When Chip Kelly made the leap from the college ranks to the NFL, there were a lot of words thrown around regarding his prowess as an offensive coach. Innovator, guru and mastermind were just a few titles from that list. Now three-quarters of the way through his first season with the Eagles, Kelly has built an offense that ranks third in the NFL in yards per game (403.6) and is tied for second in yards per play (6.1), but is this the way Kelly thought his offense would look at this point?
"I don't have an ideal," Kelly said during his Thursday press conference. "Our job is to, very simply, move the ball and score points. I don't really care what it looks like. The offense that we run here is not Oregon's offense. It's the Philadelphia Eagles offense that was put together by a group of really smart guys on the offensive side of the ball and everybody contributed to it. There are some things that we did at Oregon, there are some things that (offensive line coach) Jeff Stoutland did at Alabama, there are some things that (wide receivers coach) Bob Bicknell did with the Buffalo Bills, there are some things that (quarterbacks coach) Bill Lazor brought from when he was in the NFL and at Virginia and there are things that (offensive coordinator) Pat (Shurmur) brought from Cleveland. It's all of us putting it together."
Kelly and his offensive staff work vigorously throughout the week to come up with a game plan based on what they expect to see from the opposing defense. When the game starts, however, the duty of play-calling falls on Kelly's shoulders, and it's something that he continues to work on every time that his team takes the field.
"I've always believed that play-calling is based on your personnel," he explained. "You're trying to get your players in positions to make plays. You have good days and bad days just like players have good days and bad days."
One of Kelly's players who has had a lot of those good games of late is quarterback Nick Foles, whose 125.2 passer rating leads the league. The Eagles head coach has seen a big improvement from his starting signal-caller, but he isn't ready to say that one particular area of his game has been better than others.
"I've seen a growth from him in all facets, so I don't think there is one area more than (another) area," said Kelly. "There is a comfort level there. As you're starting to call plays, he can finish the play call. He's got that comfort level because he knows which formations are matched within the game plan. I think he's taken a lot of ownership of what we're doing here, but I don't think that there is one area more than another. I think there has been overall improvement in everything that he's done."
While Foles has benefitted a great amount from more playing time, he's also been helped out greatly by his offensive line. Whenever Foles has been asked about any personal success, he has always thanked the offensive line for keeping him protected, and Kelly can see why Foles has been so appreciative.
"I've seen them grow as a group, and I think that happens with any team," Kelly said. "We weren't together to start with, so them getting to know Coach Stoutland and what he's teaching and what he brings to the table, and then the biggest consistency is that they've all been healthy, so they've all had the opportunity to all play together.
"You're starting to see similar looks when people play you and how they're trying to defend you. It's been a huge plus for us. I think one of the reasons why we've been successful offensively is that all of those guys have been successful. I've just seen that, over time, they've grown as a group together, and that's a positive for us."
The Eagles offensive line will once again need to be at the top of their game this weekend against the star-studded Detroit Lions defensive line. Kelly knows what that defensive front will be trying to do on Sunday, but it's the rest of the defense that is likely to change their look multiple times throughout the game.
"They play to their strengths," Kelly said. "Really , from a look standpoint, we're going to see a four-down look against the Detroit Lions. That look's not going to be different. Where the change-ups occur during the game are with the coverage and how they are going to handle the back end. Are they getting people closer to the box? Are they playing more man? People aren't really changing up their fronts against us."