Some early musings about Chip Kelly's team

Posted: May 23, 2013

IN HIS HUGE OFFICE, early in these spring mornings, ol' Chippah must be chuckling.

He has the whole region chasing its tail, like some strung-out Pac-12 defense without the sense to just play soft until the red zone.

Who will be the quarterback?

Will the rookie right tackle start over that huge Hanson brother lookalike?

Can Trent Cole play without his hand in the ground after eight seasons?

Can Brandon Graham get a break?

Who's going to return punts?

Jason Avant's going to be a safety?

Clay Harbor's going to be a linebacker?

LeSean McCoy's going to treat women like human beings?

Even new Eagles coach Chip Kelly cannot answer these questions, even though he created all of them (except the last one). So, he chuckles. He might profess to ignore the speculation and the observations from the exceptionally perceptive and dogged Philly press that routinely covers his team, but no one in the public eye ever ignores their reviews.

So, he chuckles.

The best guesses:

* Michael Vick, of course. The Eagles have paid him $3.5 million.

Why else cure Vick's fumbling problem, which has dogged him for a decade? It took just a moment of Chippah's time to accomplish what Dan Reeves, Jack Burns, Pete Mangurian, Mike Johnson, Jim Mora, Greg Knapp, the inimitable Bill Musgrave, Andy Reid, Marty Mornhinweg, James Urban and Doug Pederson failed to do. Brilliant!

Further, Kelly's mere presence has somehow convinced Vick that he has been able to read defenses for a dozen years. This same Vick acknowledged a few years ago that, as a Falcon, he often declined to study video coaches made for him of the opposition.

Finally, Matt Barkley's cotton-candy passes, all soft and sweet, are not NFL-ready.

And, while Nick Foles might "feel confident with" the zone-read scheme, the key to any option attack is, well, the options. Foles runs a 5.14-second 40-yard dash.

Optimally, an option quarterback should be at least as fast as one of his tackles.

* First-round tackle Lane Johnson, the No. 4 overall pick, will start over Dennis Kelly by the first preseason game, and likely will run with the starters by the end of the June minicamps.

Given the pace of Chip Kelly's practices, Dennis Kelly is likely to see lots of first-team snaps, if only to save the legs of 30-somethings Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis, all coming off leg injuries.

* Probably not. Cole spoke Monday about finally having his "legs under him," i.e., being in the sort of condition a 3-4 outside linebacker needs to be in, compared with a 4-3 defensive end-the position where Cole logged his 71 sacks, behind only Reggie White and Clyde Simmons in Eagles history. In this scheme, there's a good chance Cole never catches Simmons, who is only 5 1/2 ahead of him.

* Probably not here; not this year. Graham, a linebacker in high school, spent the past 7 years trying to gain weight to play defensive end, which he did very well in the few games for which he has been healthy as a pro. Now, like Cole, he's trying to reshape and retrain his body and his brain. He won't lack for effort, but he's not built for this scheme.

* Probably Damaris Johnson, unless the Eagles want to use DeSean Jackson either to scare the opposition into punting out of bounds or actually set up a return. It is fascinating to witness the startling indifference with which starting receiver Jeremy Maclin is fielding punts in practice. Maclin, you see, is in a contract year.

* If Jason Avant, with the best hands on the team, is too slow for Chip Kelly's offense, he certainly is too slow to play defensive back in anybody's defense.

* If Clay Harbor is too soft to play tight end in Chip Kelly's offense, he certainly is too soft to play linebacker in anybody's defense.

* Um . . . No.

Not until the next woman files a lawsuit.

Chippah ain't chuckling about that.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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