Fans of the Philadelphia Eagles will not recognize the team’s offense in 2014.
It will be far less vertical from last year’s squad, and that’s not just due to DeSean Jackson’s departure. Chip Kelly confused many defensive coordinators last year by making them play at his speed, which treated offensive drives like sprints, in contrast to their pre-Kelly era “marathon” speed. This season, after a full offseason to analyze the game that Kelly brought, there will be no surprises in 2014.
The coach helped Nick Foles find his niche, which was a surprising one to say the least. Not many saw an immobile player flourish in a uptempo style system designed for running quarterbacks. Foles may not regress as a passer next year, but likely will not make any strides either. His safety blanket is gone, and he now has the attention of every secondary in the NFL.
The loss of Lane Johnson for the first four games will only widen the holes on the offense. Sure, the system is still in place, but a there is no rhythm when the conductor doesn’t have anyone to play the proper notes.
With a year for opponents to analyze his weaknesses, the Eagles need to revert to the now archaic notion of pounding the rock. They have the right man for the job with LeSean McCoy, and Darren Sproles only adds more gunpowder to the explosive running game. McCoy is the clear-cut epicenter of the offense, and opposing defenses know this, so they will increase the number of men in the box.
McCoy and Sproles are one in the same; the only differences between the two are their stature and career numbers. Sproles epitomizes the “toy” kind of player that Kelly filled his roster with at the collegiate level. His speed alone will garner extra attention from defenses to ensure McCoy will have more real estate to execute his Barry Sanders impressions.
Sproles was underutilized in New Orleans, and now has the opportunity to run freely in the best offensive fit for his skills. We’ve heard this story before, and it is a classic that has been told again and again. Kelly’s two-headed running attack fueled his record-breaking offense at Oregon, and through quality work by the front office, Kelly now has his own cerebus-style running back corps in Philadelphia.
In order to dodge a sophomore slump by Foles, the birds’ offense must control the clock in order to take pressure off of their supposed “franchise quarterback.” The Eagles need to utilize their talent while it is still ripe, as NFL running backs tend not to have very long careers. McCoy also has the bold claim that he is “the best running back in the league” to back up, and despite leading the league in carries last year, he still has to prove he can be a workhorse running back.
The Eagles have arguably the best running back in team history in the backfield, and should exploit his talents now that he is their primary offensive weapon.
There won’t be a utopian offense in Philly next year, but the running back combo is too tempting not to try, and if used properly, it can produce similar numbers to last year.