Kelly sees room for more vroom

Eagles coach Chip Kelly talks with DeSean Jackson during Monday's game. Jackson was one of eight starters who played 77 of the 80 snaps that the Birds took.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly talks with DeSean Jackson during Monday's game. Jackson was one of eight starters who played 77 of the 80 snaps that the Birds took. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: September 12, 2013

In the first half of the opener against the Redskins, the Eagles offense played fast, very fast, and everybody thought so. Except Chip Kelly, of course.

"I felt like it was slow, to be honest with you," Kelly said on Tuesday, and a few people chuckled because they wanted to be in on the joke. Except there wasn't one.

"I'm not joking. We've got to do a better job," Kelly said. "We left the ball on the ground too much. We didn't get the ball to the officials. We could have sped things up [in the] process between plays. That's something we need to continue to work on."

He sees things that others can't right now, which is part of his job, but it includes a vision that even some of his players can't grasp just yet.

"I don't think you can get too much faster than that," quarterback Michael Vick said of the pace in the first half when the Eagles were clicking and the Redskins were clunking.

Kelly is striving for immediate restarts to the action, when the situation calls for it, or at least as immediate as the league will allow. This works a lot better in soccer than football because the referee doesn't have to handle the ball and because there aren't any plays to be communicated from the sideline. But to come as close as possible when he wants to go fast, that is the vision.

There were times when the Eagles hesitated a few ticks until the wig-wags from the coaches had been interpreted and everyone was lined up. There were times when the ball was lying there on the ground after a play and it was going to stay there until some 58-year-old insurance salesman in stripes ambled over to pick it up. Kelly wants the Eagles to cut out the middleman and get the ball to the proper authority on the double. Where others see haste, he still sees waste.

"That's something we need to continue to work on," Kelly said.

As it was, the Eagles ran off 53 plays in their 20 minutes, 20 seconds of possession in the opening half, an average of one play every 23 seconds. That's pretty quick by NFL standards. It just isn't quick enough by Kelly standards.

Still, it was a remarkable debut of the hurry-up for a franchise that played chicken with the play clock for the previous 14 years. The real problems arose after halftime, and after the Eagles scored on their opening possession of the second half to take a 33-7 lead.

Kelly took the blame for removing the spark plug from the time machine too quickly and trying to coast to the finish line, but the Eagles didn't start huddling until well into the fourth quarter. By that juncture, it was fair to wonder if the offense was tired and paying the price for the sugar high of the first half.

In the second half, the Eagles had just five first downs, after ringing up 21 first downs in the opening half. They left the field quickly and had the ball for just 12:19 after halftime. Overall, they did run 77 plays in the game and that's a load.

"There were a lot of teams that ran more plays than we did," Kelly said.

Actually, there were two: the Patriots (89) and the Ravens (87). The Patriots did it on purpose, naturally, and the Ravens did it because they fell behind and Joe Flacco had to throw 62 passes, 28 of which fell incomplete and stopped the clock.

Kelly wouldn't say the first half caused the second half, but he did say he had to get more substitutions in the game for the skill players on offense. If LeSean McCoy is going to grind out yards to help hold a second-half lead, he might not be able to keep running the ball 20 times in the first half to build that lead.

"We need to see Bryce [Brown] a little more. We need to get Chris Polk in the game. We need to rotate our receivers a little more. When you're going to play that many snaps, you've got to make sure you don't run your own team into the ground," Kelly said. "We need to make sure we're cognizant of how many snaps guys are getting."

He had better start doing that quickly. On the league's official tally of the Eagles' 80 snaps (that counts the three plays that were run but were nullified by penalty), eight of the starters played at least 77 of them, including DeSean Jackson (77) and Riley Cooper (80). The other three starters played at least 65 snaps: Jason Avant (68), Brent Celek (66) and McCoy (65).

The bench got a total of 46 snaps spread over six players, only two of whom, Zach Ertz (24) and Brown (15) played more than two downs. So, substitutes got 5.2 percent of the snaps. (Bill Belichick doubled that, by the way: 10.4 percent of the snaps for his reserves.) Kelly said he will be working on the issue.

"We need to make sure we manage it so when we're in the fourth quarter, we're fresher," he said.

Particularly if he thinks the offense didn't play that first half on Monday nearly fast enough to suit him.

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