So here we are, chipping away at free agency. Lost along the way, can’t see the forest for the trees. Did you expect something different? As a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, we want what is best for our team, and we believe, we feel, that we know what that best is. So when the gun sounded on free agency, and we had our hearts set on a familiar name who signed with another team, we felt that 4-12 creeping back into the back of our minds. We feel for this team, and we want them to see things our way. But let’s try to see it the Eagles way just this once. Let’s try to form what we see into what Chip Kelly sees. Let’s “chip away” at free agency.
The first point to make is to see the team in the way that the head coach sees it. They are not a finished product by any means. But they are building “Chip’s” team. That’s a point that needs to be made. Chip’s team is versatile, is capable of doing things the opposition does not expect of it. Chip’s team is dedicated to special teams, to going hard every play. Chip’s team is NOT what the Philadelphia Eagles were in 2013. They were close, but there is still more to be done.
“It’s about special teams. There’s three ways to make this football team: special teams, special teams, special teams. …If you’re going to be the fourth or fifth receiver, it’s the value to Coach Fipp and our special teams.” – Chip Kelly as quoted by igglesblitz.com
In the first year of Kelly’s tenure, special teams did not produce as hoped. Despite the pinpoint accuracy of punter Donnie Jones, the overall performance of the special teams play was slightly below average. Going into the draft, it’s clear that my expectations were on track with the teams front office. (see my article re special teams: http://insidetheiggles.com/2014/03/08/special-teams-focus/ ) Free Agency was about filling holes, and the biggest two holes were safety and special teams.
This does not align with the repeatedly published versions found in many articles – where the Eagles need an edge rusher, safeties, offensive line depth, and even a wide receiver. But from a coaching perspective, the team is trying to build a winner, team chemistry, a group of guys who fight together. The moves of this front office are subtle. Pruning players whose value exceeds their contract obligation. Releasing players who did not have the right “fit” for the direction of this team – who did not exhibit the flexibility to contribute in multiple ways. But the most critical moves are who joins this exclusive club, and at what price. You can see for yourself what happens to the team when you bring in free agents at top dollar, look at the marvelously timed events of nose tackle Vince Wolfolk’s reaction to take a pay cut in the face of the New England Patriots shelling out a small fortune for the services of cornerback Darrell Revis. Howie Roseman and Chip Kelly understand that gaining the services of one player can lead to the unhappiness of many others.
Chip Kelly is not trying to build a team where each player can outperform your team players. This team is designed to out flank, to outdistance. The vision of Chip Kelly is to pose a Baskin-Robbins effect on the opposition – so many options to defend or attack that you are unable to do any one thing well enough to win. If you look at the recent moves of the team, you will see a slow deliberate migration towards players who can do multiple things. Safety Malcolm Jenkins can play either in the box or center field, but more importantly, can successfully cover in the slot and match up well with a fourth wide receiver. Running back, or more appropriately offensive weapon, Darren Sproles can be a change up to kick or punt return, can serve as a running back, but can also line up as a wide receiver.