PHILADELPHIA – Chip Kelly is working on ways to improve a record-setting offense.
The Philadelphia Eagles went 10-6, won the NFC East title and their up-tempo offense set team records for (442) points, total net yards (6,676), touchdowns (53), and gross yards passing (4,406) last year.
But their offensive-minded coach has more tricks up his sleeve. He also has to replace a couple of key starters. DeSean Jackson was abruptly released following a career year that sent the speedy wideout to the Pro Bowl for the third time. Slot receiver Jason Avant also was cut. Right tackle Lane Johnson will miss the first four games because of a suspension.
"It always changes," Kelly said of his offense. "I've said it since Day One, your offense is always personnel driven. So the biggest thing that you have to do is identify the skillsets you have and adjust those skillsets and that's what football has always been. Our offense has changed every year I've been in charge of the offense, whether I was at New Hampshire, Oregon or here."
Jeremy Maclin returns after missing last season with a torn ACL to replace Jackson. Rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff add more depth and give Nick Foles more options. The versatile Darren Sproles, acquired from New Orleans, will back up All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy and will certainly get touches in different ways.
"Whatever their strengths are, try to cater to those," Kelly said. "So they have got some new guys, so we'll tweak what we are doing based upon what their skillsets are as we continue to evaluate here and say: 'How do we run this as we post? We didn't do this that much in the past, but now that we have a different type of person in that situation, let's do this.'"
One area Foles is working on mastering is the back-shoulder toss. Foles, a Pro Bowl MVP, is coming off an outstanding sophomore season. He had the best TD-interception ratio (13:5-1) in NFL history, the third-highest passer rating (119.2) in league history and the club's best completion rate (64.04).
"That's just something that's a great addition to the offense," Foles said of the back-shoulder throw. "We've always tried going over the top, and that's something that you see a lot of guys like (Drew) Brees, (Aaron) Rodgers, (Peyton) Manning, (Tom) Brady, they do a really good job."
The pass is intentionally underthrown, so a receiver doesn't have to break away from coverage. Instead, the receiver must adjust properly and return to the ball.
"They can be very effective if they're thrown with the right timing and at the right spot," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "So it's just one of the things guys work on. We try to take advantage of every opportunity to get the ball down the field, and that is just another way to do it. Nick has done a good job of kind of understanding the receivers and what they're good at, and trying to blend that with the route concepts we're giving them and the types of routes that they're running. You can see them moving it around."
NOTES: WR Riley Cooper had a walking boot on his right foot after missing practices this week because of a foot injury. "It's just a preventative thing. He'll be better in a couple days," Kelly said. ... Kelly spent time with Ohio State coach Urban Meyer this summer. "He's one of the all-time great coaches in college football," Kelly said. "He's one of the guys I talk a lot of football with. We share ideas and we get as much out of them as they get out of us."
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