The more we get to know Chip Kelly, the more we realize how much of his success is rooted in simplicity. Where Andy Reid boasted a playbook that could stretch from floor to ceiling, Kelly seems to believe more in focusing on a smaller amount of plays and perfecting them.
It is about execution, and on offense, it is largely about the men up front.
To get a feel for what Kelly wants out of his offensive line in Philadelphia, it’s best to go back to his Oregon days for clues. The Duck offense was based off the inside zone play. Kelly, in a NIKE Coaches Clinic back in 2009, discussed what he expects out of his offensive line on this play, while giving a glimpse at his overall football philosophy.
We want to get off the ball and be a physical, downhill-running football team. This is not a finesse play. We teach our offensive linemen a play we call the bust block. The idea is to bust their sternums up against their spines on every play. We want to come off the ball, create a double-team, knock the crap out of the defender, and deposit him in the linebacker’s lap.
Oregon was often described as a finesse team, but that seems to be one of the many misconceptions out there. This past season the Ducks averaged 315 yards per game on the ground, and did so with a degree of nastiness along the offensive front.
More from Kelly on his O-linemen:
We want them handling a defender as if they were a bouncer in a bar throwing him out of the bar. They understand what type of force has to be implemented to throw a guy out of a bar.
Kelly wants his linemen to be physical but they also have to be agile. As part of his zone blocking schemes, he asks the big men to do “a kick-step to the outside and a karaoke crossover step to get up the field.” That obviously requires a little athleticism.
In this respect, the Eagles are in decent shape. While some areas of the roster will need to be retooled to fit Kelly’s vision, the offensive line likely won’t need as much work. Howard Mudd’s taste in linemen seems to be close to Kelly’s.
“Chip usually runs a very fast paced offense,” said Evan Mathis. “It would help to have an offensive line that’s athletic and tough enough to finish every play throughout the game. Our line fits that mold. I don’t anticipate there being any difficulty for the OL’s transition under the new regime.”
Added Jason Kelce: “For me it works out better. I can probably stay where I’m at [weight-wise]. The no-huddle, zone blocking scheme is something I am used to. It benefits me to be in this scheme.”
It is to be determined whether Kelly runs the read-option this season – that will presumably be dictated by what quarterback he tabs as his starter – but it’s reasonable to think that he will want his offensive line to be nimble, aggressive and well-conditioned regardless.
Howie Roseman was asked about the offensive linemen currently in place in an interview with the team’s website.
“I think the misconception is when you bring in a new coach you have to overhaul your whole roster,” said Roseman. “And for us we do feel like we have a lot of pieces in place. That doesn’t mean we can’t add to them. We’ll try to figure out the guys who are really good players, try to keep them and put them in position to succeed.”
In talking about the simplicity of the inside read, Kelly says, “If the offensive line can count to six, you have a shot to run this play.” Generally speaking, he doesn’t overcomplicate things. But he demands that his players get it right, and possess the ability to improv when the plan gets shot to hell.
“Go fast, don’t think too much, play football, and rely on your preparation and your instincts,” said former Oregon tackle Kyle Long.
“He expects you to get it. Just like in any business, productivity is key. And if you don’t produce you won’t have the opportunity to be part of the machine.”
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