The Drastic Reshaping of Chip Kelly’s Offense

chip

All memes and jokes aside, (actually not really because who doesn’t love a good meme) what is Chip Kelly’s plan and vision as he tears apart the Eagles offense this offseason? After dispelling DeSean Jackson from the team last offseason, Kelly has embarked on an entirely new mission of overhaul during this year’s free agency period.

The Eagles allowed Jeremy Maclin to walk in free agency, jettisoned LeSean McCoy to Buffalo and dealt Nick Foles and his bipolar performances to the Rams. In a nutshell each of these moves make sense, but when adjusting the scope to view the whole picture the moves invoke a series of migraines culminating with visions of Sam Bradford morphing into some version of Tom Brady in Kelly’s alternate universe.

The decision of allowing Maclin to walk and eat up millions on another team’s cap is understandable once the initial frustrations of Eagles fans dissipate. Kelly showed last season that his system is more than capable of making up for the production of a star wideout after Jackson’s departure.

Dealing McCoy to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso provided immediate cap relief, and McCoy’s efficiency dropped off severely last season. Trading a player possibly on the downside of his career at an expendable position for a promising, younger and much cheaper player at a position of need is one of the nuances of the NFL business.

With Foles, if you told Eagles fans at the beginning of free agency Foles would serve as a trade chip to bring in the team’s future starting quarterback, they would’ve been ecstatic and overwhelmed with uncontrollable excitement. However, after telling Eagles fans that quarterback was not Marcus Mariota they would’ve been puzzled and disappointed, but after telling them it was Sam Bradford they would’ve laughed in your face due to sheer unbelievablility[1]. The trade for Bradford is even more dumbfounding when considering the full trade compensation. Initially is was reported the Rams would send a second-round pick to Philly, but instead it was Philly sending their 2016 second-rounder to St. Louis in addition to this year’s fourth rounder and Foles for the Rams’ 2016 fifth-rounder, a 2016 conditional pick[2] and Bradford. It’s difficult to justify this trade from Philly’s perspective, especially after the team made it clear that Bradford would not be used as part of another deal, even after Kelly said a team offered a first-round pick for Bradford.bradford

Bradford is coming off a lost season to a torn ACL, and his overall inability to stay healthy throughout his career has been well-documented, and even when he was healthy in St. Louis he wasn’t lighting it up on the field by any means. Bradford’s career stats are nothing to stare at, and his numbers likely outweigh his overall performance and impact throughout his career.

Not only is Bradford’s health and past level of play a concern, but his skillset doesn’t match what the Eagles have done in the passing game since Kelly’s arrival. In his two seasons as head coach, the Eagles have been among the league-leaders in chucking the long ball. In 2013, Foles was terrific throwing deep, completing over 50 percent and throwing 14 TDs against only one INT via Grantland’s Kirk Goldsberry, and in 2014, despite not being nearly as accurate, the combination of Foles and Mark Sanchez still saw 13.7 percent of their passes travel 20 or more yards in the air, which ranked sixth in the league according to Grantland’s Bill Barnwell.

sam bradford

This propensity to throw the long ball in Kelly’s offense doesn’t adhere to Bradford’s resume, which is devoid of both downfield passing skills and tendencies. Since entering the league, Bradford has remained content to unsuccessfully dink-and-dunk his way to the endzone until yet another season-ending injury results in a completely lost season. In fact, in his career, just 9.9 percent of Bradford’s passes have traveled 20 or more yards in the air which ranks 24th out of 29 qualified quarterbacks during that span. Bradford’s QBR on such throws during that same time framer is abysmal, also ranking 24th out of 29. In other words, Bradford rarely throws deep, and even when he does he’s inefficient and ineffective.

As poor of a fit as Bradford appears to be in Kelly’s offense and as rich as his injury history is, the worst aspect of Philly’s acquisition of Bradford may be his contract situation. Still on the last year his absurd rookie deal back when rookies were paid as if they were championship players without even having gone through a of series of pregame warmups at the NFL level, Bradford will count for, look away Eagles fans, I beg of you, $13 million against Philly’s cap this season, a far cry from the $1.4 million Foles was due. If his seasonal cap hit of $13 million wasn’t his bad enough—are you still with me Eagles fans? Shit, does anyone know CPR?—this is the final year of Bradford’s contract, meaning the Eagles will have a difficult decision to make this offseason as to whether or not they want to re-sign him. If Bradford doesn’t perform up to Kelly’s level of expectation or he suffers another brutal injury and the Eagles opt not to re-sign him giving up Foles, and second and fourth round picks is a hefty one-year rental agreement, and that might be the preferred option if I were an Eagles fan. If Bradford plays well, not spectacular, but well enough for Philly to be highly interested in locking him long term, how could one effectively gauge Bradford’s market value to dole out a contract? If you’re the Eagles are you willing to bet on a one-year outlier of productive play when coupled with Bradford’s five previous seasons of injured-riddled and mediocre-level performance? Even if Bradford does showcase a new level of competence and prestige in Kelly’s offense creating an encouraging future in Kelly’s system, his career-long issues of durability will linger as a huge risk for the Eagles.

bradford hurt

All of this and we still haven’t even delved into the free agent acquistions the Eagles have made this offseason, headlined by last season’s rushing leader, DeMarco Murray. The Eagles pried Murray away from the rival Cowboys, after Dallas balked at matching the Eagles’ five-year $42 million dollar deal with more than $20 million in guarantees. Murray’s arrival is the latest transaction to an Eagles backfield that has seen more overhaul than Kim Kardashian’s appearance. After trading McCoy to Buffalo, the Eagles reportedly agreed to a deal with free agent Frank Gore who later backed out of the agreement and ended up in Indianapolis. Then the Eagles reached out to former Chargers running back, Ryan Mathews and agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million with $7.5 million guaranteed. Just a day later, the Eagles signed Murray, leaving Mathews future with the team in doubt, but Mathews assured the team he wasn’t going anywhere resulting in Murray, Mathews and Darren Sproles forming a three-man backfield crew.

murray

Murray is the type of runner that Kelly initially tried to bring in with Gore, except Murray is considerably younger and a much better overall talent at this point than Gore. Murray will attack running lanes quickly offering defenses little time to read and react to the various options of Kelly’s offensive attack. Murray will exploit a defense’s delayed reaction, and exhibit his fluidity as a runner to hit the hole and penetrate the second level of a defense. He will not hesitate, looking for a cutback lane or attempting to bounce a run outside, a constant tendency of McCoy that frustrated Kelly, and aside from his large cap number, was rumored to be the primary reason he fell out of favor with Kelly and was sent packing. Many have pointed to McCoy’s drop from 5.1 YPC to 4.2 last season as a clear statistical decline to support this point, but the Eagles’ injury woes along the offensive line were likely the root of the problem, and if similar line shuffling occurs this season, Murray could have similar issues running the football.

chip kelly

After letting Maclin reunite with Andy Reid in Kansas City, trading for an injury-prone quarterback of the future and losing out on Gore only to bring the season-saving Ryan Mathews, Kelly was under severe scrutiny, and while the acquisition of Murray was the first move that generated a positive reaction league wide, there is no denying Kelly will jump a few spots on Philly’s fans Hate List[3] if his masterful plan falls, and due to its reliance on Sam Bradford it’s already vehemently shaking.

[1] Don’t use this word in school-related essays. It is not real. I made it up.

[2] If Bradford doesn’t play at all in 2015, it will be a third-round pick, and if he plays less than 50 percent of Philly’s offensive snaps, it will be a fourth-rounder.

[3] Could he even leap past Santa?

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One thought on “The Drastic Reshaping of Chip Kelly’s Offense

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