Chip Kelly spoke to the media for the first time since the end of the 2013 season Friday evening prior to the Maxwell Awards in Atlantic City. Turning in his jeans and t-shirt for a suit, Kelly was in town to accept the Maxwell Club NFL Coach of the Year Award.
Some highlights from the 10-minute media session:
Oregon alums Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward topped the free-agent safety market, but the Eagles walked away instead with Malcolm Jenkins, who came at a cheaper price. Kelly said it wasn’t about the money, but rather the fit.
“In our scheme, when you play against guys like Peyton Manning, you better not always have the same guy doing the same thing. The more versatile your guys are [the better]. I think he can cover, he can play man because he’s got the corner skills, he can also play free safety because he has range but he can also be down in the box,” said Kelly.
“The one thing about Malcolm, we felt all along for us that he was the right guy we were looking for because of his versatility. There are some other guys out there that are tremendous football players but for what Billy [Davis] was looking for and what we were looking for on the defensive side of the ball, Malcolm just seemed to be the guy that, as we kept going through and analyzing everybody in free agency, that was the right fit.”
-- The Eagles have otherwise been pretty quiet on the defensive side of the ball even though it is the area that needs the most help. Asked if the defense has improved enough this offseason, Kelly worked around the true meaning of the question by saying that he doesn’t know because he hasn’t seen the new additions or the unit overall in action. A follow-up question produced the same type of answer.
-- Kelly talked about the addition of Darren Sproles.
“It was just an opportunity to get a guy that we felt could complement what we have. We think we have a special, special back in LeSean [McCoy], but take a little load off of him a little bit. And the fact that he is a punt return/kick return guy is a huge bonus for us. When the situation presented itself, when you get a chance to add someone like that to your roster it gives you a lot more opportunities.”
Sproles will be 31 when the season starts, but Kelly did not seem too worried about the age factor.
“I watched him in person against us, and I know talking to our defensive coaches what their concern was when they had to defend him. I think he’s a really good football player and the fact that we got to add him, I think he’s a piece to the puzzle on the offensive side of the ball.”
-- Kelly sidestepped a question about DeSean Jackson. Asked about the speculation regarding the receiver’s future and his importance to the team, Kelly poked fun at a report from earlier this offseason.
“He’s a priority at receiver before [Jeremy] Maclin, behind [Riley] Cooper. Or is it Cooper before Maclin? Or Maclin before Cooper? I’ll check what you write and I’ll tell you how we feel about it.”
-- The second-year head coach discussed the work that lies ahead in terms of building a complete roster, and how he views free agency in that respect.
“Free agency I think is just additions to your teams. I think the best thing we did as an organization is we signed Jason Peters, we signed Jason Kelce, we signed Coop, we signed Donnie Jones, we signed our good players back before they had an opportunity to go to free agency,” he said. “You look at free agency as a way to complement. We’ve been here a year now, we still have some holes in terms of being a complete football team, and you can fill some of them in free agency. But we still have a ways to go.”