Digging Deeper Into the Replay Issue

Chip KellySafe to say,  Chip Kelly and his staff  have been a little shaky in the instant replay department so far this year. They are 1-for-4 on challenges. Sunday the issue was the decision not to challenge, particularly on one play — a 36-yard reception by the Packers’ Jarrett Boykin in the second quarter.

Television replays showed that the receiver’s hand was out of bounds before his second foot came down in the field of play. The call on the field would almost certainly have been overturned. Ultimately it didn’t cost the Eagles —  Brandon Boykin came up with an interception later in the drive–  but it could have. It’s an area of in-game management that needs to be cleaned up.

Kelly provided an interesting explanation when asked about the decision to not challenge in that spot. Read more »

All-22: How Foles And the Offense Rebounded

all22_400In the days leading up to Sunday’s game against the Raiders, Chip Kelly was asked what his message would be to Nick Foles to get him to rebound from the clunker against the Cowboys.

“Sometimes, as I told Nick, grip it and rip it, let’s go,” Kelly said. “He’s thrown a lot of really good passes since I’ve been around him, and he’s been really good with the football.

“The big thing for him is let’s just get him back in the flow. Let’s get in a rhythm. That’s the biggest thing. Can you get in a rhythm, can you get your feet set, can you throw the ball?”

Answers to those questions came against the Raiders: yes, yes and yes.

After losses to the Cowboys and Giants and a grand total of three points by the offense, Kelly emphasized that there would be no grand scheme changes. The concepts would stay the same, but the execution had to get better.

And it did. To the tune of 49 points in three quarters. So what worked? And why was there such a difference from the previous two weeks? Here’s what we saw from the tape. Read more »

All-22: How the Offense Operates With Foles

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All last week, Chip Kelly and his staff made one thing clear: The offense would not undergo a complete makeover with Nick Foles at quarterback instead of Michael Vick.

His argument didn’t seem all that convincing. After all, the two quarterbacks have different skill sets. Why not mold the offense to whichever guy was going to be on the field?

On Sunday, against the Bucs, we got a better idea of what Kelly meant. And for the most part, he was speaking the truth.

“We’d have played the game exactly the same way,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “We would have had all the same plays in the gameplan, and we would have called it exactly the same way with Mike.”

Several players backed up Shurmur’s words. The Eagles piled up 425 yards and scored 31 points in their victory over the Bucs. Foles completed 71 percent of his passes and averaged 9.5 yards per attempt, accounting for four touchdowns.

Without a quarterback who poses a true running threat and facing a defense that liked to employ a lot of zone, the Eagles still found ways to play option football and had success with packaged plays all day long at Raymond James Stadium. Read more »

Shurmur: Foles For Now, Future TBD

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Nick Foles is the man out front as preparation for Dallas begins.

Michael Vick was on the field at the start of practice Tuesday but is still nursing a hamstring injury. Pat Shurmur suggested that Foles will be taking the first-team reps to start the week. What he said next was interesting.

“I can probably answer some of the [questions] that are going to come along here. Coach Kelly will address those issues about who the quarterback is when both of them are healthy. At this point we’ll go with Nick, and when Mike’s healthy we’ll have that discussion.”

That is different then saying, “when Mike’s healthy he’s our guy.” There is a discussion to be had, apparently. Read more »

What Kelly Tells Vick Through the Headset

Chip KellyChip Kelly has 25 seconds to talk through the headset to Michael Vick in between snaps.

From the time the play clock starts until there are 15 seconds remaining, the one-way line of communication is open. So the question posed to Kelly today was: What do you say to Vick other than the play-call?

“In the headset, it’s really just calling the play,” Kelly said. “The defense isn’t set up yet so I’m not gonna predict what I think they’re gonna have. I’m calling the play and we’re getting lined up so it’s not, ‘Hey Mike… watch out for Cover-1, Cover-2, Cover-man, they may blitz, they may not.’ I can’t warn him about everything. I think if you get into that, they’re not deployed, they haven’t lined up yet. And we’re trying to get our play in and let Mike get set. He has a pre-snap routine that him and Coach [Billy] Lazor work on all the time that Mike goes through, locating the safeties and where we’re going with it. There’s not a whole heck of a lot of communication except for what the play is.”

Many of the Eagles’ plays have options built in. They don’t want to be at a numbers disadvantage running into certain looks. They want to exploit mismatches on the perimeter. And they want to play fast.

So Kelly makes the call, Vick looks at the defense, the ball is snapped, and the QB has to make a decision. There’s really not time for anything else, Kelly said.

“I think Mike’s done a really nice job,” he added, when specifically asked about decision-making. “He’s protected the football for us, gotten the ball out on time. We’ve had the ability I think because we can protect to take some more shots down the field. And he’s done a really good job of distributing the ball. We’re at a pretty high completion percentage right now. I’m sure he’d want a couple throws back. There’s a few times when we could have been a little bit more accurate, but I think overall in two games, I’m happy where Mike is.”

Vick has gone 61 attempts without an interception. He’s fumbled twice, one on the backwards pass to LeSean McCoy against Washington and another where the ball came out of his hands as he tried to tuck it against the Chargers.

Vick leads the league with 13 pass plays of 20+ yards and is third in passer rating (119.0) behind Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.

SHURMUR MAKES THE CALL

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is Kelly’s replay guy in the booth, the head coach said today.

In case you’re wondering about Shurmur’s track record there, he was 5-for-11 on challenges in two seasons as head coach of the Browns. Extremely small sample sizes, but Shurmur was 2-for-6 (33 percent) last year, 28th in the league. In 2011, he was 3-for-5 (60 percent), 12th-best.

So far through two weeks, Kelly is the only coach in the league who is 0-for-2 on challenges.

PLANNING FOR THE CHIEFS

The Eagles are starting their season with three games in 11 days. Kelly explained how they’re preparing.

“Everything was broken down and we immediately after the Chargers game, we came back to work that night,” Kelly said. “Our entire staff here was pretty late on Sunday night getting the game-plan together.”

Kelly added that they didn’t want to do too much on the game-plan prior to Sunday night because he felt it might lead to some confusion for the Chargers games.

INJURIES

Brandon Hughes (hamstring) will not practice today.

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Vick On Hits: ‘I Think I Can Make It Through’

0V3J8536The Redskins were credited with seven quarterback hits on Michael Vick Monday night, but that doesn’t begin to tell the story.

Through his film study, Ron Jaworski tracks the amount of hits the quarterback takes in a given game. According to Jaws’ count, Vick was knocked to the ground 15 times in the opener and was involved in some sort of contact play an additional eight times. That’s 23 of 77 snaps (30 percent)  where the 33-year-old was mixing it up.

“No one can sustain those kind of hits at the quarterback position and stay healthy,” said Jaworski. “It’s too many.”

Chip Kelly, like the coach before him, has stressed that Vick avoid unnecessary punishment. Kelly said that they are happy with how the veteran is handling that in some respects, while other areas need some work. One thing the staff could definitely do without is seeing Vick assume the role of lead blocker on some of the running plays, as he did Monday night.

“I talked to him during the game, after the game, on Tuesday,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “The one thing I admire about Mike — something we’ve all seen — he’s extremely tough, he’s very competitive and when the game is going on, he reacts to things like you want a football player to react.”

A football player, yes. But a quarterback?

“Now, we don’t want him lead blocking on sweeps. And so we told him, ‘Don’t do that,’ so we assume he won’t.”

Jason Peters was jokingly asked how Vick graded out as a blocker. He laughed and gave him a zero.

“I told Mike, ‘Don’t do that again. Let me do it,’” said Peters. “We don’t need him out there blocking. If it’s a key block and it triggers a touchdown, hooray, but we don’t need him out there blocking. We need him out there for all 16 games.”

Vick wasn’t ready to quit the blocking game completely when he addressed reporters on Wednesday, however.

“I try not to do it but just the way we run the read option sometimes the ball gets cut back and I’m standing there, and I’m not going to let my teammate get hit by a guy,” said Vick. “Maybe I’ll just get in the way next time and just try to wall him off.

“I’m a football player at the end of the day. I’m not just a quarterback, I’m a football player and I do whatever it takes to win.”

The problem there, though, is that you need your quarterback in the lineup consistently to have a chance of winning anything significant. As Jaws points out, other positional players can hurt their hand or injure their shoulder and still might be able to go out and perform their job at a high level. Not as easy for a quarterback given the job description.

Vick recognizes the importance of being there for this team for the long haul, even if his actions don’t always reflect it.

“I understand that if I put my body in jeopardy, at risk, then I’m putting this football team at risk and I feel like I’m being selfish to my teammates,” said Vick. “It’s just something that  I have to gauge and we’re not going to try and change it at this point. I think I can make it through.”

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How the Eagles Package the Zone Read And Bubble Screen

Back in early June, Chip Kelly sat at the head of a conference table in the NovaCare Complex and spent a full hour answering reporters’ questions about his program, his offensive scheme and his philosophies.

Not surprisingly, the topic of tempo was brought up. And the first-year Eagles’ head coach tried to explain that he didn’t always want to go at a super-fast speed.

“If they didn’t line up right and they have nine guys standing over there and you have a play called that’s going to run into those nine guys, then maybe playing fast wasn’t the smartest thing to do,” Kelly said. “Sometimes you need to let things get settled down and get an opportunity to make sure that you’ve got the right look.

“A lot of things we’re doing, we’re trying to throw it versus the best-located safety. Well, we better make sure we locate the safeties before we snap the football. Do we want to run it at one guy or run away from another guy? You’ve got to make sure some of those things you can see before you start it. It’s just not all driven on let’s see how many plays we can get run.”

While the truth is the Eagles are going to move quickly, Kelly’s response serves as the foundation for much of what he wants to do offensively: spread the field out, look for a numbers advantage and count on the quarterback to make the right decisions.

After the first preseason game, we showed how the Eagles scored two touchdowns on what was essentially the same play, a run-pass option out of a double-stack formation.

Against Carolina, we saw a similar idea executed over and over and over again. It combined the zone read with a bubble screen out of a 3×1 formation (three receivers to one side, one to the other).

The first time we saw this play was on 2nd-and-14 during the Eagles’ first offensive possession. Let’s start with the look:

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The Eagles have Chris Polk in the backfield. Jason Avant, Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson are set up to the right. Riley Cooper is the lone receiver to the left.

Pre-snap, you can see the Eagles have a numbers advantage: three receivers against two defensive backs. The safety to that side of the field is deep, 15 yards off the line of scrimmage.

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You can see the Eagles have the zone read option. If this were a straight running play, Nick Foles would read the unblocked defensive end and either hand the ball off to Polk or keep it himself.

But it’s not a straight running play. It’s a run/pass option. And because he noticed the numbers advantage to the perimeter, he pulls the ball and targets Avant, who has a couple blockers set up in front of him.

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“You’re looking for numbers,” Foles explained. “Anybody can look and say, ‘OK, you’ve got five guys blocking, there’s five guys in the box. It’s a good box.’ If they try and bring something, you’ve gotta do something else because we can’t block everyone, so it just gives you other options away from running the ball right into the extra defenders.”

On the perimeter, it’s essentially three receivers against two defenders. The only unblocked player to that side of the field is the deep safety, and he’s coming from a depth of 16 yards off the line of scrimmage. The truth is Avant is probably the Eagles’ slowest wide receiver. And Jackson gave good effort here, but he is not a great blocker. Still, the play picked up 10 yards, and the offense went from 2nd-and-14 to a manageable 3rd-and-4.

One reason the Eagles are able to play fast and carry out their fakes so well is because the decision is solely in the hands of the quarterback. Polk, who was in the backfield on the above play, didn’t know he wasn’t getting the ball until the last second when Foles pulled it.

“We never know,” Polk said. “There’s just some times where they pull it, we’re still running through the hole because we’re expecting to get it, but you never really know when he’s gonna pull it. You’ve just gotta react and carry out the fake.”

The Eagles ran the same play with Matt Barkley in the third quarter. Here’s the pre-snap look. The key is the Panthers sneak a seventh defender, a defensive back, into the box. The TV camera had a great up-close shot of Barkley looking at the DB right before the ball was snapped.

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That gives the Eagles a 3-on-2 advantage with the bubble screen.

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And this time, they have Damaris Johnson running behind blocks from Clay Harbor and Zach Ertz, essentially two tight ends (even though Harbor is technically practicing at receiver).

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Panthers linebacker A.J. Klein actually makes a nice play here, eventually chasing Johnson down, but not until he’s already picked up 15 yards.

“It’s just an extension of the run game to where we’re getting 10 yards, 15 yards on those bubbles and the defense can’t cover both,” Barkley said. “So it puts them in a bind.”

Again, Johnson just does what he’s supposed to, regardless of Barkley’s decision. Sometimes the quarterback is going to throw it his way. Other times, it’s going to be a run. The offensive line simply blocks for the run. Because it’s going to be a quick throw, failing to hold their blocks and giving up a sack is a non-issue.

“Whatever the quarterback thinks,” Johnson said. “I’m just going out and running the routes. I’m not reading the defense. I’m just trying to be out there. If he throws me the ball, I have to catch it and make a big play.”

Wide receiver Jeff Maehl, whom the Eagles acquired from the Texans last week, ran variations of this play hundreds of times while he was playing for Kelly at Oregon.

“If we’ve got more numbers than them, that’s a no-brainer,” Maehl said. “It’s based on what Coach Kelly wants to do and based on what the quarterback’s seeing.

“We try and put the defense in a situation where they really can’t win. That’s kind of what this offense is all about, just giving us the advantage wherever it may be and taking what the defense gives us.”

The non-screen option is to run the zone-read. In these instances, the quarterback is making two decisions. First, he’s deciding whether to throw the screen. If he’s not going that route, he’s deciding whether to hand the ball off or keep it himself, depending on how the unblocked defender reacts.

Here’s what we saw from Barkley later in the third quarter.

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You can see the Panthers have three defensive backs on the Eagles’ three receivers, so there’s no numbers advantage with the bubble screen.

The Eagles have five offensive linemen against six defenders in the box. But since this is a zone read, they leave the right defensive end unblocked. The threat of Barkley running is meant to occupy or “block” him.

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The play only picked up 3 yards because the linebacker got past right guard Matt Tennant, but you can see how the design works.

“It’s all based upon how the defensive player that we’re reading is playing,” said Jason Kelce. “If the defensive player that we’re reading stays inside the box or goes with the run play, now we’re gonna be minus hats on the run. He’s gonna do something on the perimeter or something else at a different spot. If we have numbers on the run play, we’re gonna take advantage of that.”

Todd Herremans made an interesting comment when asked about what’s impressed him about Kelly so far.

“I think the flow and the way that he calls the game is really good,” Herremans said. “It seems like you’re always setting up the next play, which I think is smart.”

That brings us to one final variation, which we saw in the fourth quarter of last week’s game. Here, the Eagles again have trips to the right side.

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At first glance, it seems like they’re running the same play.

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But there are differences. This is a straight pass play off a fake handoff, not an option play. The offensive linemen are pass-blocking, and there is no unblocked defender for the zone read. However, it still appears to be a bubble screen, something the Panthers’ defense had been seeing all night.

While Harbor and Greg Salas initially set up for the blocks, and Barkley looks at Johnson, this is just a fake. Harbor and Salas sidestep the defenders and take off on vertical routes.

Wish we had the All-22 here, but as you can see, suddenly the Panthers only have one safety against two Eagles receivers going deep.

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Barkley’s pass goes right through Harbor’s hands. Otherwise it’s a big play.

Even though it’s an incompletion, it’s a play on film that other teams will see, making defensive backs think twice before charging the line of scrimmage and attacking the bubble screen.

***

Pat Shurmur has coached in the NFL for 14 years. But the Eagles’ offensive coordinator is now getting an up-close view of how offenses are changing, and he appreciates what the Eagles are trying to accomplish.

“You know, in the old days, the audible systems used to be to get you out of a bad play, not necessarily get you into the best play,” Shurmur explained. “And then there are offenses where you’ve got run/pass options.  You’re just trying to do what’s best. I think all offenses have certain percentage where you want it, or if it presents itself, you throw it. We just package it up a little different, that’s all.”

As we noted last week, there’s a growing buzz among Eagles’ offensive players, who seem to be buying into Kelly’s methods, specifically the run/pass option plays and the tempo.

“It’s a lot of pressure [on a defense] because we feel like no matter what you guys do, we’re gonna make you wrong,” Polk said. “You put too many in the box, we’re gonna throw it out. You stack the outside, the box is always gonna work. So it’s gonna be real interesting to see how people play us, but as of right now, we’ve just gotta make them wrong no matter what they do.”

Added Harbor: “It puts a ton of pressure on them. It really comes down to numbers. If they have too many guys inside, we’re gonna throw it. If they have too many guys outside, we’re gonna run it. Whatever they do, we win.”

***

For more on the “packaged play” concept, be sure to check out Chris Brown’s terrific piece on Grantland.

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How the Eagles Scored Two TDs On the Same Play

Nick Foles saw five defenders in the box, and so his decision was simple: hand the ball off to Bryce Brown.

Matt Barkley got a 2 vs. 2 matchup he liked on the perimeter, and so he threw the screen outside to Greg Salas.

The play-calls were exactly the same. Yet the quarterbacks made two different decisions, both which resulted in touchdowns.

We talked about run-pass options in this space over the weekend. And Grantland’s Chris Brown explained them further in his terrific piece about Chip Kelly’s offense. After Monday’s practice, we caught up with several players to gain a better understanding of the “packaged play” concept.

Let’s start with the touchdown run to Brown. The Eagles had a first-and-goal from the Patriots’ 8. When Foles got to the line of scrimmage, his eyes focused on how many defenders were in the box to guard against the run.

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“It was a two-safety look, and the inside backers were out,” Foles explained. “So you get a five-man box, you’ve got five guys to block five, you really want to take it. You want to take your O-Linemen on any five any day.”

Foles’ other option on the play was to throw the quick screen to either side. But with two safeties back, the Eagles would have been faced with a 3-on-2 disadvantage on the perimeter.

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Clearly, Foles made the right call, and Brown scampered into the end zone.

But how does the QB communicate his decision to the rest of the players? The answer I got from several Eagles was simple: He doesn’t.

“No matter what, we’re blocking whatever zone play or man scheme, whatever the scheme is for the run blocking, that’s what we’re blocking,” said center Jason Kelce. “Most of the time, I get the running play, and I don’t really know what the quarterback’s doing.

“All the reads for the most part are designed to take advantage of what the defense is giving us, and you never really truly know until after the ball’s snapped. And then guys expose themselves on what gaps they have, what responsibilities they have, and that’s what it’s designed to take advantage of.”

Five blockers against five defenders. That’s a win for the offense.

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Left tackle Allen Barbre has the edge defender. Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce start out with a double-team. Todd Herremans and Lane Johnson get one-on-one blocks.

Mathis then does an excellent job of switching off his double-team, on to the linebacker. Kelce and Herremans open up a gaping hole for Brown.

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Let’s move on to the next play, the Barkley 12-yard screen to Salas.

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The running back is flipped. Otherwise, it’s the exact same look as the first play. But this time, the Patriots have six defenders in the box against five offensive linemen.

Meanwhile, to the top of the screen, the Eagles have two receivers against two Patriots defensive backs.

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That’s just the look Barkley wants to throw the screen to the perimeter.

“It was just a double-screen look with a handoff option,” Salas explained. “So if we have the look that we want on the outside, we can throw it. If it’s light in the box, then they can run it. We had the look for the throw on the outside. He threw it to me, I made a guy miss and scored a touchdown.”

The safety to that side of the field was 8 yards off the line of scrimmage. Executed correctly, Emil Igwenagu blocks the outside shoulder of the cornerback, allowing Salas to get to the sideline where it’s even harder for the safety to get to him. Of course, plays on the field don’t always go according to plan. And in this case, Salas didn’t get much of a block from Igwenagu. But he was able to make three defenders miss on his way to the end zone.

“That’s the preference, two-on-two,” Salas said. “Three, you’re outnumbered. So if you have three out there, the box’ll be light for the run. That’s the way the play’s designed, and it worked well.”

Salas backed what Kelce said above: that the players are never sure what the quarterback’s going to do.

“You just do it, and it’s the quarterback’s decision,” Salas said. “He’s gotta pick the side he wants to throw to or hand off the ball. I just knew I had an opportunity, so you know when to be a little bit more prepared than other times.”

It’s clear why Kelly places an emphasis on all players understanding concepts in his offense. While the quarterback is ultimately the one making the decision, plays are run more smoothly if everyone on the field identifies the numbers and has a good idea of what’s going to happen.

The other factor is tempo. The Salas touchdown was the first play of the fourth quarter, but the Brown score happened just 21 seconds (real time) after the whistle blew ending the previous play. While at its foundation, these plays are based on simple math, the opposition can shift defenders around and try to disguise its look – if given the opportunity.

“Sometimes guys move,” Foles explained. “Guys move at the snap of the ball. There’s blitzers coming in. So you really have to be able to react quickly when the happens. It’s just one of those things where you’re out here in practice, you’re rep’n, you’re rep’n, you’re seeing it. And then when you get in a game, you’ve repped it and you can just react.”

Added Kelce: “It’s particularly hard once you’re doing the tempo when you’re really getting on ‘em and then they don’t have time to get set, notice the situation, the personnel of the offense. It doesn’t give them time to figure all that stuff out. So now all they can do is just get their defensive play and line up where they’re supposed to line up at just before we snap the ball. And doing that repetitively really wears on a defensive player, especially a defensive lineman.”

While the quarterback makes the call, he can have (headset) communication with the coach or offensive coordinator for the first 25 seconds of the play clock. But the onus is placed on the guys on the field.

“When we call a play, we’ve rep’d them numerous times and we trust that everybody on the field makes good decisions,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “So when the play goes in, typically when I was calling them, you could give maybe a hint or two to what’s going on. But for the most part, the guys are out there making decisions and running the plays we call.”

Barkley said he’s been running this specific inside run/perimeter screen option play for years.

“You’re looking for numbers,” he explained. “They can’t win because if they put enough guys on the perimeter, then you’re gonna have an advantage if you run the ball. And they had one extra guy in the box so, I mean, that’s a play I’ve run since high school. So you kind of learn to see that and just get the ball out there.

“There should be an answer on every play, and so it’s just your job of making sure that you make the right decision of putting the team in that right play, whether it’s the read on that play or whether it’s an audible where you change into the right play. But there should be a favorable answer on every play.”

Kelce agreed that making the right decisions based on the numbers should make these packaged plays difficult to defend.

“That’s all blocking is, period,” he said. “And that’s all football is really. That’s the whole point of the spread offense, the read offense. It’s all about taking advantage of where the offense has positive numbers. That’s the whole reason pretty much this has come about.”

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How the Eagles Are Calling Plays Under Chip Kelly

The second the previous play was blown dead, Chip Kelly’s assistant was already going through his routine.

Standing on the sideline in a grey hoodie, grey sweats and an Eagles visor, he quickly looked down at his cheat sheet on the grass before running through the motions.

An NFL-version of charades. One second, he was adjusting an imaginary telescope. The next, flapping his wings like a bird.

There were three others joining him: two more assistants and wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah. Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur spoke into his walkie-talkie.

As the offensive players set up at the line of scrimmage, they turned their heads to the right, looking to the sidelines for the information they needed.

“The concept is, after you run a play, looking to the sideline and getting the signs so you know the plays,” said LeSean McCoy. “Everything’s sign language… everything from alignments to personnel to plays to formations.”

Ten of the 11 players are asked to look to the sideline. The one slight exception is the quarterback because he has the headset on and gets the call from either the coach or the offensive coordinator. In the case of Monday’s practice, it was Shurmur.

“We have to learn the signals here,” Michael Vick said. “I hear Pat, but I want to make sure I know the signals as well just in case the headset ever goes out. But pretty much getting it from Pat.”

In an effort to maximize efficiency and push tempo, the quarterback does not have to communicate as much to his teammates. In fact, DeSean Jackson said he had “no communication with the quarterback” to get the information he needed. Jeremy Maclin agreed, reiterating that he just looks to the sideline for the hand signals.

“Everything’s being called for the play,” Jackson said. “We don’t huddle up. The relay is from two coaches on the side, sending it in from Pat Shurmur. From there, if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s going to be tough.

“It’s good to know the whole system, know the whole offense and be prepared because at any given time, regardless of if you’re the X receiver or the Z receiver, if you’re on the right or left side, it might be a different play call and you have to know what both receivers are doing just because the play might be coming your way.”

The placards that Kelly used at Oregon did not make their way to the practice fields at the NovaCare Complex on Monday, although that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t show up at some point.

In Kelly’s first year as the Ducks’ head coach, the team used hand signals. But according to a report in The Oregonian, there was a sense that Ohio State might have gotten a read on the signals during the Buckeyes’ 26-17 Rose Bowl victory. As a result, Kelly decided to go with the placards, which featured photos of professional athletes, celebrities, TV personalities, wild animals and so on.

In both cases (the hand signals and the placards), the symbols are not chosen at random. For example, an Oregon player told The Oregonian in 2010 that the team might use “Mickelson” to signify a snap count on two because the golfer was always coming in second place.

“There’s tricks to everything that you learn,” Maclin said. “Once you get a certain concept down, most route signals go with the movements that they’re doing. Once you have an understanding of the plays, then the signals flow with that so that’s the way I picked it up and learned it.”

The one major change Kelly will have to account for at the NFL level is the ability to talk to the quarterback through the headset.

Rules stipulate that the line of communication starts when the play clock begins at 40 and remains open for 25 seconds before shutting off. Considering the pace at which the Eagles are moving, that will give Kelly or Shurmur a little extra time to go over the call with the quarterback.

“The difference here that we didn’t have in college is we can communicate to the quarterback, and there’s a lot that’s put on him,” Kelly said. “There’s a whole system involved in that. We can talk to him. Pat [Shurmur] was talking to the quarterbacks while we were out there.”

It remains to be seen how the headset will impact what Kelly requires of the quarterbacks pre-snap. But because it’s only one-way communication (the QBs can’t talk back) and the line shuts off at the 15-second mark, final responsibility will still rest with the quarterbacks.

“You just have to get comfortable with the different terminology and how you’re reading it and getting the reps,” said Nick Foles. “Most importantly is being on the same page with all the guys. …Defenses are going to give you different looks, and that could make the play totally different, so we all have to be on the same page.”

Added McCoy: “As far as just the cadence, if they want to change that [they can]. They might see something in the defense they want to change. That’s really it. We’re going so fast. There’s no time to make too many calls or make too many different adjustments. That’s kind of an advantage for us.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Vick To Tackle Yet Another Offensive System

Chip Kelly had done a little homework on the whole Michael Vick age thing, and was armed with a response when the subject was broached earlier this week.

“Number one, I think when you look at his age and study it for quarterbacks, he is actually younger than Tony Romo and about the same age as Eli Manning.  I think sometimes when you look at him because he has been in the league for a while and he came out early from college. And you look at his age and say, boy, he’s aging.  And it’s funny,” said Kelly. “So I think there is a lot more to Michael.”

Fair enough. But the question wasn’t about how Vick ranks by age compared to his contemporaries, but rather how Kelly planned on getting a soon-to-be 33-year old to change his spots.

We have referenced several times Kelly’s stated stance on what he expects out of the quarterback position. This is from a 2011 coach’s clinic [Kelly warned not to believe everything you read, but did not deny these were his words when presented to him]:

The job of a quarterback is simple. He has to “let it happen, and not make it happen.” We want to move forward. That is a concept you have to make your team understand. The cardinal sin at our place is the quarterback sack. We want the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in 1.5 seconds. That does not mean holding the ball until 2.5, waiting for someone to get open.

How can he get Vick to fit that description?

“Some of the systems that they run they don’t ask him to get the ball out quick.  Do I think he can get the ball out quick?  I think he’s got an unbelievable release.  It’s up and out and it’s quick,” said Kelly.

“What he’s asked to do from a read progression and all those other things, I don’t know what he’s been asked to do in the past, but that’s our job as coaches where he can get the ball out quickly, because we have some play makers on the offensive side of the ball that are going to flourish when we get the ball in their hands, so that’s on us as coaches.  Not on the quarterback.”

Sounds like, in Kelly’s view, the system should help correct the problem. Even if true, there is still the whole issue of gaining command of said system. Vick was asked to re-learn the quarterback position in certain respects when he came to Philadelphia, with mixed results. Sometimes the Masters degree he crammed for under Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg helped him, sometimes he looked encumbered by it.

Now, he’ll be asked to learn another language.

“I don’t know if it’s rebuilding. I think it’s going to be very new from what he was trained to do because systematically it’s going to be different,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “But it’s something that we’ll teach it in a way where he’ll be able to pick it up quickly and get out there and do what he does.”

Kelly seems to prefer a simplified approach to football, and the coaches have been quick to point out that they are not reinventing the wheel here, so they don’t anticipate a gigantic learning curve. But there will be one. A lot of it is about getting accustomed to new verbiage. Kelly wants everything to be truncated.

“It will probably be a less wordy operation,” said Shurmur. “No matter what we decide to run or what the plays are, we’ll try to have one or two words to paint the picture instead of five or six.

“Whether you called it ‘Z-in’ and now you call it ‘Apple’ — I called it ’22 Z-in’ for a lot of years, now we decided to call it ‘Apple.’ I know what ‘Apple’ is, and I think they’ll learn it. I think what’s important is we decide what we’re going to teach, we teach it to them in a way that they can understand it, and then let them go out and play fast.”

How fast can Vick [and the rest of the QBs on the roster] play in the new system? I would imagine that will be part of the evaluation during Kelly’s open quarterback competition.

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