Why Chip Kelly Wanted Carey Spear: The Swinging Gate

Frederick Breedon

[Ed. note: Promoted from the FanPosts.]

Fiesta Bowl 2012. Opening Drive. De'Anthony Thomas sprints down the field for a 94-yard kickoff-return touchdown. Immediately, Chip sends out the kicking team in the swinging gate formation. Dion Jordan receives the sideways direct snap and scores 2. Eight points in the first twelve seconds of the game.

Executed well, a two-point-conversion can be absolutely demoralising to an opposing team. At other times, that bonus point can sneak a team back into a game, or put the game just out of reach for the opponent.

At Oregon, one thing Chip did every game was use the swinging gate to go for two. It's all part of the philosophy of "F***ing score points – what's your plan?" With the swinging gate, Chip was able to test out the opponent's formation, and go for two if he saw a mismatch. If not, swing back in and kick – or fake the kick and score.

This video from FishDuck explains best the multitude of scoring options Chip used out of this formation:

We didn't see this work at all, last year. In the first quarter of the Chiefs game, the swinging gate came out, and failed. As far as I recall, it did not come out again all season.

No one realistically expected to see it work, given the fact that this formation is normally only run when the kicking team has a real athletic advantage over the blocking team. However, the Oregon Ducks used the swinging gate successfully against teams like Auburn who were not only athletically equal but in many cases superior to them.

The key is, the players must execute, as Jimmy Kempski broke down the play.

It stands to reason that with the right pieces, Chip may decide to incorporate more of what was a staple at Oregon into the Eagles special teams. Unquestionably, the more options available out of the swinging gate, the more tempting and useful it is.

To the point, the kicker is an eligible receiver in the swinging gate, and can also be a running back out of both the swinging gate and conventional PAT formation. Can you imagine Alex Henery ever doing this (1:28 in same video as above)?

Now watch Carey Spear lower his pads like an RB to score this touchdown on a fake field goal:

My intention is not to suggest that Chip values these trick plays over the ability to nail 50-yard field goals or kick touchbacks on kickoffs. It's undeniable, though, that having a kicker like Spear gives the Eagles' offensive genius many more options on PATs and short field goal attempts. No question about it.

Murderleg does have a kicking leg that he's continually working to strengthen. From his Vanderbilt bio, he improved from 10 touchbacks of 64 kickoffs in 2011, to 22 of 63 (2012) to 46 of 66 (2013). In his college career, he made 4/5 field goals from 50+ yards out. Here you can see pre-draft workout footage of him (admittedly wind-assisted) making a 61-yard field goal, and kicking off a ball that dings off the top of the upright, and here also a 62-yarder.

I believe that should Spear prove his kicking accuracy in camp, his versatility in these scenarios may swing the odds in his favour. The coaches evidently saw enough at tryouts to give him a chance. Being the veteran and former 4th round pick will not be enough to save Henery's job.

At the very least, expect to see Chip run some swinging gate with Spear during the preseason.

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