It is not easy for a rookie head coach to come into the NFL, take over a 4-12 team, and go on to win a division title in his first year. It is even more unusual for that same coach to establish an offense that finishes second overall in total offense, first overall in rushing offense, and fourth overall in points scored. That however is exactly what Chip Kelly brought to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. And for Eagles fans, what is even more fascinating is that there is a fine chance the offense will improve on all of those numbers in 2014.
The common misconception when discussing the Eagles’ offense is that most people look at it as “Chip Kelly’s offense.” Yes, it is obviously his. He calls all the plays, and is the mastermind behind the 2013 numbers. However, in no way does he run elaborate plays that consist of double-reverses and flee-flickers on a consistent basis. Kelly simply uses misdirection and motion to find and exploit one-on-one matchups. He then needs a quarterback that makes quick, but thought-out decisions, combined with the ability to not turn the ball over. Nick Foles was that guy in 2013.
Media and analysts can break down the Eagles all they want. However, the biggest x-factor on the team is clearly Foles. For the team to be successful, he must continue to develop and mature into an elite quarterback. Foles is the first piece of the puzzle for Philadelphia to have an improved offense in 2014, but if he falls into place, the rest of the players on the offensive side will have a much easier time producing.
Even if Foles does take a step forward, the skeptics out there say that the Eagles will still take a step back because of the departure of DeSean Jackson. While Jackson was an integral part of the 2013 team, Philadelphia’s 2014 offense as a whole has a tremendous opportunity to outshine last year’s core.
Let’s go through whom the Eagles were lining up on the field for the majority of the offensive snaps in 2013. LeSean McCoy lined up in the backfield, with Bryce Brown and Chris Polk mixed in at times throughout the season. Jackson and Riley Cooper anchored the outside wide-receiver spots, and were flanked by Jason Avant in the slot. The tight-end position was held onto by Brent Celek, with Zach Ertz seeing some time, especially towards the end of the season. There are definitely playmakers in this lineup, but is it as impressive as what Philadelphia will be fielding this season?
Barring injuries, the 2014 Eagles’ offense will consist of McCoy back at running back, along with newcomer Darren Sproles. Polk will also continue to see some playing time as well. Jeremy Maclin returns from a torn ACL, and mans the receiver position with Cooper and rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Celek returns to his tight-end spot, however Ertz will continue to see increased playing time, and could be on the field more than Celek by season’s end.
There are definitely some “ifs” on this 2014 offense. Will Maclin be able to replace Jackson? Will Matthews produce in his rookie season? Will Cooper prove to be a one-year wonder? Is Sproles over the hill? These questions are all warranted, however it is not difficult to see all of these answers going in Philadelphia’s favor. With the offensive line remaining intact (Lane Johnson will return Week 5), the 2014 Eagles’ offense clearly has more upside on paper than last year’s team. And even though that upside is just on paper, Eagles fans should feel pretty excited that there is great potential to produce even more this season.