Eagles' Kelly answers Arians

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn't think too highly of the Eagles' read-option "offense."
Cardinals coach Bruce Arians doesn't think too highly of the Eagles' read-option "offense." (RICK SCUTERI / Associated Press)
Posted: November 30, 2013

Chip Kelly is an iconoclast.

He'd probably find a way to refute the general belief that he is one.

But Kelly set the record straight on several shared perceptions about his offense when he was asked Thursday about comments Bruce Arians made the day before about the read-option's being "a great college offense."

For one, the read-option isn't an offense, it's a play, Kelly said. Two, he doesn't run the read-option; he runs the zone-read, "if you want to get really technical." And lastly, Kelly said: "I don't care what other people think."

The Eagles coach wasn't directly addressing Arians. And for the record, the Cardinals coach wasn't specifically talking about Kelly's offense when he was asked about the read-option and how it's related to Robert Griffin III's sophomore slump in Washington.

But Kelly has spent a good deal of his 10 months in the NFL debunking labels that have been attached to his offense, which, it should be noted, is fourth in the league in total yards and ninth in points.

"I try to say this all the time. Here's our offense: We run the 'See Coast' offense," Kelly joked. "If we see something, and we like it and think it fits, we're going to run it. So the Philadelphia Eagles run the See Coast offense."

Arians, who has coached in the NFL on and off for the last 25 years, said that his objection to the read-option is that it too often puts a quarterback in harm's way.

"The read-option isn't designed for your quarterback to be the runner. The read-option is designed for that threat to be there so that teams have to respect that running ability," Eagles center Jason Kelce said. "In respect to [Arians], I understand what he's saying, but it's a very uneducated approach to understanding the read-option."

Kelly, of course, doesn't want his quarterbacks to take unnecessary hits. His motto has always been, "Touchdown, first down, get down." But Michael Vick and Nick Foles, not the greatest of sliders, have taken extra hits when they've kept the ball and run.

Griffin has taken a pounding in two seasons.

"Quarterbacks have gotten hurt in practice, quarterbacks get hurt running out of bounds, quarterbacks get hurt when a blitz hits them and they don't recognize it," Kelly said. "I don't look at it that way, never have looked at it that way."

Vick injured his hamstring this season running out of bounds. Foles suffered a concussion when he rolled out of the pocket and held onto the ball too long. The ultimate blow to Griffin's injured knee last season came in the pocket.

"I think in the NFL teams do a better job of playing it and keying it," Vick said. "It's up to you as far as how many hits you want to take and how reckless you want to be with it. It's just tough to run it throughout the course of a season. You got to pick and choose your spots."

Because Kelly's offense has plays that require the quarterback to be a threat to run, many have lumped the Eagles in with the 49ers, Redskins, and Panthers, other teams that run the option. But there are many differences, as well.

The 49ers, for instance, run many of their option plays with three in the backfield, two tight ends on the line, and out of a pistol formation. The Redskins employ a similar look.

The zone-read, though, is just one facet of Kelly's smorgasbord of an offense. And his system is based entirely, he said, on what he believes will work.

"To spend time [thinking] about what someone else thinks is counter to anything I've ever believed in my life," Kelly said. "If I believe what other people think, then that means I value their opinion more than I value my own."

McCoy less effective with Foles?

While wide receiver Riley Cooper's numbers have increased dramatically with Nick Foles, running back LeSean McCoy hasn't had as much success on the ground without Michael Vick at quarterback.

"You got to account for Mike's running ability. That's the biggest difference between the two," McCoy said. "My numbers may be down with Nick. It's probably because they'd rather take me out and deal with Nick."

The discrepancy isn't as dramatic as some have suggested, but McCoy rushed 96 times for 532 yards (5.4 average) and three touchdowns with Vick and has run 117 times for 486 yards (4.2 avg.) and two touchdowns when either Foles or Matt Barkley has been at quarterback.

McCoy, a day after Chip Kelly gave Foles the starting nod for the rest of the season, acknowledged that his statistics may suffer, but that winning is what ultimately matters. And right now the Eagles are winning with Foles.

"He's real hot, and he's giving us a chance to win," McCoy said. "It's stuff we got to go with. I still think I can be productive in the run."

In the last two games, McCoy rushed for 232 yards and two touchdowns, and Foles ran 17 times for 85 yards and one score.

"Maybe Nick might not be the most flashy running quarterback there is," McCoy said, "but he's making plays and winning games."

Inside the game

The Cardinals blitz as often as any defense in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, formerly of the Eagles, has sent extra pass rushers on 239 of 489 (48.9 percent) quarterback drops this season.

The results have been mixed, often depending upon the quality of offense Arizona has faced. But opposing quarterbacks have completed 55.1 percent of their attempts, thrown for 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, and been sacked 18 times when blitzed.

Nick Foles has had success against the blitz but hasn't seen many extra pass rushers, for whatever reason. He's been blitzed on 26.1 percent of drops and completed 62.8 percent of his passes for five touchdowns. Foles hasn't been intercepted but was sacked three times.

"I think it's one of his strengths," Chip Kelly said, "because I think he's intelligent and he's got a really good understanding of what we're doing."

LeSean McCoy is on pace to finish the season with 310 carries and 49 catches for a total of 359 touches.

His previous high of 321 touches came in 2011, although he projected to have 339 touches last season if he hadn't missed four games with a concussion.

McCoy said he feels fine and isn't worried about the increased load.

"I don't really take that many beatings," he said. "You can't really get a direct shot on me, where other guys may take two or three shots."

Foles has had only one of 162 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. Kelly said that he thought the low number could be correlated, in part, to the giant "flyswatters" he used at practices during the spring and training camp.

Kelly had members of his staff during 7-on-7 drills wear equipment on their shoulders that looked like giant flyswatters and were used to emulate defensive linemen with raised arms.

"I think it helps because it just gets them to understand throwing lanes and that you just can't let it rip no matter what," Kelly said.

Michael Vick said that he didn't initially like the flyswatters and argued with Kelly to get rid of them.

"I went back and forth with Coach Kelly in spring," Vick said, "but I don't think I had one batted ball when I was playing."

Vick had five of his 141 passes batted at the line, according to Pro Football Focus.

Inside the locker room

Punter Donnie Jones' six previous seasons before signing with the Eagles were spent with teams that played their home games indoors. Before landing with the Rams and Texans he spent two seasons in Miami. But he said he wasn't concerned about kicking outdoors in December, noting that he played games in Buffalo, New York, and Chicago in the last month of the season. "Before the season started, everybody said: 'Aw, he's been indoors for six seasons,' " Jones said. "So it gave me a little motivation."

After six straight games in which he dressed as the backup quarterback, Matt Barkley will probably be inactive again on Sunday. In the two games in which he was called upon in relief, Barkley completed 60.9 percent of his throws for 287 yards. He didn't toss a touchdown and had five turnovers (four interceptions and a fumble). Barkley said he'll continue to prepare as if he's starting. "Look at what happened last time and I had to go in," he said. "You just got to be ready if those guys drop off again."

Last game, tackle Matt Tobin was active for the first time. He dressed ahead of Dennis Kelly. Neither said they knew why, but Tobin has been playing on the left and Kelly on the right, and Jason Peters entered to game with a few minor injuries. Allen Barbre is technically the backup left tackle, though. Tobin said the coaches want him "to put some weight on . . . and get little stronger." The 295-pound undrafted rookie said the Eagles want him somewhere between 305 and 310 pounds.

Cameras caught LeSean McCoy slapping hands with Eagles fans before the last game and then grabbing a Redskins banner from a fan who was waving it in his face. He crumbled the banner up, but said this week that he gave it back. McCoy said it was all in fun. "He'll probably talk about this 20 years from now," he joked.

By the numbers


Percentage of targeted passes (58 of 89) DeSean Jackson has caught this season, so far the best mark of his career: 2012 (51.1), 2011 (55.8), 2010 (49.0), 2009 (53.4), 2008 (51.7).


Jackson's average yards gained after the catch, third in the NFL among wide receivers with more than 45 receptions (Demaryius Thomas, 8.19, and Harry Douglas, 7.17).


Percentage of pass routes Jackson has run out of the slot, a higher number percentage than any other season in his career. Jackson also already has a career-best 21 catches for 262 yards out of the slot.



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