How Chip Kelly's Oregon Past May Shape His Philadelphia Future
By Frank Irving
If college accomplishments translated seamlessly to NFL proficiency, we might be reflecting on the dynastic runs of Steve Spurrier's ‘Skins and Nick Saban's Dolphins instead of trying to draw conclusions from 2013 preseason games.
So, we're left to wonder: Can Chip Kelly's prodigious Oregon offense possibly succeed with the Philadelphia Eagles?
The standard answer is that it's an apples-and-oranges comparison. Oregon's 2012 squad — coached by Kelly to a 12-1 record, including a Fiesta Bowl rout of Kansas State — predominantly outraced their opponents. It would be foolish to apply that approach to the pros, where elite athletic defenders lock up stride-for-stride with opposing backs and receivers.
Nonetheless, it's widely assumed that Kelly's Eagles will feature at least some components of his collegiate attack. The Ducks' offensive stats from last year reveal some interesting tendencies.
Oregon ran the ball an astounding 65 percent of the time last season, accounting for 58 percent of its total yardage on the ground. In contrast, the average NFL team in 2012 ran 27 times and threw 35 times per game for a 44 percent allocation to running plays and a 33 percent share of total yards.
In 2012, the most run-happy NFL team, the Seattle Seahawks, rushed 34 times and passed 25 times per game for a 58 percent run allocation and a 46 percent share of total yards.
Meanwhile, the Eagles, under aerial zealot Andy Reid, ran the ball only 26 times per game last season for a meager 40 percent run allocation and a league-average 33 percent share of total yards.
The takeaway: The Seahawks demonstrated that it's possible to skew toward the run and still reach the second round of the playoffs. A modest 15 percent increase in rushing attempts by the 2013 Eagles would likely put them in the Top 10 of ground-oriented teams based on last season's statistics. Perhaps not coincidentally, eight of the Top 10 teams in rushing attempts in 2012 made the playoffs.
Kelly's offense called for his quarterback to spread the ball around to multiple targets. RB De'Anthony Thomas led the 2012 Ducks in receptions with a relatively modest total of 45. However, six additional players hauled in at least 20 catches and accounted for 63 percent of the team's passing yards.
The Eagles top receiver in 2012 was Jeremy Maclin, who will miss the entire 2013 season due to injury. That leaves TE Brent Celek as Philadelphia's top returning receiver, followed by (in order of 2012 receptions) RB LeSean McCoy, WR Jason Avant, WR DeSean Jackson, TE/WR Clay Harbor, WR Riley Cooper and WR Damaris Johnson.
The takeaway: That core group — minus Maclin — all return this season and will get plenty of looks in Kelly's uptempo offense. The addition of rookie TE Zack Ertz and reserve RBs Bryce Brown and Chris Polk will present additional receiving targets to help compensate for the loss of Maclin. Don't expect a significant drop off in the Eagles passing game.
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota averaged eight yards per passing attempt and seven yards per rush in 2012. Mariota passed for 32 touchdowns and incurred only six interceptions for an incredible 163 passing efficiency rating.
Eagles QB Michael Vick averaged slightly less than seven yards per passing attempt and a bit more than five yards per rush last season. He threw for 12 touchdowns and was intercepted 10 times while compiling a pedestrian quarterback rating of 78.
The takeaway: The coach values dependability and consistency, even though he seems fond of highly-athletic quarterbacks. Vick must improve his decision-making to be the season-long caretaker of Kelly's offense. If he reverts to last year's form, current backup Nick Foles will be given a shot to lead the team.