Eagles Elusiveness and the Chip Kelly Offense

I may or may not return to the draft next week.  Today, though, I wanted to comment on the recent Football Outsiders article on “Broken Tackles”.  For those who haven’t seen it, here is the link.  The upshot is that LeSean McCoy led the league last year with 44 broken tackles (tied with AP).  Additionally, he registered a broken tackle on 17.3% of his touches, an incredibly high amount and third behind only Isaac Redman and Jacquizz Rodgers.  Bryce Brown had the 9th highest Broken Tackle rate (13.3%). Those numbers don’t really surprise me; Shady is a fantastic RB whose biggest strength is his elusiveness.

I have to note that this is based on the Football Outsiders play-grading, which is not exact.  However, I’ve been assured by one of the volunteer play-graders (my brother), that these numbers are legit if not absolutely perfect.

Today, I want to discuss how that might play within the overall offense.

When the Eagles were hiring, I mentioned that the team was the likely front-runner for Chip Kelly (the top candidate).  While there were several reasons I believed that, the most important was the existing talent on offense.  I highlighted how Chip was likely salivating at the thought of having Shady, D-Jax, and Bryce Brown (and Vick, to a slightly lesser extent).  I, however, did not elaborate, so I will do that now.

Chip vs. Andy 

I think a lot of the recent confusion over “Chip Kelly’s Offense” is connected strongly to the Andy Reid Era.  Andy Reid was largely a “scheme” coach, relying on play-design as the foundation of his offense.  As a result, Eagles fans have been conditioned to expect a coach to have a singular “offensive philosophy” or “offensive scheme”.

I think Eagles writers and fans are now projecting (wrongfully) a similar expectation onto Chip Kelly.

Why wrongfully?

I believe that Chip Kelly is much less devoted to “scheme” than Andy was/is.  Chip Kelly’s offense has its foundation in “talent” more than “scheme”.  By that I mean Chip’s overall offensive goal is to get the ball to the player with the biggest mismatch or getting it to a speedy player “in-space”.  Andy occasionally attempted to do that (the WR screens were particularly frustrating), but the only time I remember a concentrated effort to exploit mismatches was back when Brian Westbrook was in his prime.  Chip, by comparison, has repeatedly shown the ability and willingness to dramatically change his offense based on the talent then available.

That’s where Shady, B-Brown, D-Jax, Ertz, Casey, etc… come into play.

I expect to see an offense that is far more balanced (run/pass) than Andy’s was.  After all, if you have RBs like Shady and Brown, you’d be ignoring a major strength by not giving them a big role.

I expect to see three TEs on the field together. If one gets matched up with a MLB (which will happen if a S isn’t brought in to mark the TE), that’s a huge advantage for the Eagles.

The Quarterback will likely have a lot of “at-the-line” responsibility, in that he’ll have to determine on many plays whether to run or pass.  If the defense leaves LBs in to mark Ertz and Celek/Casey, then those are potential mismatches in the passing game.   Conversely, if the defense brings in Safeties to mark the TEs, than the Eagles will either run the ball to take advantage of the TE/S size difference, or throw the ball over the top to D-Jax, who will now have single-coverage.

As you can imagine, I could go on for a pretty long time like this.  There are MANY ways to create and exploit mismatches with the offensive line-up the Eagles now have.

The Key

It sounds easy, of course, but that plan requires two things that are not easy to find.

1) A very good offensive line, that can be equally effective in both run-blocking and pass-protection.  The Eagles have this IF healthy and IF Lane Johnson is as good as he’s expected be.

2) A smart, accurate Quarterback.  The QB will have to make the right reads at the line, and adjust the play accordingly.  He’ll likely have to move players around the formation fairly often as well.  Additionally, he’ll have to get the ball to these guys in-stride, to allow them to fully exploit their match-ups (or put the ball up high if it’s a TE/S matchup).  You can decide for yourselves whether the Eagles have that QB or not (and if so, who it is).

Overall, though, the point I wanted to make is that its time to FORGET ANDY REID.  Kelly will do things MUCH differently than Reid did, and I think the most obvious example will be in the “offensive philosophy”.  Kelly’s offense is predicated on players, not scheme.  That’s a big departure from the Reid-era, and one that will take some adjusting to.  However, expecting Kelly to install a singular “scheme” like Reid did is a mistake.

This is a recent quote from Chip Kelly:

“If you want to go big and put linebackers on the field, we believe we have pass mismatches for you. If you want to go small and put DB’s on the field, I think we have a mismatch in the run game….We are going to go three tight ends in a game. Now, if they go three linebackers, we spread them out and if they go DB’s, we smash you. So, pick your poison.”

It really is that simple, but only because the Eagles have the talent and personnel to pull it off.

Now if they could just do something about that defense…

P.S. One a personal note, today is a sad day for the Cohen family.  Last night we lost a close member of the family, our dog Gambit (yes, we’re so cool we named her after an X-Men character.)  Anyone who has had pets before knows how much it sucks to lose one.  For those who haven’t, all I can tell you is that it’s not too different from losing a human family member, there’s just less paperwork.

Gambit, a Boston Terrier, lived a long and happy (if not terribly healthy) life, and she will be greatly missed.  My family’s home is not pet-less though, as Gambit is survived by her step-sister…Storm.

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8 thoughts on “Eagles Elusiveness and the Chip Kelly Offense

  1. Nice article, it sheds a different light on how the season will go, in that we really can’t predict how it will go at all. Before with Andy we sort of had this idea of which games we could win based off the other teams back end because we threw the ball so damn much. Now it seems to be a mystery, we could probably win 12-14 games alone with the talent on offense, but the scary thing is worrying about the defense, heck the defense could easily lose us 6 games if we are holding the lead in the 4th! I am a little worried about how much say (lack of) Chip with have in the defense. He stated that he will let Billy do his own thing, which I understand but I want him to be just as involved with gameplan there as he is with the offense.

    • You hit on a big point for this year, in that Chip has injected such unpredictability that the Eagles have a VERY wide range of potential outcomes this year. I could realistically see them winning anywhere from 4 to 11 games, which is a crazy spread.

      The defense is a wild-card, but remember, it’d be really hard for them to be as bad as last year. Even modest improvement (so bad and not awful) would mean a couple more wins.

      It’s gonna take another year to fix that side of the ball, but the hope is that a couple of the players they brought in on D show themselves to be long-term answers. The ones who dont pan out (and there will be some) will be replaced next year, when itll be easier to focus on holes (since there will be fewer of them).

      • Thats so true about how the defense is a wild card, and really cannot be worse than last year. Mix in 6 solid games from the defense and 3 great games from the defense and hopefully something like 9 wins and a wild card.

        If you look at the back end, it looks like a much better group IF healthy full of sound tackling, and playmaking ability. The D Line IMHO didnt get worse and probably has a more beneficial scheme post-Washburn. You just hope that the the Line and Back end click and garner some sort of special chemistry.

        I’ll just throw this out there too, that while we do lack depth in some areas I dont see any glaring weaknesses across the team when you compare it to other NFL teams. I really think it all boils down to Coaching and Chemistry. Gotta believe that Chip can lead us to the promised land, but how long will it take? 2 years? 5?

      • I think 2-3 years is the baseline for a turnaround, though I’ve gone on record saying this Eagles team is not as “far away” as last year’s record indicates.

        The key to next year will be finding a couple long-term pieces. If EITHER Fletcher or Williams becomes a good starting CB, that’s a big addition. Similarly, if EITHER Chung or Phillips stays healthy, that’s another big piece.

        After the season ends, you see what worked. Hopefully that means next year you’ll only have a few holes to fill. At that point, something like FA becomes a lot safer since you can target one or two guys for fit rather than throw money at a bunch of people.

        On Fri, May 3, 2013 at 1:50 PM, Eagles Rewind

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