October 24, 2014

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles is taking fewer sacks but throwing more interceptions.

Any correlation?

''Well, that might be a good thing to check out,'' Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. ''I think each sack and each turnover are isolated plays. There is really no common theme.''

Getting rid of the ball quickly to avoid sacks can lead to picks if quarterbacks aren't careful. Foles has only been sacked seven times, twice since Week 1. Philadelphia allowed 46 sacks last year, an average of 2.9 per game.

But Foles already has seven interceptions. He had just two last year when the Eagles (5-1) won the NFC East.

''I want to eliminate turnovers,'' said Foles, who also has three fumbles. ''That's a big thing I'm focusing on.''

As for taking fewer sacks, Foles credits experience and practice.

''From then until now, I've played a lot more football,'' he said. ''I've seen different looks, had more reps. Pocket presence is a big thing you can improve on through reps and watching film and it's something we've worked hard on.

''I just try to do a good job recognizing when they are blitzing. As a quarterback, you use your peripheral vision to feel where guys are, move and get out of there and if a guy has you, you try to ditch the ball.''

It's surprising the sack totals have drastically reduced considering Foles has played behind a makeshift offensive line. The Eagles still are missing two starters and have used five line combinations in six games.

Matt Tobin and David Molk have filled in nicely for All-Pro guard Evan Mathis and center Jason Kelce, respectively. Overall, 10 different linemen have started for Philadelphia this season. The same five guys started every game in 2013.

''Guys that have had an opportunity to play have really done a nice job when they were in there,'' coach Chip Kelly said. ''I think part of it is how we train and give those guys a lot of reps in the preseason, hoping that we're developing depth from that standpoint. The biggest thing is just the continuity is always an issue. But for those guys, I think it's really a credit to them that they've been able to do, on a consistent basis, a pretty good job up front.''

Last year, Foles was criticized for holding the ball too long and taking the sacks. Now, the critics are questioning if he's being too risky by throwing it away.

''Sacks and sack avoidance are both team issues,'' Shurmur said. ''Nick's been criticized frequently for holding onto the ball too long. Well, if you hold it too long on a consistent basis, you typically get sacked a lot, and so I think in a lot of situations we are getting rid of the ball in a timely fashion. There are certainly plays where we should get rid of it quicker.''

The line has a tough task Sunday at Arizona (5-1). The Cardinals have 21 sacks and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is known for blitzing often. Arizona sacked Foles five times in a 24-21 loss in Philadelphia last Dec. 1.

NOTES: Kelce (hernia), LB Mychal Kendricks (calf) and RB Darren Sproles (knee) are questionable for Sunday's game. Kendricks hasn't played since Week 2. Sproles was injured in the second half on Oct. 12. Kelce has missed three games after having surgery for a sports hernia.


AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL


Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi

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