Let’s forget about the specific players for a minute and just talk about some basic offensive concepts.
We’ve now seen a couple of games from Chip Kelly. The marriage between his college system and the NFL tweaks to it have worked very well so far. The Eagles are 3rd in the league in yards per game. They are 2nd in the league in plays per game. They have the shortest time between snaps of any team in the league.
This isn’t all fast break football. Against the Panthers, there were 2 corner routes to TEs on the same drive. This is a WCO play that Andy Reid loved. We saw Chad Lewis, LJ Smith, Brent Celek and Clay Harbor catch these passes over the years. We saw Derek Carrier and Zach Ertz do it last week. I don’t know how frequently Chip Kelly used this play at Oregon, but I have to think the presence of Pat Shurmur is one reason it’s in the playbook.
One of the other big keys for the NFL passing game is timing. Go back and watch Marcus Mariota from last year. Focus on his footwork and the rhythm of the plays.
Now compare that to Matt Barkley, just a rookie.
The footwork and timing is so much cleaner in the NFL vs the Oregon offense. While Kelly understands the concept, Shurmur and Bill Lazor are guys that have taught it at the NFL level. That does make a difference. Getting a QB and receivers on the same page at a precision level isn’t easy.
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Now for a few scouting thoughts on some backups from the Panthers game.
Clay Harbor was interesting at WR. On one play a CB tried to jam him. Harbor just slung the guy to the ground like a rag doll. That was pretty cool. And Harbor is going to block just about any CB in the league. Him playing some WR could turn out to be a good thing.
Derek Carrier had a good game. He blocked better than I expected. He ran well on his routes. He got a good release from the line. He could make things tough on Chip and Howie with a strong couple of games. Unique athlete.
Russell Shepard is a really good STer.
I’m really confused by some of the backup OL. Matt Tennant just doesn’t impress me. He’s an okay athlete, but not special in any way. He’s not as strong and physical as I’d like. Dallas Reynolds is strong. He anchors really well in pass pro. It’s tough for DTs to move him. He gets some push in the run game. However, Reynolds is a limited athlete. He also needs to do a better job of extending his arms into the rusher to he can control the guy quicker. Julian Vandervelde played well, but I’m suspicious. The Panther DL didn’t look very good. Did Vandy play that much better or did he face some DTs that had a quiet night? I’ll feel a lot better about him with a good game this week. Vandy did a good job of getting his hands on defenders and locking out with his arms. He then moved laterally with the defender so as to sustain the block as long as possible. Good footwork.
Damaris Johnson might be small, but he will block and he can take a hit. I think Eagles fans will grow to love him.
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Sheil Kapadia is quickly turning from hack/pretzel mangler/Tim McManus’s intern into Philly’s own X’s and O’s guru. He wrote a fantastic piece on Kelly (Chip, not Dennis) and his use of the bubble screen as an option on run plays. I’m now expecting Sheil to wake up one morning with a horse head in his bed with a note from Greg Cosell “I would appreciate it if you would cease with the X’s and O’s pieces…or the next time that won’t be a horse’s head. It will be your laptop.” Cosell means business.
One of the key concepts there is decision-making. The QB has to read the defense and have a good idea of what they’re doing. This is something QBs do on just about every passing play. Chris Brown (SmartFootball.com) wrote a fantastic piece on QBs and how they learn to read defenses and know where to go with the ball. This ties in nicely with Sheil’s piece.
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One key point has to be made. None of Kelly’s ideas work without the right OL. If you lose up front, all the smoothies, quick passes and no-huddle plays in the world mean nothing. Kelly knows this. He focuses on the OL and also tries to call a game that puts those guys in favorable situations.
I can’t wait to see Jason Peters on Saturday. And Allen Barbre becomes a darn good backup LT at that point.
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Sam Farmer of the LA Times wrote a good piece about Chip Kelly. He got some terrific quotes from former WR David Ball about Kelly from his UNH days.
“We didn’t even notice [defensive players] until we were in the end zone — to us, they were simply something in our way,” said Ball, who caught 58 touchdown passes, shattering the NCAA Division I-AA career record of 50 held by future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Ball was briefly with the Eagles this summer, helping fill out the depth chart at receiver afterJeremy Maclin‘s season-ending knee injury.
“We didn’t know their names, we didn’t know their number,” Ball continued. “The only thing we cared about was what the play was, what our signal was, and executing it. . . . They were just a facade, bags to run away from. That speaks to [Kelly's] core philosophy that we’re going to worry about us and perfect us. Because I believe in us. We’re not going to tailor us every week to somebody new because we’re fearing what they do. We are going to make people fear what we do.”
Obviously things will change in the NFL. Scouting is a crucial component. Still, I love Kelly’s attitude that “if we execute our offense correctly, it doesn’t matter what the defense does”. That’s not a direct quote, but is the vibe he gave off back then and some of that has carried over to today. He builds in enough options (see above) so that the offense should have a counter to just about anything the defense does.
One of the focuses of the piece is the pace of Kelly’s offense. At his PC today, Kelly talked about plays vs time of possession. He doesn’t care a thing about TOP and had some hilarious comments. Jimmy Bama has the story on that.
Do yourself a favor and watch the Kelly PC. Great stuff.