Chip Kelly may be onto something. The Eagles offense ran 53 plays in the first half of Monday night’s inner-division contest against the Redskins, leaving the burgundy and gold defenders confused and frequently gasping for air. Michael Vick hasn’t looked more composed since his scintillating 2010 MVP-caliber campaign, and LeSean McCoy displayed the lightning quickness of his career year in 2011, following an injury-plagued 2012 season. The Eagles offense was so prolific and symbiotic on Monday that one has to wonder how such potential was not tapped the past two years with virtually the same personnel
It seems in only one game at the helm of the Eagles, Chip Kelly has a greater pulse on his stars’ capabilities than Andy Reid did for the past four years, and arguably, his entire tenure as the Eagles coach.
In McCoy’s four season in the league under the pass-happy, or rather, obsessed, Any Reid, his rushing attempt highs were:
- 2009: 20
- 2010: 21
- 2011: 30
- 2012: 25
In his first four years, McCoy only attempted 25 or more carries 4 times. All of the efforts resulted in wins. Monday night, McCoy ran the ball 31 times.
Juxtaposed with LeSean McCoy’s handcuffed limit of carries since 2009 is Michael Vick’s abundance of pass-attempts under West-Coast pundit Reid. Here are Vick’s top two highs in passing attempts each season since he overtook the starting role in 2010:
- 2010: 44 and 43 (both losses)
- 2011: 46 and 40 (both losses)
- 2012: 56 (win) and 46 (loss)
The only win among those statistics came in week one of 2012 against a lowly Cleveland team starting a rookie quarterback in Brandon Weeden who went 12 for 35 with a 3.4 average and a passer rating of 5.1. In 2012, Vick threw more than 35 times on six separate occurrences. Only one of those efforts (Cleveland) resulted in victory.
Monday night, Vick went 15 for 25, throwing for 203 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. McCoy ran for 184 yards on 31 carries. The 31 carries was a career high, and the 184-yard effort is exceeded by only one yard in a win against the Cowboys in 2011. McCoy’s carries in that game? 30, his previous career high.
The oft-poised Robert Griffin III seemed to be the more overwhelmed and erratic quarterback Monday, compared to Vick’s collected and decisive demeanor. Coming off knee surgery for a torn ACL in January, the second-year Griffin threw 49 times in Monday’s season opener, abetting 2 interceptions in the process. Redskins running back Alfred k
Morris, who just last year set the franchise record for rushing yards in a season (1,613), ran the ball only 12 times for 45 yards. The Redskins resembled the Eagles of last year: throw early and often, and abandon the run before establishing even a semblance of a commitment to it. Such tactics leave an offense one dimensional and static with a defense eagerly anticipating each drop back of the opposing quarterback.
Pass-laden offenses are also detrimental to certain quarterbacks who pose as dual threats with their own respective running ability. Vick was forced to create miracles on every snap the past two years, and Monday night, Griffin looked similarly lost and tentative in his progressions and throwing motion. Shouldering the entire burden of an offense can do that to a quarterback, particularly when they are transitioning from major surgery only eight months prior. When you abandon the running game and ignore your talented, savior running back lying in wait in the backfield, you leave your quarterback exposed and inundated by the task of resurrecting a play doomed from the time it was drawn up. Andy Reid did it for years with Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick, and Mike Shanahan did it Monday night with Robert Griffin.
For all the talk about the copiousness and staccato rhythm of Chip Kelly’s playbook, the Eagles ended the game with only seven more plays than the Redskins. It seems Kelly’s M.O. in the NFL may not be running more plays, but employing a more efficient selection.
Sources: ESPN NFL Player Statistics
Mike Kerbaugh is an NFL writer for TPF and can be contacted at MKerbaugh@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com