Once everyone's caught their breath we'll begin...
You good? Okay.
The debut of the Chip Kelly-led Eagles was somehow all at once surprising and exactly what we were told it was going to be. It was a lot of things: It was a great start, it was a division win on the road, it was a message to defenses around the league, it was yet another example of why sitting on a lead is never wise... it was, perhaps more than anything, a sign that the teeny-tiny fear in the far-off back of all of our minds (that maybe this zany new coach has a lot of college ideas that just won't translate to this league) is total nonsense. That football is football and that a scheme that creates space and forces mismatches will work anytime. All the time.
Aside from the speed and the Shady and the DeSean (which, I'm not sure if you've seen, is a fairly popular topic of discussion around the league today) there were a few other things (less obvious, perhaps) that stood way out for me last night:
On the good side...
1. When he's not picking out sconces, picking fights, or loafing it through the pre-season... Cary Williams can ball. He's the best physical cover corner we've seen playing ball here in a very long time. An Al Harrisy long time. His interception was pretty. His sack was exciting. But it was his blanket coverage on a ball overthrown deep that stood out to me. Perhaps it's too many shots from the last two years of opposing receivers catching the ball with nary and Eagle in the frame, but something about seeing a corner draped all over an opponent brought a smile to my face.
2. Trent Cole: Run Stuffer? People are saying, 'same old Trent.' I say, 'Nope.' Trent Cole has never been a dominant player against the run. Last night, in this new defense in which he's being asked to play an entirely new position, he was tremendous playing laterally along the line of scrimmage. Perhaps it's the extra ground he's being asked to cover that gives him time to identify and diagnose the run, but whatever it is, if it keeps up, will be massively good for this team. Having a player with his speed and instincts who's also made a career of shedding blocks and beating offensive linemen badly out there to patrol the line of scrimmage is something we've just not had. And even if Cole only gets to the quarterback 4 or 5 times this year... he could end up being one of the most valuable players we have.
3. Holy Moly Mychal Kendricks. The stats were nice, not eyepopping. But the development of this guy has my eyes popping all over the place. He flies. All around the field. He was making tackles we saw him miss last year. And his knack for navigating lanes when he's asked to blitz (which was often) is just something you're born with. If there is a LeSean McCoy-like star on the defense... it's Mychal Kendricks. A Pro-Bowl player in the making. Last year I was jealous of the teams that took Lavante David (Bucs) and Bobby Wagner (Seahawks) in the same vicinity as Kendricks because I saw them play more disciplined, complete games while Kendricks merely flashed. However, if Kendricks continues to flesh out his game on top of his mindblowing physical skills, there won't be many linebackers in the league who top him.
4. When you block people, football's better. Recently, Jason Peters was asked what he thought his injury last year cost the team. He said (and at the time I thought he spoke hyperbolically) "I'd say it cost us a playoff spot," ... "It cost us our coach." After watching (and being reminded) how dominant a football player he is, I am not so sure he was wrong. That man is, without the slightest doubt, the best player on our team. And he may not run for 200 or throw for 2 scores. But without him... no one else does either. The rest of the line looks great when they're matched up with people. The problems, last night, existed when one guy or another made a bad read or a bad decision and found himself not matched up with anybody. Lane Johnson had a couple of "If I'm blocking this guy... and you're blocking this guy... then who's blocking that guy... oops" moments out there. It's to be expected. But it's also to be corrected. When he was in the right place, he was totally imposing. I think it was a homerun pick at #4.
5. It's neat to see a coach screaming in his own offense and passionately reacting to every moment. Andy had his way. And I have all the respect in the world for what he did. But after 14 years... it's fun to see Chip out there.
There were also some not so good noticings...
1. Chip's a rookie, too. When he made his own kicker re-make a 48 yard field goal so that he could challenge a fairly obviously incomplete pass... that showed. Don't make your kicker do that twice. Thankfully he did.
2. A safety, a safety, my kingdom for a safety. Patrick Chung, who looked rock solid throughout the preseason, gave up a score on a ball about as poorly played as you'll ever see in the NFL. The one argument for playing in a 'prevent' scheme is that nothing can get behind you. Especially when you have the back of the endzone as a boundary. But don't tell that to Patrick Chung. The dynamic duo of Allen and Wolff did little to make an impression. Over all the group could use an overhaul before next year. A free agent and a couple of high picks in the secondary will be very much welcome.
3. Vick. Man. Stop blocking.
4. This is not so much a negative as it is a what-if... but part of me couldn't help but wonder how ridiculous this would be if Jeremy Maclin were out there, too. Wow.
5. The curious case of James Casey continues. Hopefully, like Chip says, there will be weeks where he figures prominently into the gameplan, but to this point it is strange how such an early addition, someone who seems to fit so brilliantly into what we want to do has been so completely invisible. It's not as if Zach Ertz is dominating opponents to keep Casey off the field. Ertz has been shaky and Casey's still not out there. Confuses me more than anything at this point. I'll be interested to see how his Eagle career plays out.
It was a good game. An incredibly fun start. And the 'can they continue to do this to teams' conversations are limitless. My opinion is this: If Chip Kelly really designs a new gameplan for every opponent, I think it's fairly reasonable to expect that what we saw against the Redskins won't look a lot like what we're about to see against the Chargers. Different plays. Same speed. Same mismatches... that's the plan, anyway. And in a few weeks we'll really be able to see if it's working. But for now: 1-0.
"If you're gonna wait 'til the week before you play us to say 'hey we better get some extra sprinting in' then I think it's too late." -- Chip Kelly