OT prospects optimistic about fit with Eagles, Chip Kelly

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OT prospects optimistic about fit with Eagles, Chip Kelly

April 25, 2013, 7:00 am

NEW YORK -- The fast-paced, laser-like offense that Chip Kelly is bringing to the Eagles hasn’t scared off Luke Joeckel.

Even towering at 6-foot-6 and pushing the scale to 308 pounds, the top offensive tackle prospect and likely No. 1 pick in tonight’s draft said he would fit snugly into Kelly’s offense if he fell to the Eagles at fourth overall.

“That up-tempo [offense] is what I played last year with Coach [Kevin] Sumlin at [Texas] A&M,” Joeckel said Wednesday. “I definitely think I would fit in well with that offense. I’m in good enough shape to fit in that offense.

“You could see it on tape from this last year. It would be a fun offense to play for. We kind of brought that up-tempo spread offense to the SEC, and the SEC had never seen it before and [Kelly] is kind of doing that in the NFL, so it’d be fun to be a part of that.”

A perfect marriage, even.

Except that nobody in the scouting or analyst line of work can fathom a scenario in which Joeckel falls to the Eagles at fourth overall, unless the Chiefs use the top pick on offensive tackle Eric Fisher and the next two teams, Jacksonville and Oakland, pass on the prospect once considered the consensus No. 1 to address defense.

Consider that scenario highly unlikely.

Luckily for the Eagles, Fisher and first-round offensive tackle Lane Johnson are equally optimistic about their fit into Kelly’s system, and not just because they’re each hoping to be picked in the top five.

Fisher’s first head coach at Central Michigan was Butch Jones, a spread offense enthusiast who is now the head coach at Tennessee. Johnson, who only started playing tackle two years ago, blocked in Oklahoma’s spread scheme.

“I just think coming from a spread scheme, up tempo, [Kelly] ran close to a 100 plays per game [at Oregon]. That’s exactly what we did at Oklahoma,” Johnson said. “They want guys who can move and get to the second level and it fits kind of what I do.”

There’s a good chance that either Fisher or Johnson will be there at No. 4 when the Eagles pick, but there’s no certainty that either will be become the first pick of the Kelly era. The Eagles, who historically like to trade up and down in the first round, have been one of the hardest teams to pin down.

Kelly’s unconventional thinking and preference for specific sizes and abilities of athlete creates uncertainty about the direction they’re going in for the draft. But with veteran left tackle Jason Peters and right tackle Todd Herremans each coming off surgeries, the Eagles wouldn’t be knocked for grabbing the best offensive tackle available, especially given the talent of this year’s class.

“A lot of people are saying the offensive line in this year’s draft is really the strength,” Fisher said. “Last year was quarterbacks. Finally, some linemen got their time to shine. We’re taking advantage of it, I think.”

All three tackles were put through private workouts by the Eagles and all three said they came away impressed with Kelly’s sharp mind and his plan to introduce an offense that operates faster than any other NFL team’s attack.

None of them seemed to mind that they would probably start at right tackle if the Eagles picked them.

“[Michael] Vick’s a left-handed quarterback,” Fisher said, “so technically I’d have his blind side if I play right tackle.”

Joeckel is the least likeliest of the three to be there at No. 4, but is probably best suited for the Eagles’ scheme and their uncertainty at quarterback as Kelly jockeys Vick and Nick Foles in and out of the first-team offense.

Joeckel started his college career in the pro-style scheme implemented by then-coach Mike Sherman and blocking for pocket passer Ryan Tannehill, who was picked ninth overall last season by the Dolphins.

Sumlin immediately scrapped the old system and ushered in his high-octane spread offense, then struck gold in freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, a ramblin’, scramblin’, high-energy passer who shredded the vaunted defenses of the SEC on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy.

Tannehill and Manziel might not be as stylistically different as Vick and Foles, but they’re far from being the same guy.

“I’ve blocked for two total opposite offenses, two total opposite quarterbacks and played for two totally opposite coaches,” Joeckel said. “So I think I can do anything. No coaches run the same offense in the league. It’s all pro-style offense, pretty much. I guess Chip Kelly is kind of bringing in something a lot different. I could go play two totally opposite offenses and adjust to those fast pretty easily.”

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