Week back, week ahead: Foles “a franchise leader”

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JACKSONVILLE – Senior writer John Oehser examines teammates’ thoughts on new Jaguars QB Nick Foles and looks ahead to rules proposals at next week’s 2019 NFL Annual Meeting …

CONLEY TALKS FOLES

Chris Conley sees this is a real opportunity.

“This offense can be great, can be explosive,” the fifth-year wide receiver said upon signing with the Jaguars last weekend.

One reason is what Conley sees as a deep, young wide receiver corps – and another major reason is his friend and former teammate: new Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles.

“He leads by example, and guys rally behind that,” Conley said of Foles.

Foles became the Jaguars’ most-high profile move of the 2019 offseason when he signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles a day into free agency. Conley signed two days later, with Foles pushing hard for the move.

Conley spent four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, who selected him in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He and Foles became close when Foles spent the 2016 season backing up Alex Smith in Kansas City.

“Something has to be said about the way he affects a huddle,” Conley said of Foles. “When there’s a guy who’s willing to put the ball wherever on the field to make plays and put his body on the line, that’s something that you can get behind and it really fires you up.”

Foles, a third-round selection by the Eagles in ‘12, spent 2015 with the St. Louis Rams before joining Kansas City. He played in just three games with one start for the Chiefs, then considered retirement before re-signing with the Eagles as an unrestricted free agent in 2017.

“Nick was our backup and I was a starting receiver, and Nick was always willing to stay behind and talk football,” Conley said. “We could stay after practice and talk about whatever team we were going to play. We could throw extra balls and routes if there was anything I needed to work on.

“He was patient enough to take time with anyone, not just me. I noticed that. He obviously has arm talent, but beyond that his mental prowess in the locker room is something that’s unique. It’s something you can’t really account for on paper.”

Foles revived his career in the 2017 postseason and was named Super Bowl LII Most Valuable Player. Conley said he wasn’t surprised with Foles’ success.

“I called him wherever he ended up and said, ‘You’re going to get an opportunity to play,’’’ Conley said. “When the Eagles were in the playoffs, I did an interview on ESPN Radio and they asked, ‘Hey, do you think the Eagles have a chance with a backup quarterback?’ I called it and said, ‘I think the Eagles have a shot to win a Super Bowl.’ He did it and he made me right.

“There has been a mutual respect outside of the friendship. I knew what his ability was as a player before everyone else recognized it. And he has been the same way in encouraging me, saying ‘I know what you’re capable of as a player. Let’s make it happen.’’’

O’SHAUGNESSY TALKS CONLEY, FOLES

Count tight end James O’Shaughnessy as another Jaguars player who believes Foles will have a major impact. O’Shaughnessy, like Conley, played with Foles in Kansas City in 2016. “Anybody’s who’s been around Nick understands that not only is he a hard worker, but he’s a genuinely good guy,” said O’Shaughnessy, a fifth-round selection by the Chiefs in ’15. “In this league, guys who go about their business right along with being talented usually succeed. We were just waiting for Nick to get his next shot while he was in Kansas City. Circumstances were he was No. 2, but everybody knew he had all the makings of being not just a starter, but a franchise leader. Everybody who has been around Nick sees that in him.” O’Shaughnessy thought similarly of Conley, calling him a “great guy” and a “physical freak.” Conley not only ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, he set a combine record for wide receivers with a 45-inch vertical leap. “He’s an athletic marvel and he can do a little bit of everything,” O’Shaughnessy said. “He can help you out in every facet of the game. He’s a great guy to have in your locker room. He’s a high-character guy who’s going to work every day. I’m excited to see him and Nick get back together. I’ve seen where that can lead.”

REPLAY CHANGES PROPOSED

The major news at next week’s 2019 NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, unsurprisingly figures to involve instant replay. Equally unsurprisingly, potential changes don’t figure to be widespread enough satisfy many observers. The NFL’s Competition Committee has proposed two modified replay systems – and while both would make pass interference reviewable, neither would add a so-called “eye-in-the-sky” official with authority to review all plays. Also: neither Competition Committee proposal would make missed interference penalties reviewable, meaning the controversial non-call on a would-be interference penalty near the end of the New Orleans Saints-Los Angeles Rams NFC Championship Game this past season would not be reviewable under either proposed system. Proposals must receive supporting votes from 24 owners to pass; either replay proposal would be implemented under a one-year trial. Owners will consider 16 rules changes next week, including nine submitted by member clubs. Among the club-submitted proposals: a proposal from Denver to provide an alternative to the onside kick that would allow the scoring team to maintain possession by converting a down-and-distance situation and a replay-oriented proposal from Washington subjecting all plays to coach’s challenge or review by the officials. Competition-committee proposals typically have greater chance of passing than those submitted by member clubs.

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