Throughout last season, it was fun to go back and watch the Washington Redskins games. Just to see how they pulled plays off. Who was fooled by Robert Griffin III this week? Did you see that defender run right past the ball carrier (a question asked almost every week)?
They ran an offense that was new to the NFL, one that was a bit unusual but a lot energizing.
That’s why it was fun to see up close Chip Kelly’s offense with the Philadelphia Eagles. There’s so much to like about what he does. And, like the Redskins a year ago, they put a lot of stress on a defense -- but it’s even more.
On one play, I counted four different options for quarterback Michael Vick. He could hand it off to running back LeSean McCoy. Or he could keep it himself. Or he could throw a bubble screen. Or he could hit the tight end down the seam. If a defender moved the wrong way, or perhaps was just leaning a certain way, Vick could make a decision. And then put the ball in the hands of a potential playmaker, likely in space.
Other times, the Redskins would have six in the box but the play design made it feel like there were four. Linebackers hesitated or flowed too far over, honoring where McCoy appeared to be heading. As soon as they overcommitted, McCoy would cut back.
It was interesting to watch. And that part of it won’t change.
But the pace? And the hits on Michael Vick, a quarterback proven to not be durable? That’s the tricky part. They can run a fast tempo with a quarterback who isn’t mobile; Tom Brady isn’t about to run. But
In the end, I’m with Peyton Manning who says it’s the quality of plays that count and not the quantity.
“I still think it’s about the execution,” he told ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold.
Eventually the Eagles may be forced to only go up-tempo in spurts: the red zone, after big plays. But, regardless, Kelly's offense will work. He has the necessary ingredient to do so: talent.
Defenses will adjust, as they tried to do against Washington last season. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t. The Redskins shredded Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, using zone read play-action passes. So, in the second game, Dallas often took that away by rotating a safety after the snap about 10 yards off the ball in the middle and played man outside. The result? Washington running back Alfred Morris ran for 200 yards, gashing them outside.
But the Redskins also scored fewer points in the second game against each division opponent (averaging 30.7 in the first game; 24 in the second). They also beat each of their three rivals in the second game. It'll be interesting to see what happens the next time Washington faces Philadelphia. Also, what will happen if the Eagles don't get the favorable field position much of the game like they had the other night? And what impact will this have on their defense if there are a series of quick three-and-outs?
Still, as long as the Eagles stay healthy their offense will work. That would probably be true regardless of the tempo.