Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip Kelly, Full Steam Ahead

0V3J8539“I think Chip Kelly is going to have as much influence on the game and the way it’s played now as anyone. If for no other reason, just the pace of the game and the number of plays.

– Hall of Fame coach John Madden

When Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talked about Chip Kelly being on the “cutting edge of football today,” you wonder how much he was referring to tempo.

Look over the last decade, and you’ll see that all 32 NFL teams averaged between 54 and 68 plays per game in a given season. Those were the high and low water marks. That stayed remarkably consistent until an outlier emerged in 2011 in the form of the Saints, who averaged 71 snaps per game. Drew Brees broke Dan Marino‘s single-season passing record that year (5,476), while New Orleans established a new league-high for offensive yards from scrimmage with 7,474.

Last season the number of teams averaging 70-plus plays suddenly tripled, as three squads — the Patriots (74), Lions (73) and Colts (70) —  reached the mark. (The Broncos and Texans were right behind them with a 69-play average.) Chances are, that number will grow again in 2013.

Of the 28 teams that have played in a regular-season game so far this season, nine hit or exceeded that 70-play number: the Patriots (89), Ravens (87), Lions (77), Niners (75), Cowboys (74), Jets (73), Browns (72), Jaguars (70) and Cardinals (70).  New England and Baltimore went off the charts. One week is a small sample size, but don’t be surprised if the “Legion of 70″ adds a couple members again this year. Meanwhile, some teams will continue the push towards new heights. The Eagles will  undoubtedly be one of those teams.

Kelly’s offense will be unveiled tonight, and there’s not a soul in the league that isn’t curious about what it will look like. Will it be a carbon copy of what he ran at Oregon? Will it be read-option centric? Will it work?

At the very least, we can bank on the fact that it will be fast. With Kelly at the controls, Oregon averaged 83 plays/game last season. It was more than simply getting off a bunch of snaps. It took an organizational dedication to run a high-octane operation successfully. That dedication is very much in place in the pros as well.

Since Kelly took over, it has all been about speed. Eagles meetings run as short as 15 minutes and max out at around 50 minutes. Where Andy Reid may have had his players in a classroom for two-hour stretches at a time, Kelly likes to keep it moving, rapid-fire style. There may be more meetings  but they come in bursts.  Everything — from practices to meal time — is up-tempo.

“I think the whole schedule is laid out to be more in line with the way we run our offense. Meetings, everything is fast-paced. It’s what they want,” said Jason Kelce.

The center was presented with one of the theories that is floating around: that Kelly’s offense couldn’t possibly come out of the gates flying; that the Eagles’ tempo won’t be as fast Monday night as it will be in, say,  Week 10.

“Oh, I would disagree,” said Kelce. “I think that we’re going to go…When we want to we can go as fast as the referees allows us. The only people that hold back the tempo are ourselves or the referees. When we’re calling a tempo play, when we’re trying to get up there and get the no-huddle, if we want to go full-speed we can go full speed. In that instance, usually you’re waiting for the referee to get down and set the ball more than you’re waiting for yourself.”

So just how fast can it get?

“You may see the ball carrier hit the ground and if you count to 10 we may be on the ball snapping the ball again,” said Michael Vick in a conversation with ESPN. “Within 10 seconds or maybe less…It’s a lot faster than what I thought. I could never imagine an NFL situation, playing for an NFL team and getting the ball snapped that fast and getting plays signaled in and out consistently that fast to disrupt timing for the defense.”

The recent leaders in snaps/game have been teams managed by the likes of  Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Is an elite QB required in order to run a successful high-tempo in the NFL?

That is one of the many questions in front of us as the Chip Kelly era begins. Answers will begin arriving in haste.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil provides a cheat sheet for the Eagles-Redskins. Read about the offense here and defense here.

The Eagles released cornerback Brandon Hughes over the weekend.

An update on Lane Johnson as he gets set to make his NFL debut.

Sheil and I make our season predictions.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Lurie will not be judging Kelly based off the Eagles’ record in 2013. From Zach Berman:

“I just think it’s not in wins and losses,” Lurie said in an interview with The Inquirer. “It’s absolutely instilling a culture in the program that he brings to it, a sense of preparedness, a pride in being the best you can be for the fans and the team, and winning every day – winning the day, each day. And whatever happens, happens.”

Lurie said there are too many unknowns. He cited injuries and turnovers as variables. The offensive and defensive schemes have also been dramatically changed. So Lurie’s evaluation will be based on building a sustainable culture.

“We know his attention to winning each day,” Lurie said. “If that can be completely instilled in the culture, it’s going to make us better and better. 2014 will be better than 2013, and it will have a steamrolling effect and will sustain itself.”

Domo has turnovers on the brain as he takes a look at this Monday night matchup:

The Eagles had a league-worst minus-24 turnover differential last year. Coughed it up a league-worst 37 times and forced a league-worst 13 turnovers. That’s a lot of league-worsts. Things didn’t go much better in the preseason. They had a minus-5 turnover differential and picked off just one pass in four games. Quarterback Michael Vick has had just four turnover-free performances in his last 31 starts in which he’s played at least a half.

COMING UP

Eagles at Redskins. Kickoff at 7:10. Sheil and I will be at FedEx Field and will be holding a live chat. Look forward to talking to you guys then.