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Big Picture: Offense On Its Way

You watch this Eagles offense over the course of a game, maybe take the sample of a month, and certainly weigh the pluses and the minuses of 10 games and the conclusion is this: For a starting point of what hopefully will be a long and successful partnership, the Eagles and Chip Kelly's offensive mind make a great team.

Consider what the Eagles have done in a season during which they lost a key starting wide receiver in Jeremy Maclin in the summer and then endured a three-game stretch of musical quarterbacks because of injury. The Eagles lead the NFL in rushing, they are ninth in first downs gained and they rank 11th in points scored.

It isn't perfect, again, and until the Eagles win the super Bowl it won't be perfect. But for a first-year coach introducing a new system with an unsettled quarterback situation, the numbers have been extremely promising.

"It's gotten better and better, with the exception of those games against Dallas and the Giants," said center Jason Kelce. "I think our level of communication has improved a lot and you're seeing the results. Everybody is doing his part and making plays."

As the Eagles hit the final six games of the 2013 regular season with a division race in front of them, they are 5-5 with two consecutive wins riding the strength of the offense, a defense that has played so well in the red zone and has taken the football away in a timely manner, and a hungry group of players on special teams that is winning the battle of field position.

The offense is the focus here. We waited a long time to see what Kelly would unveil, and when the regular season arrived and the Eagles opened the season at Washington with such a bang, the nation's eye focused on this offense, on this system, on these players and coaches.

There have been a few down moments along the way, but the overwhelming evidence is convincing: The Eagles have a potent offense, one with quick-strike capability using a variety of targets to put the football in the end zone.

What makes this offense unique, though, at least from the perspective of watching Eagles offenses in the past, is the way this group attacks each play. The increased tempo places a tremendous amount of pressure on the defense on every play. The go-go-go approach is taxing to defenses, so much so that opposing players too frequently find themselves gasping for breath in the middle of drives, and some would suggest that defenders collapse in a heap to have a timeout called, thus disrupting the flow of the offense. Too predictably, those same cynics suggest, the defenders are back on the field in a matter of a few snaps.

And while the Eagles have certainly had some prolific offenses in the last 20 years, none have had the combination of big-play ability to stretch a defense to go along with a nasty, physical attitude at the line of scrimmage that has allowed LeSean McCoy to rush for a league-high 932 yards and average 4.8 yards per carry?

Did you see, and I'm sure you did, the Eagles use 16 plays -- 15 of them running plays -- to eat up the last 9 minutes, 32 seconds of Sunday's victory? It was pound-it-out football, what the coaches call their "four-minute offense," but in this case the Eagles more than doubled the four minutes and took the last fight away from the Packers the old-fashioned way.

It was beautiful. And it was indicative of the way this offense can win on game days? If defenses stack the box and concentrate on McCoy and taking away the running game, quarterback Nick Foles -- and, look, nobody is talking about the "quarterback of the future" stuff, or what happens when Michael Vick is healthy, because all that matters is beating Washington on Sunday -- has to make plays in the passing game.

If defenses want to double team wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the Eagles have to generate yards on the ground. Foles' job is to see where on the field the advantage is going to be and then work that to the benefit of the Eagles offense.

The players talk about the offense in simple terms, and the coaches insist that the genius of the scheme is in the high level of communication, the pace of the plays and the take-what-the-defense-gives-you philosophy. I'm not smart enough to break it all down for you.

All I know is that it sure seems to work. And I know that this is the beginning, and as the players become more ingratiated into what Kelly demands, they're going to play faster and they're going to execute at a higher level and the defenses are going to have to deal with that much more from the Philadelphia Eagles.

Foles deserves a lot of credit for working with an outstanding group of coaches -- quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor has done a marvelous job incorporating all three of the quarterbacks on the active roster into the scheme -- and raising the level of his game. I don't want to hear how "lucky" Foles was in Sunday's game. That's malarkey. It was a windy day, and Foles still completed a 55-yard touchdown pass, a 45-yard touchdown pass, and a 32-yard touchdown pass. He completed 12 plays in 18 attempts and compiled a passer rating of 149.3. He has 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions this season.

There is more than luck involved, folks.

The fact is, Foles is a good, improving quarterback who has worked his tail off to take his game to a new level. The fact is, the Eagles have some pretty good pieces around him, including an excellent offensive line, Pro Bowl-caliber players in Jackson and McCoy, a grinder like Riley Cooper who is a whole lot better than most gave him credit for being earlier this season, and a sound set of coaches who have put forth a brilliant scheme.

It's an exciting time, Eagles fans. Enjoy the ride. Washington comes to town for Sunday's NFC East showdown, and the Redskins won't be caught off guard by anything the Eagles do on offense. It's going to come down to execution, so this is a new challenge for the Eagles to overcome on the way to building this offense into something extraordinary.

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