May 20, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running backs coachDuce Staley
leads the running backs to the next drill during organized team activities at the NovaCare Complex. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
The running game is the primary focus of the Philadelphia Eagles. Unfortunately the team strayed from a 50/50 run/pass split in 2014 towards a 40/60 run pass – passing game emphasis in 2014. In the early stages of 2014, the Eagles offensive line were in disarray with a four game suspension to offensive tackle Lane Johnson and an injury to offensive guard Evan Mathis. While pass blocking was adequate, the run blocking suffered and LeSean McCoy struggled. By the end of week five, Shady had only accumulated 273 yards while the arm of Nick Foles carried the team to a very respectable 5-1 record.
But the offense sputtered nonetheless. With the emphasis on passing, turnovers in the form of interceptions were taking place at a far faster pace than 2013: seven interceptions in the first six games.
The emphasis on passing also had the unintended effect of placing far more pressure on the Eagles’ own defense. With bigger gains, more turnovers, and the constant pressure of the blur offense, the defense found itself carrying a much larger share of game time than anticipated. As the season wore on, that burden wore down the team’s resolve, leading to a three game losing streak in the final four games of the season.
But it was not enough simply to commit the team to “more” runs. Without effective running, three and out offensive series are even more taxing on a defense. So the objective had to be renewing an emphasis on the running game.
Chip Kelly’s offense is simplistic, but effective. It forces a defense to commit, and then changes the play to exploit where the defense is not. With the 2014 offense, McCoy’s evasive running style countered that “hit the hole, Shady!” that Chip stressed time and again. With the immobile Foles, teams gave no thought to a quarterback keeper. The offense was effective in 2014, but only because Kelly gave the passing game a 3/2 advantage in opportunities.
Now the team has the horses to work a good rotation into the offense. By Chip Kelly’s own admission, he ensures the players are meted out in terms of workload asked of them. In an offense with over a thousand offensive plays in a season, it’s no stretch of an imagination to see 200 carries for Murray, 150 carries for Matthews, 75 carries for both Sproles and Polk, and the balance to quarterbacks and skill players. Chip Kelly’s system was its own hurdle in 2014. He loves to keep an offense balanced, but the team ran 1095 plays in 2014. With Shady capped at the 300 plateau, the team found itself dialing up pass plays in critical situations. By years end, that evenly distributed offense had strong similarities to an Andy Reid offense (pass emphasis and turnover ridden).
Now that the GM version of Chip Kelly has added some of the best running backs in the NFL (when healthy), the coach version of Chip Kelly can do what he’s been flirting with for the past two years: show the NFL that the running game is alive and well. I wish Randall Cunningham was on the board this draft. Wouldn’t that have been a fun offense?
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