Last year, if you remember, Jason Kelce was handed more pre-snap responsibilities. He would survey the defense and set the protections accordingly to lessen Michael Vick‘s load. And if Vick wanted to overrule him, he could.
Well, the plan went up in smoke when Kelce suffered a season-ending knee injury against Baltimore in Week 2. Dallas Reynolds replaced Kelce and was asked to perform similar duties, but couldn’t perform them at the same level. Eventually, Vick took the pre-snap responsibilities back.
Kelce said on Tuesday that the protection calls are on him again this season. But as the center points out, there won’t be much room for adjustments in Chip Kelly‘s hurry-up.
“In this style of offense, there are going to be very few times when you are going to be changing things around — you’re going at too fast of a tempo,” said Kelce. “The good thing is that the defense is going to have to show their hand a lot sooner. But you also have to know that sometimes the call is going to be wrong just because you are trying to push that tempo, push that defense into a difficult situation, so sometimes they are going to get us on a blitz. The quarterback has to see it and we’ll have to go from there.”
Kelce brings up an important point: a byproduct of the up-tempo attack is that you become vulnerable to the blitz in some cases. You’re rushing to get the play off. If the center is trying to switch protections while the quarterback is calling out the signals, chances are not everybody is going to get the message. So it’s best not to introduce that element of confusion.
“That’s the thing: if we’re going to be wrong, we have to all be wrong, 11 people on the same page, and then let the quarterback use his hot read on the blitz that we didn’t pick up,” said Kelce. “The biggest thing — and it’s the reason [for] the hand signals and everything else we’re doing, is that we want all 11 players on the same page. Because when everyone is doing the same thing it tends to work out better.”
This is likely part of the reason why Kelly wants a quarterback who can get rid of the ball quickly, and why quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor desires “accuracy and decision-making” above all else. By nature of the design the QB will often be asked to go mano-a-mano with the blitz, and beat it.
Last season, Vick completed 51 percent of his passes (7.7 YPA) with six touchdowns, two interceptions and an 85.4 passer rating against the blitz, per Sports Illustrated. He was sacked 14 times. Nick Foles completed 56 percent of his balls (7.2 YPA) with two touchdowns, a pair of interceptions and a 76.6 rating. He was sacked five times, but did not face the blitz as much as Vick in 2012.
The flip side, as Kelce points out, is that the defense will have to show its hand early much of the time. That will help the Eagles’ offense, especially when they choose to bring the pace down a notch. And the up-tempo approach will limit the defense’s options.
“They are going to have to do different things with their personnel, obviously, because they’re not going to be able to get into the specially-designed packages with specific personnel,” said Kelce. “If you’re in nickel you’re going to have to stay in nickel because we’re going too fast for you to get out of it. I think defenses are either going to one, blitz us more, or two, run man-to-man and try to play it safe.”
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