When Chip Kelly introduced James Casey back in March, he described the tight end as “a new toy” who could line up in various spots in his offense.
He didn’t use the same terminology when the Eagles signed outside linebacker Connor Barwin, but really, that’s what Kelly was giving Billy Davis on the defensive side of the ball.
Much of the talk around Barwin has been about how his sack total dropped from 11.5 in 2011 to just 3.0 in 2012. But the truth is Barwin’s versatility is what the Eagles found most attractive when they brought him on board. Moving from a Wide-9 4-3 to a 3-4, they needed an outside linebacker equipped to handle a number of different responsibilities. And that’s what they got in Barwin.
Already this preseason, the 26-year-old is being used in a variety of ways. And against Jacksonville, he showed some play-making chops with an interception and a sack in the first half.
Earlier this week, we looked at how the Eagles packaged the zone read with the bubble screen on several occasions against the Panthers.
The basic premise was simple: If the quarterback saw favorable numbers in the box, he went with the zone read. If he thought he had an advantage on the perimeter, he threw the screen. It was an either/or proposition.
But Chip Kelly and the Eagles ran a different play that actually combines the two. In other words, it’s a zone read and a bubble screen. Or essentially, a new-school triple option.
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.
“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.
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.