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It wasn’t too long ago that the Philadelphia Eagles were considered perennial contenders in the NFC; they consistently made the playoffs. Remember that run of NFC championship games with Donovan McNabb, the Super Bowl run when Terrell Owens showed up? It seems like a lifetime ago, but even with all the problems at least those guys knew how to win. This is the first time since 1998 and 1999 that the Eagles have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. That’s the kind of record that makes a head coach of 14 years lose his job, and causes big changes in the front office. Vince Young once referred to this as the Dream Team, what kind of dream is that, and why should we care about what Vince Young thinks anyways?
Chip Kelly is the new man in town and he brings with him a great amount of hope, but also questions. He has never coached at any level of the NFL, but has been sought after by more than a few NFL teams. He put the Oregon Duck on the map with an offense that literally blew the competition away. However, many openly criticized that his style of offense wouldn’t translate to the NFL, it was a college specific success, much like Tim Tebow.
The first, and possibly biggest, decision Kelly is going to have is deciding who is going to run his offense. He has Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley and Dennis Dixon all vying for the starting job. If the stories are right it will be an open competition for the job. Kelly has stated that he won’t choose the best quarterback for his system, but instead build the system around the best quarterback.
Whoever Kelly decides to go with he will be doing one thing for sure; pushing the pace tremendously. The one constant in his offenses was speed. Everything was done at a fast pace and it favored the offense greatly. Kelly would probably like to see his offenses averaging 90 snaps a game, which would be game changing numbers.
The Eagles still have some very impressive talent at the skill positions. Running backs Bryce Brown and Lesean McCoy are both game changing runners. Both have the ability break a big run at any time in the game.
One thing that really helps spread the defense out for the run game is the combination of Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin lining up on the outside. With the combination of talent they posses and Kelly’s offense each one will pass 1,000 yards this season.
The defense boasts new coordinator Billy Davis, who has previously been with Arizona and San Francisco. He has been relatively quiet about what his plans are for the unit, however we can assume he will style this team after those he was a part of before. That means we can expect them to switch to a 3-4 that is aggressive, tackles well and gets after the quarterback. Sounds like a good idea to me.
In a 3-4 defense a lot of responsibility is place on the linebackers to make the plays. One good thing for the Eagles is the linebackers are the strength of the team right now. With Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans on the inside they are ready to go. Kendricks did decent as a rookie last year, but fundamentally he will have a better chance to succeed in a 3-4. His skills and versatility will allow him to really contribute and make plays all over the field. One thing to watch will be how well Trent Cole does moving to an outside backer position. He has spent a lot of time at defensive end and some guys never really adapt to playing in space.
Kelly has a lot to prove by being successful in college and now coming to the NFL directly to head coach. He is going to be expected to win starting from day one in a city that shows absolutely no mercy or forgiveness for losing. Even so, this has to be looked at as a transition year for the Eagles. Anytime a major philosophy change comes in to place there are going to be some bumps in the road. Kelly is a professional who will be trying hard to keep the ship on course from the start, but we also have to be realistic about his chances. After a year in the new system, and another draft to help shape the roster, the team will begin to mold more into what we can expect them to be. But that may be a long year in Philadelphia, at least he has a lot of talent on his roster to help him achieve his goals.