In 2013, new Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly took the National Football League by storm during Week 1′s Monday Night Football game against the Washington Redskins. The Eagles unveiled their fast-paced offense in a blur, as they put up 26 points in the first half while running the no huddle. Not including their first snaps of drives (while the offense came onto the field) or 4th down special-teams switches, the Eagles ran no huddle on 42 of 49 plays against Washington that first half. Most importantly, was the little amount of time in between each of these plays. Philadelphia was speeding through their gameplan as their plays took just over an astounding 22 seconds. The second half of the game slowed down as Kelly and the Eagles had a large lead to work with, but the curtain had finally been drawn on the new, faster Eagles era after hearing about it for an entire offseason.
The Eagles averaged less time between snaps than any other team last year, but questions still remain about the offense. Did this fast-paced speed translate to more points? Can they replicate last year’s feat? Can the Eagles be faster?
Philadelphia certainly has a lot of the pieces in place for a repeat. Familiarity with Kelly’s system will benefit the Eagles’ offense as they prepare themselves for year two. Quarterback Nick Foles showed the aptitude to take Kelly’s plays and process them in a quick manner as he routinely made good decisions game after game after being anointed the starting quarterback. Although he may not be the fastest quarterback, Foles ability to read defenses in some of Kelly’s read-option plays lead to a meager but effective 24 yards per game rushing as a starter while converting nearly 30% of those runs for first downs. His historic year of 27 touchdowns and a mere two interceptions showed he was quick to read, interpret, and then attack even the most complex NFL defenses. The Eagles put up the most points in franchise history in 2013 and have the ability to be even better this year.
Foles will enter 2014 with a new set of weapons at wide receiver as he gains speedy receivers Jeremy Maclin (4.45 40-yard dash time, Jordan Matthews (4.44), and Josh Huff (4.51). The trio will look to replace the production of DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant. While Jackson had undeniable speed and quickness, Avant’s age (31) had diminished both of his, so the new trio will look to add their own new wrinkles to Kelly’s fast-paced offense. The speed on the outside will give plenty of room for running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles to find holes in the middle or in the screen game as they keep opposing secondaries honest. The Eagles boast one of the most athletic offensive lines, something that certainly plays a role as they rush to line up quickly between plays. Factor in two talented tight ends in Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, and the Eagles have a well rounded offense that can attack defenses in numerous ways.
There will still be challenges for the Eagles as defenses have an entire year of tape to look back on and game plan against. However, Kelly has that same tape. Don’t you think he and his staff will be looking at this tape even more than the opposition? Adaptation is the name of the game in the NFL, and Kelly will find ways to make his offensive squad even more efficient in 2014. Kelly has his team do the little things to speed up the pace of the game. Goofy signs of Philadelphia cheesesteaks and Rocky Balboa. Implementing elaborate hand signals. Handing the refs the ball after each play. Players sprinting back to the line of scrimmage. These little things such as non-verbal communication for calling plays and hustling in between snaps can help Philadelphia play even faster in 2014. As the other team’s defense is still calling in their play from the sideline, Foles can already have his players lined up and exploit any quick mismatches he finds.
After his first year in the NFL, Chip Kelly has gained invaluable experience and knowledge as a head coach. Now he has the opportunity for a full offseason with his team to improve in OTA’s and training camp without the distractions that come with being a first-year head coach. He’ll find ways to get his team playing smarter. He’ll find ways to get his team playing more efficient. He’ll find ways to get his team playing faster.