5 Ripple Effects Chip Kelly's Hiring Will Have on Philadelphia Eagles' Roster
Fans should be delighted with the Eagles' newest addition for a couple of reasons. The first is because the head coach will not be Andy Reid.
The second reason to be excited about Kelly coming to Philadelphia is because of the innovative offensive attack he runs. Although there is plenty of skepticism about whether or not Kelly’s offense can translate into the NFL, the fact remains that the NFL is now an offensive league that enables a fast-paced style of play to flourish. Look at any NFL offense that runs a hurry-up style and notice where that offense is ranked.
It’s unlikely that Kelly will come out of the gate next season and try to run 90 plays every game. It’s also unlikely that he will attempt two-point conversions on a whim. Furthermore, Kelly doubtlessly recognizes that if his approach to the game is going to succeed, he will have to ease it in to let his players get used to it.
There are a lot of effects that Eagles fans can expect to see from the impact of their team’s new head coach. The following slideshow will outline a few of those.
Chip Kelly’s quarterbacks have borne no resemblance to Nick Foles with the exception that both Foles and Kelly’s quarterbacks have received the football from a center. From there, it does not appear as though the new coach and relatively new quarterback have too much common ground with which to build a future upon.
Nonetheless, there is virtually no one in the upcoming draft with the potential to succeed in the NFL under Kelly’s tutelage. This leaves the new coach and his organization in quite a predicament.
On one hand, the Eagles have Michael Vick, who built his reputation and has succeeded in the NFL as a running quarterback. But Vick in 2013-14 is not the Vick from 2003. Vick is now injury and turnover prone. Although the Eagles' 2012-13 troubles can hardly be completely attributed to Vick’s shortcomings, he is likely not the guy who Kelly can use in his first season as an NFL head coach. For starters, it would be financially irresponsible for the Eagles to pay Vick the money his contract calls for. But there is a possibility it could happen, and it may or may not be a complete disaster.
On the other hand, the Eagles have Foles. Kelly’s offense works with mobile quarterbacks. One thing about Foles is that his mobility isn't exactly up to par—neither is his speed. But perhaps Kelly’s system relies more on its offensive linemen than it does on the quarterbacks mobility. That’s likely not the case, but the Eagles had apparently been committed to Foles.
Foles will probably be the Eagles’ quarterback in 2013-14 whilst Kelly and the team’s management survey the 2014 draft class for the right fit. For all anyone knows, Foles may flourish in Kelly’s system, but that’s probably not going to happen based on Kelly’s history of quarterbacks and the fast pace of his scheme.
Are there other options now that could work for Kelly?
Barring the discovery of any free agency or draft gems, the only plausible move the Eagles could make to acquire a quarterback who could work with Kelly is the Baltimore Ravens practice squad quarterback Dennis Dixon.
Kelly turned Dixon into a Heisman Trophy candidate. Dixon had the skills to work under Kelly in college. However, who knows if they could succeed together in the pros?
Although this isn't likely, don’t be too surprised if it happens.
If there are doubts about whether or not Kelly’s offense can succeed in the NFL, perhaps a good point to the contrary would be in noting New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s admiration of the system.
Belichick has observed Oregon’s offense and spoken to Kelly about its dynamics. Look at the Patriots’ up-tempo offense from this season.
Of course, Belichick did not model his offense after Kelly’s, he did not copy Kelly’s offense and he did not ask Kelly how to succeed. However, Belichick did take a page from Kelly’s book. If Belichick thinks Kelly’s offense has potential and used a similar approach that yielded the results the 2012-13 Pats did, what other kind of merits does Kelly need?
Granted, Tom Brady is not a mobile quarterback, and Nick Foles is not Brady. Belichick’s primary incorporation of Kelly’s philosophy was in regards to tempo and the number of plays to run.
Now, Kelly isn't going to try to run as many plays as he did at Oregon, but he will doubtlessly try to run a lot of plays.
Kelly is going to need a quarterback, wide receivers and offensive line depth to succeed. Right now, if the Eagles offensive line returns at full strength and Kelly deepens it, acquires a big wideout, his defensive draft acquisitions do well and by some miracle Michael Vick or Foles manages to play at a high level, the Eagles could contend for an NFC East title in 2013-14.
The Eagles need a lot of work offensively. But they’ll be moving forward with a head coach whose approach is remarkably in line with the direction of the NFL’s best franchises—it’s an innovative offensive system.
3. The Draft
The implications that Chip Kelly’s hiring has on the Eagles’ draft outlook are innumerable.
For starters, Kelly will implement the 3-4 defense.
The Eagles have the fourth overall pick, and Utah’s Star Lotulelei is a projected top-5 pick.
Lotulelei could conceivably play anywhere on a 3-4 front, and he is an ideal player with whom to build or implement a 3-4 defense.
If the Eagles draft Lotulelei, Kelly will get off on the right foot.
If Lotuleli is off the board, Jarvis Jones is another name to keep in mind.
Also, Kelly loves using his tight ends. So look for the Eagles to target that position.
Don’t be surprised if Kelly loads up on receivers, linebackers and possibly a running back or two. The name Marcus Lattimore comes to mind, but how likely is that?
The NFL’s best defensive units run a 3-4 scheme. The Eagles have been one of the NFL’s worst defensive teams in recent seasons.
Philly needs an overhaul on the defensive side of the ball, and the implementation of a new scheme is ideal. Kelly and his new staff can literally build from scratch without the pressure of needing to realize immediate success.
But the Eagles have a few pieces in place now that they could build with.
For starters, though Cullen Jenkins has not been a dominant force since coming to Philadelphia from Green Bay, he was a Super Bowl champion 3-4 defensive end. It wouldn’t be bad to see him return to that role in Philadelphia. If you think he’s washed up, remember that Andy Reid misuses players all the time. Perhaps Jenkins wasn't the fit for Reid’s Eagles, and he’s likely not going to see a return to Green Bay form.
Also, Mychal Kendricks was an outstanding blitzer at Cal from the 3-4. Kelly probably knows that and will use it to his advantage. Kendricks could become one of the NFL’s better outside linebackers with Kelly. After all, he was decent during the 2012-13 season, and his skills in coverage (especially against tight ends) were exceptional.
Brandon Graham had a coming-out party last season. He was ferocious when given the opportunity. And he had been good during the 2012-13 season up to that point. Graham also has 3-4 experience from college, so he won’t be a complete novice.
Doubtlessly, Fletcher Cox will be on the defensive line where he should continue to only get better.
But what about Trent Cole? Could Cole be an outside linebacker? Remember when former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott used to drop Cole into coverage and the disasters that ensued?
Cole likely won’t be going anywhere, but his future role just got a lot more interesting.
There are also players like Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and fan-favorite Cedric Thornton to deal with. Are they good enough to play in a 3-4?
Of course, Kelly is going to have to address the safeties. The Eagles' safety play in recent years from Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen has been embarrassing. Neither of them can tackle, and Coleman was so lost that his zones were left completely open for receivers to exploit. Often, the result was Nnamdi Asomugh not paying attention to the broken coverage and trying to play catch up with a receiver who had broken away.
And what about DeMeco Ryans? Didn’t the Texans just trade him because he couldn’t work in a 3-4?
Ryans could work inside, and the Eagles can’t afford to lose him because of how thin they are at linebacker.
Casey Matthews doesn’t matter.
The future of the Eagles defense—if nothing else—is one that will be refreshing and new. There’s a lot to be excited for.
5. The Long-Term Future
The NFL is no longer becoming an offensive league; it is an offensive league.
With so many teams seeking out mobile quarterbacks and hoping to succeed, Chip Kelly brings in an entire system. It’s an innovative, new approach to a new league. There is no way to know for sure whether or not it will succeed, but you have to take the chance given the league’s direction.
Like Bill Belichick, Kelly’s success has been predicated upon the flow of things and operates based on a system and not a given player’s abilities.
The Eagles didn't draft Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III with the intention of building around the quarterback.
Instead, what they did was hire a head coach who is looking to have players work in a system that’s already in place. How exciting!
There are doubts about whether or not NFL players will embrace Kelly’s rigorous approach to practice and the game itself. But that’s where the beauty of the system dynamic comes in to play again. They won’t be on the roster if they aren't into it.
Kelly is a guy who will run the ball as much as he can. The Eagles have LeSean McCoy.
You often hear good teams use the term “next man up” in regards to dealing with injuries and loss of players. That’s what you’ll see in Philadelphia.
The excuse has been made that the Eagles have been bad because of how injured they were. But if you take a look back at championship teams, they all suffered injuries that had the potential to be catastrophic. But those teams had depth because they had players that worked well in their respective systems. If you think the Eagles offensive line was far too injured for that point to apply, take a look at the 2010 championship Green Bay Packers.
If nothing else, the Kelly experiment is a progressive one that puts the Eagles at the forefront of a new NFL. How successful it will be is yet to be seen. Nonetheless, the Eagles just took a big step forward.