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PHILADELPHIA – When Nick Foles matched last year's interception total in the first quarter of the first preseason game, the impatient critics began whispering about Michael Vick and Mark Sanchez.
They wondered if letting Vick go to the Jets would haunt the Eagles. They suggested that Sanchez would unseat Foles as the starter.
Foles bounced back from a poor performance against the Bears with a strong effort against the Patriots. He's firmly entrenched as the starting quarterback, even if he still has to prove to doubters his breakout sophomore year was no fluke.
"You never want to have a bad game," Foles said Sunday. "It's always going to feel the same whether you've been the starter forever or you're a new starter. But if it happens, it's one of those things where no matter who you are, people are going to look at you as the quarterback to see how you bounce back, how you are on the bus after the game, how you are the next practice. I'm hard on myself. But I knew I could bounce back."
Foles was 6 of 9 with two interceptions at Chicago last week. That's never a big deal in August. Still, it was surprising considering he threw only two INTs in 350 attempts last year when he led the Eagles to the NFC East title and was MVP of the Pro Bowl.
But Foles rebounded in a loss to New England on Friday night. He was 8 of 10 for 81 yards and one touchdown. He's missing three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was released in the offseason. He also hasn't had both starting wideouts, Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, because of injuries.
"I'll be excited when they are back because they are two tremendous receivers," Foles said. "But I want to make sure their health is there. And to make sure that they are healthy enough to go out there before they go out there, because you don't want to re-aggravate an injury because then you are out for longer."
Those who measure Foles against last year may be disappointed because it'll be difficult for any quarterback to do what he did in 2013. Foles finished with 29 touchdown passes in 11 starts, including a playoff loss to New Orleans. He set an NFL record for best TD/interception ratio and his passer rating of 119.2 was the third-highest in NFL history.
He could make improvements on the field but take a step back in his statistics.
"He had an outstanding season last year that everybody was excited about. But he knows as an individual he can still get better," coach Chip Kelly said. "That's what he worked on when we were with him in the whole offseason program."
Kelly is quite comfortable with his quarterback situation. Sanchez, who spent his first five seasons with the Jets, has been impressive in the preseason. He's 18 of 22 for 196 yards, two TDs and one interception. Third-string quarterback Matt Barkley also is playing well.
Sanchez has a pedigree. He led the Jets to the AFC championship game in each of his first two seasons in the league before losing his starting job to rookie Geno Smith last year, when he spent the season on injured reserve because of a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
If teams looking to upgrade at starter called the Eagles about Sanchez, Kelly said he'd listen.
"It better be a pretty good deal in terms of what it is," Kelly said. "But that's not in any of our thought process. You better have two quarterbacks in this league. I think unless something blows you out of the water, we're real confident with Mark."
Notes: Cooper returned to practice for the first time since being sidelined by a foot injury. ... Kelly said Maclin and CB Cary Williams have mild hamstring injuries. X-rays on WR Josh Huff's shoulder were negative.
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