It's a misconception that an offense needs to have one ironclad identity. The more clubs you have in your bag, the more options you have. With a multitude of schemes and concepts, the surprise element is less likely to disappear and you maintain the capability to adapt to the defenses you're facing from week to week.
Just don't use the "bag" metaphor with new Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. After Monday night's victory over the Washington Redskins, he was asked how much more had left to unveil from said bag.
"I don't think it's a bag of tricks," Kelly said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer, "I think it's just football."
In other words, Kelly doesn't want to talk about what remains in the bag, and/or Kelly believes there might not be a limit to what's in the bag. Maybe we're dealing with the Santa Claus of football.
I do think the Eagles unveiled the bread and butter of their go-to offensive approach on Monday. We saw the rapid-fire tempo, the run-heavy play-calling, the cut blocking and the no-longer-novel zone-read option.
The combination was utterly unique, though, and arguably unprecedented. And it was successful. Expect to see variations of that over the next 16 weeks, and possibly longer if it continues to pay off.
For months, people have been asking if Kelly would implement his Oregon offense in Philadelphia or if he'd change. Turns out, there was room for both. It's about establishing a hybrid—rather than finding a happy medium or stubbornly jumping to black or white—and then bouncing from scheme to scheme or tempo to tempo when the situation calls for it.
Of course, it's impossible to implement a near-infinite number of plays right off the bat. There's only so much Michael Vick and the rest of that offense can fit into practice and memorize, so forcing too much down their throats is another risk.
The Eagles probably won't shock us with any major schematic wrinkles going forward, and we've seen the primary tenets of Kelly's offense already, but don't be surprised if he introduces some fun and creative deviations throughout the year.
Let's speculate on what could be in the works...
Various stack formations
We saw Kelly use the double stack a little bit during the preseason. Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated broke that down and provided a shot:
Now, if Kelly really wants to get wild in an attempt to catch the defense off guard while running the no-huddle, he could even consider going to the dual triple stack, which was pictured here by the super-awesome FishDuck.com:
These stack formations work best if you're facing a big, slow, tired defense and have strong blockers on the outside. They were designed to create mismatches in coverage and to get receivers in space. At the very least, they'll force defenses to burn a timeout. The element of surprise is huge, as is almost always the case with Kelly.
Variations of the option
We're obviously becoming very familiar with the spread option offense and the zone-read. That, on the surface, won't surprise defenses anymore. But Kelly also ran some classic option plays at Oregon, as well as some unique ones. The Eagles didn't get overly creative with the option Monday night, sticking essentially to what we've seen from Robert Griffin III since the start of last season.
But imagine what the Eagles could do with DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy with various versions of the straddled triple option? FishDuck.com breaks it down here:
I think the key here is that it capitalizes on defenses overcommitting to stop the inside zone-read. Considering the emphasis being placed league-wide on bottling up those plays this season, this is a fresh way for Kelly to exploit inevitable overzealousness.
When the Eagles ran 53 plays in the first half, it didn't seem as though they could have operated at a much faster speed than they already were. Keep in mind that it usually takes about six or seven seconds for officials to spot the ball, and on its first two drives the Philly offense was consistently snapping it within 10 or 15 seconds of that. On top of that, first-quarter plays are usually scripted, making that easier.
They slowed things down as the game wore on, but the big lead they had built up was certainly a factor. Michael Vick said after the game that there will be times this season where the Eagles offense will "press for four quarters," which is almost hard to believe.
Kelly took it one step further. From PhillyMag.com:
I feel like it was slow to be honest with you. I’m not joking. We need to do a better job. We left the ball on the ground too much, we didn’t get the ball to the officials. We could have sped things up from a process in between plays, and that’s something that we need to continue to work on.
That "practice makes perfect" cliché has its limitations, as does any offense. I find it hard to believe Vick and the Eagles can run things any faster without making mistakes. In fact, they couldn't avoid mistakes while operating at their initial speed Monday night. Still, I wouldn't put it past Kelly to try to speed it up.
Fourth-down attempts and two-point conversions
Because Monday's game was fairly lopsided, we didn't see Kelly gamble very much. Look for him to take more chances on offense as the season progresses. Kelly often went for two at Oregon, including on five separate occasions after its first touchdown of the game, and that was from the 3-yard line. From the 2-yard line, expect him to take more shots at two-point conversions this season.
I was a bit surprised to see Kelly opt to punt and kick as often as he did Monday. On four different occasions the Eagles punted on 4th-and-15 or more, which is completely understandable. They also settled for a field goal on 4th-and-10 early. But they also punted on a 4th-and-7 from the Washington 40 and a 4th-and-4 from the Washington 42.
They faced fourth down eight times and only gambled on an early 4th-and-1 inside Washington territory. It'll be interesting to see if that trend changes over the course of Kelly's first season.
The great unknown
There's a reason why we're asking a question instead of making a statement in that headline. Kelly added elements to his offense every year at Oregon. In fact, he often made dramatic changes based on the opponent. There's a good chance we'll see things this year that we've never seen from him in the past.
If I had to guess, I'd imagine that a lot of those elements will pertain to deep passes. Kelly probably knows that he can't run as often in the NFL as he was able to in the Pac-12, and with Vick and Jackson he has the pieces in place to finally expand his offensive repertoire while also expanding the field.
If there's a way to turn an inside or outside zone-read into a deep ball, Kelly will find it. Maybe even this week against San Diego.