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Friday, November 8, 2013
Nick Foles and the Chip Kelly offense

By Phil Sheridan

PHILADELPHIA -- If you listen to Eagles coach Chip Kelly long enough, you just might start believing what he says.

From the beginning of his tenure here, Kelly has said described his approach as “an equal-opportunity offense” -- meaning he wasn't locked in to a particular emphasis on the run or the pass or a particular style of quarterback play. For months, the general assumption was that he really wanted a mobile quarterback to execute his zone-read-based scheme. When Kelly went with Michael Vick over Nick Foles, that assumption gained a little weight.

But that assumption was tied to another, one that said the less-than-speedy Foles was not capable of running the Chip Kelly offense.

Philadelphia's Nick Foles
"I know who I am and I play to my skill set," Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said.
Well, that assumption was pronounced dead with a little less than five minutes left in the third period of Sunday's game in Oakland. Foles had just thrown his seventh touchdown pass. The Eagles had a 49-13 lead with roughly one-third of the game left to play.

If that's not running Kelly's offense, then to heck with Kelly's offense. But the thing is, it is Kelly's offense as the coach himself defined it.

Equal opportunity.

There are things Vick does better than Foles. That's not a secret. He's faster, he's shiftier and his arm is stronger by some unmeasurable magnitude. Clearly, the zone-read aspect of the offense is more effective when Vick is behind center.

But that is not the entire offense, as Kelly has been saying all along. Foles is making us believe him.

For starters, Foles ran the ball three times in Oakland, including a 9-yard run. Defenses do not want to allow 9-yard runs. Doing that a few times a game should be enough to keep the defense honest.

“If a quarterback runs for a first down, it messes the defense,” Foles said. “You don't have to run for an 80-yard touchdown. Obviously, that's a different kind of animal. There are quarterbacks in this league that can do this. But I know who I am and I play to my skill set.”

LeSean McCoy ran for 116 yards in that Tampa Bay game. His 44 rushing yards in Oakland had more to do with the play calling than anything the Raiders defense did. The passing game was operating at a record-setting level, and Kelly remained aggressive until he pulled his starters in the fourth quarter. So there's no real sample size to support the argument that the run game works better with Vick than with Foles.

It may not be a coincidence that Riley Cooper is never open -- or found to be open -- when Vick is playing quarterback, but has 15 catches for 347 yards and four touchdowns in the three games started by Foles. Over a full season, that would prorate out to 80 catches, 1,851 yards and 21 touchdowns.

That's probably stretching probability, but the underlying point remains: Foles found Cooper. Foles found DeSean Jackson (two touchdowns in Tampa, 150 yards in Oakland). Foles found tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz.

“I've played basketball,” Foles said. “I know how to dish the ball. I know how to get assists. I know how to throw alley oops, I know how to get alley oops.”

That doesn't mean the Sixers should sign him. It just means he sees the play develop, knows where and when each receiver should be coming open and gets the ball out quickly to the correct option.

And then there is the red zone. Vick's red zone numbers: 5-for-19, one touchdown. Foles' numbers: 12-for-15, seven touchdowns. Vick has thrown four more passes inside opponents' 20-yard line. Foles has six more touchdown throws.

Foles' numbers got a boost in Oakland, but he was also pretty successful in Tampa. In between, he had that clunker against Dallas. The next step for Foles is to prove he can sustain that high level week in and week out.

“That's what we're going for,” Foles said. “That's what our goal is. That's what we strive toward, consistency. We've got to do it on Sunday.”