Breaking Down the Eagles' Biggest Challenges in Adopting Chip Kelly's Offense
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Luckily for Kelly, he landed in the best possible scenario for his style of offense in the NFL. Kelly's high-octane, read-option spread attack is something the Eagles are already built to do thanks to the roster assembled on the offensive side of things.
It's hard to say if the approach will actually work, but if it does, Kelly and the Eagles could wind up revolutionizing the NFL as we know it.
Things are merely in the infancy stages for the new offense in Philadelphia with many challenges looming. Let's break down some of the biggest issues Kelly and Co. will encounter leading up to, and through, next season.
Quickening the Pace
The first, and perhaps most difficult, step for the organization as a whole is simply adjusting to the tempo of Kelly's desire.
This means in the film room, on the practice field and more before any of the players ever even step foot on the field for their first preseason game.
The Eagles started offseason workouts recently, and it's safe to say every player on the roster was not exactly accustomed or prepared for a more uptempo style. Left tackle Jason Peters broke it down for Mike Garafolo of USA Today:
I mean, the workout today was up-tempo, a lot of drills and different stuff we don't normally do. I'm sure it's going to be real up-tempo. They just got after us. Everything is just quick, a lot of reps, quick pace ... 40 (yard dash), hurdles, ladders, stuff like that. Working the quick feet, the quick movements, the up-tempo pace, that's the stuff we worked on today.
Practices are obviously going to be more difficult as the entire roster adjusts to a more up-tempo look, but the use of the style throughout the organization in all of its coming and goings will also help Kelly weed out who he doesn't want to keep around.
Receiver DeSean Jackson sounded surprised by the changes:
First day, the team meeting, you could sense the urgency 'This is what it's going to be and it's on you guys to really get the information, dissect it and make the change.'
Jackson and his teammates shouldn't be surprised. Kelly is the man who has hired a "sports science coordinator" to condition his team (per ProFootballTalk). His name is Shaun Huls; he used to train Navy Seals, and now he's in charge of training the Eagles for Kelly's offense.
The offense will naturally be installed over time, but adopting it properly means changing the ways of the franchise after 14 years under the direction of Andy Reid, which is a major challenge.
Who Stays? Who Goes?
For Kelly, deciding who to weed out and who to keep around is a major issue this offseason. He's already been hard at work making the tough decisions.
Gone are names such as Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson. In are guys like Patrick Chung, Jason Phillips, Isaac Sopoaga and Bradley Fletcher.
Of course, the above names are on defense. The offense is set to undergo some changes as well. Kelly brought in Dennis Dixon and is still letting Michael Vick and Nick Foles hang around.
Arrelious Benn and James Casey are new names on the offense, with draft picks presumably on the way to continue to build the unit.
The hard part is seeing which guys are not buying into what Kelly is selling. Those names will end up on the street rather than being allowed to hold back what could be one of the NFL's most explosive offenses.
Who Starts at Quarterback?
As of now, Kelly has three options at quarterback in Vick, Foles and Dixon. The latter played under Kelly at Oregon, but isn't a serious threat to win the starting job outright.
Vick and Foles are a different story, and the decision could seriously hurt or help Kelly's offense at the NFL level, not to mention his job security.
For what it's worth, Kelly sounds as if he is willing to adapt his playbook and offense to whoever gives the offense the best chance to win games (per Rich Campbell, The Washington Times):
“It’s what do we feel, on this level, that we can run?” Kelly said when asked about the offense he plans to run in Philadelphia. “What’s going to fit? When you start to put a playbook together, there’s always more [rather] than less. But then I think any good coach will always tailor his playbook to his personnel.”
If that's truly the case then Foles is the way to go. Vick hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2006, and at 32 years old, he isn't going to survive the beating he would take running a read-option consistently. He's also wildly inaccurate with his throws.
Foles may not be the shining example of athleticism, but he can make the read-option work.
The threat of handing the ball to LeSean McCoy or going deep to DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin will certainly open up some wide running lanes if he chooses to pull the ball back and take it himself.
It also helps that Kelly has always been a major fan of Foles', according to CBS. No matter who Kelly ends up choosing, the position is going to have to produce for the offense to be a success.
Like it or not, a major challenge in adopting the sexy offense of Kelly's in Philadelphia is dealing with the mundane on the defensive side of things.
Joining the aforementioned names of defenders added so far are Kenny Phillips, Cary Williams and Connor Barwin. In fact, six of the team's nine free-agency signings so far have been to address the defense.
Kelly is transitioning the defense to a 3-4 scheme this offseason and is slowly finding the personnel to make it work.
The problem is, the unit is still an awkward mix of sluggish veterans who may not have a position in a new scheme and promising youngsters. It's a mess Kelly needs to continue working to sort out because his high-octane offense is going to need a rest every once in a while.
What to Expect
The good news is, despite the variety of challenges, the organization as a whole has to endure to bring in Kelly's offense, the Eagles are already well equipped to execute it to perfection.
Kelly's offense while at Oregon used two speed threats on the outside to keep safeties out of the box. This opened up the ground game for either the running back or quarterback, depending on what the quarterback read after the snap.
If one of the safeties bit on the run, the ball goes deep over his head. If they play it safe, the quarterback makes the right read, wins the numbers game with an athletic offensive line leading the way and the defense pays the price.
Now think about the Eagles. Two of the NFL's fastest receivers on the outside running streaks in Jackson and Maclin. LeSean McCoy as the back who can keep defenses honest.
One of the NFL's most athletic lines suited for the scheme led by the elite Jason Peters and others such as Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce.
To top it off, either Foles throwing accurate passes deep or an athlete such as Vick coming in with certain packages to kill defenses on the ground with his speed.
The notion of Kelly's offense is without it naysayers. ESPN's Ron Jaworski says the offense will fail as he told 97.5 The Fanatic:
The offense we saw at Oregon will not be run in the NFL. I will tell you that right now. Categorically, it will not work. And I probably spoke to 20 scouts today, some head coaches, and what everyone is doing right now is preparing to stop this read option. Either a quarterback's gonna get crushed, or someone's gonna stop it. And I think it'll be a combination of both.
Maybe Jaws is right. After all, we have seen unique, "revolutionary" offenses such as the Wildcat fizzle after defenses actually prepare for it properly.
Will Chip Kelly's offense work in Philadelphia?
For now, things appear to be falling into the correct spots for Kelly's offense. It's the major reason the Kelly-Eagles marriage happened in the first place. Philadelphia passed on coaches with Super Bowl experience. Kelly passed on opportunities with places like, well, Cleveland.
The point is, Kelly has a plan the Eagles organization has bought into. Like any good plan, there are several kinks to work out before it all comes together.
For Kelly and the Eagles, that means tough roster decisions and revitalizing a stagnant franchise. Perhaps after that, they'll do the same for the NFL.
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Note: All free-agency signing info courtesy of NFL.com.
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