With rookies and selected veterans reporting to NovaCare today, it officially marks a new era of Philadelphia Eagles led by Chip Kelly.
The immediate changes can already be seen, and depending on where you live might also be felt. With the decision to withdraw training camp from Lehigh Valley, where they’ve spent the past 14 years and local economy benefitted immensely from, to remain in Philadelphia and practice at their own facility, the changes have been, and will continue to be, massive.
Everything that we’ve known to be the Philadelphia Eagles is going to be flipped upside down, and it’s about time.
Here are the top five things I will focus on from now until August 9 when the Eagles square off with the New England Patriots for their first preseason game. I have arranged them in order based solely off intrigue alone
No. 5 - Run/Pass Ratio
When Andy Reid was the head-honcho in Philly you could bank the offense he assembled was going to focus on the receiving attack. Time and time again Big Red’s play calling made the run game look almost non-existent. The blood-boiling times were when he would do it when the runner was having a good game.
Chip Kelly’s offense is a complete 180 from what we learned the other day. Kelly admitted that when Reid was around the focal point on offense was receiver DeSean Jackson. Now, under Kelly’s tutelage, the focus will largely be on LeSean McCoy.
But what will the run/pass ration be? 50-50, 60-40, 70-30?
No 4 – Rebirth of the O-line
Remember the days where Jon Runyan, Tra Thomas, Jamaal Jackson, Todd Herremans, and Shawn Andrews dominated at the point of attack. Remember how there would almost always be ample time for Donovan McNabb to go through his progressions or Brian Westbrook would have a gaping hole to run at?
Those days have been long lost in Philadelphia with the exception of Todd Herremans. But the offensive line is making a return.
The Eagles are getting three key players back from injury and used their first-round draft pick on tackle Lane Johnson to ensure a more stable front four. Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans are the players returning from injury.
Lets keep our fingers crossed they can remain healthy, because if they can, the potential for this offense and player personnel are endless.
No. 3 – Maclin or Jackson: Who Emerges in the Kelly system ?
In the first segment I included a little note indicating DeSean Jackson was the main player in Reid’s offensive philosophy. Chip Kelly plans to utilize the run more in his scheme. So which receiver will become more of a focal point in Kelly’s aerial attack?
If the Eagles offense can put it all together and continue to build their blend throughout the season, Kelly has himself a situation to relish. Running back LeSean McCoy is regarded among the best, and surely the shiftiest, in the league who can be relied on as an every down back. A trio of tight ends (Celek, Casey, Ertz) who are going to handle business in the short to intermediate passing game.
And then there is the two primary receivers; DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
I can see Jackson being used on punt returns and for his blazing straight line speed to go out 20+ yards on the majority of his routes. Maclin I see as the intermediate/distance receiver. But I do foresee Maclin being more heavily utilized in the offensive attack. Like Jackson, Maclin is extremely fast, has great route running skills and hands, but Maclin is the more prototypical receiver who can be used in red zone formations.
Therefore, my prognosis is that Maclin will become the more effective receiver.
No. 2 – Vick, Foles and the QB Battle
This topic has been discussed, beaten and dragged through the streets during the offseason. And it will continue right up until Chip Kelly names his guy. But there is plenty of intrigue to make it the primary story surrounding the Eagles nest.
On one hand there is Michael Vick, the veteran QB who has all the skill sets Kelly could ask for. Arm strength, accuracy, and not only can he extend plays, Vick will engulf chunks of yards at any given moment. But he does come with his fair share of flaws. Vick still can’t effectively read a defense, he tends to hold on to the ball, prone to becoming injured, and turnovers have plagued him during his time with Philadelphia.
On the other hand Kelly has Nick Foles, the young quarterback who has the size to play the position. Foles has decent arm strength to go along with his ability to read a defense and get rid of the ball quickly. Kelly has had high praise for the second-year QB and feels confident he too could run his style of offense.
Clearly Vick has to be the favorite to win the starting job in 2013. But Foles already knows that his number could, and will likely, be called at any time. And if Vick wins the job he should know that Foles is going to be right there ready to do whatever he can to take that title from him.
No. 1 – Philadelphia reppin’ the 3-4
Over the past 14 years the Philadelphia Eagles enjoyed a great deal of success in the 4-3 base scheme. They made a switch in 2011 to th 4-3 wide-nine technique instilled by Jim Washburn. And while it had limited success, 2012 proved all to fatal.
For the first time, Philadelphia Eagles fans will see the defensive Midnight Green lining up in some version of a 3-4 scheme. And I for one cannot wait to see how this pans out for the Eagles. But this study will go much further than just training camp and the regular season. Because the Eagles are transitioning to the new defensive scheme, the are pieces missing to run the scheme effectively. So this will be a work in progress over the next 2-3 years.
However, this is something entirely new to the Eagles organization and the fanbase. And after 14 years of the same setup and same game plan, having the 3-4 in Philly is going to be fun to watch.