Way back in May, Sports illustrated's Greg Bedard wrote a big profile of Chip Kelly titled "An Open Mind." By big, I mean five full pages in the country's biggest sports magazine, from new details of his upbringing to the development of his schemes and comparisons to elite coaches Jimmy Johnson, Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick.
In one section of the article, Bedard authoritatively stated several requirements that Chip Kelly had for his players, which had not been previously published anywhere. In an article I wrote for BGN about Bedard's profile, I was openly skeptical of some of these standards. After all, he did not cite a source, and as I mention in my new book "Controlled Chaos," he told radio 97.5 The Fanatic that this article "was one of the toughest assignments I've had, his inner circle doesn't give anything up."
The more I think about it, though, Bedard must have had a very solid source for making such confident statements. He's one of the country's top sportswriters, after all; he wouldn't make something up, even if he can't reveal his source. Here's how he started:
"At every position he knows exactly what type of player he wants, from physical description to mental makeup."
Now, a good source doesn't prove that these statements are all true; the source could have some motive to mislead a reporter, or not be privy to Chip Kelly's latest thinking. It depends a lot whether the source was someone like coach Azzinaro (very reliable), a former player (questionable), Ed Marynowitz (guaranteed true, unless he's trying to mislead) or Howie Roseman (impossible to tell). Or it could have been Chip himself.
Let's assume that Bedard's source was impeccable, and telling the truth straight up. The statements may reveal a lot about how Chip Kelly is remaking this team. Taking the statements one by one:
Kelly would like to have defensive ends that measure at least 6' 6"
This seemed absurd to me at first, since Fletcher Cox is 6'4" and universally understood to be a stud; Cedric Thornton's also 6'4" and very solid. But Tommy Lawlor recently went back and listed a dozen defensive linemen who Chip has brought in to evaluate, 9 of the 12 are 6'6" or bigger, and the other three were 6'5". 3 were 6'9" including this year's 7th round draft pick Brian Mihalik.
I don't think there's any reason to fear Fletcher Cox will be traded soon -- though his name was mentioned as potential trade bait for Marcus Mariota. But the new players Chip has brought in back this theory up.
"he wants stout nose tackles. The most important characteristic? Knees with a circumference of at least 18 inches—an identifier of guys who are built solidly in the lower body and thus, the Eagles believe, less susceptible to injuries."
18" knees is not something I've seen anywhere else, but several people have reported the Eagles measure the wrists, ankles and knees of potential picks. Lane Johnson told Jeff McLane that the team had measured all three in order to see how much weight he could safely carry; that may just be another way of saying "less likely to be injured." The team had Logan put on ten pounds last year; he current sits around 310-315, while Beau Allen carries over 330 pounds. 18" might be what they think is the minimum to carry Allen's level of weight.
"At outside linebacker he wants long-armed players who, above all else, can set the edge in the running game; the ability to rush the passer from this position is very much secondary. And Kelly wants to man his secondary with tall, long cornerbacks..."
Chip has been very direct about wanting OLBs and CBs fitting these requirements, so these ones check out.
" there’s little doubt that Kelly’s scheme works best with an athletic quarterback who can threaten a defense with his running ability....Bradford, on the other hand, is known for his athleticism and quick release, and he operated a college offense at Oklahoma that shared traits with Kelly’s."
Bradford is no Russell Wilson, and it's hard to imagine the team will let him run much this year. But longer term, as he fully heals, this could be accurate. Foles is extremely slow, and Sanchez was very reluctant to run last year when he played QB. Meanwhile Bradford is reasonably mobile and could -- if all works out -- play for a decade in Philadelphia.
"Now the shortest receiver on Philly’s roster is Josh Huff (5' 11⁄4"), who played out wide last season but now will likely be relegated to the slot."
Note the hedging -- "will likely be relegated" -- which indicates that Bedard's source did not say this straight out. There are reasons to doubt that Huff will be stuck in the slot, notably the fact that the Eagles played him out wide last year while the much taller Jordan Matthews filled the slot (and did very well). Chip prizes mismatches, and putting your shortest receiver in the slot is standard strategy, not a way to get mismatches.
My guess is that Chip will rotate his receivers among all positions, not only the big three (Matthews, Agholor and Huff) but Miles Austin (6'2") and Seyi Ajirotutu (6'3") might steal some snaps in the slot.
The last standard is the most puzzling:
"The Eagles didn’t give a sniff to elite shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis in free agency because they have no use for shutdown corners in their scheme. They much prefer having the length to disrupt passing lanes."
This one still puzzles me. With all due respect, the Eagles secondary was TERRIBLE last year, and the team was in no position to turn down any decent corner, much less one as talented as Darrelle Revis.
I'm still having trouble understanding what "no use for shutdown corners" even means. The wording here -- length to disrupt passing lanes -- makes it sound like the Eagles prefer zone coverage to man, I guess? I haven't seen any evidence of that, but maybe Chip, Billy Davis and new DB coach Corey Undlin are changing the scheme.
I asked Tommy Lawlor if he had any notion what this could mean, and he replied:
"Bedard might mean that the Eagles don't feel the need to have an elite corner in the sense of investment. Some teams have spent a high 1st round pick for a shutdown CB. And there is money to consider. The Jets are paying Revis $16M this year and $17M next year... Kelly seems to feel he can find CBs in other ways. He's not reaching for one in the draft or paying mega-bucks for an elite CB. "
That makes good sense, though the big check Chip signed to get Seattle CB Byron Maxwell argues against it.
Though the last statement still baffles me a bit, the rest of it makes a lot of sense. Apparently, Chip prizes bigger people even more than we realized. One theory is that the Eagles might move Beau Allen over to starting nose tackle and slide Bennie Logan to DE. The only problem with that analysis is that Logan is only 6'2', so he doesn't fit these new rules either.