There were plenty of complexities involved with the offense the Eagles ran in 2013.
But at its core, Chip Kelly’s scheme in his first NFL season can be described in relatively simple terms:
* Take advantage of one of the league’s best backs and an athletic offensive line by maximizing production in the running game.
* When defenses load up to stop the run, make them pay by doing damage over the top.
That’s why the Eagles had the top-ranked rushing offense in the NFL, but also led the league with 80 pass plays of 20+ yards (no other team had more than 68).
Of course, with a significant change in personnel going forward, Kelly will make some tweaks after seeing what he has to work with in the spring. Keeping that in mind, here’s a look at how three of the Eagles’ key offensive pieces will be impacted by the loss of DeSean Jackson:
Nick Foles – Foles was lights-out to pretty much every receiver last year, but he had great success targeting Jackson specifically. Per Pro Football Reference (thanks to Derek Sarley for the link), Foles was 50-for-71 (70.4 percent) for 808 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception when targeting Jackson. That’s a passer rating of 135.2. Foles threw downfield (20+ yards) on 17.4 percent of his overall attempts, per Pro Football Focus. That was the highest percentage of any QB in the league. Without Jackson, that number likely dips in 2014.
Foles has never seemed like a guy who gets bothered by wide receivers throwing their hands in the air and complaining when they don’t get them the ball. He’s also someone who will never question organizational decisions. But the bottom line is this: It will be difficult for the Eagles’ QB to repeat his downfield success without one of the game’s most dangerous vertical threats.
Jeremy Maclin – We caught up with Maclin last week, and it seemed pretty clear that he felt the Eagles would do just fine without Jackson. Maclin has been somewhat overshadowed by Jackson since entering the league in 2009. He has never had a 1,000-yard season and is coming off an ACL injury he suffered last July. We’ll see what the Eagles do in the draft, but Maclin is the favorite right now to be the team’s No. 1 wide receiver. The guess is Maclin will line up both outside and in the slot. He’s never been the vertical threat Jackson is, but has been productive throughout his career. If healthy, Maclin could lead the team in targets and will get a chance to show he’s deserving a big-money long-term contract.
Riley Cooper – His job just got more difficult. Cooper was asked last year to beat man coverage, often with no safety help over the top. And he performed better than many (including yours truly) expected. Without Jackson on the other side, Cooper will likely have to deal with more attention from opposing defenses. Considering how much ’11’ personnel the Eagles used last year, Cooper figures to play a big role even if the team drafts a wide receiver early.
His ball skills are outstanding, but Cooper was wise to cash in this offseason. He’ll have to prove next year that there was nothing flukey about 2013.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Jackson will visit the Redskins today.
Did the Eagles rush to dump Jackson without due process? A roundup of what the national media are saying.
Making sense of the Jackson release: Everything I think about the Eagles’ decision.
Police say Jackson is not under investigation for any wrongdoing related to his home being robbed.
Maclin says his value is his value regardless of who’s playing opposite him.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Eagles should have shown more patience with Jackson, writes Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com:
The problem I have with all this is the failure of the two sides to stay on the same page for the greater good of the team. Why couldn’t Jackson play within the rules? Why didn’t the Eagles try harder to get their message across?
I find it difficult to believe that the Eagles could not talk things through with their leading receiver.
Jeff McLane of The Inquirer offers his take on Jackson:
The Eagles employ a security detail – “fixers” as they are sometimes known – whose job is almost exclusively digging up information on players. Jackson’s association with reputed Crips gang members had been commonly known for years.
Releasing Jackson after the story was posted also made it seem as if the Eagles came to the realization that they would now get nothing in return once teams were made aware of the connection. Every team, though, already knew of Jackson’s reputation when they scouted the first-round talent before the 2008 draft.
We’ll see how Jackson’s visit with the Redskins goes and analyze where the Eagles go from here.