What’s Wrong with Chip Kelly and the Eagles?

chip-kelly-eagles-2015The NFL is definitely a fickle league, one where a single loss has the press jumping on your team like it’s ready to be demoted to the Arena League. Right now, Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles are experiencing this fickleness in full force. Of course, when you allow Kirk Cousins to engineer a 90-yard, game-winning drive against you, then perhaps criticism is deserved.

The Eagles are now 1-3 and mired in last place in a relatively soft NFC East. Yes, they are still 1 game out of first place when considering that New York, Dallas and Washington are all wrapped in a 2-2 pack. But the way it feels, Philadelphia might as well be four games out of first place.

The Redskins game was a perfect example of this as the Eagles made several bonehead plays that cost them what should have been a victory. Two of these can be attributed to rookie receiver Nelson Agholor, who lined up in an illegal formation that wiped out a Zach Ertz touchdown just before halftime; Caleb Sturgis would end up missing a 33-yard field goal. Agholor would later make an outstanding one-handed, 45-yard catch, only to nullify this by botching a handoff from Ryan Matthews on a reverse.

sam-bradford-eaglesThen there’s the team’s $42-million investment, DeMarco Murray, who, a year after leading the NFL in rushing, had just 36 yards on 8 carries. What’s particularly alarming is that this represented his season high, and he only has 47 yards on 29 carries for the season. At this point last year, with the Dallas Cowboys, he’s reeled off 534 yards on 99 carries – no wonder Murray is complaining about not getting enough carries.

As for Kelly’s revolutionary offense, the one that was supposed to shake up the league….well, he may need to consider shaking his offense up. 8 of the 16 quarters that the Eagles have played have resulted in zero points. When Sam Bradford found Riley Cooper for a 62-yard touchdown in the third quarter, it finally wiped out four straight quarters without a point.

Then there’s the offensive line, which doesn’t know how to block on run or pass plays. Defenders have constantly been in the backfield whenever Murray, Ryan Matthews or Darren Sproles get a handoff. Bradford isn’t faring much better at the QB spot, taking five sacks and getting hit eight other times. At this rate, Bradford is destined for yet another injury plagued season.

So what has to change for this team to start winning? The likely answer all begins with Kelly, who’s taken lots of criticism for his refusal to change. Namely, Kelly believes that his system can win no matter who’s lining up for his team. This is a big reason why he’s shipped off everybody from LeSean McCoy to Nick Foles while thinking they are easily replaceable.

Kelly is a guy who’s already won in the NFL, racking up 10-6 records in his first two seasons in the league. That certainly seems out of the question now, with Philadelphia already halfway to 6 losses. But that doesn’t mean the ex-Oregon coach can’t finally get out of his own way, adapt the way defenses have adapted to his gameplans, and start netting some wins again.

Philadelphia Eagles Betting: Cary Williams Angry, despite 3-0 Start

cary-williams-practice-angryFor most NFL teams, it would be high-fives and laughs in the locker room after a 3-0 start. But there’s one player in the Philadelphia Eagles locker room who’s not high-fiving anyone – especially head coach Chip Kelly.

Cornerback Cary Williams has taken exception to the grueling practices that Kelly puts the team through every week. And while he didn’t specifically throw out Kelly’s name in an interview with NJ.com, Williams referred to the “coaching staff” when discussing his concerns about the team’s weekly preparation. Here’s what he told NJ.com following a close 37-34 win over the Washington Redskins:

I was just trying to conserve as much energy during the week so I can be as effective as I can be on Sundays. It was just such a dogfight. It didn’t help that I wasn’t healthy through the week and it didn’t help that I had a dogfight before the week and then I had a dogfight during the game. It’s just tough, man. We have to start taking care of our guys, taking care of our players, doing the right thing from there.

I didn’t practice every week, there’s a reason for that. A lot of guys had no legs. A lot of guys were in a dogfight before the game even started. We have to take care of our guys during the week to make sure we’re fresh come Sundays.

In other words, we have to be smart. As a coaching staff and as players. I’m going to be honest with you: It didn’t matter if we had a short week or a long week, it’s been the same. Something needs to change for us to be more productive. It’s tough enough to go out there and play hard for 60 minutes, let alone having to fight through the week. When you don’t have legs, period, it shows up in the game. Period. Throughout the game. Period.

cary-williams-practice-angry-2I’m saying [practicing every day] impacted a lot of people. A lot of people, but I’m just the only one man enough to get up here and say anything about it, talk to ya’ll as a man and discuss an issue that, obviously, in my opinion, is an issue in our starts [to games].

But again, I’m just employee 26, and whatever they deem necessary to get us ready for Sunday is whatever it is. If we have to find energy from outside sources to start games quick, then we’ve got to do it. But right now, the way we’re doing it, it’s not conducive to success.

Williams finished his rant by saying that he thinks the overload of practice reps is really taxing on his body and disrupted his gameday preparations. He also added that he was expecting safety help on the blown coverage that led to DeSean Jackson’s long touchdown against his former team.

Interestingly enough, Williams is picking up where he left off during the offseason, criticizing joint practices with the New England Patriots. He also has a problem with the fact that Philadelphia doesn’t take Tuesday off like many other NFL teams. With as vocal as Williams has been about his team and Kelly’s methods, you can be sure that the ole’ coach had a sit-down meeting with his star cornerback. And it’s highly doubtful that this was a calm discussion either.

NFL slows down Chip Kelly’s Fast-Paced Offense

chip-kelly-offenseFew teams had more hype entering this season than the Philadelphia Eagles. And much of this hype stemmed from new head coach Chip Kelly and his fast-paced offense.

Kelly’s offense, which puts opposing defenses through a track meet by quickly running plays and speeding up the game, was hailed as revolutionary. Two games into the year, an anonymous offensive coordinator told NFL Media columnist Michael Silver that it would work all season.

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said that the Eagles’ 33-27 Week 1 win over the Redskins “changed the landscape of the NFL from a philosophical, schematic approach to how the game is played.” Jaworski added, “What Michael Vick did to London Fletcher on numerous reads was take his strength and make it a weakness. An aggressive, downhill, smart, intelligent player was pretty much rendered useless early in the game because all of the options within this scheme that Chip Kelly has designed. So I think it is here to stay.”

nick-foles-eaglesAnybody who watched Philadelphia’s Week 7 game against the Cowboys saw anything but what Jaws described. What they witnessed was Vick standing on the sidelines with an injury…Nick Foles scrambling around in the pocket and making horribly inaccurate throws…LeSean McCoy rushing for a meager 55 yards on 18 carries….DeSean Jackson catching three passes for 21 yards….and worst of all, Philadelphia putting just three points on the board against a below-average Dallas defense.

Now does this mean that Kelly’s offense is a complete failure? Certainly not because his team has put up 30 or more points in four out of seven games. However, it’s not quite the revolutionary scheme that will have half the league quick-snapping the ball every play next year.

While inventive and tough to prepare for, Kelly’s fast-paced offense isn’t nearly as dominating in the NFL. He doesn’t have a sizable talent advantage in the pros like he did at Oregon. And it’s much tougher to run the read option when 6’3″, 260-pound linebackers who boast a 4.6-forty are shadowing the quarterback. Plus the idea of running plays as fast as possible loses its effect when you’re going 3-and-out half the time like Philadelphia has been doing.

When the Eagles get Vick healthy again, Kelly’s offense will certainly look better. And with nine regular season games remaining, there are still some big offensive performances left in this team. But as for the preseason hype that the fast-paced offense would take the league by storm, well, it’s been nothing more than hype so far.

Michael Vick is starting for the Eagles – Now What?

michael-vickLast year was definitely a season to forget for Michael Vick. He missed several games due to a concussion, and failed to immediately regain his starting job from rookie Nick Foles upon returning from his head injury. Thanks to the missed time, he tallied his lowest stats since returning to the NFL in 2009, following a two-year prison stint. Vick threw for 2,362 yards, had 332 rushing yards, and threw for 12 TD’s against 10 INT’s.

What’s worse is that the normally-competitive Philadelphia Eagles suffered through a dismal season after going 4-12. All of this being said, nothing was guaranteed heading into the 2013-14 season – especially Vick’s starting job.

But after battling with Foles for the lead QB role, Chip Kelly has already named Vick the starter for the September 9th Week 1 game against Washington. Now that he’s entering this year as the top signal caller again, the question will be if Vick can regain his 2010 form, when he threw for 3,018 yards and 21 TD’s, ran for 676 yards and 9 TD’s, and tossed just 6 INT’s.

michael-vickThe 10-year veteran will be hard-pressed to repeat what he did back then. However, he stands a great chance of improving, thanks to Kelly’s new offensive system. This is especially true when you consider that this offense will utilize Vick’s mobility more than what was seen in Andy Reid’s system last year.

Now this doesn’t mean that Vick will be equaling his 2010 rushing total of 676 yards. After all, Kelly’s offense doesn’t call for a running back who can throw, but rather a passer who can run. But Vick has the legs to create plays on all of the zone reads in Kelly’s offense. Even at 33, he’s quite possibly the fastest quarterback in the league. So even if Vick only runs a few times every game, that threat is going to keep linebackers and safeties at home.

The big thing for No. 7 will be avoiding sacks and turnovers, which plagued him last season. Even more so than other coaches, Chip Kelly hates his QB getting sacked and turning the ball over. So if these problems start to creep back into Vick’s play, look for Foles to get another shot at the starting job.

michael-vick-1It’s also worth mentioning that Vick has only played a full season once. His hard-running style isn’t exactly a recipe for longevity throughout the year, so you can bet that he’ll miss 2-3 games in 2013.

One more thing worth covering is that Vick will start the season without his biggest weapon in Jeremy Maclin. Maclin will miss the entire year with a torn ACL, which definitely hurts because he was expected to be Philadelphia’s top wideout.

Despite all of the adversity facing him, Michael Vick is likely to have a much better season than last year’s nightmare. Chip Kelly’s system will compliment him well, and he’ll also be playing for a new deal. It wouldn’t be a total surprise if he leads the Eagles to at least a .500 record and maybe even a Wild Card playoff spot.

Matt Barkley sees Unprecedented Fall in 2013 NFL Draft

matt-barkley-nfl-draftThis year, Barkley will be a Junior and it may be his last year playing for the Trojans before he takes his talents to the NFL. I have watched every game of Barkley since he became a Trojan and I am confident that he will be a top 5 pick whenever he decides to come out.

These were the words NFLMocks used to describe Matt Barkley towards the end of his junior year at USC. The top 5 pick sentiment was something that was shared by many NFL GM’s and scouts back in these days. And Barkley did turn out to be a top 5 pick….of the fourth round.

The disappointed QB’s free fall finally ended on the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft, when the Philadelphia Eagles took him with the first pick of the fourth round. And while plenty of great quarterbacks have been drafted at this point or later, they certainly didn’t have the pedigree of Matt Barkley.

matt-barkley-nfl-draft-1While quarterbacking Santa Ana Mater Dei High School, Barkley gained considerable attention for winning the Gatorade National Player of the Year award in his junior season. As the nation’s number one QB prospect, he would go on to become the first true freshman in USC history to start.

The hype rapidly built long before Barkley even threw an official pass at USC. “I’m going on record now to say … three years Matt Barkley – who will be a true freshman this year – will be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Three years from now,” said ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper.

Things got off to a mediocre start for Barkley in his freshman season as he led the Trojans to a 9-4 record, while throwing for 2,735 yards, 15 TD’s and 14 INT’s. His sophomore year was better statistically as the 6’2″ signal caller tallied 2,791 yards, 26 TD’s and 12 INT’s; however, USC limped to an 8-5 record.

matt-barkley-nfl-draft-2But Barkley’s junior year is when he really exploded after throwing for 3,528 yards, 39 TD’s, just 6 INT’s, and led USC to a 10-2 record. Based on all of this, it’s no wonder why he was the Hesiman Trophy favorite in his senior year. And Barkley’s decision to return was particularly shocking when you consider that he was a projected top 10 pick in the 2012 Draft.

Perhaps the Newport Beach, California native should’ve left because the 2012 season was a disaster for USC, which started as the number one-ranked team in preseason polls. This ranking quickly vanished as they lost to the Stanford Cardinals to open the Pac-10 season. After winning their next four games, the Trojans dropped five out of their last six contests to finish at a dismal 7-6 – quite possibly the worst that a top-ranked preseason team has ever done.

Barkley put up solid numbers with 3,287 yards, 36 TD’s and 15 INT’s during this campaign. However, his 2013 NFL Draft stock plummeted for a variety of reasons and cost him somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 – $15 million.

So what happened between the end of 2011 and 2012? First off, scouts found a lot more flaws in Barkley’s game after he led USC to a 7-6 season – namely average arm strength and dancing feet in the pocket.

He also suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of the Sun Bowl and prevented him from throwing at the Combine in Indianapolis. This is about the worst thing that could’ve happened to Barkley after USC coach Lane Kiffin convinced him to stay. And when he did work out for scouts at USC’s pro day, his performance was less than inspiring.

matt-barkley-nfl-draft-3Finally, Barkley is now a year older with another season of wear and tear on him. And when an injury causes more tear, this is never something that will improve your draft status.

If there’s any silver lining to this story, it’s that Barkley is taking the draft slide pretty well. He said, “I’m just glad I know where my home is and I can’t wait to hit the playbook.” Barkley also stated, “I stayed positive this whole time, and haven’t looked back. I’m blessed that the Eagles believe in me and are willing to give me a chance. And I’m looking forward from here on out. And no matter where you end, it’s just the beginning of the next chapter, next story of your life.”

The next chapter will see Matt Barkley trying to distinguish himself in a muddled, five-quarterback situation in Philadelphia. Michael Vick is the frontrunner so far; but he certainly isn’t a lock to start after a dismal, injury-plagued 2012 and a new coach in Chip Kelly.

Nick Foles should also get a crack at the starting job after throwing for 1,699 yards, 6 TD’s and 5 INT’s while filling in for Vick. Dennis Dixon is another intriguing candidate here since he quarterbacked Kelly’s Oregon team in 2007 and served as a backup on the Ravens’ 2012 NFL championship team.

It’s difficult to say where Barkley fits into this situation. But no matter if he ends up as the starter or taking practice squad reps, he’ll be making far less money than if he’d came out last year.

The Californian is probably going to sign something in the range of a four-year contract worth $2.5 million with a $500,000 signup bonus. However, this is a far cry from the $15 million or so he would’ve received as a top 10 pick. That said, Barkley will definitely serve as a cautionary tale to top NFL prospects for years to come.

Michael Vick takes $5.5m Paycut to stay with Eagles and Chip Kelly

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia EaglesDespite suffering through one of the worst seasons of his career, Michael Vick still had plenty of suitors in the early NFL offseason. The 32-year-old drew heavy interest from Arizona, Buffalo and Cleveland as all three teams are looking to upgrade their QB position. However, Vick decided to stay put in Philadelphia – even if it meant taking a $5.5 million paycut.

He signed a one-year, $10 million restructured deal to come back to the Eagles for a fourth year. And what’s interesting about this is that Vick probably could have earned more money by going to one of the aforementioned teams. However, he chose to stay in Philly for one big reason – Chip Kelly and his new offense.

The Perfect Situation

Over the past four years, Chip Kelly built a reputation as an offensive mastermind at the University of Oregon. His Ducks were regularly among the nation’s top scoring teams, and this helped him compile a 46-7 record at Oregon. Taking all of this into account, it’s no surprise that Vick was excited about returning to the Eagles – despite suffering through an injury-plagued season where he threw for just 2,362 yards, 12 TD’s and 10 INT’s.

chip-kelly-oregonVick discussed the matter by saying, “I feel like this is the perfect situation for me. After talking with Chip and looking at the offense, I wanted to be here.” He added, “This is about making it work. Whatever I had to do, I wanted to make this work.”

When considering what Kelly’s offense can do for a quarterback, it’s easy to see why Vick would want to return. The large number of option plays and emphasis on quarterback speed is great for Michael, who, even at 32, is one of the NFL’s faster players.

Chance of Success?

The Eagles have invested $10 million into Michael Vick while hoping that he can regain the same form he had in 2010 – which saw him throw for 3,018 yards, 21 TD’s and 6 INT’s, and rush for 676 yards and 9 more touchdowns. However, Vick is far from a sure thing since Nick Foles will provide competition for the starting QB role; Foles threw for 1,699 yards, 6 TD’s and 5 INT’s in his seven rookie appearances.

michael-vickHowever, Michael thinks that he can put the injuries and struggles of the past two years behind him as he said, “Physically, I think I’m right there as good as the 23-year-old me I was way back when I got started. I’ve been training hard already with Tom Anderson and he’s going to have me ready to play in this offense by next season.”

Plus the offensive weapons are all there, which is something that isn’t completely true with Cleveland, Buffalo and Arizona. Vick has a star running back (LeSean McCoy), two strong wide receivers (Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson) and a very solid tight end (Brent Celek) in Philadelphia.

The right pieces and offensive scheme are certainly there for Vick this coming season. Now it’s up to him to stay healthy and prove that his skills haven’t diminished with age.