Pete Carroll will see some familiar faces next Sunday when the Seahawks go to Philadelphia for the latest test in their second-half gauntlet, and he obviously has a bit of a jump on the preparation for Chip Kelly and Mark Sanchez.
“This will be a really interesting preparation,” he told 710 ESPN on Friday. “We’ve watched them a lot.”
Carroll credited Kelly for the way he revolutionized college football at Oregon, with an up-tempo spread option attack that has become vogue around the country. Kelly’s Ducks ran for nearly 400 yards in a 47-20 walloping of Carroll’s USC Trojans in 2009.
Carroll said he was surprised Kelly chose quarterbacks such as Nick Foles and Carroll’s former USC recruits, Matt Barkley and Mark Sanchez — pass-first guys from the Pac-12 who went against the mold of mobile QBs Kelly had used at Oregon.
Rather than go with Michael Vick, who seemed to fit his offense perfectly, Kelly chose Foles — a third-round pick in 2012, the year before Kelly arrived. Kelly’s Eagles drafted Barkley in the fourth round last year and then signed Sanchez to a one-year deal this year to back up Foles.
“I was surprised that Barkley went there,” Carroll said. “I was surprised that they thought that Mark would fit in their offense. But they’ve shown with the development of Foles that they can handle a pocket guy and develop this offense to a really high level.”
The Eagles’ breathless offensive pace has resulted in the league’s No. 3 scoring unit, at 31.3 points per game, and No. 4 offense in yards (416.2). The Eagles can throw it and, with the NFL’s No. 2 rusher, LeSean McCoy, run it.
“They are a unique team and a unique offense and a unique coach, and that presents unique challenges for us,” Carroll said, apparently challenged to find a synonym for “unique.”
The Eagles have not missed a beat with Sanchez at quarterback in place of the injured Foles, who is expected to miss 2-4 more weeks with the broken collarbone that already has sidelined him for the past four games.
Foles had completed 59.8 percent of his passes with 13 TDs and 10 interceptions.
Sanchez has led the Eagles to four wins in his five appearances, including finishing the Week 9 win over Houston and leading a 33-10 demolition of the Cowboys in Dallas on Thanksgiving. Sanchez has completed 63.4 percent of his passes, with eight TDs and six interceptions. (Yeah, the Eagles throw a lot of interceptions.)
Carroll thought Sanchez made a mistake to leave USC early in 2009, when Sanchez was made the fifth overall pick by the New York Jets. Sanchez never developed under Rex Ryan’s staff, despite two defense-driven appearances in the AFC title game and being given a huge contract extension, and the Jets cut ties with him after last season.
He has enjoyed a renaissance under Kelly, though.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Carroll said. “This guy was destined to be a big-time professional quarterback. He’s got the right makeup. He’s got so many great qualities about him. He went through some very difficult times in New York, and he’s coming out of that. He looks terrific. I’ve watched every play he’s had this year. I’ve watched him very closely.
“Mark’s going to be tough. He knows the game. He’s very quick in his decision making. He’s a playmaker and they’ve got a lot of football players that can make things happen on that team. It’s going to be a great matchup; it will be a lot of fun for us.”
Carroll said it is the kind of test the resurgent Seahawks relish — another tough road game that will prepare his team for the postseason.
“We need these. These will get you ready,” he said. “The Arizona game, the San Francisco game, the Philadelphia game. To show what you can do out on the road against great teams is so important to us and to the growth of our team in the season. So we’ll take this one head on and it’s be everything we’ve got and give it a great shot.”