Realistic Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Chip Kelly's 1st Year with Eagles
According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com:
Eagles make it official by announcing Chip Kelly as their head coach. Owner Jeffrey Lurie gets the man he wanted all along.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 16, 2013
Given the appeal of Kelly's consistent success with the Oregon Ducks, it's not surprising to see him make this leap.
The Ducks had won three Pac-12 titles and went to four consecutive BCS bowls, including one national-championship appearance. Given that the Eagles were in dire need of a fresh look, Kelly's acquisition offers a new era of excitement.
Philly may even get 100 alternative-jersey styles as a welcoming gift.
Best Case: 11-5 Record
Well, it's quite a favorable schedule considering the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers finished with a losing record in 2012. Although each are looking to rebound in 2012, the AFC West is simply weak outside of the Denver Broncos.
Squaring off against the Lions and Bears from the NFC North is winnable, because Detroit plays inconsistent defense and Chicago struggles with consistency on offense. Philadelphia's set of athletic skill-position players is a competitive advantage here.
Even the Vikings are possible, because Christian Ponder has yet to prove much development under center.
Then we have the Cardinals and Buccaneers. One (Arizona) has no offense and the other (Tampa Bay) is supremely vulnerable on defense. Both are expected wins next season.
As for the division, it remains wide open. The Giants and Cowboys each underachieved last season, and Washington must still improve defensively. Philadelphia is back on the rise; it's just a matter of how much it improves.
Worst Case: 6-10 Record
Finishing 2012 at 4-12, Philadelphia couldn't get much worse.
As a result, two more wins can be expected, at the very least, with Chip Kelly.
Surefire victories will come against the Cardinals, Chiefs, Raiders and Lions. The next step is logging a few wins inside the division.
The Eagles managed to defeat the Giants in Week 3 last season. Plus, Eli Manning's offensive line is aging. Dallas is also suspect, because the Cowboys lack consistent pass protection and run defense.
Given that the Eagles certainly need to get back on track, we at least know their identity: Rush the quarterback and lock down in man coverage.
Philadelphia presents capable rushers and cover secondary players, so it comes down to attitude. And once this defense fully comes around, it's the offense's turn to step up.
Best Case: LeSean McCoy Accounts for 1,700-Plus Total Yards
LeSean McCoy is, without question, one of the most complete running backs in the NFL.
He was simply underutilized when Andy Reid was his coach.
Fortunately, Chip Kelly brings a run-balanced approach, and McCoy's athleticism is a great complement.
Not to mention it was as recently as 2011 when he compiled over 1,600 total yards and scored 20 touchdowns.
Averaging 4.8 yards per rush and 6.6 per reception that season, his ability to make plays in space kept Philly's offense moving. Kelly may have enjoyed some McCoy-like backs at Oregon in LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner.
But neither are on McCoy's level.
For the Eagles' offense to develop an identity, feeding Shady must be Kelly's primary objective.
Worst Case: LeSean McCoy Totals Fewer Than 1,200 Total Yards
If LeSean McCoy doesn't put up the explosive numbers anticipated, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
For one, not solely relying on McCoy will keep defenses honest. And it allows Philly to present a more dynamic offense.
Secondly, much can be attributed to the impact of fellow running back Bryce Brown.
After accounting for 564 rushing yards and averaging 4.9 per attempt last season, the guy deserves some carries. Considering McCoy's established talent and Brown's potential, Chip Kelly is provided with one of pro football's best two-back tandems.
Each possesses similar qualities of quickness, top speed and balance, which is a key reason for solid rushing production. The end result of this duo's effectiveness quickly escalates Philly's offensive firepower.
Best Case: Eagles Offense Averages Above 24 Points Per Game
Last season, the Eagles ranked No. 13 in passing and rushing offense.
Unfortunately, the Eagles averaged a mere 17.5 points per game (ranked No. 29).
So, Philadelphia fans saw its offense move the rock at a decent rate. But points were scarce.
This is courtesy of a 44.0 red-zone touchdown percentage, which ranked No. 28 in the league.
Chip Kelly will easily solve this, because his Ducks put up 49.6 points per game. And because Oregon ranked No. 3 in rushing offense—315.2 yards per game—the Ducks were quite efficient when in opposing territory.
Success in pro football will certainly be more difficult to come by, but there's still no denying the fast-paced attack Philadelphia now presents.
Worst Case: Eagles Offense Averages Fewer Than 21 Points Per Game
Even though Chip Kelly has the capability to turn Philly around, we can't expect immediacy.
Patience must go into his offense, as it will take time for players to adapt.
By the same token, the Eagles will definitely improve offensively compared to 2012. Because of Kelly's approach, the Eagles will get more snaps and possessions to rack up yards and face scoring opportunities.
But by no means will be it on the same platform as it was with Oregon, simply due to the athleticism of NFL defenses.
However, the Eagles floundered numerous chances to reach the end zone last fall. Here we see the law of averages come into place, as additional possessions and quicker snaps result in an inflation of numbers.
In turn, just based on probability alone, the Eagles will hover around 21 points per game next season.
Best Case: Michael Vick Returns to 2010 Form
If the 2010 Michael Vick shows up, watch out.
2010 saw Vick hit a then career high in passing yards (3,018), and others that still stand: touchdowns (21), completion percentage (62.6) and rushing scores (nine).
He also only tossed six interceptions and finished with a 100.2 rating.
Given the presence of LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown in the backfield, as well as Chip Kelly's run-oriented attack, Vick won't have much pressure. Obviously, the Eagles need to get healthier along the offensive line, but his mobility remains intact enough to make plays out of the pocket.
Provided this version of Vick finds himself in Kelly's offense—more so because of better decision making and established consistency—Philadelphia will impress in 2013.
Worst Case: Michael Vick Flops, Nick Foles Develops
Don't discount the development of Nick Foles.
Michael Vick wasn't capable of leading in 2012, and since he constantly turned the ball over, Foles deserves a chance in 2013.
Finishing his rookie campaign with a 60.8 completion percentage and six touchdowns to five picks, Foles fared better than he was given credit for. And during the final four games, he threw five scores to only two interceptions.
Possessing a strong arm, capable marksmanship and the ability to read pre-snap, Foles would benefit greatly should he get an opportunity under Chip Kelly. The running game will be there, and it would also be difficult for the offensive line to regress.
This is not a terrible worst-case scenario, as it's why Foles was selected in the 2012 draft. Controlling the line of scrimmage is an area Philadelphia must address in the 2013 draft.
Best Case: Eagles Break Even on Turnover Ratio
Winning the turnover battle is a lot to ask for from Philadelphia in 2013.
The Eagles finished minus-24 in the turnover department and gave up the ball 37 times.
So if there's one theme for Chip Kelly in his first season, ball control must be at the forefront. It doesn't matter how much talent one team possesses, because failing to win the possession battle and score never results in victory.
LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown must enhance their dependability in carrying the rock, because a run-oriented attack sets up the rest of any team's offense. Additionally, consistent ball control from the running backs takes a sizable amount of pressure off the quarterbacks.
In turn, defenses won't blitz as much, play-action increases its relevance and the offensive line pass-protects better. A byproduct of that is fewer turnovers from the quarterbacks and efficient ball movement.
To sum it up, an offense's impact can be traced back to how well the backs are protecting the football.
Worst Case: Eagles Finish Minus-12 in Turnover Ratio
Regardless of who fumbled or tossed the interception, Philadelphia turned the ball over so much that it was comical.
Entering the 2013 season, though, it would be unfair to anticipate a 180-degree turnaround in this aspect.
The Eagles tied for last place with the Chiefs in turnover ratio, but K.C. didn't fumble nearly as much. Interestingly enough, the Eagles weren't a run-first team and they still coughed up the ball more.
Therefore, improving to a minus-12 turnover ratio is quite realistic. That's cutting down on at least six turnovers and forcing six more at the same time. We know the potential of this defense, because Trent Cole and Co. logged 50 sacks in 2011.
As long as the pass rush gets back to normal form and Chip Kelly goes with a run-balanced offense, turnovers will be reduced. Then again, limiting the odds of Michael Vick or Nick Foles fumbling is a favorable advantage, because LeSean McCoy is Philly's best offensive weapon.