Eagles unleash up-tempo offense in Week 1 win

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Eagles unleash up-tempo offense in Week 1 win

LANDOVER, Md. -- Now we know how fast Chip Kelly plans to operate his offense at the NFL level. Faster than the Eagles have ever done it, and perhaps faster than any team has ever done it the game’s history.

Certainly, faster than the defending NFC East champs could handle.

Kelly unleashed his up-tempo, no-huddle, breakneck offense against the Redskins on Monday night, showing a national audience that some longstanding league offensive records could be obliterated when all is said and done.

The Eagles rolled up 443 yards in Kelly’s debut as head coach, a 33-27 win at FedEx Field (see Instant Replay), and had been rolling toward a blowout until they pumped the brakes in the second half and then discovered that they might just have to keep the pedal to the floor for an entire 60 minutes.

One can only imagine the four-lettered grunts of defensive coordinators around the league as the Eagles ripped off 54 plays in the first half, opening a 26-7 lead at the break.

“They’re going to have to defend us or we’re going to run the score up,” left tackle Jason Peters said. “That’s just point blank. We’re not going to stop. We’re going to make mistakes, but we run so many plays it’s not going to matter. We’re going to run the ball and run the ball and run the ball.”

Michael Vick, who threw two touchdowns and ran for another in his read-option debut (see story), said he didn’t think the Eagles could operate any faster than they did in the first half. On average, they ran an offensive play once every 24 seconds.

Unfortunately for Vick, who absorbed a bunch of hits and contact, his linemen disagreed.

In fact, center Jason Kelce said the offense could -- and would -- easily pick up the pace.

“I know we can go faster,” he said. “I think we went at a really good speed. There were times we really put the foot on the pedal and were flying out there. There were times we eased it back a little. We definitely have plays that we can still go faster with.”

How fast? Kelly envisioned the Eagles running at least 100 plays at some point this season, a feat accomplished only twice in NFL history and never in a regulation game. The Bears and Redskins each hit the century mark in overtime games, with the most recent one happening in 1990. The closest any other team has come to 100 plays in a non-overtime game is Green Bay’s 95 in 1986.

The highest number of offensive snaps in an NFL game last year was 92, accomplished by the Patriots, whose hurry-up offense has some chapters borrowed from the playbook Kelly crafted at Oregon.

“We don’t count plays. That’s not part of our deal,” Kelly said. “The thing you have to count is points, and our defense did a great job. That was key for us -- how well those guys played and the energy they played with.”

But the Eagles’ offense had clearly worn down the Redskins, who went into the break trailing by 19 points in their own stadium.

The Eagles, who won the coin toss and elected to receive, ran their first few plays in less than 20 seconds, peppering the Redskins’ defense with some short passes that opened up the running game for LeSean McCoy, whose 115 first-half rushing yards put him atop the NFL leaderboard in rushing.

After the first quarter, the Eagles had rolled up 202 yards compared to the ’Skins’ 30. By halftime, the Eagles had outgained Washington 322-75 and led time of possession -- a stat Kelly has snickered at -- by more than two-to-one.

“The tempo really worked,” McCoy said. “I don’t think anyone has seen it that fast. In the preseason you’ve seen a little bit of it. Today, we really tried to show everybody the fast tempo.”

The Eagles’ 54 first-half plays paced them to become the first team ever to run 100 plays without needing overtime. It also wore out some of the offensive linemen who still weren’t fully adjusted to that speed.

“We felt it,” Kelce said. “The first quarter ended and we started going in like it was halftime. We looked up and it was still the second quarter and it was like, ‘What the hell is going on right now?’”

Perhaps that explains why the Eagles finished with just 77 plays as they slowed the tempo in the second half and had a costly turnover -- a Jason Avant fumble -- that aided the Redskins’ late surge.

Washington scored three straight touchdowns against a tiring Eagles defense, igniting some energy into their lethargic home crowd, and came within a recovered onside kick from turning Kelly’s stomach into a pretzel.

Afterward, Kelly admitted that he might have called the dogs off too soon, which means the Eagles can probably expect an uptick in tempo Sunday in their home opener against San Diego.

“You just get used to it as the season goes,” Kelce said. “Most guys that have been involved with [Kelly’s offense] say it’s usually about three games and then it becomes second nature to you. You start pushing through it a little bit better. I mean that was the first time I’ve used oxygen since college. It definitely wears on you, but I think it wears on the defense a lot more.”

2016 Flyers free-agent target: Islanders RW Kyle Okposo

2016 Flyers free-agent target: Islanders RW Kyle Okposo

Each day until July 1, the day free agency begins, CSNPhilly.com producers Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.
 
Kyle Okposo, right wing
 
Age: 28
Height: 6-0
Weight: 217
Last team: New York Islanders
2015-16 cap hit: $2.8 million
 
Scouting report
One of the biggest names on the free-agent market, Okposo is a nifty puck-handler with a fearsome shot, making for a richly talented offensive winger.
 
Sounds just like Ron Hextall’s No. 1 offseason need.
 
The 2006 seventh overall pick finished last season with 64 points — which would have been second on the Flyers — by tallying 22 goals and a career-high-tying 42 assists. His last three seasons have gone for 50-plus points, while in 2013-14 he posted a career-best 69.
 
Okposo is a multifaceted scorer, understanding how to produce in a variety of ways, whether it’s using his body or skill. He knows how to play big and small.
 
The righty shot is dangerous on the power play and a bona-fide top-six forward.
 
Many believe he’s just reaching his prime.
 
Projection
The Islanders have essentially said so long to Okposo, so he’s up for grabs.
 
The Flyers have interest but it looks to be a daunting task to snag the 28-year-old.
 
With the extension of Radko Gudas and the need to re-up restricted free agent Brayden Schenn, it simply doesn’t appear monetarily plausible for the Flyers to reel in a top-six forward the ilk of Okposo.
 
Rumblings have it that Okposo could be searching for a long-term deal in the ballpark of $7 million a season. Whether he’s worth as such is one thing. Whether the Flyers could afford it is another.

I’m a believer the Flyers should seek out Okposo, but unless Hextall pulls off an unforeseen trade to surprisingly clear the barn and make room, I don't see it happening.

Phillies call up top minor-league reliever Edubray Ramos; Andrew Bailey to DL

Phillies call up top minor-league reliever Edubray Ramos; Andrew Bailey to DL

The Phillies' best minor-league reliever this season earned himself a promotion to the majors. The Phils on Friday called up right-hander Edubray Ramos and placed Andrew Bailey on the 15-day DL with a left hamstring strain.

Ramos, 23, had a 1.16 ERA in 38⅔ innings at Double A Reading and Triple A Lehigh Valley this season. He struck out 41 and walked just four. He was even better at Triple A than he was at Double A, allowing just one run in 23⅔ innings (0.38 ERA) for the IronPigs.

Ramos has a mid-90s fastball and a solid breaking ball. It will be interesting to see how he fares against major-league competition.

Bailey injured his hamstring on Wednesday covering first base. He stayed in the game to finish a clean inning against the Twins but limped off the field. Bailey has a 4.39 ERA for the Phillies in 26⅔ innings with 28 strikeouts.

Stumpf to rehab
Down in Clearwater, left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf will begin a rehab assignment on Friday. Stumpf, 25, was suspended 80 games on April 2014 for violating MLB's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. 

The Phillies were nine games into their season then, meaning Stumpf would be eligible to return in Game No. 90. Barring any postponements, the Phillies' 90th game will be their final game before the All-Star break.

Stumpf, a Rule 5 selection by the Phillies from the Royals in December, allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning in three early-season appearances.

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Giants aces up next, so tonight's the night to score

Phillies-Giants 5 things: Giants aces up next, so tonight's the night to score

Phillies (31-43) at Giants (47-27)
10:15 p.m. on TCN

The Phillies begin the second series of their nine-game road trip Friday night at beautiful AT&T Park in San Francisco. 

The Phils have at least a little bit of momentum to begin the set as they won their series finale in Minnesota and scored 22 runs in that series.

This will be a completely different challenge, though.

1. Giants among men
It's been Cubs, Cubs, Cubs nationally all season. And yet entering the weekend, the Giants have the same number of wins as Chicago (47-24).

It just never seems to matter which players the Giants lose or which anonymous minor-leaguers are called up to replace them. The Giants have won nine of their last 10 games despite Hunter Pence and Matt Duffy being on the DL and Brandon Belt missing a few games. 

Just look at the Giants' lineup Thursday in their win over the Pirates. Mac Williamson batted third and played right field. Trevor Brown caught and batted fifth. Ramiro Pena played shortstop, Jarrett Parker played left field and Conor Gillaspie played third base. You could argue that all except Brown are 4-A players — i.e. guys who are good enough to hit at Triple A, but not good enough to be productive at the major-league level.

It's amazing how the Giants win despite all the hurdles. Buster Posey's presence obviously helps, but he's not even having his typical MVP-caliber season. Posey is hitting .277/.338/.450, which is solid but well below his career slash line of .308/.372/.481.

San Fran has been led mostly this season by great starting pitching and the emergence of Belt into one of the best hitters in the National League. Belt is hitting .302 this season with a .409 on-base percentage. He has 44 walks to 50 strikeouts, and he's been an extra-base hit machine with 19 doubles, three triples and 10 home runs. 

2. Start No. 3 for Eflin
Zach Eflin is a level-headed 22-year-old, so it's unlikely he's going to look at this assignment and overhype himself. And if he can keep things in perspective and focus on just commanding his sinker low in the strike zone, he could find some success against that previously described patchwork Giants offense.

Eflin pitched well last week in his second start, allowing two runs to the Diamondbacks over 5⅔ innings. It lowered his ERA from 27.01 to 10.80. Tonight he'll look to get that thing under 9.00.

It seems unlikely the Phillies called Eflin up from Triple A only for him to make three starts in place of injured Vince Velasquez. If nothing else drastic happens, it looks like Adam Morgan will be the odd man out when Velasquez returns either Monday in Arizona or later in the week. But if Eflin gets bombed again tonight, who knows.

3. The night to score
The Phillies' best chance to score some runs this weekend is tonight against 35-year-old, now-mediocre right-hander Jake Peavy. Why? Because on Saturday and Sunday the Phils will face Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto, who are a combined 19-4 with a 1.96 ERA this season.

Peavy (3-6, 5.47) hasn't been able to retire lefties with any regularity this season. They've hit .331 with a .908 OPS against him, although all eight home runs Peavy's allowed have been by right-handed hitters. It's obviously difficult to hit one out at pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

Peavy had an ERA of 8.21 through his first nine starts this season but has been much better since, giving the Giants four quality starts in his last five tries. Over that span Peavy has a 1.76 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and .189 opponents' batting average. He's allowed just five extra-base hits among 114 batters faced.

Peavy has a diverse repertoire. He's thrown six different pitches this season: four-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, sinker, changeup and slider. His main pitches are the four-seamer, cutter and curve.

He likes to throw the cutter to lefties to jam them but it hasn't worked this season. They've hit .404 with a .575 slugging percentage in 47 at-bats ending in that pitch.

The only three Phillies to ever face Peavy are Ryan Howard, Peter Bourjos and Carlos Ruiz. Howard has had some success, going 3 for 9 with two doubles and four RBIs. Bourjos owns a triple off Peavy.

4. Prospect update
Nick Williams remains hot from a power standpoint, Jorge Alfaro is drawing rave reviews with his defense, and a piece of the Ken Giles trade debuted at Double A Reading this week. 

For more on those prospects and a handful of others, check out Friday's Future Phillies Report.

5. This and that
• The 22 runs scored by the Phillies in the Twins series were their most in a three-game span since last Sept. 27-30.

• Howard's multi-hit game Thursday was his first since April 29, a stretch of 37 games.

• Maikel Franco has five walks in his last two games. He walked six times all of April and seven times in May.