Eagles Wake-Up Call: What Roster Moves Tell Us About Chip

Chip KellyChip Kelly is big on versatility. That is no secret. It has been the buzzword since he took office. He wants his starters to be malleable, and he insists that his reserves are capable of performing multiple duties.

 ”When you only have 46 guys active on game day, you’ve got to have versatility in your non‑starters, because there’s just not enough numbers,” Kelly explained.  ”If you’re two deep at every position, you know, that’s 44 excluding specialists.  And at some positions, you’re going to carry a third, a third running back, so where does that spot come from?  It’s got to come from somewhere.”

Howie Roseman allowed that the back of the roster was shaped largely in the name of versatility. It wasn’t just about whether the individual could play multiple positions (the fact that Danny Watkins was working exclusively at guard didn’t help him), but also whether his skills overlapped with someone else’s on the team. It is part of the reason why Emil Igwenagu is here instead of Clay Harbor. Why Casey Matthews won a job over both Chris McCoy and Emmanuel Acho.

“We were looking for different skill sets in the back of the roster,” Roseman said. “So some of the conversations we had about the fourth outside linebacker applies at this moment to the tight end spots.

“…When you talk about a Casey Matthews possibly if you got in a bind in a game, he could play outside. When Chip talked about the versatility of the back of the roster, we didn’t want to duplicate a lot of skills. So that’s what made some of the choices at the back of the roster, maybe some guys who played well in the preseason but maybe they were duplicating the skills that some of the guys we had. Did it make sense to keep them or try to find guys that did some different things?”

The consensus is that Acho outperformed Matthews this preseason. The second-year linebacker had at least a share of the lead in tackles in three of the four preseason games, including an 11-tackle performance against the Jets in the finale. However, Acho is more of a run-stuffing inside linebacker. Matthews can presumably play in space better. Same for Najee Goode, who was claimed off waivers from the Bucs Monday and took Acho’s spot on the roster.

Special teams also matter. As Sheil has pointed out, Matthews was second on the Eagles in special teams tackles last year. Receiver Jeff Maehl, chosen over Russell Shepard and Greg Salas, is also being billed as someone who can contribute on special teams.

The fact that both Maehl and Matthews played for Kelly at Oregon certainly didn’t hurt their chances. But the guess here is that they are on this team (at least for now) mostly because they give Kelly more options than the alternatives.

Kelly is a man of logic, and there is logic in building a roster with players that can plug multiple holes.

There is also logic in sacrificing some flexibility in the name of quality. Is it better to have “player x” who is not as good but can fill several roles, or “player y” who might not be as versatile but is better at his primary assignment?

Kelly seemingly chose “player x” a few times over the past few days. Time will tell whether he made the right choice.

WHAT YOU MISSED

The Eagles signed LB  Goode and released Acho. Sheil has the details.

Six of the eight practice squad slots have been filled.

Local and national writers examine the recent roster moves.

Some background on new cornerback Shaun Prater.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

RGIII has officially been named the starter for Monday night’s opener against the Eagles. He was medically cleared by James Andrews, though the way that came to pass is a little confusing. From Mike Jones of the Washington Post. 

Griffin received clearance from orthopedic surgeon James Andrews on Thursday evening to play in the season opener, but Shanahan declined at the time to declare the second-year quarterback his starter because he said Andrews told him there were “a couple of concerns that he had” and that he needed to talk with Griffin over the weekend first.

Shanahan declined to share the details of the discussion or what “concerns” Andrews had shared…

Andrews denied Shanahan’s claim Friday, saying in a text message, “None of it is true. No concerns.”

Told on Monday of the doctor’s declaration and asked why Andrews would have said that, Shanahan scoffed at the notion Andrews had no concerns and said, “I don’t know where you got that information from because that’s not what he shared with Robert. That’s not what he shared with me or Dr. Christopher Annunziata, Dr. Anthony Casolaro or with Robert when we had the conference call.”

Danny Watkins may have found a new home.

His agent stressed that a deal still wasn’t in place as of Monday night.

COMING UP

Practice for the Redskins begins on Wednesday. Regular season football is drawing near.

  • Glenn

    If you can’t play neither OLB, nor ILB well, like Matthews, does that make you versatile?

    • southy

      I think that decision follows on the decision to cut McCoy. If you’re only keeping 3 OLBs you damn well better have a contingency plan if one goes down. If Matthews can move outside better than Acho, that’s reason enough.

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  • GiveMeABreak

    “Kelly is a man of logic.” I think that remains to be seen. So far, I think his plan for building his roster appears to have more emotion than logic.

  • Eaglehaslanded

    I liked the Mathews pick when he was taken. With that being said…I haven’t seen Mathews make plays on the in or outside.

  • Cyrus Robinson

    “Jack of all trades, master of none” has historically been a bad thing.
    Even worse is when you’re below average at all things except special teams.

  • JofreyRice

    Also of note. Despite Matthews’ ballyhooed Special Teams prowess, he had 0 ST tackles this preseason, according to PFF. He had 5 tackles total last year, and 3 penalties, giving him a -2.0 grade on ST’s for 2012. If we really wanted to keep a great ST’s player, we should have held onto Akeem Jordan.

    Being that he didn’t play a snap at OLB in a 3-4, I don’t think you can make a great argument that’s he’s any more “versatile”. The advanced ratings don’t really bear out that he’s better on ST’s, and anyone with a pair of eyes in their head can see he’s a liability in the base defense. This reminds me of any number of situations where folks were overcoming their own commonsense to rush to the defense of the organization or some marginal player against the “negladelphians”.

  • #7

    I know where you’re coming from bro. Good points

  • BlindChow

    Maybe they were actually competing on Special Teams. I wonder if Acho knew…

  • RIP illa

    Me personally, I would still think of him in the same light, if he never started at MLB and continued to play as poor as he does in a backup role. Their’s obviously a place for him in this league…I just wish it wasn’t on our team.

    And he definitely should not have been drafted in the 4th (IMO)! Kid was a 6th to undrafted. He had a lot of hype heading his way pre-draft cause he made that play on Newton during the BCS game and cause of his name.

    But then again I like good/solid depth for the team, which we have been sorely lacking for a number of years. So if there was a chance to get an upgrade over him and/or Anderson, I would want the team to take it in a heartbeat. We didn’t have a viable upgrade for Anderson, but we did for Matthews. And if they actually like Goode and he sticks…then why not Goode and Acho? Goode being the thumper backup and Acho being Kendricks, free range backup!

  • JofreyRice

    I’m not really sure what “versatility” Matthews has really even demonstrated. Did I miss the plays where he played 3-4 OLB at even an incompetent level? I don’t think he took one snap there, ever. I do remember seeing him in the middle, getting moved off the ball any time a blocker came at him for uh…let’s see…2 seasons and however many preseason games he’s played. The guy is an absolute liability.

    So he can play special teams. Whoop de freakin’ do. How many players are we going to keep on the roster that are special teams aces, but can’t play any natural position well? Colt Anderson, Jeff Maehl, Casey Matthews, Jon Dorenbos.

  • RIP illa

    Lol. I think everyone who watches the Eagles saw Acho outperform every other backup ILB. Unless you just don’t want to admit it and be a contrarian! So I’m all for upgrading…just why not Goode and Acho, instead of Matthews and Goode? Goode has been reported to be, well…good on ST. Yes Matthews does well on ST but sucks on the field. Let’s hope and pray that Ryan’s or Kendricks doesn’t he injured or that we need Matthews to fill in for OLB.

    Anyway, I asked this about Anderson before…if you have improved ST, like I believe Chip and Fipp have, to the point where all 11 guys are good, do you really need a ST Ace any longer, as opposed to having a guy who is just good on ST replacing him? So now I guess this applies to Matthews. And it’s an honest question that I have not come up w/ an answer for and like to see what others think. I am how ever leaning towards the side of, that you don’t need the ST Ace.

  • BlindChow

    Casey Mathews is such a tool.

  • RIP illa

    100% agree. But nope…people who are actually concerned bout this and the lack of quality depth for the LB’s positions are getting told that they are ridiculous and shouldn’t care about 4th/5th LB and and Howie knows what he’s doing, and the D’s going to be so much better than we think this year, etc!

  • Adam

    Team’s 4th safety, 5th receiver, and 4th ILB are generally going to be considered mainly special teams players. I would put any of these guys up against teams deep backups. They’re probably not much worse or better.

    This is the biggest case of let’s complain about something because we have nothing else to complain about. I absolutely guarantee that come Tuesday morning, the play of Casey Matthews, Colt Anderson, Jeff Maehl and Jon Dorenbos will be the last of your concerns, and will probably be one of the few bright spots.

  • aub32

    Agreed, but I made the point that had CW gone anywhere else, he would have been a starter. I think the same as Sop, but I am not as convinced because he isn’t a big help in obvious passing situations. I remain steadfast that Cole is of starting caliber. I fully get the point of him being out of position, but we do not know for certain how the team lans to use him. If we do run more of a 4-3 under until we can get the 3-4 personnel that we need, Cole is a starting predator and maybe Graham as well.

  • JofreyRice

    All I can say is this: We know Casey Matthews sucks. We’ve seen it for years now. Acho & McCoy proved they were better in the games. Why is Curry still buried on the depth chart? Why TF are they talking about moving Curry to OLB NOW? What else could he have done as a lineman?

    I’m trying to avoid any grand proclamations on Howie other than to say I’m still very skeptical. He’s not Matt Millen level bad, but I think he makes some pretty bad missteps, and I don’t know how much he’s learned from his mistakes. This is another one.

  • aub32

    Had Matthews not started in the first place, how much of him would you have seen? It’s not like we have had numerous LB injuries that would have put him on the field. He was on the field because our LB talent has been awful. Had we had a Ryans & Kendricks tandem in place when he was drafted, you would never have seen enough of him to think he was worse than any other backup LB, and instead he would be praised for his ST contributions. Acho did well in preseason, but the story is he isn’t as good a cover guy as Matthews. This is a passing league, and with Cole and Graham lacking cover skills, why would you want your ILB to also stink in coverage. Plus Kelly has stated he’s in win now mode. If Casey is significantly better on STs, then he can contribute more this season than Acho. Rooting for Acho to get any meaningful playing time means taking either Ryans or Kendricks off the field. That’s a huge No Way in my book.

  • Matty Boy

    No I understood the exaggeration, I was just showing how they are different. Casey is an emergency starter. If Ryans, Kendricks, or two of our OLBs go down, Casey can come into a game and finish it. The same could not be said for Acho, apparently. Now, if any of the starters will be out for an extended period, especially the OLBs, I would bet my bottom dollar that they will find outside help. Casey gives you a versatile option to come into a game if needed and has shown to be an adequate and willing special teams player.

  • aub32

    People forget that he should have never been placed there. He had no business starting, especially in a defense run by Castillo. The fans will continue to blame Matthews, but the failure should rest solely wih the coaching staff. That’s why they are one, and he is still here.

  • Matty Boy

    The secondary isn’t really affected by the scheme change. It’s mainly the front seven. As you said the line doesn’t look too bad, and we have some quality depth. I think you’re misinformed about DeMeco being run out of Houston because of the scheme change. That’s just what people said, and kept repeating. The secondary will likely struggle depending on how dominant the pass rush is, but that would be true in any alignment. The big question mark is Trent Cole (and Brandon Graham). Barwin has shown he can play his position. Cole and Graham are unknowns in my mind. The coaches know a lot more, and I have faith that they’ll do the best they can with what they’ve got. The transition will look more complete by next season, but that’s not to say the defense can’t be successful now.

  • RIP illa

    Was never rooting for Acho to get significant PT, yet I like the idea of having capable depth behind our starters. Yet, as you know injuries happen.

    Changing it from if Matthews was never started to if we had Ryans and Kendricks at the time he was drafted is a little off, but we are dealing w/ what if scenarios I guess. However w/ him being drafted in the year he was drafted, we would have still saw plenty of him, as we had no viable MLB and our LB rotation, for all 3 spots, was in constant shuffle. We definitely would have seen him on the field.

    I’m not too high on his cover skills. I put them definitely way under Kendricks, under Barwin, a little under Ryans, and above Graham and Cole. So I’m not down w/ that reasoning. This by no means that I’m coming at you or dismissing that reasoning.

  • #7

    Yeah man I was completely shocked when they started him. I remember thinking as I was watching the game “is he starting because of his name/pedigree”? He was terrible, but at the time that’s exactly what I was thinking.

  • RIP illa

    That was after they realized that he couldn’t handle the middle. So they tried him a t WILL and he even got some burn at SAM. So are you saying he never should have been on the field at al his 1st year? I would hope that a 4th rounder could at least get on the field, if need be. Our LB corp was horrible! He was drafted he needed to play at some point w/ our constant shuffle. If he should have not seen the field at all, then better for him to go undrafted and put on the PS.

  • RIP illa

    Still 100% agreed!!! I was a fan of Howie and thought he had potential, even w/ the mistakes, until he had to be absolved by Lurie. That just struck me the wrong way, and showed a lack of responsibility and leadership. And you can’t learn from mistakes if you bear no responsibility for them. So now, and cause of other things, I’m not a fan and my proclamation is that I don’t believe anything he says, I’m done with him, and he “sucks”…lol…at least for this blossoming year. Next year will be a different story and my opinion can and hopefully will change back to being a fan of him.

  • aub32

    Showing out in the 4th preseason game means nothing. We saw Casey stink it up against starters, but he was a 4th round rookie in a bad scheme. So what did you expect? I doubt McCoy and Acho would be stellar against starting NFL talent.

  • Adam

    Can we at least be consistent? It’s Chip roster. He made the decision to keep cut or keep these guys. The ONLY way the Eagles were going to get him hear would be to have absolute control over the roster.

  • Token

    Howie stinks. He has a track record saying so. People that try to defend him have to go out of their way to try and praise players that dont deserve it just to show how great Howie is.

    Fact is this roster has very little talent and that comes from years of picking the wrong players both in the draft and in FA.

    Now on top of that we have a coach that either has the same bad eye for NFL talent of just thinks he can make a player out of everyone like in college.

  • aub32

    Would never think you were coming at me. I get the hesitation. Neither guy is ideal honestly. I just see where a case can be made for keeping Matthews over Acho, and I personally think Matthews gets way too much flack for he failures of the previous regime. Would he be a fan favorite and leader as Ike Reese once was? I highly doubt it, but I don’t think so much hate would be directed his way either. I don’t see fans maligning Colt or Hughes.

  • aub32

    That’s exactly what I’m saying. Barkley was a 4th rounder. I hope to high heaven I never see him take a meaningful snap in 2013. I get your point that a 4th rounder should be able to step in some, but they had him starting. The front office should have made moves to get better talent in front of him, instead of placing that “horrible” LB corp on the field. Not every 4th round guy is meant to contribute at a position. Had the FO did a better job at accumulating a respectable starting group, Casey would have been free to contribute on ST. Let’s not pretend that every 4th rounder turns into a starter or is ready to play significant time as a rookie.

  • RIP illa

    You are correct he wouldn’t have been so disliked by most of the fans. And that’s the point I’m making too about the FO and how they left us at LB for all those years and seems like their doing it again but not specifically at LB…more so DB. I get the case for Matthews, I just don’t like it very much. And God…I hate me some Hughes!!! Lol!

  • aub32

    In defense of the team now, their deficiencies at DB are not from lack of trying. They never even tried to bring in top talent at the LB position in the past. We should still have pro bowl level talent at the CB position, and we used two 2nd round picks trying to get safeties. The moves happened to not have worked out, but they did try. I think the coaching staff/decisions really ruined a myriad of players on and now off this team.

  • Token

    Casey is the 1st ILB off the bench. Why do people keep thinking thats not the case? You think a guy they just brought in is the 3rd ILB now?

    The guy is one injury away from starting. Thats awful personnel management.

    But you are right in a way, this team is so bad that it really doesnt matter in the grand scheme.

    That doesnt discount the fact that it shows continuing ineptitude when it comes to personnel. Many of us looking for a fresh start from the Reid era havent gotten that. We have gotten a no huddle smoothie drinking version of the last 3 years.

  • Maggie

    I totally agree on consistency.

  • Maggie

    Is that the sum total of your NFL knowledge??

  • aub32

    “shown nothing”

    That’s not true. He has shown the ability to play STs. That’s not nothing. That’s 1/3 of the game. Look at how many games are won and lost due to STs.

    In regard to Allen and Coleman, what was the alternative? If you want to fault the FO for not bringing in more players than fine. However, they did get Chung and take a gamble on Phillips. However, I don’t see what Chip and crew could have done. Were they supposed to cut Allen and Coleman and just have nobody. They showed they would watch the waiver wire and cut accordingly when they released Marsh. Nothing was there at S, and someone has to line up on Sunday.

  • JofreyRice

    It also has to do with the player themselves. This is not a guy that Chip just brought in and introduced–hence the much milder reaction to Maehl over Salas or Sheppard.

    Matthews has a history here, that’s going to follow him. He hasn’t done anything on the field to make it seem like he’s improved at all.

  • JofreyRice

    He had 5 special teams tackles last year, and 3 penalties. Do you remember huge plays where Matthews really affected the game in any way on special teams? Real question, I can’t, and I have a pretty good memory for Eagles stuff.

    Colt Anderson is a ST ace. Matthews is a warm body that runs down the field at full speed.

    In regards to the safeties, I’ve gone over my opinion of that ad nauseum. There were plenty of guys to go after in either the draft or FA. I have no problem “gambling” on Phillips if you have a viable backup plan in place in the likely event that his surgically reconstructed knees don’t hold up. Praying that Nate Allen somehow becomes less sucky or that a 5th round rookie is good enough to come in and start is not a viable backup plan, IMO.

  • JofreyRice

    I think a variety of factors got Chip here, including the sanctions at Oregon. I do believe Howie played a part in being so aggressive, and offering him the 5th highest salary int he NFL.

    Like I said, there are things Howie does that are good. But he has made some missteps. We’ll see if the deleterious effects of those missteps outweigh the good over the next 16 games.

  • aub32

    As I said the safety situation is more on the front office than Kelly. I don’t expect Kelly to know what he has in Allen before having a chance to coach him. Also, the “draft a safety” narrative is overblown. What happened when we did that with Jarrett? Fans can’t scream for the GM to draft the best player available, then be upset when we didn’t draft based on position. You can’t have things both ways.

  • JofreyRice

    So I take it that you can’t think of any big ST’s plays Matthews made, either? Once again, you’re just taking the org’s word for it, which is fine, but you have to understand my skepticism.

    We drafted the wrong guy for the wrong situation with Jarrett. You’re looking at two different factors here: need, and talent evaluation of the player against the proposed role. They were right in picking Jarrett because they needed a safety. They just failed in the evaluation. Jarrett’s emergence in NY is more about the role he’s being asked to play and the staff teaching him that role.

    When you say that the “draft a safety” thing is “overblown”, I take it to mean that you feel it’s a tired, oft-repeated argument. I’ll ask this, was it a tired argument that Andy Reid needed to run the ball more? Of course. Or that the Eagles needed a #1 WR, or that they needed decent LBs? Sure I was tired of hearing it, too.

    I’d contend that just because the Org fails to address a position year after year, and the criticism becomes rote, it doesn’t make the criticism any less accurate.

  • JofreyRice

    Which numbers are you going by? According to PFF, last season he was tied for 5th with 5 others who had 5 tackles a piece after Akeem Jordan (9), Colt Anderson (8), Curtis Marsh (7), and Stanley Havili (6). He did lead them in penalties (3).

  • JofreyRice

    Definitely some truth in this. I think it has to do with expectations. I think most of us know that this is going to be a multi year rebuild process; the talent level is just not there to compete. The silver lining of this year is about the future–how well Chip’s schemes translate, what kind of success the offense has. It’s going to be about evaluating the foundation of success going forward. I think a lot of us would like a clean break from a horrible player like Matthews. We’d rather the devil we don’t know going into a new era.

  • aub32

    In regard to the ST play of Matthews, no I cannot remember any big plays, but to be fair I don’t remember any big coverage plays from anyone on the team. Usually people only remember coverage plays when the player did a really poor job. So where I can’t state that on one particular Sunday, I saw Casey do this. I feel confident in what I saw that he was around the ball on ST and made plays from time to time. Again this is in actual NFL action.

    I think you misunderstand my draft point. I agree that I would like to see us draft a stud safety. My point is I don’t wan to see the organization reach for one. Safety was a need last year. I’m happy with the acquisitions of Cox, Kendricks, and Curry. I also, don’t fault them for Johnson, Ertz, and Logan. They went with BPA. This year a safety didn’t fall into where they were drafting. I really believe they would have taken Cyprien had he been there in the 2nd. We will never know, but the idea of reaching for a safety is “overblown”. Look at all the other holes that were adequately filled. You can’t get all star talent at every position in one offseason.

    On a side note, I definitely think that #1 WR argument over the past couple of years was overblown. I’m not talking about the Pinkston and Thrash days. The team needed upgrades in a big way then. However, I thought Mac and DJax were a winning combo. The Pats have made and won SBs without #1 guys. The Ravens won a SB without a #1 guy. (Boldin is a highend 3 possibly low end #2 and Smith < Jackson)

  • Adam

    Timing is a major problem too. The defense has been bad the past few seasons when they should have been good considering the draft picks and FA signings we put into it. Now, with the scheme and personnel changes the defense should be bad, but since it’s been bad for so long they won’t be afforded the time they need by the media and fans.