There have been numerous questions about Chip Kelly's offense and what it means for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 and beyond. David Neumann is in the process of breaking it down, but on Thursday, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer was asked if it is still a viable option in the NFL. He likes what the offense can do on first and second down, but thinks the third down portion needs to evolve more. Here is what he had to say about it:
First and second down I think it's very viable. People still have a very hard time preparing for it. I think it needs to be adjusted on third down. I think third down you can slow it down, you can get the best play possible, you have to have an audible system in place. But on first and second down, it is a nightmare for people, and that's why they're so relieved if they get them off the field early. Don't let them get that first first down. Because when it starts going a certain direction on you defensively, I've talked to defensive coordinators, that you just run out of tools in the toolbox. You're kind of hanging on for dear life. But I do, to put on my critical hat, I think the third down package needs to evolve. Not change, just evolve, and have more of a, give the keys to the quarterback a little bit more, and let him get into the best play and kind of slow it down a little bit.
Looking back at last year, the unit was solid on third and short. Football Outsiders ranked the offense fifth on 3rd and short (1-2 yards to go), but 19th and 27th on 3rd and mid (3-6 yards to go) and 3rd and long (7+ yards to go), respectively. The year before, the offense ranked 7th, 27th and 3rd in those three categories.
Kelly's offense got off to a strong start in Philadelphia in 2013, but took a step backward from a statistical perspective each season. It was still better than the slop the 49ers rolled out in 2015, but there is work to be done this year. The 49ers have some weapons in place, but will be looking to add more talent to the unit in free agency and the draft. This first offseason workout program is going to be critical to implementing whatever changes we might see.