He would know, too. Let’s pause to review the reasons why LaMichael James — the former Oregon Duck — is well versed in Chip Kelly’s offensive Jedi ways:
- James’ first year in Oregon (2009) was also Kelly’s first year. In that first season, James averaged 118.9 rushing yards per game. What you’re thinking is correct: Division I college football isn’t supposed to be that easy, regardless of the opponent.
- That doesn’t factor in his versatility and receiving yardage. Throughout James’ three seasons under Kelly he accumulated 5,668 total yards.
- Yes, that’s an average of 1,889 yards per season, and 6.9 yards per touch.
There are, of course, so many intricacies to what Kelly does with his innovative, up-tempo spread-option approach. When we eventually get some clarity regarding who Kelly’s quarterback will be in Philadelphia between Michael Vick and Nick Foles, our very own Alen Dumonjic — who spends every waking hour with his eyes taped open while eating Jiffy Pop and watching game film — will break down the finer points of Kelly’s offense more thoroughly. But there’s a simple, yet fundamental requirement: he needs elite athletes. Lots of elite athletes.
For example, while Marshawn Lynch had an excellent season, he may not quite be an ideal fit for a Kelly offense due to his power downhill running style, and his minimal presence in the passing game (he finished with only 196 receiving yards). But a Kelly-LeSean McCoy marriage just made me cover myself in saliva. Toss in the equally Kelly-like players the Eagles’ offense has in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and maybe Vick, and there’s a high fantasy ceiling in Philly after this hire.
As the 49ers running back prepares for his NFC Championship game this weekend against Atlanta, he told the Sporting News that Philly is the “perfect fit” for Kelly.
“It’s going to go good. Anytime you have a good quarterback and a mastermind as a coach like him, you can do numerous things. He’s always going to know the defensive weakness.”
“He’s going to find that weakness, no matter what it is,” James said. “He’s a smart coach. He’s brilliant. I’ve been around NFL coaches during the Combine time and now, and I rank him up there with the best of them.”
This next comment, though, is much more intriguing…
“I don’t think anybody can stop that offense. NFL, college, high school, no matter what it is. Washington (Redskins) runs a similar offense. They do their things, too. It would be kind of similar to that. A little faster, though.”
Tempo is key to a Kelly offense, as it’s led to some rather mysterious injuries among his PAC 12 opponents.
If it’s tempo he desires, then Kelly’s utopia lies with Vick. He’s far more mobile than Foles, and more suited to an offense that requires reading an end, and then either tucking, or letting McCoy run. As James said, that’s exactly the cat v. mouse game the Redskins often played this year with Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris. The result? RG3 broke Cam Newton’s rookie quarterback rushing record…in Week 13. Despite missing a game and being hobbled in several others, Griffin still finished with 815 rushing yards at a pace of 6.8 per carry with seven touchdowns, a rushing year highlighted by a 76-yard score in Week 6 (he also ran for 138 yards overall in that game).
And what of Morris? A rookie selected in the sixth round last spring finished second in rushing with 1,613 yards, setting a new Redskins’ single-season record. He also had eight games when he averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry.
This is all speculative right now, as we can’t be certain exactly how much of his Oregon offense Kelly will bring to Philly. But if James is speaking even a half truth when he calls Washington the loose blueprint for what we can expect, then I confidently suggest buying high on every significant Eagles offensive piece next summer, and targeting Vick as a late-round sleeper if he sticks around.