When you think of Chip Kelly’s offense a few things may come to mind. Maybe it’s the read-option, maybe it’s speed, or maybe it’s just points. But while most people think Kelly’s attack is all about dynamic receivers on the outside and playmakers in the backfield, the tight end position also plays an integral role in Kelly’s offensive philosophy.
So when Chip Kelly was hired, the projections soared for players like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, and even Damaris Johnson, but his hire in Philadelphia could also bode well for Brent Celek. And perhaps another tight end not yet on the roster.
Let’s take a look at Kelly’s last two seasons in Oregon and how he utilized the position.
In 2011, David Paulson saw the majority of the action at tight end for the Ducks. Paulson is by no means a speedster, but was effective in the Oregon scheme. He hauled in 31 receptions for 438 yards and six touchdowns. He parlayed that performance into a seventh round selection by Pittsburgh where he made the team but played sparingly as a rookie.
The more interesting case study is tight end Colt Lyerla. Lyerla is a dynamic athlete and possesses a different skill set than that of Eagles starter Brent Celek, but the sophomore tight end was also a focal point of Kelly’s offense. He hauled in 25 receptions for 392 yards a six touchdowns for the Ducks in 2012, but perhaps more interesting was how Kelly used him in the backfield.
Lyerla, a five star recruit coming out of college in 2011, also carried the football 13 times for 77 yards and a score last season. Most of those carries came in a 49-0 win over Arizona in which he carried the ball seven times for 63 yards and a touchdown.
And such a gameplan is indicative of the type of offensive acumen that had the Eagles brass so enamored with Kelly.
Here’s an excerpt from a September 2012 The Oregonian story that helps provide some insight into Kelly’s philosophy.
Oregon coach Chip Kelly said the decision to use Lyerla at running back didn’t come out of necessity to add power to the running game. Instead, Kelly said he merely viewed the move as a way to maximize Lyerla’s skills.
“We always knew he had the ability,” Kelly said. “You could just tell he was great with runs after the catch, and things like that.”
While you shouldn’t expect Brent Celek to get any touches out of what is already expected to be a stacked backfield, this might provide some insight on what Kelly would like to do at tight end behind Celek. Clay Harbor is a solid stopgap type of player, but doesn’t bring the upside or athleticism Kelly may seek in a backup tight end. This is one thing to keep an eye on as the offseason unfolds.