Measurables Matter: Kelly Wanted Bigger Players

As it turns out, the foundation for the Eagles’ 2013 draft was laid during a meeting at the Four Seasons in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Jan. 5.

That’s when Jeffrey Lurie, Howie Roseman and Don Smolenski first interviewed Chip Kelly about the Eagles’ head-coaching position.

“During the interview process, he talked about having position specifics, which is not uncommon for coaches,” Roseman said. “Then when he got here, we sat down together, and then as a staff, talked about what we were looking for and what he was looking for and what we had. Then we made a template up, and we gave it to all our scouts and all of our coaches, and we said this is what we’re looking for at this position, and that’s what we’re going to try to get.”

It was a change for the entire personnel staff. Suddenly, they were looking for players who fit Kelly’s mold, not Andy Reid’s. And the new guy had his own vision. He wanted length on defense. He wanted athleticism on the offensive line. He preferred his quarterback to have big hands.

In what Kelly described as “very specific” terms, he laid it all out for Roseman and the personnel staff. Then it was their job to find him what he needed.

“If you constantly take the overachiever at every position, you’re going to be too small,” Kelly said. “If you take the short defensive tackle backed up by the short middle linebacker backed up by the short safety, then all of a sudden your team’s going to get run over. I think there’s some certain lines where there is a combination of all of it. I think you still have to adhere to we wanted to get bigger and we felt like we did. I think size is important, but there’s not one factor that overrides the other. I think you have to look at the whole package when you’re making those decisions.”

Examples? All three cornerbacks the Eagles have added in free agency and the draft are 6-feet or taller. Matt Barkley has 10 1/8-inch hands, the second-biggest among all the quarterbacks who were drafted. Earl Wolff ran a 4.44 at the Combine, the second-fastest time of any safety in the past three years.

While Bennie Logan is only 6-2, he has 34-inch arms, the kind of length you might see from an offensive tackle. Defensive end Joe Kruger, a seventh-round pick, is 6-6. Defensive tackle David King, another seventh-rounder is 6-5. So is new tight end Zach Ertz.

Go up and down the list, and you can begin to make educated guesses about what Kelly is looking for.

“There’s certain, I wouldn’t call them deal-breakers, but there’s certain things that set other people back,” Kelly said. “What’s the difference between Player A and Player B? A lot of times, the measurables are the first thing that kind of match up. And then you kind of move from there. But there’s parameters from all of that, yes.”

The bottom line? It seems unlikely that the Eagles will add guys who are generally described as “just football players” if they don’t match the team’s size/speed template. The most important factor is obviously whether a guy is capable of producing on the field and what he’s shown on film, but measurables are absolutely going to matter during the Kelly era.

“It depends on what position you’re talking about,” Roseman said. “But there are certain positions he wants to get bigger, he wants to get longer, and there are also positions he wants to be athletic and explosive. I think when you look at his Oregon teams, he had a nice mix of that. [Jonathan] Stewart was his running back at one time, then LaMichael James and [Kenjon] Barner. So again, it’s personnel-driven and he’s not going to throw away a really good player just because they’re not perfect fits.”

Roseman’s comments probably relate more to the current roster than new player acquisition. The Eagles have several guys right now who probably don’t fit the Kelly prototype. But you can’t add 53 new players in one offseason.

For now, the coach’s job is to identify the best talent and make it work. In time, we’ll see how the template evolves.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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