When the 2012 NFL regular season draws to a merciful close and head coach Andy Reid finally bites the proverbial dust, owner Jeffrey Lurie and General Manager Howie Roseman have a massively important decision to make on who will be the guiding force for this franchise for the foreseeable future.
While there are of course many factors to consider, chief among them is what type of offensive scheme that coach will look to implement, and how that correlates to the talent already in place here.
As fans who have paid even scant attention over the past 14 years know, Andy Reid and his right hand man, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, prefer a scheme centered on the principle of throwing the ball, throwing it some more, and then when all else fails and the ship seems to be sinking quickly and quietly, throw it again. And then maybe if there’s time left in the fourth quarter, with the game clearly out of hand, get the running back his obligatory and pointless touches.
But with a new head coach comes hope of a new and potentially significantly different offensive philosophy. The NFL game at this point is built around the passing attack and scoring points (see: New England, where the Patriots have averaged a league-high 35.8 points a game, while running 883 offensive plays, also a league-high), so in this sense Andy and Marty weren’t too far off the path of the sane and successful.
However, running to set up the pass, as opposed to throwing to set up the run, a staple in Reid’s years here (except for those few beautiful seasons early in his tenure when Brad Childress was the Offensive Coordinator and the offense featured the “three headed monster” of Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter) could be a novel, and with the players currently in place, prudent way for the new coach to direct the Eagles offense to points and wins.
-Nick Foles…Big, young, physically capable and continuously improving (hopefully). Would do well as (at the very least) a game manager and ball protector in the mold of Alex Smith for the 49ers earlier this season. (For those about to lose their minds and grip on the seat in which they’re sitting, it goes without saying that a healthy Mike Vick, if he was brought back on a substantially reduced deal, could also excel in a situation like this. Concussion and overall health issues still linger though.)
-Bryce Brown…Speed, strength, vision, decisiveness, balance. Combined with LeSean McCoy next season could be part of a potentially amazing backfield as their attributes project to complement each other nicely. The issue of course is whether or not he can curb his propensity to lose the ball at crucial times. Sound like any other ultra-talented Eagle we know?
-Stanley Havili…Underrated and under-utilized young fullback. Good, and improving, blocker with enough talent to add a threat of running/receiving out of the backfield.
-Dennis Kelly…Improving young tackle. Currently does his best work as a run blocker/mauler, but has held Ryan Kerrigan, Anthony Spencer and Charles Johnson to just six QB hurries the past three weeks (h/t to John Breitenbach). At the moment projects as a very good swing tackle when Jason Peters and Todd Herremans return, but there’s certainly potential for more.
-Danny Watkins…The forgotten, and often beleaguered (fire)man. Former first round pick who in Howard Mudd’s scheme has turned into something of a bust, but who would almost assuredly excel (do better) in scheme built around running the ball, as run blocking is his strength.
-Riley Cooper…Emerging third year red zone threat/special teams ace with deceptively good speed and great size/strength. Combined with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, would be a good complement to one another. Has starter potential, possibly allowing Jackson to be utilized in more creative ways to exploit match ups.
-Brent Celek…Reliable receiver and blocker with great toughness and RAC skills. Show’s up game in and game out and does his job. The question mark at tight end is Clay Harbor. The coaches seem almost allergic to allowing him on the field. Is this a product of their displeasure with his play or simply their desire to get three wide receivers on the field as much as possible? It should be noted that two tight end sets are the Eagles least productive personnel groupings.
The NFL is built on speed, so I’m in no way asserting that the Eagles should go to a form of offense not seen since the 50’s (Also known as the “3 yards and a cloud of dust” offense). But, as with many things in life, balance is key.
Size and strength should be just as important as speed. A good combination of these three attributes is imperative and too often in the Andy Reid era the team has skewed far in the direction of speed, to the detriment of their ability to do many of the small but extremely necessary things like convert short yardage situations or score in the red zone.
Running an offense similar to this in the most recent loss to the Cowboys, albeit a simplistic version born out of injuries and the need to play rookies, yielded the Eagles their highest offensive output of this dismal year. Not the most yards, mind you, the most points.
But after two seasons of watching the Eagles gobble up yardage only to stall and oftentimes lose possession of the ball in the red zone, an offense built around size and strength as much as it’s built around speed could be a potent and welcome change. Especially as teams go lighter on the defensive side, highlighting speed over strength to combat the elite passing games developing around the league.
Note: Just wanted to throw a link out there to Tommy Lawlor’s blog, http://www.Igglesblitz.com. The man does amazing work and is a must-read for myself, and any other truly diehard Eagles fan.