Eagles Wake-Up Call: Offensive Struggles

How does a presentation Chip Kelly gave in 2009 relate to the Eagles in 2015?

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Chip Kelly was candid.

“This is the offense we run and everyone knows that,” he said. “Instead of trying to out-scheme your opponent, put your players in an environment where they can be successful because they understand exactly what they have to do.”

While many try to figure out exactly what’s wrong with the Eagles’ offense and why they’re so predictable, Kelly’s presentation at the 2009 Nike Coaches Clinic reveals how the head coach actually thinks about his offense.

When Tim explained earlier this week how opponents are picking up on Philadelphia’s tendencies, he cited Kelly’s explanation six years ago about why Oregon ran such few plays.

“If you give your players something to hang their hats on, they will perform,” Kelly said. “If they can run the offense with any scenario they may face, you will be successful in running the ball. If they have all the answers to the problems the defense may give them, they will be good.”

However, a few other elements the head coach discussed in his presentation are also interesting to look at in the context of the Eagles’ early struggles. Here are some highlights from that talk and how they relate to 2015.

The zone play can be run against multiple looks by the defense. You can draw this play up and run it against five different defenses. The inside zone play is our ‘go to work’ play. It has become our signature play.

When we solicited questions for a potential mailbag yesterday, many of the responses asked why the Eagles don’t run a wider variety of plays. Well, they don’t need to—at least if they’re executing.

Kelly designs his plays to work against a plethora of defenses, so he doesn’t need a bunch of plays for a bunch of different situations. What he has, in his mind, are a few plays that work in virtually every situation. Although the plays haven’t been effective, Kelly’s comments indicate that he doesn’t think it’s because of how they’re designed.

Instead, he keeps harping on execution. He seems to think the problems lay not necessarily with the play calling, but with the players (and coaches, for not putting the players in the right position to execute). This is why I’d be surprised if you see Kelly significantly change his play calling going forward.

The offensive linemen play with confidence because they know they have help from their teammates in their blocking scheme. This play is great against blitzes and twists because we pick up blocks as they attack gaps.

This is where the Eagles are really struggling. We’ve talked before about how the offensive line has had difficulty with stunts, and how that’s partially because of communication issues, but Kelly’s quote reflects just how important chemistry is in his blocking scheme.

With all of the combination blocks the offensive line performs each game, it’s crucial they can hand off defenders to each other and quickly communicate how they’ll make their way to the second level. However, it seems like the Eagles aren’t playing with a ton of confidence because they haven’t gotten much help from each other so far.

If the defense is looking at the depth of the backs and trying to figure out what play is coming, they are thinking about the wrong thing. If that is the key, you will be fooled. My old high school coach told me a long time ago, ‘If your head is moving, your feet are not.’

That means if you are thinking about what to do, you are not doing it as fast. We also move the back and shift to different places in our formations. It is easy to disguise the alignment of the backs. If the defense stops the play, it will not be because they read the setup of the backs.

This is where Kelly has appeared to fail. As Tim explained in his All-22 and Josh Huff expressed earlier this week, the Eagles haven’t done a great job of disguising their plays. Although it’s true you don’t want your players overthinking because it slows them down, defenses seem to not have to think at all because they anticipate where the play is going.

Of all the problems to have, however, this isn’t the most significant. Do you want opponents to be able to call out your plays? No, but everyone—though perhaps not to this extent—can. According to several Eagles defenders, Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin call out opposing offense’s plays pre-snap every game.

Dozens of you asked what’s wrong with the offense, and although there are multiple facets to it, the main one is what Kelly has repeatedly touched upon: execution.


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Murray’s unproductive start isn’t a cause of this early-season crisis for the Eagles. It’s a symptom. It’s a result of a host of other issues, among them the skittish play of Sam Bradford, the apparent predictability of Chip Kelly’s play-calling, and above all an offensive line that hasn’t given Murray a fighting chance to gain anything.


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