Philly Sports Live

Chip Kelly and the Rise of the Unpredictable Eagles

The question at this point isn’t what to expect. The question is where.

As in, “where will the Eagles fall this season in the NFC East rankings?” After watching the team dismantle the Redskins in week one, the Philadelphia Eagles have shown that they won’t be repeating the mishap of last year. In the first half, all three units looked impeccable, and aside from a few issues scattered throughout, the team looked as though it could be a potential contender.

Not to get too carried away, though, folks – to temper expectations, the Washington Redskins’ best offensive and defensive players were returning from major injuries (Griffin III, Orakpo) and their other centerpieces on those units (Morris, Kerrigan) are young players still growing into their own. This is a team that wasn’t necessarily ready in Week One to reach the peaks it had during last season, much less keep up with a locomotive-offense like the one Chip Kelly unleashed.

And unleash it he did – with 53 plays in the first half, Chip Kelly saw his starting RB and star WR each top 100 yards. DeSean only had two 100 yard games in last season, while McCoy had three – LeSean’s already surpassed his season high in a game from last year. If not for a questionable call on a forward/backward pass, the Birds’ first half could have even been more dangerous.

The pace was frenetic, the looks were ever-changing, and the team kept up. The play by the offensive line was a highlight – very few times was Michael Vick rushed or hit – and the receivers’ blocking downfield sprung a couple nice runs by McCoy. Kelly has the team doing the little things, and if you watch closely, they’re the things that really elevate a good team into a great team. On an early McCoy run, watch as Michael Vick sprints ahead of the running back and throws his body into an oncoming tackler.

They’re little things. Except they produce huge returns.

On defense, the team look revitalized. For the first time since the Jim Johnson era, another team looked confused facing off against the Eagles. Personnel packages were changing, blitzes were flying in from the left and right, and the team was making plays – sacks, rushed passes, interceptions, forced fumbles. In particular, Trent Cole and Mychal Kendricks stood out in their transition to 3-4 linebackers. Cary Williams had a solid first game as an Eagle as well, posting up a sack and an interception.

The first half was a flash of brilliance. The second? The Eagles laid off the gas and came to a full stop, trying to bleed out the clock and playing a prevent-based defense. I don’t put much stock into what happened after halftime because I think it was clear that the team had eased up, but if that’s the only way they play with a lead, it may be cause for concern against a more polished or ready team. San Diego saw that later on Monday night when they blew a three-TD lead to the Texans.

We have to take what we saw in the first half and compare it with what we saw in the second, and try to project this across a full season. What can we expect? How do we compare the Redskins to a team like the Chargers, who may not have the raw playmaking ability, but do have more veteran leadership? And then looking further ahead, how will the Birds match up against the Cowboys and Giants in divisional matchups?

Where will they land?

This team has a lot of intrigue, and for the first time in quite a while, fans are truly excited. For a little while, no one was thinking of Riley Cooper or Cary Williams’ offseason storylines. No one was thinking of the issues in the world. No one was thinking of their term reports at work, or their research paper, or the shopping and laundry that has to be done. For a little while, every single Eagles fan was fixated on Chip Kelly’s first live choreography.

And boy, did it look pretty.