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Wednesday, September 11, 2013
NFLN Says: Is Eagles offense sustainable?

By Phil Sheridan and ESPN.com staff

LeSean McCoy
The Eagles ran 53 plays in the in the first two quarters but only 24 in the second half.
With the solar panels and wind turbines on their stadium, the Eagles have been concerned about one kind of sustainability for a while. Now they have to be concerned with another kind.

After months of debate about whether Chip Kelly’s Blur offense could work in the NFL, the Eagles showed in one breathtaking game that it can. In the wake of their 33-27 win at Washington, the discussion has shifted:

Yes, it can work for a half, but is Kelly’s system sustainable over the course of a 16-game NFL season?

It’s a three-part question: Can the Eagles maintain the hyperdrive speed throughout a game? Can they do it week in and week out, especially with two games in five days? Can they avoid injuries to key players -- Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy all missed substantial time last year with injuries -- while running so many offensive plays? Kelly, for his part, doubled down on his belief that speed kills. He said Tuesday that his team can play faster, and that future opponents might already be playing catch-up.

"I know our team is in shape," Kelly said. "I know how we train. We're very specific in how we do that. We can keep up what we're doing right now because we've been doing this since April. If you're going to wait until the week before we play to say we need to get some extra sprinting in, it's probably too late."

Can the Eagles keep up the pace? Within the Eagles locker room, no one is 100 percent sure.

"We’ll see when it comes," wide receiver Jason Avant said. "We’ll continue to work hard, continue to live right off the field. A whole bunch of things play into us playing well on Sunday and playing fast. If we consistently do the right things that coach tells us to do, we’ll be fine."

We've put our NFL Nation network of reporters to the test and asked players and coaches their opinions on Kelly's offense. Here's a sampling of what they had to say:


"I don't know. It's just one game, but they looked damn impressive doing it. It's a lot of plays in a short period of time, so I would think that stamina has to come into it at some point. But all you hear is that they're all in the best shape of their lives. So if they're doing that, who knows?"

-- Justin Tuck, Giants defensive end


"It's a league of adjustments and they are made fast. When you're putting up big plays and big points like that, coaches who play you six weeks from now are watching tape of you to prepare. That's the type of league it is. Defenses catch up to you sooner rather than later."

-- James Ihedigbo, Ravens safety


"I think that the speed of that offense isn’t gonna be like that for four quarters. What they’re gonna do is they’re gonna come out, and they’re gonna punch people in the mouth with that tempo. That’s what we did at Oregon. We wanted to come out and set the tempo and dictate to the other team what the game was gonna be like. They jumped out and they scored all those points and you just hang on. You play sound, fundamental football for the other three quarters. Then you can hopefully get away with a win."

-- Kyle Long, Bears guard who played for Kelly at Oregon


"We’ll see. Sustainable? It’ll be interesting. He’s a great coach and I think he’s got a lot of great weapons there. It will play out during the year. Obviously, they had a really good night Monday night. I did see it up close. It was really fun to watch in college and I’m sure it will be successful in the pros too. He’s a great coach."

-- Chris Long, Rams defensive end and Kyle’s brother


"The pace isn’t going to change. I promise you he won’t slow down for anyone. But I feel like, especially being one of his former players, it’s more important for the defense to step up a lot more. Those are the guys who help him out and get him the ball back."

-- Dion Jordan, Dolphins defensive end who played for Kelly at Oregon


"It all depends on the health of their players. Just watching the game from the outside you could already see Vick struggling getting off the field every once in a while. The guys are a little older in the league, so they could start breaking down. [It’s a] longer season [than in college], so you don’t ever know. It’s going to be a trial and error, and it will be up to their organization and coaching staff to monitor that and see what they do all week in practice to counter balance it all."

-- Jordy Nelson, Packers wide receiver


"I watched most of that ballgame and they do get up to the line. I think you better get ready. You don't get to substitute or you don't get to match up as well. That's always been when you look at the Red Ball or the no-huddle. That's always been a challenge for a team. Some combination of that is pretty sound, relative to getting plays off, keeping the defense a little disjointed. I think it's also sound, too. It's a good crisp way to run a football team. I don't know if that's a fad. That stepped-up play is one that may have a place."

-- Jerry Jones, Cowboys owner, on his radio show


"I think it all depends on how much success they have with it. If it works, I'm sure they'll stick with it. But defenses are smart, and we'll learn to adapt. It could work, but I don't think it would over a long period of time. They'll have to adjust and come up with some other kind of trickery."

-- Desmond Bishop, Vikings linebacker


"The version that Chip Kelly has brought to Philadelphia is in itself new to the NFL. We’ve all had the two-minute offense where quite frankly we are snapping the ball at that speed, the idea of playing for a full game like that, you know, is new for me in watching it in the NFL. They’re putting the pressure really on the defense to get lined up and communicate and recognize again what all the options are and be in position. Even when it isn’t something that is going what I call Mach speed, it still forces you without a huddle to do a great job communicating."

-- Tom Coughlin, Giants head coach


Manning
"I still think it’s about the execution. I know there’s a lot of talk about tempo, but the plays we get graded with a plus it’s because everybody did their assignment, when we get a minus it’s because somebody didn’t do their assignment, whether you huddled for that play or didn’t huddle or whatever it was, I really think is irrelevant. Some teams play better when they go faster; that helps their execution, then so be it."

-- Peyton Manning, Broncos quarterback


"I think it’s a great change up. I don’t know if that pace is sustainable. I guess we’ll see here shortly. I know Chip Kelly, just reading the things he said, he wasn’t too impressed with what they did at that fast of a pace. I know it’s a great change up. Defense, get them on their toes, get them playing vanilla defenses, that helps the offense out. It’s definitely beneficial."

-- Cortland Finnegan, Rams cornerback


"I'd have to see them do it for a whole game first, but they did it for the half and it was impressive. I think they have the right pieces and parts for it. They allow people like Shady McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Michael Vick to be one-on-one with defenders in space. As long as they can create those matchups, it's going to be really effective."

-- Ryan Clark, Steelers safety


Hali
"I don’t think you’re going to go through a season running twice as many plays as [the opponent] every week. That’s a lot of games stacking up. I don’t think they will do that. I think they’ll try to come out, outcondition the opponent, keep them off balance, try to get points now. Once the game gets under their control, they’ll get back to what they do at a normal pace. In college, it works. You play 12 games and you have a bunch of players on your team. You don’t have that many players [in the NFL] to wear them down. But the mindset of coming out and playing fast and getting [a lead] early, that goes a long way.’’

-- Tamba Hali, Chiefs linebacker


"I’m not sure. I have never seen it happen, so I don’t know. Seventeen seconds? Yeah that’s pretty fast. I don’t know, I hope they can. Because then the head coach will be able to keep his job. I’m always rooting for people."

-- Arian Foster, Texans running back


"You got to wait to see. I can’t tell you, it’ s my first time running tempo. Obviously our tempo wasn’t what we wanted it to be because we didn’t get any positive starts. Tempo only works when you get positive gains. Obviously you see the Eagles in the third quarter, I think they only had eight plays. So that’s what happens. It’s a good thing and sometimes it’s like if you can’t get going, it doesn’t work out for you. Obviously you’ve got to be able to hold up for 16 to 20 games, however many games you have to play, if that’s going to be something you use to your advantage."

-- Maurice Jones-Drew, Jaguars running back


"It’s a faster pace offense. For the original style of how the NFL game is played, as far as the huddle offense, they say this style wouldn’t work, but I think if you have the right group of guys in there, which Philly has with Vick, Jackson, McCoy, I think it fits. With Chip Kelly bringing what he has in his tool box, I think the sky is the limit for as far as what offensive coordinators are doing now. Next thing you know teams are going to start doing the option again."

-- Greg Toler, Colts cornerback


"Yeah, I think it is, but it’s a long season for those guys. If you run 90 plays a game in the NFL, first of all you wear out your quarterback and then you wear out everybody around him. I don’t know if it’s going to last for too much longer, but they definitely got to get their play count down because the quarterback, he’s subject to get hit 70 out of 90 plays."

-- Tyrann Mathieu, Cardinals defensive back


"It's something that the NFL hasn't really seen, it's a new approach to offense that coach Kelly is bringing from college. Just like the read-option has been successful, until defenses start to catch up with it, I think their offense is going to have success until defenses have a chance to stop them on first down. That messes up their tempo, I think that's the key, not letting them get those completions, stuffing that run. I think that's the only way to slow them down."

-- George Wilson, Titans safety


"I don’t think so. It’s crazy. They ran 50-something plays in the first half and only 20-something in the second half, so it shows you they can’t keep that type of pace."

-- Bobby Wagner, Seahawks middle linebacker