What To Expect – Offense

Chip Kelly – Man of mystery. What is he going to do?

One of the pressing questions at this point is, what kind of systems will Chip Kelly run? Obviously he came out and made sure it was entirely clear that he was a “equal opportunity scorer” and that he would adjust to whatever he had. But, at the same time the Eagles did hire Chip Kelly and I doubt he’s just going to abandon everything that has made him who he is.

So, what does that mean? Chip Kelly’s identity at Oregon was molded by his running game. Yes, he would occasionally throw the ball around the yard but when it came down to it, his teams were built around the running game. And it makes sense because his entire coaching career has been characterized by his running game, all the way back to the days when he coached in high school. “My high school coach was a prototypical old football coach,” Coach Kelly said, “…I told him that in college we split players [out wide] and threw the ball to them. He thought that was a bunch of college bull”. He said that his high school coach, Bob Leonard, would throw the ball five times per game.

Chris Brown of Smart Football wrote this in his Grantland piece about Chip Kelly:

“We spread the defense so they will declare their defensive look for the offensive linemen,” Kelly explained at that same clinic. “The more offensive personnel we put in the box, the more defenders the defense will put in there, and it becomes a cluttered mess.” Twenty years ago, Kelly’s high school coach ran the unbalanced, two–tight end power-I, so he could execute old-school, fundamental football and run the ball down his opponent’s throat. Today, Kelly spreads the defense and operates out of an up-tempo no-huddle so he can do the exact same thing.

I fully expect him to bring his running concepts to the NFL with him. And that means he’s also going to be bringing his zone blocking scheme and his in-game tempo with him. Why? Because those are the things that have defined him as a coach thus far.

Chip Kelly doesn’t discriminate as far as running-backs are concerned, he’s worked with a variety of different runners and had success with them all. He’s coached Jonathan Stewart, Lagarette Blount, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. He doesn’t really have a specific mold at RB so long as the player will get upfield and has vision. Nobody on the team will have any sort of problems fitting Chip Kelly’s system as a running back.

Thankfully, the zone blocking scheme isn’t going to be a huge transition thanks to Howard Mudd’s zone blocking scheme. The pieces we’ve got will fit into Chip’s schemes fairly nicely so long as everyone can return healthy. To give you some perspective on how Chip’s lines are going to look, just look three of the more highly regarded offensive linemen that Chip Kelly has brought along:

  • Max Unger – 6’4″ and 309 pounds
  • Kyle Long – 6’6″ and 304 pounds
  • Carson York – 6’5″ and 293 pounds

Chip Kelly’s lines aren’t plodding and enormous, they’re lean and athletic. I’ll let Kyle Long explain:

“You need to have mental toughness, physical toughness and you have to be in condition to play in an offense that moves in such a high tempo. We play at a fast tempo and then when we need to, we kick it into overdrive. He’ll say, ‘We’re going to go tempo here’ and everyone looks around and we all lick our chops because we know the guy across from us is going to be more exhausted than we are because we prepared and practiced at a high level.”

Much like Howard Mudd did, Chip Kelly isn’t looking for undersized guys, he’s looking for athletes. He wants players that are big enough to hold up against NFL players but at the same time he wants athletes that can get into space the way he likes and push the tempo when needed.

To see some of what Chip does with his offensive lines, watch the following videos:

That stuff is going to translate to the NFL. We’ve already seen the Redskins, Seahawks and 49ers use the zone read plays. But we might not even run that, the basis of Chip’s offense is the inside zone, outside zone and power plays. It’s not gimmicky stuff, every single team has some of it in their playbook.

But his passing game isn’t up to par as far as the NFL is concerned. It’s very simplistic and not refined enough for the NFL. This is where Pat Shurmur is going to come in. Shurmur’s experience under Andy Reid and his experience in Andy’s offense should help ease the transition for the pass catchers and quarterbacks that are currently on the roster. Shurmur has 14 years of NFL experience, most of which came under the direction of Andy Reid who despite criticism has been an extremely effective offensive coach. As such, I wouldn’t expect the design of the passing game to change all that drastically. The Eagles attempted deep passes (>20 yards) on 11% of plays last season, the Browns attempted deep passes on 10.6% of plays.

Now, you’re probably thinking “That’s ridiculous, one of the defining elements of Chip Kelly’s offense was his willingness to spread defenses out wide. Why would he ditch that?” Well, he won’t be. As an offense we were already pretty wide open by NFL standards. Stanley Havili only played 21.5% of snaps, nobody would categorize the Eagles as a team that like to pound the ball down your throat. Even when we did run the ball often times the runs were designed to bounce outside and our interior running game was anything but traditional. Spread concepts aren’t going to be a huge change for the Eagles.

The only real questions (in my mind) surround the quarterback position – Will Chip Kelly opt for someone more mobile? After all, having a QB who can run is something that made his offense as effective as it was. It was his option plays that made his offense different from every other spread offense in the nation.  The option is an offensive system which involves choosing an opponent – often a defensive end – the offensive line will not block, but who will be forced to choose between two threats to carry the ball – the quarterback or another ball carrier (mostly the running back, although many variations exist), which in turn puts the defensive player in a position where the decision he makes will always be wrong regardless of which it is. By incorporating the option in his spread attack, Kelly has built a system that, despite its spread look, is built around the ground game.

Will his offense be as effective without a running QB? I’m sure he’ll find ways to score but I find it hard to believe that Chip Kelly would turn down a mobile QB if he found a good one waiting to be taken. Like I mentioned earlier, he’s an equal opportunity scorer but at the same time we hired Chip Kelly and at Oregon he’s always had a mobile QB. Now, I’m not saying that Chip is looking for the second coming of Randall but I firmly believe that Chip would at least like to have a guy who at least threatens the defense with his mobility (Tyler Wilson, Geno Smith?).

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