PHILADELPHIA — The success rate of quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round isn’t promising, but Nick Foles and Jacory Harris aren’t thinking beyond today’s final rookie camp practice.
Foles, the former University of Arizona record-setting quarterback, wasn’t drafted until the Eagles used the 88th overall pick on him in the third round.
Harris, once a blue-chip recruit at the University of Miami, went bypassed in the entire draft and didn’t have a job until he signed with the Eagles on Friday, the eve of rookie camp.
Both figure they’ve ended up in the right place despite their draft pedigree, under the supervision of quarterback specialists Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg.
After just a few camp practices and some intense film review sessions, Foles can already appreciate the education he’s receiving from two of the NFL’s most renowned quarterback groomers.
“It’s just the confidence they have, they understand the game, they understand why it works and they put plays out there to put us in positions to be successful,” Foles said. “They know the game. They’ve done such a great job coaching for so long. I’m just here learning from them and every day trying to gain a little more knowledge ... and then put that into place on the field.”
The staff’s attention to detail at practice – on footwork, mechanics, repetitions, progressions – keeps rookies on their toes.
In 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, Mornhinweg, the offensive coordinator, positions himself about 10 yards directly behind the quarterback. Reid, the head coach, takes the opposing viewpoint, perched roughly five yards behind the defense.
The slightest hitch, confusion or misalignment before the snap prompts either to blow the play dead and re-huddle the offense. The quarterback that isn’t behind center is usually two yards behind Mornhinweg, receiving instruction from quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson.
The instruction never ceases. Breaks for quarterbacks don’t come until after practice – and just a short one before film review.
“I was trying to sip some water because my mouth was getting pretty dry,” Foles said, “but to be out here is a dream come true to be here. I got a lot of work to do to get my game better and put myself in position to be able to play.”
Harris opted against auditions for Kansas City and Arizona when the Eagles made him an offer.
“It’s actually great because you’re talking to guys that are professionals and guys that are geniuses at this,” he said. “The thing they teach you is nothing but knowledge you can learn and take in, and I feel like I’m soaking it all up.”
Although they picked three players before Foles, the Eagles love his upside and potential – and that they have at least one year, and probably two, to mold him into a potential starter.
The 6-foot-6, 243-pound former high school basketball player isn’t short on promise; he grew up in the same Texas town as Drew Brees and broke all of the All-Pro quarterback’s high school passing records.
At Arizona, he set the school’s record for career completions and passing yards.
But the spread offense Foles engineered in college is vastly different from Reid’s West Coast scheme, so in some ways, he’s starting from Ground Zero.
“I think you always go back to basics,” he said.
“That’s just football. If you get away from the basics you’re in trouble. So you can always get better at the footwork, the reads, just the little things you do with the drops, your arm placement, when you step up in the pocket. But that’s something all the players do.”
Harris is trying to move on from a so-so career at Miami, where he was once considered the next great Hurricane signal caller earmarked for NFL stardom.
He started for three seasons and finished with the school’s second-most career passing yards and touchdowns but never fulfilled the promise of being Miami’s next can’t-miss prospect.
He weighs just 206 pounds and, like most raw prospects, needs to improve his footwork and accuracy. But by learning under Reid and Mornhinweg, Harris said, he’s already taken another step in his development.
“They gave me more confidence because they come out here and they basically give you the keys to the car; you just got to drive it,” he said. “They teach you everything and they make sure you run everything right.”