In his first response, he offered up what seemed to be a ringing endorsement. But his second response failed to strike the same tone.
Kelly said he’s watched film from every game last season and was asked for his thoughts on linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
“Physical player, the leader of the defense in terms of getting guys lined up,” he said. “He really plays the game the way you want it to be played. And I think from listening to the people in the building, there’s a quality about him that you want to be around him.
“He’s another guy I spoke to briefly on the phone. He’s still not in the Philly area. When he gets in, I can’t wait to sit down and talk to him and get to know him a little bit better.”
In 2012, Ryans had more tackles for loss and more solo tackles than any defensive player during Andy Reid’s 14-year tenure as the Eagles’ head coach. He’s due a reported $6.6 million next season, but is only 28-years-old. Ryans would seemingly be the type of veteran that Kelly would value going forward.
And then there’s Nnamdi Asomugha.
The veteran corner turns 32 in July and is coming off a year in which he gave up too many big plays, missed too many tackles and struggled to the point that defensive coordinator Todd Bowles finally benched him in the season finale against the Giants.
Kelly was asked if, based on what he saw on film, Asomugha was a $15.5 million cornerback.
“I’m not a money guy, so I don’t look at guys… when I watch film, I’m just trying to look at what they can do, what schemes they’re in, trying to understand that,” Kelly said. “I don’t have the play-call sheet, so when they called something, what was the exact thing to do? But I’m looking at: Can a guy transition? Can he get in and out of breaks? Can he make plays on the ball? Can he tackle? When I look at guys, I don’t say: Is he worth this much or worth that much? I’m just trying to watch film.”
You might notice that nowhere in that response did Kelly say what he thought of Asomugha one way or another. So he was asked a follow-up.
“I’m just watching plays, so I’m not watching an entire game,” Kelly said. “So how many times was the ball thrown at him at the point of attack. It’s not where I’ve watched the game from start to finish and here’s the game. It’s just individual cut-ups of players. I may go back to watch one-on-ones from preseason camp just to try to get an idea of what players can do and can’t do. I don’t have his group of plays of how he played in game one to the last game of the season and kind of look at it that way. It’s very segmented.”
Well, what did he see in the individual cut-ups?
“I think Nnamdi has a skill set… that can play football,” Kelly said.
That’s it. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, if you ask me.
The Eagles are likely going to have to make decisions on players before Kelly even has a chance to coach them. Given Asomugha’s salary, the Eagles can decide to either re-structure his deal and keep him around, or cut him and be on the hook for $4 million.
General manager Howie Roseman, who was part of the group responsible for bringing Asomugha to Philadelphia, was asked what he saw from the cornerback in 2012 and whether he sees him being part of the team’s future.
“What we do during the 2012 season as a personnel staff and with the coaches is we evaluate weekly. So we’re grading every game as a personnel staff,” Roseman said. “We’re discussing with our coaches. And then at the end of the year, we’re writing up our team.
“We felt like we had a good sense of our defensive players and what they were contributing and what they could do going forward, depending on the scheme and what we were going to go with. And those are conversations that we have. We don’t tell our coaches what we think of our players when they come in new until they tell us what they think of them, because we don’t want to affect that. No matter what you do in this business, if someone tells you something about someone, it sticks in your head, so we want to make them have a fresh sense of it and get their impressions and then have a discussion.”
Once again, you might notice that Roseman didn’t say much of anything about Asomugha or his skill set.
Maybe it will turn out that the Eagles don’t see a bunch of other options they like at cornerback and they’ll eventually bring Asomugha back. But as of right now, the guess here is that he’s unlikely to be a part of the 2013 Eagles.