Love him or hate him, Chip Kelly continues to be a compelling figure.
Robert Huber wrote a lengthy piece for Philly Mag titled The Secret Life of Chip Kelly. I would love to tell you that it is a fantastic piece that offered a lot of insight, but that would be stretching things. There were a couple of interesting points of information, but nothing all that compelling.
I’m not sure what the author was hoping for. It almost felt like he was looking for the Chip Kelly version of “Rosebud” (go watch Citizen Kane if you don’t get that reference…classic film). There is bound to be some long lost secret that helped shape this amazing coach. Right?
I don’t know why people always want that kind of story. Chip is fascinating as-is. He’s a philosophical guy and a thinker, but in the world of football. This isn’t Albert Einstein (or Norman Einstein as Joe Theismann famously called him) in search of the answers to how the universe works. Chip is just looking for the best way to score points and win football games.
Chip is interesting because he takes ideas from all over the place and uses them to shape his coaching methods and football strategies. Football generally shuns outside ideas. Chip embraces them. Younger coaches are doing this more and more so Chip might not seem that unique in a decade.
All this talk about Chip made me re-visit the first piece I ever wrote on him. This is from Dec 29, 2012. I had hesitated to speculate much about Andy Reid getting fired, but by that point it was time to start looking around for the new coach. This was my introduction to Chip Kelly.
I think the piece holds up pretty well. I was wrong on a couple of points. I thought he would have to adjust his practices to the NFL. That hasn’t been the case at all. I also noted that unlike college, Kelly couldn’t just get rid of the players he didn’t like. Oops. Way off on that one. You can argue the merits of whether it hurts or helps the team, but Chip most certainly has gotten rid of those players he doesn’t want around.
I remain a firm believer in Chip and his ideas. I’m ecstatic that he is the coach that Jeff Lurie hired. Some of the other coaches from that year have had success, but I think hiring Chip was the way to go. A risk, yes. But a smart one so far.
The Eagles defense was erratic in 2013, but they showed real potential at times. They had a 9-game stretch of holding teams to 21 points or less. With players adjusting to a new scheme, new positions and new coaches, that was pretty impressive. That unit did finish 29th in yards allowed, but was 17th in scoring defense. That looked like a good foundation with hope for the future.
Instead of taking a big step forward, the 2014 defense went the other direction. They only held 5 teams all year to 21 points or less. There was the great Sunday night shutout of the Giants. There was a dominant Monday night win over the Panthers. Too many other games weren’t so fun. The Eagles finished 28th in yards allowed and 22nd in points allowed.
The defense would look great for parts of games, but they just couldn’t sustain that level of play. The big issue was X-plays, the Chip Kelly term for passes of 20 or more yards. The Eagles were burned by all kinds of players and plays. Allen Hurns, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, DeSean Jackson, Dez Bryant, Frank Gore, Kenny Britt, Arian Foster, Jordy Nelson and Doug Baldwin all burned the Eagles for big plays, most of them long TDs. Rookies. Veterans. Stars. RBs. WRs. Anyone and everyone. Ugh.
The good news…this is the most talent that Bill Davis has had to work with. There are still some holes and some question marks, but this group has a good combination of size, skill, athleticism and experience. This will be the third season in the 3-4 for many of the players. They should be in a real comfort zone when it comes to this scheme.
I think there is better depth this year. There looks to be real competition at ILB and CB. That wasn’t the case in the past. The DL could turn out to be plenty deep if the young guys develop as expected.
When you think about the defense, Malcolm Jenkins might be the most important player. He is the only proven starter at S. He is the only returning starter in the secondary. If he goes down, things get very interesting in a hurry.
I don’t know if the defense will be better. They need to be better, that’s for sure. And I think they can be better. There is hope.
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Whether Bill Davis can run a top flight defense is a whole other subject. I’ll do that as a full and separate post in the near future.
We don’t know what to expect from the OL in 2015. We do know the OL played pretty well last year. They struggled for the first month due to injuries and the suspension of Lane Johnson. Once LJ returned and there was a bit of stability, the line settled down and was very good at times.
The obvious point to bring up is “Yeah, but Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans are gone now.” While that is true, they only combined to play in 17 games last year. The line had some success with guys like Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner and David Molk on the field.
As for Peters, no surprise there. He can be physically dominant due to his combination of size, power and athleticism. And he’s got the nasty streak that you love to see in a big, strong O-lineman.
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More from Berry:
21. Since Chip Kelly took over in 2013, Eagles quarterbacks have combined to score 594 fantasy points (18.6 per game).
22. During that span, the only quarterbacks with more fantasy points than “Eagles QB” are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Andrew Luck.
Chip Kelly said a lot of glowing things about Ryan Mathews at a recent PC. With all the attention going to DeMarco Murray, it is easy to forget about Mathews and what a good signing he could prove to be.
The Eagles want to be a running team in 2015. Murray is here to be the primary runner and the key to the offense. Mathews is here for a couple of reasons. He will spell Murray during games so that there isn’t one RB getting 350 touches. Mathews is also here in case Murray does get hurt and miss a game or games.
LeSean McCoy proved to be amazingly durable in the last 2 years. He played in all 32 games and had almost 700 total touches. You can’t count on that, especially with a player like Murray who has dealt with some injuries. If Murray is out for a couple of weeks, you still have Mathews and Darren Sproles.
Remember the end of the Giants game? Trey Burton was put in at RB to eat up some carries. This year you would just hand the ball to Mathews. That rests Murray and allows you to use Sproles the way you want.
Mathews could thrive as a role player. He was a good starting RB for the Chargers. His main issue was durability. If you use him less, the lack of wear and tear could bring out the best in him. Check out these highlights.
There are a couple of things that jump out to me. First, Mathews is one physical runner. He doesn’t go down on first contact. Mathews can break multiple tackles on a single run.
The other thing that stands out is how square Mathews stays to the line of scrimmage. This term refers to when a RB keeps his shoulder pads parallel to the LOS. You want this because it means the RB is running north-south. That helps the runner to break tackles and also leads to more big plays. If there is a gap to hit, the RB gets to it and through it quickly. RBs that run parallel to the LOS (going E-W) are much easier to tackle. You can hit them in the side of the legs, where they have less power and balance.
Mathews isn’t just a power runner. He has enough speed to get out wide and turn the corner. That speed is one of the reasons that Kelly also wants to use him as a KOR.
You can see similarities in Ryan Mathews and Chris Polk. Mathews is more naturally gifted, which is why he has been an NFL starter and Polk has been a #3 RB. Polk also had trouble staying healthy. Mathews wasn’t able to be a consistent 20-carry a game RB for San Diego, but that’s very different from Polk, who had nagging injuries that seemed to slow him each summer and affected him during the season.
Murray and Mathews could prove to be a dynamic duo for the Eagles. They won’t have the spectacular “How did he do that?” highlights that Shady made seem so common, but the M&M boys will run downhill. That’s exactly what Kelly wants and he thinks it can help the offense to be even better in 2015.
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"You can't be whatever you want to be. You can be whatever you work to be." — Jordan Matthews. The whole #Eagles team makes #Chipisms now.
The Eagles concluded a mandatory minicamp on Thursday and will be off for about the next 6 weeks. That’s just enough time for Sam Bradford to come all the way back from his ACL tear, Marcus Smith to remember he’s a former 1st round pick with big potential and the Eagles to build a RG from body parts found in local graveyards (after midnight, of course).
Chip Kelly said in his PC that there aren’t any conclusions to be found at this time of the year. He’s wrong, dead wrong. I know exactly what will happen with this team, but I’ll keep those answers to myself. If I tell you what’s going to happen, you’ll just get bored (until Matt Tobin turns into the TD machine, that is).
Let’s talk about some players and situations.
OG – Allen Barbre is the LG. The RG spot is wide open. Tobin, Andrew Gardner and Dennis Kelly are the 3 primary candidate, but Chip also mentioned Kevin Graf this week. Graf has the size and physicality to play inside. His limited athleticism is less of an issue in there.
The Eagles hope to be choosing the player who looks the best. It is possible they’ll have to settle for the player who sucks the least.
QB – Sam Bradford gets healthier each week. He’s throwing the ball well and definitely looks the part of a starting QB. Mark Sanchez has moments when he looks like a good starting QB. The issue for him is consistency, both from game to game and within games. Sanchez really wants to push Bradford for the starting job. Matt Barkley is the pleasant surprise at QB. I thought he was as good as gone, but Barkley has taken a big step forward. Maybe the light finally went on for him. Tim Tebow? He continues to be a work in progress. Tebow needs to look a lot better in Training Camp to seriously challenge for a roster spot.
WR – Jordan Matthews doesn’t sound at all like a guy who will have a sophomore slump. He’s working as hard as ever. Nelson Agholor continues to impress everyone who goes to practice. He shows speed and good receiver skills. Josh Huff looks improved. The question with him is how good he’ll be. Key role player? Starter? We’ve heard a lot of good things about Miles Austin, both as a player and mentor. A darkhorse to watch…Seyi Ajirotutu. Jimmy Bama has mentioned him a few times and a couple of other writers have as well (their lack of Pulitzers keeps me from mentioning names).
ILB – This spot is so deep that Brad Jones and Emmanuel Acho began taking a lot of reps with the OLBs. Kiko Alonso isn’t showing any signs of being a player on the mend from an ACL tear. Mychal Kendricks went from a player who was sure to be traded to one who had a good spring and is on track to start again. DeMeco Ryans is ahead of schedule in his injury comeback. We heard very little about rookie Jordan Hicks, but I think that is strictly because most eyes were on the big 3. Najee Goode has made a few plays in practice. He went from being the #3 guy to someone fighting for a roster spot. He will battle for his job.
DB – So far, so good for Byron Maxwell, the Eagles highly paid savior at CB. For once, it seems like money well spent. Nolan Carroll is the other starter for now, although that is in very light pencil. Rookie Eric Rowe and JaCorey Shepherd are going to fight for that job. Brandon Boykin has been told he will have a shot at the job. We’ll see about that.
Walter Thurmond moved from CB to FS and seems to be fitting in well. He looks to be the starter opposite of Malcolm Jenkins. Jerome Couplin has gotten some reps with the starters and Chip Kelly said some good things about him this week. Ed Reynolds needs to step up in a big way if he’s going to win a roster spot, let alone a starting job. Earl Wolff has yet to come back from his injury. There is a disconnect between him and the coaching staff. Chris Maragos and Chris Prosinski are in Year 2 of the scheme and that could help them push for time on defense. I think of Maragos as purely a STer. I need to see Prosinski this summer before making any judgments with him.
Jaylen Watkins was going to be a S and then got moved back to CB. I would think they want him at S with Wolff out, but the Eagles put him at CB. Then he did play some at S this week. The Eagles like versatile players, but you have to wonder if all that change hurts Watkins ability to develop.
Many expected Rowe to end up playing S for the Eagles, but they’re adamant about him playing CB for now. They think he can be a star on the outside. I think he’s an ideal fit for this scheme at CB so I’d leave him there. EJ Biggers is another guy that can play inside or outside. We haven’t heard much about him recently. I think he is still working at CB.
Things are unsettled at DB, but I like the depth and the talent of the overall group. There are going to be some growing pains as this group gets used to each other, but there is more potential here than with the secondaries of recent years.
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