We learned a lot about Chip Kelly and what he and his offensive coaches believe in during the record-setting 2013 offensive. The Eagles overcame an injury to starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and then quarterback Michael Vick and still set franchise marks in major categories like points, yards and big (plus 20 yards) plays.
It was a wonderful and encouraging introduction to, as Kelly says, the Philadelphia Eagles offense..
So, what's next? I'm not talking in terms of personnel, as the Eagles will address every nook and cranny of the roster, including each offensive position. They aren't going to sit still. I'm talking about the offensive scheme and what tweaks the offseason analysis might bring.
What happens when the season ends? An intense period of self scouting takes place, a time when every player is graded and each play, and the success within, is evaluated. Additionally, the coaches work their way through the rest of the league and compile the hits and misses of other offenses and then all of that data, an enormous amount of information, is considered as Kelly and his coaches put together an offensive playbook for 2014.
What works for the personnel currently on the roster? What would the coaches like to incorporate but have been reluctant to do so because they aren't sure they have the right personnel? Is there a segment of offense we haven't seen because the Eagles simply don't have the player, or players, the coaches want to employ for those particular calls?
How effective were the Eagles when they ran to the left side in 2013? Which personnel groupings worked the best for the offense in short-yardage situations? Would Kelly like to have more four-wide receiver packages moving forward, and if he does, do the Eagles have the wide receivers who bring the physical characteristics needed to the field?
It's far more complicated, of course. The coaches spend long hours day after day analyzing the numbers and discussing next steps and coming to a group conclusion on what the offense might look like when September rolls around.
A year ago, in the early weeks of Kelly's employment here, we wondered what the offense would look like in his first season. How wide open would Kelly be to change and to reinventing the NFL's way of offense? How many tights would he use in his packages? (a question that was asked with more regularity once the Eagles signed James Casey in free agency and drafted Zach Ertz). Would Kelly's go-go-go offense from Oregon translate to the NFL?
The answer, based on the terrific 2013 performance, is an emphatic "yes."
So what's next?
We're going to have to wait many months to find out, but Kelly knows how it works in this league among coaches who are as competitive as any men in the world. Those teams that play the Eagles in 2014, and even those teams not on the schedule, are studying the Philadelphia Eagles offense just as the Eagles are studying them. Defensive coordinators around the NFL are looking for weaknesses, calculating tendencies, working on ways to expose the scheme as they know it based on 2013.
The counter move from Kelly and the Eagles offensive coaches is what's fascinating to consider. How different will this offense look in Year 2 of the Kelly era? Nick Foles is going to be better, having been in the system for 2013 and having a full offseason and then spring and summer to work as the starter. LeSean McCoy is the best running back in the business. The offensive line has all the pieces in place, and the receiving corps -- tight ends included -- is good and should be challenged in free agency and in the draft.
Kelly isn't going to stand still with his scheme. The man moves a million miles an hour, and that hasn't changed since the playoff season ended. He lives for the challenge of winning every Sunday (or Thursday, or Monday, or whatever day the Eagles happen to have a game) and Kelly is very well aware that he can't trot out the exact same scheme and expect his offense to roll to more record numbers in 2014.
**Changes? They are going to come. Maybe there are some tweaks coming to the running game, something subtle that we don't even notice. Perhaps Kelly will add to the route tree in the passing game and employ different personnel packages in certain instances.
The hot topic now in the days after Seattle's Super Bowl win is building the defense and the reinforcement that, yes, defense wins championships. That's partially true. You still need to score points, and the Eagles have shown they do that very well. There is room for growth on that side of the ball, in terms of personnel and structure of the X's and O's.
This offense hasn't rested, nor will it. The Eagles have some big plans for Foles and McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson and the gang, You can be sure that, during these quiet moments in the offseason, the wheels are churning and the ideas are flowing at One NovaCare Way in South Philadelphia as the Eagles look to take their offensive attack to an even higher level in 2014.