The Philadelphia Eagles will have a new head coach for the first time since the hiring of Andy Reid in 1999. The Eagles finished with a losing record in 2012 for only the second time in the last 13 years. Reid lost his job, and elected to move on with Chip Kelly leading the way in 2013.
Kelly ran an extremely productive offense that highlighted tempo and speed during his time as offensive coordinator and head coach of the Oregon Ducks.
The translation of one of college football's most exciting offenses to the NFL, or at the very least, elements of it, has Eagles fans and the rest of the NFL world eagerly awaiting the results. If the experiment is successful, the Eagles could return to their winning ways sooner rather than later.
3 steps to success
1. Chip Kelly's offense
The new Eagles head coach had one of the most explosive offenses in college football as he led the Oregon Ducks to the 2011 BCS National Championship game. Oregon also earned wins in the 2012 Rose Bowl and 2013 Fiesta Bowl. Whether or not the up-tempo, fast-paced offense will work in the NFL has been debated often and will be paramount for the team's long-term success under Kelly.
2. Stop the pass
The cornerback combination of Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie never worked out as planned for the Eagles and the team was woefully bad against the pass in 2012. No team allowed more than Philadelphia's 33 passing touchdowns last season. With both corners gone in 2013, the Eagles will instead have to rely on the additions of Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher to be adequate starters. Also a problem was the team's pass rush that finished with the sixth-fewest sacks in 2012. That could be fixed if Trent Cole makes a successful transition to outside linebacker.
3. Strong quarterback play
Kelly has yet to name a starter for the 2013 season, as a competition between Michael Vick, Nick Foles and rookie Matt Barkley is still ongoing. During a 4-12 season in 2012, the Eagles received 10 starts from Vick and six from Foles, but didn't have playoff-quality performance from either. Vick earned a 78.1 passer rating before injury gave Foles the opportunity to play as a rookie and post a 79.1 rating. To make a significant improvement in 2013, the Eagles will need one of the two players to take a significant step forward in Kelly's offense or receive a shocking rookie season from Barkley.
3 feats toward failure
1. Struggles in 3-4
The Eagles allowed the fourth-most points in 2012, which would certainly warrant a defensive change; however, the Eagles didn't make many personnel changes along the front seven. That lack of change could create some square pegs forced into round holes for the defense as they look to improve upon one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL.
2. Stagnation at offensive tackle
Michael Vick had a subpar season in 2012, but it wasn't entirely his fault as the protection in front of him struggled mightily at times. With Jason Peters returning and the addition of Lane Johnson in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Eagles have some promise in 2013, but both certainly have question marks surrounding them. Peters is returning from an Achilles tear and Johnson was the least polished of the three tackles taken in the top 10. If either or both players struggle to play in top form, the Eagles passing game could suffer, accordingly.
3. Unsuccessful transition
There's an ongoing debate over how well aspects of college football offenses have transitioned to the NFL. including the option and spread offenses along with other strategies that take advantage of speed differences. That has caused many to question whether Kelly's offensive strategies that highlight speed will be effective against professional defenses or if his offense will fizzle instead.
The Eagles will be an interesting team to watch for all football fans for history's sake, if nothing else. The transition of Kelly's offense could be a revolutionary change in the NFL or it could further signify the difference between the two levels if the transition fails.
The NFL is a league that rewards big changes and features parity. Teams that are willing to turn their rosters over and experiment are typically successful sooner rather than later, so the Eagles could be a team to watch in 2013. The reality is that expectations should be low for a team that finished with the fourth-most points allowed and fourth-fewest scored in 2012 and has holes yet to be filled.