Chip Kelly and his Philadelphia Eagles have wrapped up two weeks of preseason action to date. In this piece we take a look at what we’ve learned about the Eagles so far before the week 3 preseason matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’ll be covering two points on the offensive side the ball, followed by two on defense.
- Chip Kelly’s offense can work in the NFL – The big question surround the hire of Kelly was always about how and if his warp-speed read option offense could translate into the NFL. Pundits and critics were quick to point out the much higher quality of players on the defensive side of the ball, saying that Chip’s gimmicky offense would never work in the NFL. Well, after two preseason games, I think we can lay that to rest. The Eagles had no trouble moving the ball and scoring points with efficiency against both New England and Carolina. The line looked to be in great form with many of the starters returning from injury. This helped both the run and pass game establish early. The quick tempo also worked great, and post game a few Panthers players noted that they were getting tired during the 1st quarter. Chip also showed the a running QB is nice but not a necessity. While Nick Foles didn’t look as flashy as Michael Vick, both were able to move the ball and score points.
- Lane Johnson is not Danny Watkins 2.0 - It’s hard not to cringe when you hear the words “raw” and “athletic” used to describe an offensive lineman after the debacle that is Danny Watkins. Many fans and media feared that the Eagles used their highest pick since Donovan McNabb on a project. We’re glad to report that this is not the case. Johnson has never looked in over his head yet this preseason. He has looked excellent in the run game, using his size, speed and strength to open running lanes for his backs. He doesn’t look lost in pass blocking but could definitely use some work. There is no reason to think the Lane can’t be great in this scheme and eventually make the move to left tackle when needed.
- The defense is definitely a work in progress – As the Eagles move from the wide 9 4-3 front to a 3-4 front, we knew that it wasn’t exactly going to be pretty. Against New England.. well, it was flat-out ugly. Stephen Ridley busted a huge run on the opening play. It was hard not to feel sick.. is this 2012 all over again? Luckily the Eagles cleaned up their act after the first game and came out with a much better performance against Carolina. Tackling was improved, and gap responsibilities were much more disciplined. The defense looked a lot better on 3rd down as well. Pass coverage left a lot to be desired but the secondary managed to keep everything in front of them. It will definitely take some time to make it the 3-4 full-time, but in the mean time the hybrid look is at least not a complete liability.
The secondary won’t be creating many turnovers - With the projected starting corners of Bradley Fletcher (5 career INTs) and Cary Williams (4 career INTs), it’s safe to say that the Eagles are missing a ball hawk in the back-end. Fletcher and Williams have not made a career on picks, but they are sure tacklers who will keep the plays in front of them. This is a nice change from last year – a secondary that not only couldn’t create turnovers, but also couldn’t tackle and would get burned regularly. 2nd year player Brandon Boykin has a chance to fill the turnover void. He’s been getting his hands on footballs all summer but needs to start making the catches.
Overall, the team definitely showed some good things in the preseason. It’s important to note that while the Eagles were facing vanilla looks on defense, the offensive playbook is definitely still largely untouched. I doubt we’ll get a true feel for the offense until week 1 against the Skins, but in the mean time there is definitely a great vibe and a feeling of optimism about the Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia. If you agree or disagree, let me know why in the comments below!