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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — So it begins tonight. The great experiment on whether Chip Kelly is as adept to getting an NFL team to think and react like him as he did college programs. We’ll get to see the visionary’s lab work out in the open, as the arduous process starts in getting the Eagles back on track again.
It’s going to take some patience from ownership and the fanbase as Kelly tries to reassemble a team that this time last year carried such promise, only to fall supine on a 4-12 record.
Tonight could provide some answers and a hint of what Kelly plans on cooking up for opposing defenses this season, when the Eagles host the Tom Brady and New England Patriots at Lincoln Financial Field at 7:30 p.m.
What we do know is Kelly will start Michael Vick at quarterback. We know the Eagles will run a no-huddle, rapid-fire offense, and will most likely start embattled receiver Riley Cooper. We know the defense will work out of a 3-4 alignment, with emphasis on pressuring Brady, for what little we might see of him tonight.
We also know the Eagles will make plenty of mistakes. Expect blown coverages and wide open receivers. Expect missed calls on blitzes and clear pathways for New England defenders towards Vick. Expect Brady to slice and dice the secondary, as he’s done throughout this week practicing with the Eagles.
And expect the questions to far outweigh what is known.
Will we have a better idea if Vick has a grasp of Kelly’s offense? How will the offensive line look after it was ravaged by injuries last year? How will Lane Johnson bear up going live and fully padded? How will Brandon Graham and Trent Cole look as outside linebackers? How will the former defensive ends in the old system bear up peeling back into coverage?
How will the secondary look? Can rookie Earl Wolff show he has the tools to step in at one of the safety positions? Can Brandon Boykin continue to show in a live game what he’s demonstrated at practice?
Don’t expect much, because Kelly in all likelihood won’t show much. He may tease a little with the no-huddle, but possibly curtail what Vick will do, simply because Kelly doesn’t want to tip his hand.
Kelly will use tonight’s game as a teaching moment, since there will be plenty of mistakes.
Revamping the shambles of a 4-12 season is a process. It will take time for Kelly to fit the players into the puzzle he’s creating. It will take time for the 22 players that Kelly eventually puts on the field to fit into the schemes he designs.
It is the most anticipated Eagles’ pre-season game in over a decade. So be patient. Tonight begins a bumpy ride.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.