One of the more interesting hires for head coach Chip Kelly's staff is Jeff Stoutland, who built an impressive portfolio running an Alabama offensive line that dominated, week in and week out, the college football landscape.
Stoutland brought his vision to Philadelphia and now he gets to dig in and work with a talented, deep and diverse group. The Eagles up front appear to have an outstanding and intriguing blend of experience and youth, and Stoutland can't wait to get his hands on these pieces of clay.
Expectations? High, no question. Stoutland demands excellence, is accustomed to success and won't tolerate the dark side.
"What I want is to be able to bring the group together and to play at a really, really high, efficient rate where we just keep coming at them, attacking, attacking, attacking, but also playing smart and minimizing mistakes and missed assignments," said Stoutland. "If we can do that, we're going to be pretty good."
Stoutland is used to his lines being dominating. Alabama won back-to-back BCS National Championships with a huge assist from an offensive line that manhandled defensive fronts, swatting away like flies defensive players in the running game and holding strong in the passing attack.
Nobody is suggesting that the Eagles are on the verge of something similar, but the makings of a strong group are there. The Eagles are healthy, and veteran left tackle Jason Peters, left guard Evan Mathis, center Jason Kelce, right guard Todd Herremans and rookie first-round draft pick Lane Johnson look promising on paper.
Stoutland liked what he saw in the spring, but not once has the offensive line lined up against the defensive line in pads, with a "full go" alert on. Really, all Stoutland has focued on is teaching his players what he wants them to do.
"You're talking about something that is very involved, getting everyone working together, building that continuity," said Stoutland. "We've made progress. I'm excited about the group. They're all working hard and improving, if even just a little bit, every single day. That's what I'm looking for."
The paring of Kelly and Stoutland was one in the making for many years. The two met when Stoutland coached at Cornell and Kelly was at New Hampshire and there has been a mutal respect for many, many years.
When Kelly asked Stoutland to move from Alabama to Philadelphia, there was no question in Stoutland's mind that it was the right thing to do.
"It was an honor. When coach called me and told me he seriously wanted me to consider coming to Philadelphia, I immediately felt -- and I do a lot of stuff in my life, I do a lot of stuff by my natural feeling, my instinct, I'm an instinct guy, I grew up in New York City -- and I felt like, this is the calling for me, this is perfect for me," said Stoutland. "I understand this part of the world, my dad moved to Pennsylvania, he lives an hour from here, my mom passed away about 6 years ago. I know a lot of the coaches on this staff, I've worked with a lot of them prior to coming here.
"Plus to be able to be involved in a Chip Kelly-style offense is something I'd never really done before. Michigan State was probably the closest to this that I've been involved with. So for me it was ilke hey this is just another opportunity for me to learn something new and exciting.
"It just felt perfect."
Stoutland knows the Eagles plan to play an up-tempo style, and that the times when the formations are spread will have defenses looking to exploit holes in pass protection. That's part of the challenge. He has at his disposal an extremely athletic group, and the tackle combination of Peters and Johnson, should Johnson become the starter, is as nimble a twosome as there is in the league.
Stoutland has long been an admirer of Peters, having shown film of Peters to his college linemen as a study in how to play perfect technique.
"When I was a young play, my coach told me, 'When you take care of the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.' My coach told me that back in 1980, and that had a lot of meaning. It hit me right between the eyes," said Stoutland. "I said to myself, 'I like that. I'm going to live like that. That's valid to me and my life no matter what I'm doing.' That's really how I do things."
Stoutland isn't a quiet guy. He gets up in his players' personal space to demonstrate a point. Stoutland does it professionally, with respect and with love. His job is to make his players the best they can be.
Many in the media and in the fan base wondered how Stoutland, who worked in what was a more traditional, meat-and-potatoes atttack at Alabama, would marry his coaching principles with Kelly and the wide-open, anything-goes that Oregon's high-octane offense represented.
Just how much are Stoutland's beliefs tied in what Kelly wants to do offensively?
"At Alabama, and really at every place I've been, we've done almost everything that we're doing here," said Stoutland. "There is a creativity factor, those, that is Chip Kelly. He is definitely different than other people I've been around. That's what I love about him. He thinks outside the box.
"A lot of it comes off the defense and the way they're trying to defend the offense. It's like a chess game ... he's the guy in all of this. He's been in this offense for so many years, his mind works like that.
Stoutland has his challenge in front of him, just he way he likes he. He has a lot of pieces, some of them very good ones, and he has to make the puzzle fit together perfectly so that this offense can execute at a high level.
There is nothing but positives working in Stoutland's favor, and that's just the way he likes it. Step by step, he has a line to make, knowing that the offense will only be as good as the play in the trenches.