At first glance, this trade appears to be a puzzling move for the Eagles. They dealt away one of the most dangerous players in the NFL in LeSean McCoy in exchange for Kiko Alonso, a 3rd-year linebacker who just missed all of 2014 with an ACL injury. Clearly, there has to be more to it than meets the eye.
The move gives the Eagles a solid 1-2 punch at inside linebacker, with Alonso joining Mychal Kendricks. This was an area that the Eagles needed to address this offseason.
The move also creates more cap space for Philadelphia. The benefits here are obvious. Chip Kelly now has more money to spend on the areas of the team that need improving; the same areas that likely kept them from reaching the 2014 postseason. Most of those are on the defensive side of the ball.
More so, this move shows how confident Chip Kelly is in his system. He doesn’t need players like DeSean Jackson or LeSean McCoy at their price tags, no matter how dangerous they are. To him, his system is what gains yards and generates points. He’s certainly not operating with the main objective of eliminating talent on his offense, but he has to believe that he can get similar production out of a cheaper free agent or rookie running back paired with Darren Sproles. Otherwise, he wouldn’t make a move like this.
There are also aspects of McCoy’s game that had to drive Kelly nuts. Despite how explosive he is, McCoy had the most runs for negative yards in the NFL in 2014. The play below shows a good example of why this was the case. Here, instead of sticking his nose up inside where the offensive line had created some room, McCoy tried to bounce it to the right. The defense had the edge set to that side, indicating it would be extremely difficult to bounce it there with any success. McCoy ended up getting tackled for a loss.
In 2014, McCoy often looked to bounce his runs or cutback in hopes of making the big play. He didn’t always stick his nose in the pile and take the 1-2 or 3-4 yards that were blocked, and instead lost yards trying to create on his own. His ability to create certainly led to some explosive plays, but it also sometimes kept the offense from staying on schedule.
While this alone might not be a good reason to deal a player of McCoy’s caliber, to Kelly, the price clearly wasn’t worth what he believed his system can get out of the running back position.
If Chip Kelly feels his offensive system makes the offense go more than the players do, it makes perfect sense that he would fill his roster with cheaper talent on that side of the ball and use the leftover money to address the defense. Ultimately, no one will know if this is a good move for the Eagles for a while. One thing is certain, though; if the move doesn’t work for Kelly, things will get very difficult for him in Philly.