The true genius of Chip Kelly isn’t X’s and O’s. The thing I’m most impressed with is that he finds a way to get players to do what they do well. That’s really simple if you think about it, but is also critical to building a great team.
The biggest frustration with sports is players/teams that don’t play to their potential. Everyone hates wasted talent.
Kelly seems to do a good job of identifying what players do well and then putting them in position to succeed. Andy Reid talked about that all the time, but he often strayed from that principle because he was so focused on “his offense”. Andy was so enamored with his ideas that he lost sight of doing what was best for the players.
From Day 1, Kelly said this is an equal opportunity offense. We can run or pass. He just wants to score points. He wants to see what the players do well and then adjusts to those skill sets.
Last night we saw Nick Foles running the offense at a fast pace. Foles threw short and intermediate passes. Run plays were mixed in. The offense had a good rhythm. The ball moved up and down the field.
Then Mike Vick stepped in. The offense slowed a bit, but still moved quickly. Vick likes to throw the ball more downfield so yards came in bigger chunks. The ball moved up and down the field.
LeSean McCoy looked as electric as he ever has. Chris Polk played the best game of his young NFL career (considering he was going against starters). DeSean Jackson made plays. Jason Avant moved the chains. Zach Ertz showed what he can do. Riley Cooper blocked well and added a key catch.
Last year the offense was highly dysfunctional. It seemed as though one player would step up, while others disappeared. The next week roles would reverse. I don’t know if this was due to X’s and O’s, erratic player execution or just a dysfunctional environment that brought out the worst in players and coaches. Maybe all three.
Kelly seems to be able to get the best out of multiple players…in the same game. That isn’t to say everyone will have 100 yards a game, but the players can make key plays that impact the game in a substantial way. There are only so many touches to go around. Although, Kelly has helped that by going up-tempo and having the offense run more plays.
Kelly hasn’t made DeSean faster or LeSean more elusive. He’s simply finding a way to use them that allows them to be their best. I do think part of this is the way he treated players, letting them know there would be competition for all spots. What you did prior to February 2013 is irrelevant. Show me what you can do now.
Not every player has stepped his game up. A young guy like Ifeanyi Momah has struggled. So has veteran Felix Jones. More players are stepping up than struggling and that’s the important thing.
Special Teams is an area where coaching has made a ton of difference. Chip Kelly last night referred to Dave Fipp as “Fipper”. So now we have Fipper and Chipper, which is either the story of 2 country squirrels lost in the big city or the story of forbidden love in a federal prison. Anyway. Fipp and Chip have totally changed STs. Brandon Boykin looks like the stud kick returner from Georgia that other college teams feared. Damaris Johnson is smarter, more decisive and very dangerous with the ball in his hands. Think about the coverage teams. We saw Brandon Graham make the stop on a KOR. We saw Russell Shepard make a big play on a punt return last night. Brent Celek was flying down the field and getting in on tackles last week after taking over as the LS. Guys are fired up to play on STs. And not just fringe guys. Graham is a former 1st round pick. Celek is an established veteran. It feels so good to have good STs once again.
The talent was there last year. For whatever reason, Bobby April just could not get the group to function well. Chipper and Fipper have players motivated and confident. That’s a huge part of STs. Kelly is very active in practice with the STs units and that is critical. But most credit goes to Dave Fipp and his eyes. You play well or your soul is his.
On defense it is harder to really be definitive. The change in scheme is so drastic that it will take more time to know how those guys are responding. The coaches made some adjustments between games. Players also got better as they got to study tape and see how they looked and what the problems were.
Kelly is less flexible with the defense. He wanted no part of a generic 4-3 defense. There was going to be a shift to the 3-4 or some hybrid variation, even if this wasn’t an ideal fit. My guess here is that the looked at the defense and didn’t see the talent in place to demand that you build around them.
There is talent on the defense. The point is that there wasn’t transcendent talent that you MUST build around. If Kelly took over the 1991 or 2001 Eagles, he’d have stuck with the 4-3. Those were good units already and they had some great pieces in place. The current Eagles defense featured players that Kelly can use in the new defense or as situational players.
Some players have taken well to the new scheme. Connor Barwin looks like a steal from free agency. Mychal Kendricks played a good game last night. If truly turned loose, he could become a difference-maker. Cedric Thornton played well. Vinny Curry has been lights out in the games so far. Bennie Logan played well again last night. Chris McCoy was brought in from the CFL and got little fanfare from any of us, but he’s pushing for a roster spot. There are the makings of a solid, if not good, front seven.
I need to study Trent Cole, but at first glance, he had another quiet game. He didn’t have a strong year in 2012 so this could simply be a matter of age catching up to him. Fletcher Cox was bad in the opener, but looked better last night. I need so see the tape before I know how much better. He can be a good 3-4 DE.
The secondary simply lacks talent. Some guys with talent are stepping up. Bradley Fletcher has shown good cover skills. Patrick Chung looks like he’ll be the physical presence the secondary has needed for a couple of years. Brandon Boykin is a young player on the rise. We’re still hoping that Earl Wolff and Cary Williams pan out. Nate Allen is close to Public Enemy No. 1, but I’m not sure if he truly played as poorly as people want to think last night. We’ll see on that.
The defensive players made huge strides from Week 1 to Week 2. They should get even better between now and next week. This group won’t be anything special on defense because they simply don’t have that level of talent, but they can be a middle of the pack unit.
And that might just be good enough if Kelly continues to get maximum production from the players on offense and STs.