FOXBORO, Mass. — Bill Belichick said he didn’t study the Eagles’ offense last year. He had no reason to since they weren’t on the Patriots’ schedule.
But he clearly took notice of what his old pal Chip Kelly was able to accomplish – specifically offensively – in his first season as an NFL head coach.
"No, I think Chip is a good coach, does a good job," Belichick said, when asked if he was surprised that the Eagles were 10-6 and won the NFC East. "They’re a good football team. I think that the play that they got at quarterback last year was real good. I’m not sure that anybody totally saw that coming, but that was a big part of it. They had a lot of explosive plays. They’re very dynamic on offense and created more explosive plays than anybody in the league. They do a good job."
One focus this season will be on whether the Eagles can produce those explosive plays without DeSean Jackson. They led the NFL with 80 pass plays of 20+ yards in 2013. Jackson accounted for 25 of those, second-most in the league. Belichick, though, seemed confident that the offense could continue to do damage downfield.
"I think you have to give Chip a lot of credit for that," Belichick said. "There are a lot of other teams that have good players too. They produce more big plays than anybody else, so I think certainly his scheme has something to do with it. But, of course they have great players. They have a great running back, quarterback had a great year, they had a receiver that had a big year, good tight ends, good offensive line, healthy offensive line. Those guys played virtually every snap.
"There are a lot of things that go into it. I don’t think you can just point to one guy or one play or anything. It was the whole combination of the staff, the players, the execution, play-calling, all the above. Bottom line is though it’s good. That was the bottom line."
Last summer, when the Patriots practiced against the Eagles, Michael Vick and Nick Foles were competing for the starting job. Few know better than Belichick how the fate of a coach is directly connected to the starting quarterback.
Belichick said he liked what he saw out of Foles last summer, but was not expecting him to blow up with a 27 TD/2 INT season.
"The year that Foles had relative to production, touchdowns, interceptions, his overall handling a team was great," Belichick said. "It was outstanding. I don’t know that at that point [when] we were there at training camp, I would have necessarily said that I saw that coming, but you see a good football player. He had a great year."
WHAT YOU MISSED
My Eagles-Patriots practice observations on the Birds' defense stepping up, car trouble and more.
Camp notes from T-Mac, leading with the Jeremy Maclin-Darrelle Revis matchup.
All-22: Coach Flinn kills it again, breaking down Y-Cross, a staple of the Eagles' offense.
McManus catches up with Jaylen Watkins, who provides good insight on what he learned from the opener.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers his thoughts on Fletcher Cox:
Several of you have asked about Cox and whether he is a disappointing player. He looked very good as a rookie when he was allowed to attack up the field on every play. The scheme changed last year and that affected Cox in a major way. We need to see how he plays this season to have any kind of a real feel for whether he can truly be a player the Eagles should build around.
I love his size and athletic ability. I think you keep working with him as long as you can. Cox has tremendous potential. You don’t see it every down, but that’s okay. Sometimes young linemen take a while to get into a groove. One thing that will help Cox is being in the same scheme two years in a row. If his mind and his body ever get on the same page, Cox will be a regularly disruptive force.
Mike Sielski of the Inquirer on Darren Sproles, Qdoba and more:
When the Eagles left the practice field after a 90-minute walk-through, they formed two lines as they filed into the NovaCare Center, where a local Qdoba had set up a buffet. Sproles fell in with his teammates, scooping rice and beef and white sauce into a cardboard bowl.
By the time Sproles had finished moving through the line, his meal looked like an ad in Martha Stewart Living - his pile of food centered and symmetrical, the sauce covering it just so, not a drop to be found on the lip of the bowl. It was immaculate. It was perfect. It was what Sproles is used to.
Practice is scheduled for the afternoon, but there may be some inclement weather approaching. We'll figure it out either way and get you your fix.