The Eagles win on Monday night was about as exciting a season opener as I can recall. I've seen the Eagles play great. I've seen them play in tight games. The win over Washington was a combination of the two. I think you would have to go all the way back to the overtime game against the Rams in 2001 or the Pickle Juice Game in 2000 to find such a compelling opener.
Seeing Chip Kelly calling in plays as fast as he could on the opening drive was a bit of a eureka moment. That made things feel very real. The talk about Kelly and his up-tempo offense all offseason was somewhat abstract. You could watch Oregon games and even the Eagles in the preseason, but until Monday night it wasn't really real.
You could see the urgency with which he called in the plays. The team responded by running them just as fast. There were four plays in the first minute of action. It truly was something to behold. Washington had no idea what hit them. They got lucky with the questionable call on the lateral that sure looked like a forward pass. It was so encouraging to see the Eagles get the ball back and march right back down the field, just as fast, just as furious. The offense was lightning quick and relentless in the first half.
I think this Chip Kelly guy might actually know what he's doing.
I love the fact that the Eagles won, but also that they didn't play a perfect game. Some teams come out and look great in the opener, then fade back to reality quickly. This wasn't a case of the Eagles using some trick plays that caught Washington off-guard. The Eagles threw short passes and ran the ball right down the field. There have been cases where a team built a perfect gameplan for one game, but then couldn't sustain it. The Eagles can not only replicate Monday's performance; they can improve on it. There were some great aspects to the game, but the coaches have plenty of mistakes to fix. Kelly talked about how the offense actually didn't move as fast as he hoped.
The key to the Eagles offense was
Words don't do justice to some of the cuts McCoy made. There were a few plays when he made multiple Washington defenders miss. Safety Bacarri Rambo is a rookie. I'm sure he had nightmares about No. 25 all week. He never faced anyone in college who could do what McCoy does. The runs that impressed me the most were the short-yardage plays where McCoy got the ball and aggressively attacked upfield. He didn't look for big plays. He concentrated on moving the sticks. In the past, he had some moments where he'd try to bounce those runs outside and would ruin critical situations. McCoy has learned from that.
Vick ran out of bounds with the ball once, which is listed as a sack. He has to throw that ball away and not lose 5 yards. He forced the ball on a couple of throws and that made me nervous. Sometimes his arm strength gives him too much confidence. There were a couple of first half passes where he flat out missed wide open targets. He's too talented a passer to do that when he's got a clean pocket. I think he had good pocket presence and generally played a smart game. I hope the coaches convince him to not go block for McCoy. Vick takes a beating as it is. Don't look for extra contact.
Jackson played his best game in a while, catching seven passes for 104 yards and a score. I was very encouraged by his performance. In recent years, Jackson and the coaches fell in love with him going deep over and over. This affected the defense, but didn't lead to much production. Kelly wants to get him the ball on short throws so Jackson has a chance to make plays. Jackson did make plays after the catch on Monday night. My favorite play came when he caught a short pass to the right side and then used great burst to explode up the field. He got 26 yards on that play. Jackson used the middle of the field better than he has in years.
The other receivers didn't make many big plays, but their blocking was key.
All this talk of the skill players is irrelevant if not for the big boys up front. The Eagles offensive line wasn't dominant, but they played well. The group hasn't been together much this summer. They need time to jeel. Still, there were some plays when they did blow the Washington defenders off the ball and gave McCoy lots of running room.
The Eagles defense had a strong showing in the first half. In fairness, Robert Griffin III struggled in his return from a knee injury and that helped. I think you still have to give the Eagles a lot of credit. The first half takeaways weren't easy plays. The safety was. Griffin III made a bad pitch and Alfred Morris had no choice but to fall on the ball.
Cole had an outstanding game. He looked like the player Eagles fans have grown to love over the years. Cole was very good against the run. He made hustle plays when the ball went away from him. He blew up runs that came at him. He pushed blockers aside as if they weren't even there. Cole didn't get a sack, but he hit Griffin III more than any other Eagle. There were hits in the pocket. There were hits just outside the pocket. There was even a hit out in space. Cole wanted to welcome Griffin III back to football in his own special way.
Eagles fans and the media piled on
While Williams was the playmaker outside,
Washimgton admitted after the game that the defense did plenty of things they weren't expecting. Bill Davis and the coaching staff were honest all summer. They ran a vanilla attack and used the preseason as an evaluation period. Davis said this several times. The 3-4 isn't nearly as effective as a vanilla defense as when you start dialing up blitzes. I think you can see the defense will make some plays this year. There still is plenty to work on. The fourth quarter was too easy for the Washington. They had 175 yards and scored 14 points. That's not good.
You can argue that the best part of the Eagles was special teams. Dave Fipp already has my vote for assistant coach of the year. He has done an amazing job, transforming a bad unit into one of the team's strengths. The Eagles pinned Washington deep several times in the game with good punts. Kickoffs were either touchbacks or well covered. Players are fired up on special teams.
The Chip Kelly era is off to a good start. Monday night was a lot of fun, but it was just one game. In order for it to mean something, the Eagles need to play well on Sunday against the Chargers. You can bet that is exactly what Kelly is preaching to the players.