In every game of every season, NFL teams look for any way to gain an advantage in the heat of competition. For the Miami Dolphins, they coined the “wildcat” offense in 2008, which threw defensive coordinators for a loop. In 2010, New York Jets assistant coach Sal Alosi went as far as to trip an opposing player from the sidelines to prevent a touchdown.
The Philadelphia Eagles have found another hidden way to gain leverage that is not easy to duplicate. It began last season with head coach Chip Kelly’s “score and get off” offense which he brought from Oregon. He took the conventional “hurry up” offense and amplified it into a much more dynamic system which marginalized defense and centered around scoring as diligently as possible.
The numbers don’t lie. In 2013, the Eagles threw away the pre-conceived notion that time of possession leads to offensive success. The birds finished the 2013 season second in the NFL in scoring, yet were dead last in time of possession. The Eagles’ average time of possession was 26:24, while their opponents’ average TOP was 33:36. Kelly wanted to get his offense in the endzone and off the field in as little time as he could, which was apparent by his offense scoring on an average of just under two minutes per scoring drive. This may have left his defense gasping for breath at times, but it was an indoctrination of a year for a unit in its first season in a system where its offense dictates how its defense plays.
However, with a full offseason to adjust to this new style, the defense will have improved its conditioning and be more than ready for the task. As a result, the Eagles’ style of play and practice may be even faster in 2014. Safety Nate Allen admitted that he is much more acclimated to this high-octane system compared to last year.
“The guys who have been here have gotten used to what the pace is, what to expect,” he said.” That’s normal for us. Playing fast is a normal pace for us. The rookies, it took a little while to get used to it. But now everybody’s coming along.”
“I feel healthy [in Year 2]. I feel not as worn out sometimes. When you get into this OTA regimen, we just feel fresh every day and not as run down. We get the right rest and nutrition, and that all plays a big part in it.”
Comparably, next season’s schedule may present a tougher challenge, but the team is more than ready for the task. The hidden variable here is health. Cumulatively, the Eagles only suffered 26 injuries as a whole. Thanks to Kelly’s rigorous conditioning system, the Eagles were the fourth-healthiest team in the NFL last season.
The Eagles now feel right at home in this playbook. They are working at a speed that, before Kelly entered the league, would be deemed laughable. According to Rich Hoffman of the Philadelphia Daily News, quarterback Nick Foles was seen transitioning the offense from whistle to snap in as little as 15 seconds, sometimes consecutively. With such a short halt between plays, defenses will be flustered as they try to signal in their defensive assignments before the ball is snapped, and may not have enough time to read the offensive formation.
Now that the players know what to expect, there will be less surprises, and that will lead to second-hand knowledge of the system. With second-hand knowledge of the system, the team will shift its offensive speed into a new gear, and reel off as many offensive plays as possible. More offensive plays lead to more scoring opportunities, and Kelly will look to exploit this offensive principle.
“It’s been easier to adapt to those changes because you’re only adapting to two or three different new things, whereas last year, it was just a complete wholesale new deal,” center Jason Kelce said. “This year, we know what to expect. We know what’s going on.”
With the new “sports science” model installed, the team as a whole has assimilated themselves into this new design, and will look to break the law of averages once again in 2014.