For about a month now I’ve listened to experts and analyst openly question why Riley Copper is still a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
It has nothing to do with race as some have suggested, but more to do with Cooper’s willingness to block and do all the little things required of Kelly’s offense.
As the NFL has transitioned to a more pass oriented approach, Kelly’s offense demands that his quarterback be sound, his line road-grade and his running backs run — north and south.
After Chip Kelly signed running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews while declining to keep receiver Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles immediately became a team capable of running you out of the building.
It also highlighted what positions Kelly deems valuable.
With a total cap hit of $12.6 million for their six running backs, the Eagles have the second-most cap dollars committed to running backs of any team in the league. Only the Vikings, who (for now) have Adrian Peterson and his huge contract on their cap, have a higher total cap hit for running backs.
Wide receiver is definitely not valued as noted by Philly.com.
the Eagles’ payroll at wide receiver ranks 28th in the NFL, at $7.1 million. Over the last two offseasons, Kelly has decided to part with two expensive receivers (Maclin and DeSean Jackson) and has declined to spend a lot on their replacements, instead going with the relatively inexpensive Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.
Kelly’s receivers at Oregon were often as tough as any other player. Cooper is an above-average blocker. So are Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff. Jackson and Maclin actually improved in Kelly’s system, but neither could be described as a proficient blocker. Of course, as the primary receiving targets, they had fewer opportunities to block.
But the praise goes beyond just blocking. When a receiver runs a route in which he has little chance of seeing the ball, but draws defenders and clears space for the No. 1 target to make a catch, the coaches pay it special notice. Anyone can catch a pass in open space, goes the thinking.
There isn’t as much space in the NFL, though, and Kelly certainly recognizes the value of having elite receivers who can get open and catch the ball under difficult circumstances. He was willing to pay Maclin almost $10 million a year.
Those touches normally reserved for a wide receiver will now go Josh Huff, or Ryan Mathews out the backfield and of course Darren Sproles.
Kelly will depend on Jordan Matthews to continue winning slot matchups, with Zach Ertz becoming even more valuable.