Philadelphia Eagles News

Tempo Gives Offense An Edge

It's called "simple" and "innovative" from one sentence to the next. Chip Kelly doesn't add labels. Doesn't care about the analysis from the talking heads and pointed pens. He just wants points any way the Eagles can score them.

We've watched it for nearly two seasons now, this Eagles offense. Whatever you thought it was going to be when Kelly was hired from the collegiate ranks after his highly successful run at Oregon, what it's become is a fast-paced, balanced and very effective point-scoring attack.

"It works because we execute at a high level," tight end Brent Celek said. "We have great coaching and we're all on the same page on the field. You look sometimes and the defense doesn't really have a feel for what's coming and then we hit 'em for a big play."

Celek played in Andy Reid's version of the West Coast offense for six seasons before Kelly became the head coach and the offensive structure changed. The play design may not be all that fundamentally different than what the rest of the NFL does, but the Eagles are committed to playing fast and emphasizing tempo and running as many plays as they can on offense.

Why does it work? Does tempo really have an impact on how the offense functions?

"It's phenomenal," former Eagles quarterback and current ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. "Tempo decimates defenses, forces them into predictable coverages and it wears down the players on that side of the ball. They don't have 20 seconds to catch their breath. They're right back at the line of scrimmage, and they have no time to communicate to each other and change their pre-snap scheme.

"For the quarterbacks, now Mark Sanchez, it limits the reads the quarterback has to make. It's a progression-style offense and having that tempo gives each and every play a chance to break open quickly, because defenses don't have a feel for what's coming, and they don't have time to adjust before the snap of the football. It's beautiful the way it works, and the Eagles are clearly committed to it."

The Eagles run in the neighborhood of 80 to 85 snaps each game -- it's sometimes lower, as it was in Dallas when the Eagles had 77 snaps, when the team has a lead and the offense isn't in an up-tempo situation -- and every movement has a purpose. The Eagles train this way every day, and have done so since Kelly assembled his coaching staff and started training sessions. Thus, the players are used to the pace. It's second nature by now. The cardiovascular levels are off the charts, and the Eagles make sure to keep their runners fresh with heavy rotation -- starting wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper played 61 and 58 snaps, respectively, in last week's win over Dallas, helped by Jordan Matthews' 52 snaps, Josh Huff's 21, 16 from Brad Smith and 16 from tight end James Casey, who lined up as a wide receiver a few times.

There is a significant impact on defenders who have to run that much up and down the field, and certainly there is an exhaustion level for the defensive linemen, who are often gassed in the midst of Eagles offensive drives.

"You can see them huffing and puffing a little bit," right tackle Lane Johnson said. "If you aren't used to it, you can get worn down pretty fast because we're right up at the line of scrimmage after a play. Of course, you have to execute and keep the chains moving to make it work to its maximum."

There are no gimmicks in this offense. This isn't the "Wildcat" idea that worked for a minute years ago. This isn't Mouse Davis and his "Run and Shoot" offense that had some influence in the NFL in the 1980s. What Kelly and the Eagles are doing has been done, here and there, before. Many teams have incorporated the no-huddle approach into their offenses. The passing tree and run-game concepts are similar, as Kelly has said previously, to what has been done in the past.

But the Eagles are committed to tempo from the start of the game until the end, every week. It's what they do. It's who they are.

And it works very, very well. When the Eagles opened in Dallas with back-to-back touchdown drives of 80 and 88 yards, the offense moved at its fastest tempo of the season, according to the players. They saw that Dallas had trouble adjusting.

"It's tough for a defense to prepare for the tempo we run in one week," center Jason Kelce said. "Physically, it's demanding. From a communications standpoint, you're limited in how much you can talk before we snap the football, so that limits the looks you can give our offense.

"We're not at the maximum effectiveness. We're working toward that and we're making progress. But we know what is expected, and that is to move at a high speed and to keep control of the football and score touchdowns."

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