For Jaguars' Nick Foles, bigger feats have come with better feet

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Nick Foles has a Super Bowl MVP trophy, a $91 million contract and his own team to lead again, but the Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback wants one more thing: better footwork.

Foles has always been concerned about his feet -- having size 16s will wreak havoc with your footwork -- and his recent run of success has only reinforced his commitment to keep improving in that area. He can’t afford to let that slip as he and coordinator John DeFilippo try to rip the Jaguars out of the offensive funk that was a major reason for the team’s step back in 2018.

“If you go back to high school or go back to college, I always have talked about my feet because they are always [a concern],” Foles said. “... I’ll always work on my feet. Playing for coach [Andy] Reid and coach [Doug] Pederson, it’s always about rhythm. That’s how it is always taught. They are great at the QB position. ‘Flip’ [John DeFilippo] was my coach, my quarterback coach with Frank Reich in Philly. They always harp on feet and target line, and anytime you can keep your feet under you and you work the pocket, you can buy some time.

“Football is not 7-on-7; 7-on-7 is a three-hitch throw, a five-hitch throw. Real football is when you have to work the pocket, move, get hit, do all of the crazy throws from bad hips and all that. But you want to always work on your feet and keep them moving.”

DeFilippo left Philadelphia after the 2017 season to be Minnesota’s offensive coordinator but was fired after 13 games, which left him free to take the Jaguars job this past January. Unsolicited, he mentioned Foles’ footwork as an area in which Foles has improved since they were last together.

That’s not the only difference he noticed, either.

“You see a much more confident player,” DeFilippo said. “He’s been through some tough times, those years in St. Louis, then he had to go to Kansas City, and then obviously coming back to Philadelphia and winning a Super Bowl and being the Super Bowl MVP. Naturally, that gives you a lot of confidence as a player and confidence as a coaching staff in having him on your team.”

That’s good news for the Jaguars, who had one of the NFL’s worst offenses last season. Injuries at tight end and along the offensive line were major factors -- at one point in December, four of the five starting offensive linemen were players who weren’t with the team in September -- but so was a disappointing season from running back Leonard Fournette and subpar quarterback play.

Starter Blake Bortles got benched twice, backup Cody Kessler struggled and the Jaguars managed just two offensive touchdowns in their final five games. The Jaguars ranked 31st in scoring, 27th in total offense, 19th in rush offense and 26th in pass offense. In 2017, the Jaguars finished in the top 10 in scoring (fifth), total offense (sixth), and rushing (first).

The Jaguars had to reboot, and Foles was the player they targeted the moment the 2018 season ended.

Foles’ familiarity with the concepts of DeFilippo’s offense was an added plus and has resulted in a smoother transition.

“Flip and I have been together before, so we understand each other’s mentality,” Foles said. “That’s the big thing. A playcaller and a quarterback, you have to build that relationship and know how each other work. There’s a foundation set for Flip and me. We just have to build on that. It’s going to be a little bit different. There’s some verbiage that is different, but this time of year [is for] teaching the guy the verbiage, me learning the stuff that is a little different for me and then teaching all the guys what I expect, what I see, what I feel, so we can be on the same page. That’s where this time of year is so valuable.”

DeFilippo said “90 to 95%” of the offense is installed, and the plan is to hone in on what he called "last" plays: Hail Marys, chunk plays to get the ball in the middle of the field to kick a late field goal and two-minute drill work. That will be a major emphasis at the beginning of camp, DeFilippo said.

In addition to the football, finding a new house, getting to know his teammates and settling his family into the area have made for a full spring for Foles.

“I feel great,” he said. “I feel really comfortable. The big thing is just all of us getting on the same page and, obviously, working with the O-line and protections and run looks and working with all the receivers.

“The big part is just all of us talking and continuing to communicate so we are on the same page.”