Eagles Wake-Up Call: How Teams Defend Chip

Chip Kelly (right). Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY

Chip Kelly (right). Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY

Phoenix, Ariz. — Today’s question comes from Josh, via Twitter:

We now have 33 games worth of material to answer the question: How do defenses defend Chip Kelly’s attack?

Last year at the owners meetings, Kelly spoke at length about how in Year 1 the Eagles faced a ton of man coverage with a single high safety. When discussing offseason moves like the addition of Darren Sproles, re-signing Jeremy Maclin and releasing DeSean Jackson, Kelly often explained how his pass-catchers had to be able to beat man coverage, calling it a big deal.

But in Year 2, the strategy for defenses changed to a degree. The Eagles still saw a lot of single-safety looks, but defenses were far more comfortable playing zone (Cover 3). I asked a bunch of players about this change towards the end of last season. Some thought that defenses had more tape on the Eagles and were more comfortable dealing with the tempo and switching up coverages.

Others (including Kelly) thought that the change was a direct result of the big plays the Eagles produced in the passing game in 2013.

The one constant was that defenses were able to get a safety in the box to defend the run regardless of whether they played man or zone. That’s the part that didn’t change.

But your question, Josh, is a tough one to answer until we see what happens in the next couple of months. As the roster currently stands, wide receiver is a concern – specifically a wide receiver who can stretch the field. Given the Eagles’ current pass-catching options, teams will have no reason to play anything but single-high next year. And to be honest, that’s probably going to be the case regardless of what happens in the draft. When defenses play two-deep, Kelly’s eyes light up and he goes run-heavy.

The Eagles, however, need to make sure that they can do damage with a downfield threat when teams play single-high.

When DeMarco Murray was introduced here, he talked about how he got a lot of favorable looks last year because of Dez Bryant. He’s likely to see a lot more crowded looks in 2015, but as a team, that will be nothing new for the Eagles.

It will be interesting to see which direction Kelly takes the run game (we’ll ask him about this Wednesday). Last year, the Eagles dealt with a bunch of injuries up front, and Kelly often cited execution as the primary reason for the issues with the ground game.

The LeSean McCoy trade, along with the additions of Murray and Ryan Mathews would suggest that he thinks personnel was an issue as well.

But what about scheme? Does Kelly need to make the run game less predictable? Does he need to add new variations to what the Eagles do?

Those are some of the questions that need answers in the months ahead.


A look at how Kelly’s system compares to the one that Sam Bradford ran at Oklahoma.

A roundup of news from around the division, including reactions to the Cowboys’ signing of Greg Hardy.

Eagles notes from the first day of the owners meetings in Arizona, including Kelly talking Tim Tebow.

The latest mock roundup has some thinking the Birds will target a wide receiver at No. 20.

T-Mac with some notes on DeMarco MurrayMarcus Mariota and more.


Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz on Arizona State safety prospect Damarious Randall:

Randall is 5-11, 196. He generally is the Safety on the wide side of the field. ASU moves guys around and does a lot of blitzing. Randall will drop down into the slot and cover WRs on a regular basis. He has good cover skills. Randall is a solid tackler. He regularly tries to wrap-up and tends to go low, aiming for the legs. Randall isn’t a punishing hitter, but he is physical enough.

Randall ran 4.46 at the Combine. He had a 38-inch vertical and 10-foot broad jump. You can see that explosiveness when you watch him play. He gets an excellent break on the ball when playing off a target. He also has terrific closing speed. He was a good playmaker for ASU. As a Senior, Randall had 3 INTs, 9 PBUs, 9.5 TFLs and 2 FFs.

Les Bowen of the Daily News caught up with former Eagles LB Brian Rolle at the veterans combine:

“I think I did really well, Rolle said afterward. He got married in December and has an infant daughter. For a player such as Rolle with two credited seasons, the 2015 NFL minimum is $585,000. He’d have to sell a lot of Hondas to match that.

“Coaches have their reasons. I was in Pittsburgh last. [Head coach Mike] Tomlin made it very clear it wasn’t anything I didn’t do,” Rolle said. “He said, ‘You need to stick out more,’ basically. In this league, it’s about being an exciting player, somebody that makes big plays. I feel like I make plays that other guys can’t make. All it takes is that one team to actually give me the opportunity to do so . . . hopefully today solidifies that I can still play, still move around and run real good.”


We’ll talk to the AFC coaches in the morning and then chat with Jeffrey Lurie.