There have been many articles written about the Eagles this week. The speed, the options, the sheer improvement from last season. Chip Kelly has provided so many angles to cover in his first game that it seems like everybody is writing about him and his team. Now I'm going to add to that number.
The biggest theme of Kelly's offense seems to be putting defenders in a position where whatever choice they make is the wrong one. Most have focused on the read option or the packaged plays, but I'd like to look at something else. I'm sure you'll remember Ron Jaworski's piece during the offseason where he pointed out that Chip's Oregon offense didn't have a paricularly sophisticated passing attack. His exact words were:
I just don’t see NFL passing concepts in this offense. It’s a movement offense by the quarterback, off the run action, off the read action — a lot of short, quick passes, dart routes, bubble screens — very few plays down the field with NFL passing concepts.
Fortunately, thanks to some kind of Vulcan Mind Meld between Kelly and OC Pat Shurmur, this wasn't a problem on Monday night. Let's take the opening play of the game - a six yard pass to Riley Cooper - as an example. You could be forgiven for wondering why I'd want to highlight a play which, on first glance, seems pretty insignificant. The significance is that this was the first meaningful play of Chip Kelly's NFL career. He could've chosen any play from his 'gimmick' offense to set the tone - a zone read, a bubble screen, a double or triple stack - but he came right out with the exact thing people thought he couldn't do. The route concepts in this play were straight up West Coast Offense.
Cooper is going to motion into the slot and then run a curl route, Celek is going to run a corner route and Shady is going to head out into the flat. No play action, no unblocked defensive ends, just good old-fashioned football. The Redskins are in zone coverage, which puts them in a bit of a tricky situation. The CB that's lined up in front of Cooper will have to stay put and cover McCoy. One ILB gets distracted by D-Jax and Avant on the other side of the field and leaves the other ILB the choice between whether to defend Riley or Brent. As with all of Chip's offense, whichever choice he makes will be the wrong one. In the end, he opts to follow Celek and leaves an easy completion to Cooper.
This type of Hi-Lo concept was a staple of Andy Reid's offenses over the years, but the key difference is that he would've likely run it out of a bunch set. Chip's twist was to have Cooper motion into the slot almost exactly as the ball is snapped - he doesn't even set, just cuts upfield and starts the play. This makes it much more difficult for the defenders to keep track of what's happening and figure out which of them is going to defend which guy.
Here's the play in GIF form - take a look at how the nearside CB does a little dance because he has absolutely no idea what he's supposed to do (click to play - I can't figure out how to make it automatic):
So what would've happened if both ILBs had decided to attack this route combination to the bottom of the screen? Well, we didn't have to wait too long to find out. Chip and co. ran exactly the same play to open the second drive too. This time, one ILB took Cooper and the other took Celek. The result was Jackson and Avant had 1-on-1 matchups at the top and DeSean did what DeSean does for a gain of 25 (GIF below):
Not too shabby for a guy that doesn't use NFL passing concepts.