In defense of Chip Kelly
It remains to be seen whether the Chip Kelly era will be successful, but so far, his offense has been as advertised.
THERE WAS a piece in a Tampa-area paper Sunday about Chip Kelly and Greg Schiano and how college coaches tend to have a hard time in the NFL. "The bloom is falling off Kelly as quickly as the Eagles snap the football," the author concluded.
The guy who wrote it is one of the very best at what he does, and he certainly has the right to draw any conclusions he chooses. My intent here is not to hold him up to mockery, but to use his take as an example of what I've seen from the national media during the Eagles' early season ups and downs that have traced a meandering path to 3-3, with a contest pending against the Cowboys this Sunday to see who belongs atop the deeply flawed NFC East.
Ever since the Week 1 upset of the Redskins was followed by a Week 2 loss to the Chargers, there has been this "now the college guy is getting his comeuppance" tinge to a lot of what people outside Philly say and write about the Eagles. And I just don't think it's true.
Yes, Kelly's team endured one of the most dreadful beatings in the long history of the franchise a few weeks back in Denver, and sank to 1-3. But if you watch the games, the Eagles' problems are personnel shortcomings they had when Kelly got here last January. I don't think the fact that they can't stop anybody from throwing over the middle again and again has much to do with the workings of Kelly's offense, or his much-discussed pace.
It's true that he didn't know he could call a timeout and put Michael Vick back in without having the quarterback miss a down against the Chargers. I'm gonna say that won't happen again.
If we're holding a referendum on Kelly's offensive ideas - which are why the Eagles hired him - what I see is the second team in NFL history to manage at least 1,500 passing and 1,050 rushing yards through the first six games. (The Eagles, who researched the stat, say the first was the 1954 Rams.) I also see 2,699 net yards after six games, the highest total in franchise history. I see at least 400 yards of offense in each of the first six games, something that only has been done by two other teams, the 2007 Patriots and the 1983 Chargers. The Eagles have never had a stretch of six 400-yard games in a row, at any point in any season. Ever.
For those reasons, when I look at Kelly, I really don't see Steve Spurrier, or Dennis Erickson, or Butch Davis. Or Schiano, who has now lost 10 of his last 11 games.
Am I saying that Kelly is already a success in the NFL? No. We don't know yet whether he is going to build a Super Bowl winner here, or whether he'll ever even have a winning season.
The personnel challenge ahead is huge, and there's a good chance it still involves not just building a defense but also drafting a true franchise QB.
So far, though, I think he is absolutely what he was supposed to be.
The only thing I see the NFL doing to his offensive ideas is adapting them.
DEVELOPING STORY LINES
* Jason Peters missed nine snaps after suffering a shoulder injury when he collided with Bucs linebacker Lavonte David (who is really, really good, you might have noticed, and went 12 slots after Mychal Kendricks in the 2012 draft). Chip Kelly said yesterday that Peters probably won't be a full practice
participant today, but should be tomorrow. Peters said after the game he'd "banged" his shoulder and had to get extra padding before going back in.
* The Eagles talked a lot about stopping the run in the week leading up to the Tampa game. The first half, they didn't do a very good job, giving up 71 yards on a dozen carries, one reason they trailed 17-14 at halftime. But the Bucs gained just 23 yards on nine second-half carries, which was one reason they managed just three second-half points.
* Blitz pickup remains a concern. Chip Kelly said yesterday that some of those Bucs were left unblocked intentionally, and the quarterback just has to get the ball out quicker. But other times there was confusion about assignments. Nick Foles got knocked down a lot.
* Regarding Riley Cooper's career day, Kelly said yesterday: "Riley's been open a lot. We just haven't thrown the ball to him." You have to wonder if Michael Vick would have trusted Cooper to wall off Johnthan Banks, go up and make the catch on that 47-yard touchdown play. Vick likes to see more daylight between the receiver and the d-back than that.
* That Donnie Jones might be a better tackler than Dhani Jones was?
* Before Sunday, the Bucs had allowed only one pass play that gained more than 31 yards. They allowed four against the Eagles.
It wasn't straight-up man-to-man much of the day, but afterward, both participants agreed that DeSean Jackson (six catches, 64 yards, two touchdowns) won his matchup with Darrelle Revis, no small feat, and something that probably had to happen for the Eagles to win the game.
"I thought wrong, and it's on me," Revis said of the first Jackson TD. "I gave up an error and they scored."
Jackson, who had said last week that the NFL's most renowned corner couldn't run with him, said afterward: "Good matchup, good battle . . . He has a job to do, which is cover me, so regardless if it's zone or man, down in the red zone \[the Bucs play a defense\] with a safety that's like a 2-on-1. I don't know if he was depending on the safety to be there or not, but whatever the case may be, he still has the job of not letting me score, and I scored."