For Emmanuel Acho, cut-down day last year was all positive. The Eagles’ linebacker had played well in the preseason and earned a surprise spot on the 53-man roster.
But things change quickly in the NFL, and two days later, Acho got a call from GM Howie Roseman, telling him the team was letting him go in favor of Najee Goode.
Acho made his way to the NovaCare Complex, but it wasn't just to turn in his playbook. He met separately with Chip Kelly, Billy Davis and linebackers coach Rick Minter. The process wasn't exclusive to Acho. The Eagles offer the same courtesy to every player who is let go.
"Obviously every guy that’s here that’s part of the 90-man roster, their lifelong dream is to be an NFL football player," Kelly said. "To be the one to have to tell them that it’s not gonna happen here is difficult, and it’s something that is inevitable. You have to go from 90 to 75 and from 75 to 53. It’s part of the job, but it’s not a fun part of the job. We make sure that every player meets with me, every player meets with his position coach, every player meets with the coordinator on their side of the ball. You try to be as human as you can with it, but it’s always a difficult time when someone’s goal is to play in this league."
It may seem relatively minor, but it's something that players appreciate. Goode, for example, was released by the Bucs prior to joining the Eagles. He had a brief conversation with then head coach Greg Schiano and never got a clear explanation about why the move was being made.
"I talked to Coach Schiano, and that was pretty much it," Goode said. "Never got to talk to my linebacker coach, never really got a chance to talk to the GM. I was kind of left unclear. That’s why Coach Kelly has always talked to us, he always wants to get a better, clearer understanding of who we are as a person. He always preaches, 'Even if you’re leaving this team... you want to leave here as a better man, as a better person, as a better player.' "
For Kelly, it's a numbers game. In the offseason, they find 90 players they like, knowing all along they'll be forced to cut down to 53 in September.
But he stresses to the players that he will try to help them make another NFL roster if things don't work out in Philadelphia.
"As we told those guys on Day One, goal one for us is that you make this football team," Kelly said. "But then goal two for us is that you get an opportunity to make another football team with the exposure that you get here. And hopefully we prepare you for that.
"These guys have been with us for a long time. We didn’t make many transactions from when we signed this group in May until we had a cut-down to 75, so you’re around the guys a lot. You care for them cause they’re here every day and they’re doing everything you ask them to do. But there’s still a certain amount of numbers that by Tuesday at 4 o’clock, everybody in the league’s gotta be at 75."
It's a philosophy that Acho says players appreciate.
"I think here they care a lot about just helping you make the NFL," he said. "Coach Davis has said since I was with him in Cleveland when he was my linebackers coach there, he’s always harped on everybody can’t make the team, but he wants you to make the NFL. That’s a motto and a mindset that’s preached heavily in Philadelphia. They want you to make the league. Even if you can’t make this roster, they want to help you make another roster."
The Eagles' roster is currently at 75. By 4 p.m. Saturday, 22 more guys will get the call to stop by the practice facility to meet with Kelly, a coordinator and their position coach.
WHAT YOU MISSED
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We get help from Coach Flinn and use the All-22 to break down how the Eagles use four verticals.
The Eagles trimmed their roster to 75 by waiving Julian Vandervelde with an injury settlement.
Here's a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles, including one league insider noting that Kelly doesn't give a s--- what other people think.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Les Bowen of the Daily News on the Eagles' lack of depth at receiver:
Starters Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin have missed time with injury, Cooper quite a bit of time, appearing only last week against Pittsburgh (three catches, 25 yards). It might be telling that the No. 2 preseason receiver is not a wideout, but tight end Zach Ertz (eight catches, 110 yards).
Second-round rookie Jordan Matthews has done his part, leading the team with 15 preseason catches for 134 yards, in three games. But it would have been nice to have seen much more from third-round rookie Josh Huff, who really wasn't all that distinguishable from Quron Pratt or Kadron Boone in practice.
CSNPhilly.com's Geoff Mosher on Jeremy Maclin and the injury-prone label:
What’s fiction, Maclin seemed to suggest, is that he’s made of glass. That he’s so fragile he can’t be relied on to hold up for 16 games and produce the breakout season that Maclin keeps saying he's primed to do.
Someone had asked the veteran wideout Sunday if scary vignettes, like the one from Thursday's preseason game when Maclin hit the ground hard and stayed there for several seconds, are inevitable moments fans have to accept.
“I don't know, you tell me,” Maclin fired back. “I missed last season off of a fluke injury. Prior to that, I think I missed four games, five games my whole career. So you tell me.”
Maclin’s testiness continued when another reported followed up about perceptions that he’s always nicked or bruised.
Do those theories annoy him?
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. “For four years straight I played the most snaps at receiver on our team.”
Apparently, the Giants traded kicker Brandon McManus to the Broncos so the Eagles wouldn't have a shot at him:
So why would the Giants do that deal instead of just cutting McManus? Easy - they know the Eagles might've had interest. Played keep-away.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 26, 2014
We've got an in-depth piece on Brandon Boykin and more in the works.