Forecasting the Eagles' offense

May, 21, 2013
5/21/13
11:45
AM ET
There have been a lot of theories and assumptions, since the Philadelphia Eagles hired Chip Kelly as their head coach, about how much their offense will look like the ones he ran at the University of Oregon. I have generally believed people are assuming too much, since I don't think Kelly himself yet knows for sure how much of what he did as a college coach will or won't work in the NFL. So this approach here Insider by our man Gary Horton is refreshing, as it admits to nothing more than theory and educated imagination.

[+] EnlargeMichael Vick and Chip Kelly
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsNew coach Chip Kelly and QB Michael Vick will be trying to lead the Eagles back into contention this season.
Gary looked at Oregon film to attain an understanding of Kelly's college tendencies, then watched 2012 Eagles film to assess the way in which those principles might mesh with the plays and personnel Philadelphia was already using. The result is, in Gary's words, "a look at how the Eagles' offense might appear this season under Kelly." I like the "might."

Gary's analysis discusses the speed and volume of plays Kelly is likely to run on offense, the use of tight ends, the run game and the importance of the kinds of athletic offensive linemen the Eagles have. But since it's an Insider piece, I can't give all of that away. You need to go ahead and buy the Insider access. What I will share with you is this part, about quarterback:
Michael Vick should love this offense, and the read-option likely also will be a part of this offensive package, but not the primary scheme. Vick won't have a lot of seven-step drops and unnecessary hits -- the ball should be out quickly with fairly easy reads and not a lot of audibles. There is nothing that Kelly will require that Vick is not capable of doing -- but he must be more consistent.

So where does that leave rookie Matt Barkley? A lot of people thought on draft day that he was not a good fit for this offense, with limited mobility to stretch defenses with his feet. However, after watching a lot of USC film, I think he is a good fit. He is accurate in the short-to-intermediate passing game, with not a lot of vertical passes required; he is good on the play-fake; and he has underrated pocket mobility.

A tidy plan, for sure -- Vick this year into Barkley next. The keys to that are, of course, that Vick can stay healthy and avoid turnovers this year and that Barkley really was a steal at the top of the fourth round of this year's draft. I agree with Gary that Vick is capable of doing anything Kelly wants him to do on offense. The question is whether he will do it, or whether he'll revert to what he's always done in terms of holding the ball too long and trying to make too much out of busted plays because his remarkable skill set leads him to believe he can. There's a theory that part of the problem Vick had under the previous Eagles coaching staff was playcalling, and that an offense that leaves him no choice but to get rid of the ball quickly will lead to success and keep him safer from injury. It sounds as though Vick will at least get a chance to prove whether that theory has merit. Should be fun to find out, for sure.

And as for Barkley, a lot of teams saw reasons not to spend a first-round, second-round or third-round pick on him in a league in which a lot of teams need quarterback help. Sure, in theory he can work in a Kelly offense. But fourth-round draft picks don't often make successful starting NFL quarterbacks. (Same with third-rounders, by the way, which is likely why Nick Foles' name doesn't even come up here.) Barkley and the Eagles have much work to do before they can know whether he's the long-term solution at quarterback.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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