When Chip Kelly took a seat inside a Ritz-Carlton ballroom in Orlando last month and was surrounded by reporters, he knew DeSean Jackson was not going to be back with the Eagles.
Jackson’s release was the biggest move the team made this offseason, and undoubtedly, Kelly had already given a lot of thought about what the Eagles’ offense would like without the speedy wide receiver.
Year 1 under Kelly was a clear success. By just about any statistical measure, the Eagles had a top-five offense that included a quarterback reaching heights even his biggest supporters never envisioned. The team set record after record, the offensive line stayed healthy, and the skill-position players nearly all put up career numbers.
Now perhaps the biggest question facing the team going into 2014 is: How will Kelly alter the scheme to fit different personnel?
Asked about the differences in his offense at Oregon from year to year, Kelly said: "It changed. It’s always gonna change based on your personnel and who’s available to you. It changed from game to game."
The same could be said about the Eagles to a degree last year. The offense changed when the team went from Michael Vick to Nick Foles. The coaches made tweaks once they realized most defenses were going to play them in man coverage and load up against LeSean McCoy. There was the split-zone run with James Casey blocking that was introduced against the Cardinals. The sweep that gave the offense a boost against Dallas. And others.
Going into Year 2, Kelly loses Jackson while adding Jeremy Maclin and Darren Sproles to the mix.
"Hopefully we get Mac. So how do we integrate him into the scheme? And where can we use him?" Kelly said. "We moved Mac around a little bit before he got hurt. How do we kind of figure out what’s the best way to use him? I’m excited about that.
"When we finally get our hands on Darren and get a chance to really see what his strengths are, how do we start to maximize that? And then for all those other guys that have been there, it’s Year 2. So instead of them trying to realize or learn, ‘Hey I’m going here and this is where I get lined up and I need to be plus-two from the numbers’ and then the ball’s snapped, that stuff’s second nature to them. So I think you can build upon a lot of things we do with the guys that are back, and then when you add the new guys into the mix, that’s why what we look at at the finish of the year will be different. Not drastically, we’re not coming out in the wishbone, I can tell you that."
It will once again be a spread-to-run offense. And the Eagles will once again need to find ways to hit on big plays downfield. Last year, they had 80 pass plays of 20+ yards, tops in the league. Jackson had 25 of those, second to only Cleveland's Josh Gordon.
The Eagles could very well look to move faster in their tempo packages as well. Kelly and Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury reportedly spent time discussing that topic this offseason. And Kelly stopped by Navy in part to learn more about their triple option.
"If we introduce new concepts or schemes, it was based on personnel," Kelly said. "…I think every decision we always make is personnel-driven in terms of how we’re gonna fit guys into the map, who’s pulling the trigger, what does he feel more comfortable doing as opposed to the other guy. And then sometimes, a lot of it’s feedback from our players. Some guys are better slant runners, other guys are better out runners. Some guys run this run play better, some guys run that one. So there’s tweaks I guess is the way we would do it."
The Eagles start their offseason program in five days. For two weeks, the focus is on strength and conditioning, but quarterbacks are allowed to throw to (uncovered) receivers. Beginning on May 5, coaches are allowed to have individual instruction on the field and conduct team practices. That's when the tweaks for Year 2 will be unveiled.
WHAT YOU MISSED
What they're saying: One ESPN writer blasts Kelly for his arrogance.
My close-up look at Louisville outside linebacker Marcus Smith. He could definitely be an option for the Eagles.
Kurt Coleman finds some of the Jackson stories "troubling."
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Ron Burke of CSN Philly likes Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews to the Eagles in the second round:
Matthews carried a heavy load in the Vanderbilt offense en route to becoming the SEC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards. Because he was used so heavily, being in a pro offense that demands much of him won’t be a shock to his system. Matthews clocked a 4.46 40, but his speed does not jump off the screen. His knack for using his size to create space is one of his better attributes.
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers his thoughts on UCLA OLB Anthony Barr:
I’m sure the Eagles do have serious interest in Barr. He is the kind of OLB I think they would love. Barr is 6-5, 255. He is an athletic edge rusher, but can also cover and play in space. Chip will have some knowledge of Barr from his Oregon days. He might have even recruited Barr a few years back.
If Barr falls far enough, I’d move up for him. The problem is that I just don’t expect Barr to fall that far.
You can count on some more draft chatter.