During the last two seasons, Jeff Maehl heard the questions in the Houston Texans' locker room. It continued after the Eagles hired Chip Kelly in April.
The intrigue from Eagles fans about whether Kelly can succeed in the NFL was not limited to this region or even those who watch NFL games on Sunday. It extended even to those who play in the league. "There are a lot of guys that are curious. 'Are they going to run it just like Oregon? Are they going to have the same tempo?'" said Maehl, a wide receiver who played for Kelly at Oregon.
Maehl always told them that Kelly could adjust to the NFL and run the quarterbacks less but that Kelly would succeed. Now, Maehl gets to find out.
The most successful wide receiver Kelly ever coached at Oregon will try to play for Kelly with the Eagles. They acquired Maehl from the Texans on Monday for offensive lineman Nate Menkin.
Maehl was present at Tuesday's practice wearing No. 88. But he was not able to participate until Menkin passed his physical. Maehl is hoping to take some snaps in Thursday's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
"You've got a guy that I know very well," Kelly said. "He catches the ball very well. He's extremely tough. I think he'll be able to add value to us not only as a receiver but as a special-teams player."
Maehl, who spent most of his two seasons with the Texans on the practice squad, was the only receiver to surpass 1,000 yards in Kelly's six years with the Ducks. He arrived at Oregon as a defensive back before moving to wide receiver. He noted that the personal success he had in his senior season, during which the Ducks played in the national championship game, was the byproduct of an experienced offense that could push the tempo, a Kelly specialty.
So when the Eagles hired Kelly, Maehl wondered if they would reunite. He was resolute on carving a role with the Texans, which he said was his top priority. But he also imagined what could happen if he didn't have a future in Houston.
"Of course, you play for a guy, he goes to the NFL. ... You think about how cool it would be to go play for him again," Maehl said. "I was a little shocked that it happened this early."
The Eagles had a need at wide receiver after losing Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn to season-ending injuries and cutting two other deep reserves. The top four spots are likely locked up with DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, and Damaris Johnson. But Maehl could sneak onto the roster after that.
"He's had games where he's caught a 70-yard touchdown pass, and on the next play on the kickoff he made the tackle on the 10-yard line," Kelly said.
At Oregon, Maehl saw Kelly take over the program as he moved from offensive coordinator to head coach and turned the Ducks into a perennial power. He's now on the frontline of another Kelly transformation.
In one day, Maehl already felt as if he was back at Oregon. The way meetings were held, the way the team warmed up for practice, and the emphasis on nutrition were all similar to what Maehl experienced in college. He also saw five former Oregon teammates on the Eagles, which he said made the adjustment even easier.
"I have no question he's going to make it work in the NFL," Maehl said. "Whether or not the offense is going to look like the Oregon Ducks, I can't say that right now. But Chip is such an intelligent football coach, he's going to make the adjustment he needs to make."
As for his future, "Knowing Chip's not going to guarantee me a spot on this team whatsoever," Maehl said, "I got to go out and earn it."