Foles — and not Tyler Bray, who is entering his fourth season as a Chief — will take the second quarter, at least initially.
“We’ll ... see what he’s comfortable with,”’ Reid said of Foles, who has been a Chief for approximately one week. “We know Tyler can take over if he’s needed at that point.”
Reid said he also intends to get Bray, Aaron Murray and Kevin Hogan in the game at some point, along with everyone else on the roster.
But rest assured, there will be plenty of eyes on Foles, the man who has quickly vaulted into the Chiefs’ No. 2 quarterback position, though Reid cautioned against assuming anything is set in stone entering a pivotal 2016 season for the franchise.
“I just want to get him more reps with this group,” Reid said, when asked how Foles vaulted past Bray, Murray and Hogan so quickly. “We have full confidence with Tyler Bray, but he already has experience with this group. We want to get Nick some of those reps as well.”
That certainly makes sense. Foles, who stands 6 feet 6 and 243 pounds, has some nice traits, including good arm strength, good size and some familiarity with the offense.
But the best thing Foles has going for him is experience. During his five-year career, he’s attempted 1,230 passes and started 35 games in the regular season. He even has a stellar season — a 27-touchdown, two-interception campaign in 2013 — to hang his hat on.
Meanwhile, the other players previously competing for the backup role have combined for zero regular-season throws. That’s probably the biggest reason Foles has climbed the depth chart so quickly, along with his fairly quick understanding of the playbook’s West Coast concepts, which is no doubt buoyed by the year Foles spent with Reid in Philadelphia (2012).
“There’s definitely still a ways to go, but I feel more comfortable with just getting in the huddle, saying the plays, knowing where everybody’s at, knowing the timing of everything, knowing where the routes are,” Foles said.
Foles, however, is still thinking a lot at the line of scrimmage, and Reid added that Foles knows about half the playbook right now. That’s impressive, given how long he’s been in town, but it certainly isn’t ideal heading into the team’s first preseason game.
“We have about 403 pass plays, so I don’t expect him to have every one of those down,” Reid said. “That’s from OTAs on. We’ve been going at this since April and he’s only been here about a week, so it’s understandable.”
Another critical area for Foles going forward will be improving his accuracy. Over the past week or so, his balls have sometimes been too long or too low, too late or too quick, something he attributes to rust and a need to get on the same page with his receivers.
“My accuracy is not where I want it to be,” Foles said. “There’s times where I feel really good and there’s times where I’ve been about a foot off, six inches off ... but I know why it’s not there.”
Foles says he needs to keep working on his mechanics to correct the problem. That means keeping his footwork in check, and keeping his right shoulder down.
“What’s great about Coach Reid — he’s such a great quarterback coach and teacher, so he’ll tell me when I do it and I just listen and try to get the reps after practice,” Foles said.
Foles will continue to be challenged by Bray and Murray, however, as neither have shied from the challenge presented by his arrival. The Chiefs currently have five quarterbacks, which is highly unusual, and one of them eventually figures to be the odd man out, via trade or outright release.
However, both players have shown continued improvement over the past week or so. Bray, in particular, continues to impress with his natural talent for throwing the deep ball, as he’s seemingly connected on at least one of those per practice.
But Reid hesitates to say Foles’ presence has much to do with Bray’s improved play.
“He did pretty good today,” Reid said. “To be honest, I don’t think he’s thinking about all of that stuff. I don’t think any of them do. They all come in with the attitude, ‘hey let me in’ and they compete like crazy when they have the opportunity. They’re all competitors. When they have an opportunity, they chew it up.”