This is the day I’m supposed to stand on the “everybody-calm-down” podium, spraying a cold-water hose over Eagles fans feverish expectations. Hey, it’s just pre-season, right? Nobody’s game-planning, backups populate both sides of the football, coaches show nothing of their real schemes.
Chillax, right? A dynamic August means nothing once real games begin. We learned that when Andy Reid’s 2013 squad went 4-0 in practice games and then flailed through a 4-12 regular season.
Except . . .
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Except something genuine and breathtaking is going on with Chip Kelly’s offense that isn’t a late-summer mirage. It starts, obviously, with Sam Bradford going 10-for-10 against Green Bay’s first-unit defense and throwing TD passes on three different style routes.
It continues with DeMarco Murray finding and clearing a hole every time he is handed the ball. Hey, I was skeptical when Lesean McCoy was deposed to Siberia, but it’s already clear Murray’s style – as a runner and a pro – better fits Kelly’s rapid-paced offense.
And it goes beyond that. All of the deconstruct-reconstruct Kelly masterminded in the off-season has given this offense more weapons than Pentagon generals.
In a candid statement last week, the coach said he was frustrated last season by his lack of depth at skill positions. “There were times when (I) was calling plays andthinking, ‘Who is in the game?’ ” Kelly said. “The play call changed a little bit.”
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So the overhaul brought in Bradford, Murray, power runner Ryan Mathews and first-rounder receiver Nelson Agholor. Pair them with rising star Jordan Matthews, timeless touchdown threat Darren Sproles and a posse of tight ends and the Eagles may have the deepest group of ball-handling players in the NFC. They can mix-and-match and stay fresh while running an up-tempo offense that exhausts and baffles opposing defenses.
You saw it Saturday, when the Eagles got the ball at their own 8 with 55 seconds to go in the first half – already up 32-14. Any other NFL head coach would have ordered a few kneel-downs and contently jogged into the locker content.
But not Chip. With his second-unit offense facing the Packers befuddled starters, the Eagles drove 92 yards in nine plays, scoring on a Mark Sanchez pass to third-string tight end Trey Burton. It was just one more measure of how relentless this scheme and talent can be.
If it all works – and indications so far are that Kelly’s conducting a symphony out there – there is no ceiling for this year’s team. That title drought that began when your dad was a teenager in 1960 could finally be over.
As I see it, there are two things that can derail this bandwagon. The first are a few concerns on defense. Neither DeMeco Ryans nor Kiko Alonso has yet shown anything coming off injury. Eric Rowe, a talented 2nd-rounder, seems a bit confused out there in coverage.
The bigger concern, of course, is an injury epidemic. Kelly gambled by signing so many health risks, trusting his sports science and sleep regimen. We’ve already seen pre-season carnage damage the hopes of the Packers (Jordy Nelson), Cowboys (Orlando Scandrick) and Giants (seemingly every defensive back, plus one fireworks-juggling lineman).
I can’t predict injuries. But I can note that the Eagles Vegas odds to win the Super Bowl have increased from 15-1 to 10-1 in just two weeks.
By the way, that game will be played next February 7 in Santa Clara, CA. I’m already scouting out hotel rooms.