Now that we know Chip Kelly will be the man who leads the Eagles into the future, we can start wondering what the team will look like under the new regime. Though Kelly's defensive philosophy is often overlooked (he was a defensive coordinator for one season at Johns Hopkins), much of the focus on the Eagles' future under Kelly will revolve around the offense.
To start, we don't know that Kelly will look to employ the same system he used at Oregon in the NFL. But for a primer on that up-tempo spread offense, check out this tutorial from FishDuck.com, which has been committed to analyzing Kelly's offense at Oregon over the last six seasons. For a continued education in the old-school principles of Kelly's offense, this piece from Chris Brown is illuminating.
As for how the Eagles' personnel would fit under Kelly, let's begin with the team's dynamic pair of running backs. Under Kelly, Oregon was consistently at or near the very top of the league in rushing, thanks to the combination of their success running the ball and the sheer volume of plays run per game. In fact, in Kelly's six years at the helm of the Oregon offense (including his two seasons as offensive coordinator), the Ducks finished no worse than sixth in the nation in rushing yards per game. One of the prerequisites for the offense, then, was the presence of at least two playmaking running backs. Fortunately, the Eagles are well stocked at the position with All-Pro LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown, who burst onto the scene as a rookie when he got the chance to play in McCoy's absence. The presence of McCoy and Brown on the roster was likely an intriguing pull for Kelly. Add in Dion Lewis, who has shown his ability in his relatively few touches, and Chris Polk and the Eagles' running back cupboard is pretty well full.
DeSean Jackson also appears to fit well under Kelly's system. The dynamic receiver had been an occasional ball carrier under Andy Reid over the past few seasons, and he could portend to be more involved in that capacity under Kelly. His speed certainly figures to be of use to Kelly. Damaris Johnson could fit in that capacity as well. Though the Eagles do appear well stocked at wide receiver, there will be one added emphasis for the position moving forward – the ability to sustain blocks. Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper, and Jackson and Jason Avant to a lesser extent, have all shown to be adept blockers in the past.
In the aforementioned Brown article, the writer notes Kelly's emphasis on the importance of the offensive line. The Eagles offensive line, after a season riddled with injuries, should set up well moving forward as well. Jason Peters, the All-Pro left tackle, is said to be close to returning to full health after suffering an Achilles injury last offseason. Evan Mathis played at a Pro Bowl level this season after re-signing with the team in the offseason. Center Jason Kelce should also return to health after an early season torn ACL, as should Todd Herremans, who suffered a season-ending foot injury. Those four figure to fit in Kelly's mold of ideal offensive linemen. And there is still depth abound, with the likes of Danny Watkins, Dennis Kelly and free-agent-to-be Jake Scott, among others.
What, though, about the quarterback position? It's true that Oregon quarterbacks under Kelly were consistently part of the rushing attack and Nick Foles may not be the fleetest afoot of signal callers. But that won't preclude him from fitting into Kelly's offense. Consider Kelly's comments regarding Foles just over a year ago after Foles threw for 398 yards in an Arizona loss to Oregon.
"I'll tell you what; I'm glad Nick Foles is graduating," said Kelly. "I catch myself watching him in awe sometimes. … Nick is a hell of a football player. That kid's a warrior. He's as good as anyone in the country."
And then there is Michael Vick. The veteran quarterback may appear to fit Kelly's mold of athletic quarterback well, though Kelly is said to place an increased emphasis on protecting the football, which Vick has had trouble doing the last two seasons. Still, Vick's return is very much now on the table, though it may require a restructuring of his contract. In fact, an NFL.com report suggests that the combination of Vick and Foles was a selling point in the Eagles' pitch to Kelly. Would it actually be too farfetched to imagine an offense that features both Vick and Foles in the offense? Those are answers much better left for another day, but the possibilities for the Eagles offense under Kelly now appear boundless. An exciting, and unknown, future awaits.
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