Today marks the start of the Chip Kelly era. What will the new high tempo offense look like? How will the defense transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 hybrid. Who will be the quarterback? Will it be the play making veteran or the young gun. These are just some of the questions us Eagles fans have heading into this up-coming season.
Let’s start with the quarterbacks since it is arguably the most critical part of any team.
You have Michael Vick who after his break out 2010 year, has struggled with turnovers, staying healthy, and reading defenses. Now there are a number of reasons that could have led to Vick’ s drastic decrease in his performance. He had a 68 QBR in 2010, 64.4 in 2011, and a 46 last year. (The QBR rating system is explained HERE if you are unfamiliar with it. QBR was designed by ESPN to better calculate a quarterbacks performance and their ability to help their team win.) Everybody knows that the offensive line was depleted last year missing four starters. As a result Vick didn’t have any time to get the ball out to receivers and often was throwing the ball while being hit. Chip Kelly wants to add another threat to his offense and that is the read option. Vick has the athletic ability to run this but he doesn’t have a good track record of being able to stay healthy. Can he afford to take an additional 5-10 more hits from designed runs? He will also need to be able to get the ball out quick which he hasn’t proven to be able to do effectively.
Nick Foles went 1-5 in games he started last year but showed signs of being a productive quarterback in the NFL. He’s got the size standing at 6’6″ 240+ lbs. He also surprisingly has quick feet for his size. He can see over the top of the line. He proved he could move the ball down the field with ease. However he did stare down a lot of his targets last year leading to some would be interceptions if it weren’t for a few drops by the defense, people’s opinion on Foles might be completely different. Foles QBR in his first year was 45.3, slightly lower than Vick’s. Nick also was behind the same depleted line and found himself having to move a lot within the pocket in order to get the ball out before being hit.
The defense underwent some major overhauling in the off-season. They added players as well as got rid of some dead weight. Some players to watch will be Trent Cole, Brandon Boykin, the safeties, and seeing how players fit into the new hybrid 3-4.
Trent Cole has spent his whole career with his hand in the dirt. Now he will have to learn to drop back into coverage on occasion and rush from a standing position. While in the 4-3 Cole had always been reliable against the run and a force in rushing the passer. Since Cole will be the teams ROLB he probably won’t be dropping back into coverage that often. With that being said he should be able to make the switch from the 4-3 DE to the 3-4 OLB.
Brandon Boykin was an explosive play maker when he played at Georgia. We didn’t get to see much of Boykin as a rookie besides on some returns and in nickel situations. He will get the start as the LOC (left outside corner) with Carey Williams out due to injury. All reports out of training camp of Boykin have been good. He is both quick and fast with the ability to play the ball well in the air. I’ve predicted Boykin to be a starter in my early 53 man roster projection and I expect a big year from him.
The safeties were horrific last year from Kurt Colman tackling his own teammates to Nate Allen fighting nagging injuries. They were beat over the top consistently, just look at the highlights against the Redskins last year in week 11, and when playing up in the box they couldn’t find the ball carrier and wrap them up. Thankfully they have added three news guys who can hopefully step up and help out in Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips, and rookie Earl Wolff. Tonight Chung and Allen will get the first look with the first team defense.
It will be refreshing to Eagles fans to finally see that wide-9 technique gone for good. The wide-9 was a huge contributing factor in the Eagles getting consistently gashed up the middle for huge gains.
Some extra players to watch are WR Ifeanyi Momah, Jordan Poyer, Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Cedric Thornton and Matt Barkley.
It will be interesting to see how much Kelly reveals of the playbook because he needs to find out who can best run the plays that he would otherwise run in a real game. My prediction, although it means nothing, Eagles 13 – Patriots 27. Can’t wait!