Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles said the team is picking up the new offense well but has a “ways to go.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Installing a new offense, especially with a new quarterback, is a time-consuming process, especially when it comes to translating what’s written in the playbook onto the practice field.
That’s what the Jacksonville Jaguars are going through this spring, but they have an advantage: The offensive coordinator and quarterback were on the same page before either got to Jacksonville.
John DeFilippo was Nick Foles‘ position coach in 2017, when Foles replaced an injured Carson Wentz and led Philadelphia to a Super Bowl championship. What they went through together in the final three weeks of the season and playoffs has made for a much smoother installation.
“[Foles] has been great for everybody,” DeFilippo said. “He’s been great for the coaches. He’s been great for the players. He’s been great for me. He’s been great in the meetings. He’s not afraid to speak up and say, ‘Hey, this is the way I see a route run. This is the way I see this pass thrown. This is the way I see this formation lined up.’ He’s been awesome that way and just getting everyone on the same page.”
Frank Reich was the Eagles’ offensive coordinator in 2017, and Wentz was one of the front-runners to be the league’s MVP before he tore his left ACL in Week 14. The next three weeks were a process of adjusting the offense to Foles’ strengths and preferences, and DeFilippo was heavily involved.
When the two were reunited in March in Jacksonville, DeFilippo, who left the Eagles in 2018 to be the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, and Foles didn’t have to spend much time figuring out what Foles is most comfortable running.
There has still been a transition period — DeFilippo’s offense is slightly different than Reich’s — but not to the extent that there would normally be with a coordinator and quarterback who don’t have a history.
“There is obviously a lot of new stuff,” Foles said. “We have been able to go through the install a few times, and Flip [DeFilippo] does a great job of describing it. [Quarterbacks coach] Scott [Milanovich] does a great job in the QB room of really going into even more details on the plays. He is someone where we can really discuss the ins and outs, and that really helps a lot. Guys are just doing a good job of picking up the installations. We still have a ways to go.
“There are some similarities [to what he ran in Philadelphia], but there are enough differences for it to be different.”
It took awhile for the Eagles to make the adjustment to what best fit Foles in 2017. He completed 54 percent of his passes for 439 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions in the final three games. In the Eagles’ three playoff victories, however, he completed 72.6 percent of his passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns with one interception.
One thing that changed in the offense was more passes to running backs. Backs caught 41 passes in Weeks 1-14 with Wentz as the starter. In the six games with Foles as the starter (three regular-season and three playoff games), backs caught 28 passes.
“If you look at the history, I like getting the ball to the back at different times,” Foles said. “They are a huge part of the offense. Getting them out in a five-man pro [formation], getting them in an empty formation — hey, if their protection is checked in, getting them out so we have another guy down there. If we check it down, you have to get the first down.”
The biggest advantage of having worked with Foles? DeFilippo said it’s almost like having an additional coach during the installation.
“As a coach, you install it, but then when those guys go in the locker room and they spend time with each other, if they have a question, a lot of times they’re more comfortable going to ask him than a coach — at times,” DeFilippo said. “So I think Nick, being a guy that is a studious guy and really understands the plan and what we’re trying to accomplish, is really good at that.”