Nick Foles ready to take the lead for Eagles with Wentz out

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A rough preseason had people doubting Nick Foles again.

The Super Bowl MVP is used to criticism and he’s ready to lead the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.

Foles was the toast of the town after spectacular performances in the NFC championship game against Minnesota and the Super Bowl victory over New England. But he didn’t lead the offense to any points on 14 drives in two preseason games, threw two interceptions, lost two fumbles and got sacked six times, including a safety.

“I went out there and played,” Foles said Tuesday. “I made mistakes. I did good things. I grew as a player. That’s important. I wasn’t trying to play it safe and with that you are going to make mistakes. Obviously, it isn’t fun, but you get to watch film and deal with the emotions of throwing a pick, having a strip-sack, and I dealt with it in the preseason and keep learning from it and move forward.”

Foles replaced Carson Wentz after the franchise quarterback tore two knee ligaments in Week 14 last season. He rallied the Eagles to a victory over the Los Angeles Rams to clinch the NFC East and played well in his first five quarters. He struggled in the next five and some critics suggested Foles should be benched for Nate Sudfeld for the division playoff game against Atlanta. Coach Doug Pederson never lost confidence in Foles, and it paid off when he helped the Eagles win their first NFL title since 1960.

Foles had a 115.7 passer rating, completed 72.6 percent of his passes and threw for 971 yards, six TDs and one interception in the playoffs.

Which version of Foles will show up this week?

“I think everyone tries to figure out sports. Sports, you never know,” Foles said. “You go out there and play, you give everything you have. I think there’s plenty of games that are middle ground that I’ve played.

“Now my middle ground is if I throw one touchdown, no interceptions, it’s a bad game. I’ve set that bar high. I know that because I expect more for myself. What is a middle ground game? We’re going to be analyzed as players but I know as a player, you can be hard on yourself, but you have to learn from your mistakes and for me, I know by the week of preparation, but you never really know until you get in the game.”

Foles wasn’t officially named the starter until Monday, though it was obvious Wentz wasn’t going to be ready to play. Wentz still hasn’t been medically cleared.

“The more I play, the more I’ll get in a rhythm,” Foles said.

NOTES: The Eagles signed WR Markus Wheaton and placed TE Richard Rodgers (knee) on injured reserve. Wheaton was released on Saturday but was quickly brought back. LB Joe Walker was signed to the practice squad and LB Asantay Brown was released.