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The Preseason BEast Report: The Philadelphia Eagles Edition

There have been many off season shots taken at the strategy being employed by Chip Kelly to revolutionize professional football, but now it is time to get down to brass tacks and see what the genius is doing.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

In the first of our Preseason BEast reports we reviewed the off season moves that Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants made to improve their standing in the NFC East. In that I projected that the Giants would overtake the Eagles and finish in the runner up slot in 2015. That was in part due to the improvements that the Giants have made in their personnel. It was also impacted by my take on what the Eagles have done over the past few months. New York seems to have a plan in place while, at least to me, the team from the City of Brotherly Love seems to be operating more at whimsy than anything else.

  • The first of Kelly's questionable moves involved dealing away one of the key pieces of his offense. One year after giving Pro Bowl wide receiver his walking papers as a 'reward' for his best statistical season, Kelly also traded away the organization's all-time leading rusher LeSean McCoy to get linebacker Kiko Alonso. It is true that the Eagles needed some help on the defensive side of the football but in Alonso the Eagles are getting a player who is coming off of an ACL injury that prevented him from following up on a promising rookie season. Kiko is a talented young athlete but he is not in the caliber of McCoy just yet. If he can develop the move will take a very solid linebacker corps to the next level, but at the cost of one of the most feared offensive weapons the team had.

"Kiko has got a really well-rounded skill set, He's got length ... when you're playing the bigger tight ends, you've got a linebacker that matches up length-wise. He's got speed, so when he's on a running back he's got the ability to cover them man-to-man."He's a natural linebacker, he really is, who has the ability to cover man-to-man." - Philadelphia defensive coordinator Billy Davis

  • As we all know, Chip then set about trying to cover himself by bringing in an established NFL running back to fill the void. First he went after Frank Gore and then signed DeMarco Murray to fill the slot left open by Shady's departure. Murray lead the NFL in rushing by running behind one of the best lines in the game. The oft injured Murray will not find himself having that luxury this season. Philadelphia lost both guards, Evan Mathis and Todd Herremans over the off season. With Murray's injury history you have to wonder just how much of a pounding he will take as he waits for his blockers to gel into a cohesive unit. Kelly is hedging his bet on Murray with a side dish of Ryan Matthews.

"[Murray] is a physical, downhill runner, really what in a zone scheme we're looking for, a downhill, one-cut runner and both him and Ryan I think possess those qualities," and when you have a physical, downhill runner, you better have two of them because they're going to carry the ball but they're also going to take a lot of physical shots, so we want to be able to spread out the carries. ... Knowing the style that those guys have, I think being able to distribute the carries to two guys is what we're looking to do." - Chip Kelly

  • Also gone from the roster is quarterback Nick Foles. In his place comes an oft injured Sam Bradford (along with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow). Several NFL coaches have tried to make a two quarterback system work. Now it appears that Chip Kelly is looking to do the same thing with the no quarterback system. Bradford is the most talented of Kelly's options but he has a history of injuries that would make Murray look like a picture of health and we all know what Sanchez can (or cannot) do.
  • The trend of giving away the farm continues at wide receiver. DeSean Jackson was allowed to go to Washington before last season, and this time around the Eagles allowed Jeremy Maclin to depart for Kansas City. The team is putting their faith in second-year receiver Jordan Matthews and rookie first-round draft pick Nelson Agholor.
  • The Eagles offense was not their Achilles heel last season. The problem was the Philly defense, which would have struggled to stop a 98-year-old grandmother from mugging them. Kelly made other moves besides bringing in Alonzo. The feeble Philadelphia secondary has been reinforced by adding former Seattle Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell, second-round draft selection Eric Rowe, and the departure of guys like Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams.

When all is said and done, year three of the Chip Kelly experiment will go a long way in determining if the coach will be able to establish the legacy he wants to build. Philadelphia seems to be scrapping some parts that worked well and gambling on some moves to fix holes. 2015 will be somewhat of a new beginning for Chip Kelly, either the beginning of a successful run as both a head coach and personnel guru, or it will be the beginning of the end.

This will be the season where Kelly and his charges fall below the New York Giants. Look for Philadelphia to finish third in the NFC East.

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