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NFL: Eagles quarterback Nick Foles under the gun

Nick Foles hopes his rough preseason was not a sign of things to come.

The Super Bowl MVP was the toast of Philadelphia 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.

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“I went out there and played,” said Foles, who will start Thursday for the Eagles against the Falcons. “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.”

Sarkisian confident

Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian spent the offseason, training camp and preseason fine-tuning an Atlanta offense that’s expected to be elite in his second year.

When the Falcons and Eagles open the NFL regular season, Sarkisian, USC’s former head coach, will be back in his role as play-caller, giving him a chance to move past some of the disappointment of eight months ago.

“To say that we had a fourth-and-goal at the 2 against the team that went on to the win the Super Bowl and it was a bang-bang play tells you that we’re very close, and it’s been this offseason of getting over that hump,” Sarkisian said.

Sarkisian’s first season wasn’t exactly a bust. The offense led the NFL in third-down percentage and ranked eighth in passing as Atlanta went 10-6 and won a wild-card playoff game at the Rams. But the Falcons dropped from first in scoring to 15th.

Bell’s backup ready

Mike Tomlin doesn’t know when Le’Veon Bell is going to show up to the team and he is confident in Bell’s backup.

Bell has not yet reported and it’s unclear if he’ll miss Sunday’s season opener at Cleveland. If so, the starting running back will be James Connor, the former Pitt star who made significant strides during training camp.

Asked if he’s more comfortable with the depth behind Bell than he was heading into the 2017 opener, Tomlin said yes. When asked why, Tomlin simply replied “James.”

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