Chip Kelly's fantasy impact
New Eagles coach can help fortunes of players like McCoy, Jackson, Maclin
After an extended courtship, the Philadelphia Eagles signed University of Oregon coach Chip Kelly to be their head coach. There are decidedly more questions than answers about this move from many perspectives, not least of which is fantasy football. Until the Eagles figure out their quarterback situation, those of us interested in fantasy will be left clutching at possibilities, but here are a few of the more important questions up for discussion:
Is this a reprieve for Michael Vick? Vick, who is due $15.5 million in 2013, was universally believed to be headed out of town. The Eagles were set to release him before March 11, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, when $3 million of that money became guaranteed. But this is very much up in the air now. Kelly will presumably seek to bring some of the lightning-fast, hurry-up, spread-out offensive concepts he used to such great effect at Oregon, and at first blush, Vick would seem to be a better fit for this system than Nick Foles. You can pretty much mark it down that the Eagles won't be paying Vick all that dough after his disastrous 2012 campaign, but a renegotiation is possible. Vick will be 33 in June and is an injury waiting to happen, so Kelly hitching his wagon to that particular star in a read-option system may not be the smartest strategy.
How much of the UO pace will Kelly really try to implement? The New England Patriots had many plays this season where they forced their pre-snap tempo to the breaking point, trying to catch opposing defenses napping; heck, you saw that in Sunday's playoff victory over the Houston Texans, when Tom Brady rushed to the line in the third quarter and threw a laser-quick screen to Brandon Lloyd while the Texans were barely even set. But to my recollection, there was really only one game where the Pats truly tried to ape Kelly's crazy pace: Week 5 against the Denver Broncos. It was a high-octane display that left Denver's defense sprawling. New England ran an incredible 89 plays that afternoon. But to say the least, the Patriots would appear to have better personnel -- a better quarterback, a better line, better receivers -- to make this work than the Eagles currently do. As bad as Vick's season was, you can draw a straight line between his injuries, negative plays and the awful protection he received. (Philly allowed 48 sacks in 2012, fifth-worst in the NFL.) To assume the Kelly is going to make it Job 1 to push it as hard as his Ducks did right away is, I think, a mistake. They'll go up-tempo, but maybe not Week-5-Patriots up-tempo.
So what would a more flexible Kelly offensive system do to Philly's skill players? Say the Eagles keep Vick but don't go mega-pace-crazy right away. Or say Vick leaves and Kelly -- adjusting to the personnel he has -- tries to make it work with Foles. I still think this new coaching regime is just fine for players like LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. No matter who's under center, Kelly should encourage a relatively up-tempo look, and with running backs and wide receivers this skilled, more plays equals more potential. I don't think we'd be looking at a fantasy downgrade for any of these players compared to where they were with Andy Reid. Health will be an issue (McCoy and Jackson missed multiple games in 2012, while Maclin has played hurt seemingly forever), and addressing the bad offensive line is important. But if anything, I'm betting Kelly dials down Reid's throw-throw-throw mindset if he can and gets McCoy and Brown involved in the read-option game that hallmarked his Oregon career. If this winds up being the case, I'd expect we see a closer run/pass balance than Reid had. Of course, to make any of this run-option stuff work, Kelly will have to find the right quarterback.
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