One of the more interesting "philosophies" that came out of all of the Chip Kelly "predictions" last offseason was based on one of Chip's Oregon philosophies:
"We want the ball out of the quarterback's hands in 1.5 seconds. That does not mean holding the ball until 2.5, waiting for someone to get open."
This philosophy was then used to argue why Chip Kelly would have no interest in bringing Michael Vick back. Turns out, that not only did Chip bring Vick back, but he named him the starter in August 2013. And you can imagine, according to some early PFF stats, that Chip was not pleased with the performance through the first 2 months. Basically those stats, and a study Jimmy Kempski performed on the 2012 season revealed something similar, show that not only was Vick unable to get the abll out in 1.5 seconds, he wasn't able to get it out, on average, in less than 3 seconds.
DISCLAIMER: Personally, I feel stats like that are very misleading and are the result of too many different factors (play called, expected development of the play called, protection, play extension, etc.) but it does give us an overall general idea of what to expect. Furthermore, a quick look at the PFF stats here suggest that the expectation that the ball needs to be out of the hands in 1.5 seconds is, well, unreasonable at the NFL level considering no QB in the NFL was even close to being on track to do that last year (Tom Brady was the best at an average of 2.49 seconds)
So what should we take out of Chip's comments combined with the PFF stats? Chip Kelly does not like QBs who take sacks, and he does prefer that the QB gets the ball out of his hands quickly. I think it can reasonably be argued that this is an area of QB play where he would like to see some improvement. Unfortunately, I don't have the Time to Throw stat for Nick Foles' 2013 season handy (EDIT: Thanks to Brandon Lee Gowton from BGN, according to PFF Foles actually took the longest average time to attempt a pass in the league of all QBs who played at least 50% of the snaps avg. 2.88 seconds), however, while I do think he did a better job than Vick in this regard, there is still room for improvement. Especially later in the year there were instances where Nick just held the ball too long leading to an unecessary sack. None were more back-breaking than the sack he took against the Saints in the playoffs.
While certainly plays like that were absolutely on Nick, and not necessarily on play design (one of the main sources of holding the ball too long in the AR and MM era) you can bet Chip is going to look for ways to get the ball out of Nick's hands faster by design.
And this leads me to reason #2, as to why the Darren Sproles trade makes some sense. (#1 is here). I think most of us acknowledge that Sproles was brought to Philadelphia more as a receiver than a running back. With the departure of JasonAvant, I expect that Chip Kelly will continue his personnel changes on offense and slot receiver by committee approach (sometimes Ertz, sometimes Jackson, sometimes Maclin, etc.) Expect Darren Sproles to be a part of that committee as he really adds a skillset that we haven't really seen from some of those other players.
Tying back to original theme, looking at those PFF stats but also going on reputation, most regard Drew Brees as one of the better QBs in the NFL in avoiding sacks and getting the ball out quickly. While that has been a hallmark of Brees' play for many years, it certainly didn't hurt to have a guy like Darren Sproles on his team the last few years. He really emerged as Drew Brees security blanket and hot read. If you review the tape of the Darren Sproles era in New Orleans, you'll see an awful lot of Sproles lined up in the slot against a LB and safety doing this:
and more of this:
What you are seeing is a player who can get very quick separation providing his QB with a big window in a short time frame.
And for fun, it's important to note that Sproles isn't running all out patterns to the sidelines:
The point is, all of these plays are designed to get the ball out quickly and are very useful to burn the blitz. Furthermore, they were a key component of the Saints offense the last couple of years as Payton used these plays to set up favorable 2nd and 3rd down situations and on key 3rd down conversions. It's pretty easy money for a guy who runs exceptional routes like Sproles.
The quick 3 step drop wasn't a HUGE part of the Chip Kelly offense in 2013, but you can expect it to be a more prevalent dimension in the 2014 offense with Darren Sproles on board. In some ways, when you watch the film, you can see that Chip Kelly has acquired Nick Foles' Wes Welker. An undersized but very, very quick and shifty slot receiver who can get open immediately.
And just when you think you have him covered on the quick flat route:
One could argue that perhaps we could simply draft a player like DeAnthony Thomas to play the Sproles role. I think a lot of people really mis-interpret ot misunderstand Sproles' role since he's been in this league. He's a pretty unique and special player. He's not your under-sized scat back. He's not your running back who pads his stats because his QB is a checkdown charlie. I hope this post highlights just how exceptional Sproles' skill set is for a running back and when matched up against LBs and safeties he is just a very, very difficult matchup for defenses.