Chip Kelly’s arrival in the NFL is probably the most anticipated college-to-pro coaching jump we’ve seen since Steve Spurrier tried the same thing 11 years ago. The Philadelphia Eagles are hoping their grand experiment with an innovative offensive mind from college works better than Spurrier did for the Redskins (two bad years).
The names in Philadelphia’s skill position cast are impressive, but all of them underperformed in 2012. Certainly the most notable go-up-in-flames year came from Michael Vick, who had a 12-10 TD/INT ratio and lost his job to Nick Foles. And as a byproduct of that, the numbers for LeSean McCoy in the backfield, along DeSean Jackson at receiver and tight end Brent Celek, were all fairly pedestrian.
Vick beat out Foles for the starting job in preseason. What I would like to see is Kelly commit to the conventional running game more than his predecessor, Andy Reid, did. The Eagles ranked in the top ten of the NFL in yards-per-carry. But Reid always did shy away from offensive balance and favored finesse to muscle.
I don’t mean to imply that Kelly should try and re-enact the Washington Redskins’ Hogs of 1980s, but I think the Birds would benefit from a steadier diet of McCoy getting the football.
The Eagle defense has undergone a significant makeover after finishing tied for 29th in points allowed. The team went out and raided contenders for their defensive talent. Although whether they raided the quality is another question.
Connor Barwin was signed away from Houston to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme Kelly is shifting the team to. But Barwin’s three sacks marked him a disappointment for the Texans in 2012. Patrick Chung is the new free safety, who went last seen in New England was getting blitzed by Joe Flacco in the AFC Championship Game. Other additions include Isaac Sopoaga, a defensive tackle from San Francisco, and Cary Williams, a Baltimore corner.
This isn’t a bad team Kelly has inherited, and even though they’re a conventional choice to finish last in the NFC East, they aren’t perceived as light-years behind the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants. The Over/Under win prop in Las Vegas reflects that, with Philadelphia gunning for a posted number of 7.5.
It’s easy to see everyone in the NFC East winning at least eight games and breaking even, and TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis has a good feeling about this Eagles’ squad. Not a playoff kind of feeling, but a “they’ll be competitive” kind of feeling. Competitive enough to go 8-8 and go Over.