PHILADELPHIA – Ready, set, go.
The Philadelphia Eagles might as well be running a track meet under new coach Chip Kelly.
Everything they do is faster from the way they practice to their up-tempo offense. Kelly even speaks fast when talking to reporters, answering questions quickly and moving to the next one.
His ratio of words per minute certainly leaves Andy Reid in the dust. But the most important question in Philadelphia is whether Kelly can top Reid's success and win that elusive Super Bowl.
Kelly took over a 4-12 team after Reid was fired following 14 seasons. He's brought a unique approach that worked well at the University of Oregon. The players have been on board since the start. Now, we'll see if their enthusiasm translates into wins.
"They've embraced everything, and that's a real credit to them," Kelly said. "Since Day 1, there was not a whole lot of salesmanship in terms of why we have to do all these things because their thought process is that if you can help me become a better football player, then I'm in, and everyone has been that way. That part, I think, was an unknown going in. You didn't know about that. And if you're a guy from the outside and haven't been a part of it, you hear it's tough to coach professional athletes, they've got their own mindset, they want to do things their own way. I've never encountered that with one player on this team, and that part as a coach has been refreshing.
"It makes you excited to come to work every day."
Five things to know about the Eagles:
EXPECT SOME GROWING PAINS: This isn't the Pac-10. The Eagles aren't going to dominate the way the Ducks did for four seasons under Kelly. His task is a tough one. The Eagles were bad in 2011 and downright awful last year. It's going to take some time for Kelly to turn them into a winner again. Kelly has some talented players, particularly on offense, and that should make the Eagles an exciting team to watch. But there are enough holes on this team that even a losing season — if they went 7-9 — would have to be considered a success and major step forward.
MICHAEL VICK HAS TO PROTECT THE BALL: Vick was outstanding in the first two preseason games, winning the starting job over Nick Foles and showing a solid grasp of Kelly's system. But the old Vick showed up in the third preseason game. He made some dazzling plays, including several with his legs that proved he's still a weapon running the ball at age 33. But he also made questionable decisions similar to the ones that plagued him the last two years. Vick was indecisive at times in the pocket, forced one throw that resulted in an interception and nearly had another pick when he foolishly tossed the ball straight up in the air while going down on a sack. If Vick plays more like the Pro Bowl starter he was in 2010 rather than the turnover machine he was in 2011-12, he could shine in Kelly's offense. Otherwise, Foles looked sharp and he'll get his turn.
OFFENSE IS THE TEAM'S STRENGTH: Whether it's Vick or Foles under center, the Eagles have potential to be a dynamic offense. Playmakers LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson seem poised to thrive in Kelly's high-octane system. Jason Avant appears ready to make up for the loss of Jeremy Maclin and tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz could post big numbers. Bryce Brown complements McCoy nicely, giving the Eagles two strong running backs. Brown, however, needs to solve his fumbling issues. The offensive line is healthy and boosted by the addition of first-round pick Lane Johnson. Overall, the Eagles should score plenty of points and they're going to need it with a suspect defense.
OPPONENTS WILL TRY TO PASS OFTEN: A secondary that was one of the worst in NFL history last year underwent a major overhaul. Gone are cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, two former Pro Bowl guys who were part of a unit that allowed 33 touchdown passes and had only eight interceptions. Free-agent acquisitions Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are the starters and there's not much depth behind them. There hasn't been a playmaker at safety since Brian Dawkins left. Quarterbacks had a 99.6 passer rating against the Eagles last year, and it doesn't appear there's a reason for them to stop throwing against this secondary.
DEFENSE IS WORK IN PROGRESS: Billy Davis is the team's fourth defensive coordinator in five years. Davis brings a new 3-4 alignment that requires several holdovers to make adjustments, including defensive ends Trent Cole and Brandon Graham moving to linebacker. There's depth on the line and strong potential among the front seven. End Fletcher Cox, a 2012 first-round pick, could be a breakout player.
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