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Imagining How Offense Will Look

Posted May 13, 2014

Chip Kelly acquired what he wanted for his offense in the defense-dominated draft: Depth at wide receiver. Now, what do the Eagles do with the offense? ...

Chip Kelly acquired what he wanted for his offense in the defense-dominated draft: Depth at wide receiver. Now, what do the Eagles do with the offense?

The possibilities are beyond intriguing. The Eagles drafted Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to bolster the competition at wide receiver and expand the options, and along with Darren Sproles have some new faces to introduce to the scheme. New players mean new skill sets. New skill sets mean tweaks to the scheme. Tweaks to the scheme means defenses play a guessing game from one play to the next and you know what that means in the big picture.

So this is a time to wonder aloud about an offense that made major strides in 2013. You know about the points scored, and about the rushing yards gained and about quarterback Nick Foles' rise to Pro Bowl status.

It's a question asked here at various stages of the offseason: What's next for the offense?

Kelly made sure to emerge from the draft with a full complement of weapons with the selections of Matthews (second round) and Huff (third round). They compete with the likes of B.J. Cunningham and Brad Smith and Damaris Johnson and others for spots on the roster and playing time on the field. Part of the beauty of the way Kelly runs his operation is that both of the new receivers will have a maximum number of practice reps taken before the first preseason game and, besides, Matthews prides himself on his preparation and study habits and Huff played for Kelly at Oregon and already has an intimate knowledge of the scheme.

Now the offensive roster is more robust, and Kelly and the Eagles are in the early stages of conceptualizing the scheme. It's not hard to imagine the Eagles spreading defenses out and seeing how the defenses try to match up against Sproles, a tough matchup in the open field, and LeSean McCoy, should both be options in the passing game. Riley Cooper is a big body on the left side and Jeremy Maclin is the starting receiver on the right side and he is making great progress with his recovery from injury. The tight ends are deep and versatile.

The offensive line returns all five starters and while the Eagles didn't use a draft pick on a linemen, they point to players like Allen Barbre, Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin and Julian Vandervelde with trust.

Foles, of course, continues to work on his game and the windows for the passing game figure to be smaller given the on-paper tougher schedule than last year. Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley compete for the backup spot.

The Eagles took off in the second half of 2013, winning seven of eight games to close out the NFC East division. The level of confidence is sky high, with the understanding that there is a lot of hard work to do to again reach the postseason and take a longer run in the playoffs.

What is Kelly working on with the offense? How does he incorporate Sproles? What is the next step for tight end Zach Ertz, who made impressive strides as a rookie? What do the rookie receivers offer? What are the nooks and crannies Kelly will introduce to give different looks and create favorable matchups? Does McCoy have an opportunity to duplicate his record-setting season of a year ago?

I can't wait to see how it all unfolds. Sproles is an out-of-the-backfield piece that throws a defense off balance in an instant. He can move around the formation and use his short-area quickness to gain advantages in the passing game. Matthews is 6 feet 3 and he showed in college that he can go up and catch the football, or catch and run with a bubble screen, or be a down-the-field threat to keep defenses honest. Huff was an explosive player at Oregon and the Ducks moved him around and got him the ball in a variety of ways.

Combine those additions with the natural maturation of an offense that has been together for a full season and there is every reason to feel the excitement. The Eagles are going places with this offense. Just where, I'm not sure anybody truly knows. And that's part of the reason the Eagles have so much to build upon for 2014 with an attack that added the right kind of pieces to raise the performance on offense.

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