Three Highlights From Chip Kelly

Chip KellyChip Kelly spoke to the media this morning. Here are three things that stood out from the session.

1. By Saturday at 6 p.m., the Eagles will have to cut their roster down to 53 players. When Kelly took the job, he provided Howie Roseman and the scouting staff with a blueprint of what he was looking for out of different positions. Their job was then to accumulate talent. But now that the roster needs to be trimmed, Kelly confirmed that he has final say on picking the 53 who are staying.

“We’re on the same page on everything,” Kelly said of his relationship with Roseman. “There’s hasn’t been a decision that’s been made personnel-wise since I’ve been here where I felt one way and he’s felt the other way.”

Does Kelly expect there will be a time when that’s not the case?

“No, it’s a utopia,” he joked. “It will always be on the same page.”

“When you analyze it, there’s never been a situation when we’ve been going from it’s this guy or that guy and then two guys are standing on soap boxes saying we’re going one direction and not the other direction. I think when you have guys who are professional and can see the other side of it and understand how it fits in the grand scheme of things, I think he sees big picture, I see big picture. I think that’s why we get along so well.”

Jeffrey Lurie and Roseman talked earlier this offseason about how they want the Eagles to be a “coach-centric” organization. With Joe Banner and Andy Reid gone, Roseman is clearly leading the charge on the personnel side. But when final decisions are made on who to keep, it’s Kelly’s call.

2. Even though the opener is less than two weeks away, Kelly said there are still jobs up for grabs as the Eagles prepare to take on the Jets Thursday night.

“There’s a lot up in the air right now,” Kelly said. “I think every chance you have an opportunity to see our guys compete – and obviously the games are different than the training sessions out here – it’s a last real good shot of us getting an opportunity to see how they react in that environment. It’s as close to the regular season as you can get. So it’s a huge night for all of those guys.”

Several factors will go in to Kelly’s final decisions. One is special-teams play, and another is versatility. For example, Clay Harbor has been practicing at both tight end and wide receiver. Allen Barbre at guard and tackle. Damion Square at nose tackle and defensive end.

There’s been a method to Kelly’s madness in regards to moving guys around so much.

“When you only have 46 guys active on gameday, you’ve got to have versatility in your non-starters because there’s just not enough numbers,” he said. “If you’re two-deep at every position, that’s 44 excluding specialists. At some positions, you’re gonna carry a third. You’re gonna carry a third running back, so where does that spot come from? It’s gotta come from somewhere. When you’re talking about making a 46-man roster, that versatility part is huge for guys that aren’t starters.”

3. And finally, Kelly explained the Win The Day mantra that became so popular at Oregon and now has made its way into the Eagles’ locker room.

“Just about embracing the process and that’s what it’s all about,” Kelly said. “I think too many people see too far down the road. You can talk about championships all you want, but if you don’t take care of what you’re supposed to be taking care of today, it doesn’t matter what your long-term goal is.

“Just really making sure that you’re focused no matter what your long-term goals are, to be on the short-term and what can I get accomplished today? Maybe we just weren’t smart enough to look long-term. We can control what we can control today and if we do it, go to bed, get up tomorrow and do it again. It’s about being consistent with your behavior and I think too many times, everybody talks about the big picture. But they neglect to look at what the small picture is. It’s an accumulation of things on a daily basis that gets you to where you are a year from now. It’s not try to jump to a year from now. It’s take care of what you can today and what you can control is just today.”

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Vick As a Runner? ‘I Will Be a Threat’

Michael VickMichael Vick had a playful response today for reporters who constantly pepper him about his inability to stay healthy.

“You guys act like I get hurt once a week,” he said with a smile. “You all did that to me, changed the way I played my game.”

Now that he’s been named the starter, Vick no longer has to deal with questions about competition and instead spent his media session discussing a variety of other topics, like injuries, turnovers and the new offensive scheme.

The injuries are a tired, yet important, issue. And Vick was his usual self, unable to make up his mind about how he would approach each game.

One minute, he was saying: “I still have to protect myself and that’s most important. I have to be very cautious.”

The next minute? “You’ve gotta play the game all out and give it everything that you got. I think when you go into a football game not wanting to get hurt, or try not to get hurt, it doesn’t allow you to play the way that you want to play.”

If we’re to draw any conclusions here, the safe bet is to expect Vick to play how he has in the past, unless he proves otherwise.

But he is directing a new offense.

Told that the general public assumes he’ll be used more as a runner this year, Vick said: “That could be very true. I’m gonna have my opportunities to do what I like to do in this offense and to run the football. And yes, I will be a threat. That’s exciting. That’s what I’ve worked hard this offseason for. I’ve built the strength up in my legs to be able to do that. I’ve tested myself with Shady and passed that test, so now I’ve just gotta outrun linebackers and safeties.”

By my count, Vick has sustained five major injuries in the past two seasons. In 2011, all four occurred while he was in the pocket delivering the football. The concussion last year was sustained when Vick took off to run against the Cowboys.

Last year, several playoff teams – the 49ers, Seahawks and Redskins – had quarterbacks who could hurt defenses with their legs. While Vick’s considerably older than Colin Kapernick, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III, he took notice and is excited about being able to use his entire set of skills.

“Watching those guys, you just see how far the game has come and the evolution of the game and this position,” Vick said. “It’s accepted now. Teams want dual-threats, and those teams were in the playoffs and deep in the playoffs.

“The mobility, it just gives you an extra facet of the game that is kind of hard to stop at times.”

Earlier in the day, Chip Kelly praised Vick for being the team’s top performer in the offseason conditioning program. Vick said he and Jeremy Maclin were at the team facility every day working out together.

“I never felt like I was out of shape,” Vick said. “I felt like looking back now and the way I feel as of today, I think I was kind of under weight and could have been a lot stronger.

“Coach challenged me to get back into tip-top shape and to get back to playing from where he knows I can be successful at.”

If teams combat the read-option by sending the unblocked edge defender to hit the quarterback, Vick said he believes the added weight will help.

“We have something for that,” he said with a smile. “That’s 220 pounds you’re staring at right here, soaking wet.”

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Kelly: Vick Ranked No. 1 In Offseason Program

Chip KellyChip Kelly might have been a bit hesitant to praise one quarterback too much when Michael Vick and Nick Foles were competing for the top spot.

But now that he’s named Vick the starter, he’s willing to let everyone know what’s impressed him about the 33-year-old signal-caller.

“What I’ve learned about him is how passionate he is about this game,” Kelly said. “He has not missed a day. He’s here every single day. You listen to our strength and conditioning guys… I asked them the other day who’s from top to bottom, if you could rank our guys, and he was by far number one in terms of his attitude, work ethic, helping other players, everything. In terms of weight-room, off-field things. I’m not in the weight room every single day with those guys, but I always get input from them of what’s going on in there. Every facet of what you’ve asked him to do since he’s been here, he’s been outstanding at.”

Back in May, Tim wrote about Vick’s offseason training regimen, which included work with a ninja stick. He may no longer be at his athletic peak, but by all accounts, Vick is doing everything in his power to battle father time.

DESEAN BUYING IN

Back in the spring, DeSean Jackson had to have a little sit-down with Kelly to figure out why he ran practice the way he did.

But since then, Jackson looks like he’s on a mission. The speedy wide receiver has had an outstanding summer and seems to have a great understanding of the Eagles’ new offense.

“I think DeSean’s had a fantastic camp,” Kelly said. “He’s been out there every single day. I think he’s improved, he’s getting stronger in the weight room. He’s another guy that’s kind of bought in to what we’ve asked him to do and helped make himself a better player. I’m excited to see him once the real season gets along because I think he’s a huge advantage for us because he can create some mismatches out there.”

Jackson and the Eagles’ starters are expected to play at least the first half Saturday night against Jacksonville.

TRA JOINS COACHING STAFF

Kelly officially announced that former Eagles left tackle Tra Thomas will join his staff as an offensive assistant. Thomas has been with the team all offseason as part of the Bill Walsh minority program. And he’s impressed Kelly enough to warrant a full-time role.

“One thing about Tra, when you sit there and watch film with him is just how much he studied tape on his own and what he learned about the game,” Kelly said. “And I think he’s imparted that to a lot of the young linemen that we have. Part of being really good up front is developing that talent. I think having someone like Tra around here will help us really develop those young guys. But I think he’s got a bright future coaching and we’re excited.”

SCHEDULE CHANGE

The Eagles will no longer get Tuesdays off during the regular season.

“Our players’ day off will be Monday after the game,” Kelly said. “And then we’ll practice Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and play.”

We’ll try to chat with some players after practice and get their opinions of the new schedule.

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Checking In On the Secondary

Less than three weeks from the opener, and still so many questions about the secondary. Let’s try to answer some of them with the help of Billy Davis and several of the players:

Who are the starters?

If the season started today, Nate Allen and Patrick Chung would be your starting safeties. Bradley Fletcher would be at left cornerback, Cary Williams at right  and Brandon Boykin would be in the slot.

If he is playing so well, why not have Boykin start on the outside?

Davis wants Boykin in the slot. He feels like the Georgia product has the best skill set for the position, and that the unit will be strongest overall if he works inside. While starting Boykin on the outside and moving him in during nickel situations is possible in theory, Davis suggested that is a lot to ask of a player — especially one with limited NFL experience.

Boykin is going to go along with whatever plan his defensive coordinator comes up with, but he clearly wants one of the starting posts.

“If I’m the best guy in the slot, then I need to play in the slot,” said Boykin. “I fully understand whatever decision they may make. But my ultimate goal is to one day be a starting corner. I’ve got the ability.

“Just being full-time player every down. Nickels maybe play 50 percent of the game depending on the game plan. I feel like I have the ability to be on the field each and every day, and that’s what I want to be ultimately.”

Last season, Boykin was on the field for 526 of a possible 1,077 snaps (49 percent), according to Pro Football Focus. He’s hoping that number goes up.

Why start Nate Allen?

This is what Davis had to say about Allen on Wednesday:

“Nate is a phenomenal athlete and a good football player. I don’t think anybody works at it harder than Nate. In the first [preseason] game he struggled a little bit, second game played well.”

A lot of it comes down to options. As in Davis has very few beyond Allen, who is probably the best center-fielder of the bunch. You can argue that the strength of  Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Earl Wolff  is in-the-box play, which also happens to be Chung’s apparent strength. Kenny Phillips can’t stay on the field and David Sims doesn’t appear to be a legitimate contender. That probably leaves Allen as the best cover safety of the bunch, like it or not. Wolff could certainly prove to be the better option over time, but I’m not sure the staff is ready to commit to him quite yet.

Allen and Chung will start against the Jaguars Saturday.

Will Phillips make the team?

He made a brief return to practice Tuesday but left early and was back on the sidelines Wednesday because of a quad strain.

Phillips has a shot of making it simply because the overallgroup is questionable , so maybe they cross their fingers and hope he can get healthy. But can they afford to hand a roster spot to a player with an injury history that can’t stay on the field?

“It’s [difficult to evaluate] anybody that goes through the injury process that doesn’t get into the games or even into practices,” said Davis. “But Kenny’s got a lot of film and a lot of tape out there of him playing. So we’ll have a good feel for Kenny, and hopefully he can play in this preseason game.”

Time is running out for Phillips to make his case.

Got anything on Fletcher?

He really just blends in, which isn’t an altogether bad thing for a corner. Davis used terms like “consistent”, “a real pro” and “not flashy” to describe the 6-0, 196-pounder.

“That’s what it’s been,” said Fletcher. “I’m going to give you the same — I’m always  going to compete, I’m always going to tackle for you, and I’m going to run to the ball. That’s coming from me every day.”

The five-year pro has five career interceptions (four of them coming in 2010) so don’t expect a lot of the big plays from him. But he only missed a pair of tackles in 374 snaps last season, per PFF, while holding quarterbacks to a 55.8 rating, so he could be solid.

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Davis Updates Starter Battles On Defense

Billy Davis indicated today that he’ll make his final evaluations on starters after Saturday night’s preseason game against the Jaguars.

Keeping that in mind, here’s a position-by-position look at which spots are up for grabs, along with comments from Davis.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The starters up front have been Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle, Cedric Thornton at LDE and Fletcher Cox at RDE. Cox is a mainstay, but the other two are being pushed.

Bennie Logan has played very well through two games and has the versatility to line up at the nose or defensive end.

“Bennie has had two good games,” Davis said. “Like all of them, they’re pushing and we’ll see with this game. …This is a real big determining factor, this will help see where Bennie is. He’s taken each step, he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do and has played very solid in the two preseason games he’s played.”

Undrafted free agent Damion Square has also shown flashes. And 2012 second-round pick Vinny Curry has been perhaps the Eagles’ best defensive player in the preseason.

Asked if Curry’s still in the mix to start, Davis said: “Absolutely. Nothing has been determined yet in terms of starters, and we are continuing to evaluate all of them, and Vinny’s absolutely in the mix.”

Both Davis and Chip Kelly have indicated that the Eagles will likely rotate six defensive linemen in the regular season. That de-emphasizes the importance of starters, but in the past, the first-team guys have still played the most snaps.

The other thing to note here is that the Eagles will be in their sub packages probably 50 percent of the time. That means, in most cases, two defensive linemen on the field, playing as interior pass-rushers.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

We can pencil Connor Barwin in at one starting spot, and by all accounts, Trent Cole will man the right side.

That means Brandon Graham starting the season as a rotational player.

Asked about the progress Cole and Graham have made with their position switches from the first game to the second game, Davis said: “They’ve done a nice job. We keep putting them in drop situations. Again, we’re evaluating what the package can do and who can do it and we’ve tried to put them in as many drop scenarios as we can. And they’re really working hard at it, they look good. They’re much more comfortable moving backwards.”

“You can see that they’re really getting the feel for the little nuances of how to play the ‘I’m dropping, no I’m rushing’ game with quarterbacks. And it’s really coming along well.”

The truth is, we won’t really know what Davis thinks of Graham and Cole until Week 1 of the regular season when the games count.

* Note: Nothing to add on inside linebackers. It’ll be DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks starting.

CORNERBACKS

Davis went in a couple different directions when asked about Brandon Boykin. The sense I got, though, is that he prefers to have Boykin focus on playing inside, with Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams on the outside.

Davis said Boykin is “pushing the other two” but when asked about the possibility of starting the second-year player on the outside and then moving him inside when the Eagles are in nickel, he sounded a bit hesitant.

“I do think that’s challenging… especially in the same series,” Davis said. “When you start the season, to start at corner and to start at nickel, it becomes more challenging. It is something usually the older veterans can pull off, guys that have played a lot of nickel or played a lot of outside corner. Early on, it’s a little more challenging.

“If you can make it easier without deteriorating from the best 11 on the field, then you can have a guy do one, not both. If there’s clear separation, then you try to get a guy to do both.”

SAFETIES

Patrick Chung seems to have nailed down one starting spot. Nate Allen will get the nod at the other spot on Saturday night. But Davis said he’ll likely rotate other guys in during the first half.

The one player Davis has gotten a lot of questions about is Kenny Phillips. Phillips has had trouble staying healthy and is currently dealing with a quad injury. It’s unclear whether he’ll be on the field Saturday night.

“Anybody that goes through the injury process, doesn’t get into the games or even into the practices, it does make it harder to evaluate when you get less looks at a guy,” Davis said. “I think that just goes without saying.”

Davis added that the Eagles have tape on Phillips, but obviously that was in a different scheme.

If Allen is a disaster against the Jaguars, Davis could shake up the starting lineup before Week 1. But if Allen at least looks competent, he’ll likely get the nod to start the season.

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Nick Foles: ‘I Want To Be Here’

Nick FolesIt didn’t take Nick Foles long to get over the fact that Chip Kelly had chosen Michael Vick as his starter.

“Maybe less than a tenth of a second, I was ready to go,” Foles said. “I’m ready to go back to work, so I wasn’t moping around about it. Had practice today. Was excited to go out there and work.”

The second-year quarterback obviously has to feel some sense of disappointment. As a rookie, he got a chance to play, starting six games and appearing in seven. Now, he’s unsure what the future holds.

“The competitor in me, you always want to be the one on the field playing, but at the same time, I love Mike and we’ve gone about it the right way,” Foles said. “We’ve kept a great friendship and we’ve pushed each other. And I’m proud of him. I’ll do anything I can to help him become the best quarterback possible. I’m excited for him. Nothing changes in my preparation. I’m still gonna prepare the same way.”

Kelly has emphasized from the moment he got the job that teams need two quarterbacks to be successful. That’s especially the case here, given Vick’s injury history. In all likelihood, Foles will be called on to take the field at some point in 2013.

But what about beyond that? Not only did the Eagles bring Vick back on a one-year deal during the offseason, they also spent a fourth-round pick on Matt Barkley. Given some of the shaky QB situations around the league, perhaps Foles would have better luck elsewhere?

“I want to be here,” he said, when asked about the possibility of a trade. “I want to be here with my team. I want to be here. I’ve been with these guys. I feel like we have a really good thing going and I love this team. I love the coaches and everything about it, the city. So I want to be here. I want to be in Philadelphia.”

Does he think he’ll eventually have a chance to be the starter here?

“You never know what happens,” Foles said. “I’m gonna continue to work towards that. That’s my goal. I’m not just gonna sit here and want to sit here. I’m gonna continue to want to get better and hopefully someday, something will happen and I’ll be in that situation.”

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Three Thoughts On the Decision To Go With Vick

Michael VickHere are three thoughts on Chip Kelly’s announcement that Michael Vick will be the Eagles’ starting quarterback in 2013.

1. If this really was an open competition, and I believe it was, Kelly’s decision makes perfect sense. On his first four drives of the preseason, Vick completed 12 of 13 passes for 190 yards. He rushed two times for 20 yards and did not take a sack. In other words, he earned it and really could not have played much better.

The questions from past years remain with Vick. He’s been picked off 24 times and fumbled 21 times in his last 23 games. He takes a lot of hits and has trouble staying healthy. Those issues do not suddenly go away just because he’s been named the starter. Kelly can certainly help with scheme, but ultimately, it’ll be on Vick to prove he can take care of the football and stay on the field.

Kelly said today that “this is a one-quarterback operation.” He doesn’t want Vick looking over his shoulder. But I’m not convinced that’s what he believes internally. If Vick starts the first four games, makes poor decisions and turns the ball over, the guess here is that Kelly will at least consider making a switch. He’s in the NFL because of what he’s accomplished offensively in the college ranks. He believes strongly in his system. He’s working with what’s shaping up to be a very good offensive line and a solid group of weapons.

If Kelly has a QB who is constantly making bad decisions, it’s going to frustrate him to no end and he’ll consider alternatives.

2. In terms of the actual qualities that put Vick ahead, three come to mind: his mobility, his arm and his standing in the locker room.

Let’s start with the first one. Does Kelly need a mobile quarterback? No. Would he prefer one? Absolutely. Yesterday, we showed several plays where the offense ran a zone read/bubble screen packaged play. On those plays, the offense is considered to have an advantage even if it’s got five offensive linemen against six defenders in the box. The reason? The threat of a QB taking off essentially “blocks” a defender. In the preseason, these plays worked even with Nick Foles and Matt Barkley running the show. But there’s no question that they are more effective with a mobile quarterback who can pick up big chunks of yards with his legs.

Then there’s the arm, or more specifically, the ability to get the ball downfield. While the Eagles will run a lot of quick-hitting screens, Vick has shown the ability to get the ball downfield in the preseason. Per Pro Football Focus, three of Vick’s 15 attempts have traveled 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. Foles has not attempted a downfield throw through two games. The Eagles will run the football a lot, but with Vick and DeSean Jackson on the field together, they’re going to take their shots deep.

And finally, leadership. Given how Vick played in the first two games, Kelly had no chance of convincing the other guys in the locker room that Foles had outplayed him and earned the starting job. It would have cast serious doubt over everything he’s preached about competition. The players still look up to Vick and believe in him, despite his struggles the past two seasons. He steps up amid controversy (the Riley Cooper situation). He leads the on-field huddle before games. And he’s the “big brother” in the locker room. Kelly doesn’t have to worry about whether the players will follow Vick. That’s a nice perk to have in his first year as a head coach.

3. What does this mean for the QB situation going forward? Not a whole lot. When the Eagles decided to bring Vick back on a one-year deal, it was a clear sign that they were hedging their bets. Kelly had not seen enough on Foles’ 2012 film to believe he was the answer. Foles actually fumbled at a higher rate than Vick last season, and in four preseason drives, he fumbled twice and threw an interception. Mistakes aside, he looked capable of moving the offense in a structured, methodical manner. As Kelly stated today, chance are Foles will have to take the field at some point this season. Now he knows how to structure the offense if that happens.

The truth, which we’ve been preaching in this space for awhile, is that the Eagles’ QB of the future very well could be playing on Saturdays this fall. We’ve covered Foles already. If Kelly thought there was a good chance he could be the QB of the future, he would have named him the starter and not brought Vick back.

Vick, meanwhile, is 33. If he plays lights-out this year, stays healthy, takes care of the football and looks like a perfect fit in Kelly’s offense, then you bring him back. Even if all that falls into place, you still strongly consider drafting a QB early because of Vick’s age. If all of that doesn’t happen, you definitely take one.

The Matt Barkley hype has been overblown. The chances of a fourth-round pick eventually becoming a top-end starter is unlikely. Next year’s draft is loaded with quarterbacks. While the season still has to play out, chances are the Eagles will target guys who fit Kelly’s prototype.

In the meantime, the rest of the offense gets a head-start on the new scheme with Vick running the show.

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McManus: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Chip KellyYes, I defeated Sheil in the 53-man projection contest last year. Yes, it was as easy as it looked.

I’ve been called many things since then — champion, Nostradamus, King 53, the Joe Lunardi of football — but honestly, I’d really prefer it if you just call me Tim.

Kapadia is back for more. He took a shot at the 2013 roster last week. My turn this week. Teams must trim their rosters down to 53 by 6 p.m. on Aug. 31. On Aug. 30, we’ll release our final versions, matching our projections up vs. the Eagles’.

Kapadia has already written his concession speech.

Without further ado, let’s get to the award-winning projections.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.

Vick looks to have pulled ahead in the quarterback competition. Chip Kelly has preached the importance of having two capable quarterbacks at this level. That is particularly true when your chosen signal-caller has not played a full 16-game season since 2006. No reason to think Foles will be moved if he does not win the job. Kelly may very well need him. Barkley will be learning from the sideline unless Plan A and Plan B fail.

Believe it or not, Dennis Dixon still has some practice squad eligibility remaining. Dixon, a member of Baltimore’s practice squad last season, played the scout team role of Colin Kapernick in preparation for the Ravens’ Super Bowl matchup against the Niners. With RGIII in the division, he could be a useful asset on the practice squad here in Philly.

Running backs (3): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk.

Could very well be a potent 1-2-3 punch.

The Eagles will be running the ball quite a bit this season (and will be running a ton of plays, period) so I’m sure Kelly is not opposed to keeping a fourth back for depth and insurance purposes. But Felix Jones has not impressed. Same can be said about the rookie Matthew Tucker. The move may be to put Tucker (or another back) on the practice squad and roll with three on the 53-man for now.

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Russell Shepard.

The first four are locked in. What Kelly decides to do beyond that four is where it gets interesting.

Salas has been the next best receiver in camp but might not have the same upside as Shepard, who has shown a strong work ethic, good hands and little flashes that keep him in the conversation. Not sure he lasts on the practice squad. Clay Harbor has been working some at receiver. If he sticks, is there room for he, Shepard and Salas? Maybe not, but for now I’m projecting that they all make the cut.

Ifeanyi Momah isn’t ready for the show.

Tight ends (4): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey, Clay Harbor.

Kelly has already shown a four-tight end set. We’re almost at the point where we have to ask: Is four even enough for this guy?

We have seen the value of having tight ends split out wide to serve as lead blockers for the oft-used bubble screens. This alone gives Harbor a role. Kelly likes tight ends, he’ll use tight ends, and, the guess here is he keeps at least four of them.

Derek Carrier and  Will Shaw are the other two tight ends on the roster at the moment. Neither have really stood out.

Offensive linemen (9): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Danny Watkins, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde.

Barbre has made the most of his opportunity in camp, and has moved into a position where he could be a primary backup both at tackle and guard. Kelly (back surgery) is hopeful he can return to the practice field around the start of the regular season. We’ll see.

Vandervelde could back up Kelce at center.

Watkins has been sidelined with a concussion since August 12. I wouldn’t be shocked if he doesn’t make the team. If the Eagles go in a different direction, Matt Tennant is an option. Rookie tackle Michael Bamiro (6-8, 340)  is an interesting prospect, but he’s raw. Maybe you can stash him on the practice squad.

Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Damion Square, Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers.

Square, an undrafted rookie out of Alabama, crashed the party and is in position to make the team. At who’s expense? We’ll say seventh-round pick Joe Kruger. The 21-year-old Kruger is a developmental pick. It’s possible he makes the 53 if the Eagles believe he’ll be plucked off the practice squad. The guess here is they take the chance. Fellow seventh-rounder David King has blended in during camp.

Kruger could make it over Geathers as well, but in terms of pure performance, Geathers gets the nod.

Logan has been impressive so far. Looks like he’ll have a role right out of the gates.

Outside linebackers (4): Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy.

Big challenges ahead for Cole and Graham as they transition to a new role. If they fail, there isn’t much in the way of a backup plan.

McCoy has enjoyed a solid summer and should make the squad.

Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jake Knott, Jamar Chaney.

Knott, an undrafted rookie out of Iowa St., has earned himself a job this summer.

The final spot probably comes down to Casey Matthews and Chaney. Flip a coin. I’m going with Chaney, mostly to be different than Sheil.

Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Brandon Hughes, Jordan Poyer.

Not the strongest crop of corners in the world.

Curtis Marsh is currently sidelined with a broken hand, but could make the team. We’ll give the nod to Hughes, who started in place of the injured Cary Williams against the Patriots.

Poyer has been very quiet this summer, but will make the team based on potential.

Safeties (5): Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kurt Coleman.

On paper, the group looks better with Kenny Phillips‘ name mixed in. But as we know, the game is not played on paper. Phillips has not done much to distinguish himself since arriving in Philly. Though he missed Thursday’s game with a quad injury, the knees are the real concern. Maybe he has been holding back in the name of keeping himself healthy for the regular season. Now is the time to prove himself if he wants to stick with the Eagles.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.

Nobody is really talking about this, but Henery has not been very accurate during camp. He is missing rather frequently on the NovaCare practice fields. His one attempt in the first two preseason games was no good. Not sounding the alarm, but worth keeping an eye on.

Dorenbos is back from a concussion. Long live James Winchester.

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Camp Notes: Foles Trying To Bounce Back

Nick FolesIf there is a positive spin to put on Nick Foles‘ two preseason turnovers, it’s that both were promptly followed by touchdown drives.

In the opener against the Patriots, Foles was hit from behind as he was trying to pass on his second play from scrimmage and coughed up the football. His next time up he engineered a 10-play, 62-yard drive that Bryce Brown capped with an eight-yard burst up the middle for the score.

Thursday against Carolina, Foles was interecepted by Josh Thomas in the back of the end zone on the opening possession. On the next series he scrambled for the seven-yard touchdown run.

“In both instances in two weeks in a row which I learned from Nick, he can bounce back from an adverse situation.  Not that you ever want to be in one but at least you kind of know how he’ll be,” said Chip Kelly.

Mistakes are magnified in a tight quarterback competition, especially when you have so few snaps to go off. Michael Vick has been sharper in his two preseason appearances and looks to have the inside track to win the job. Turnovers, like the one Foles surrendered on Thursday, can cost you.

“It’s definitely tough when it happens, but you just sort of know that your teammates are looking to you because you’re gonna go back in there,.” said Foles. “The first thought in my mind when I got to the sidelines was I can’t wait until we get the ball back. I cannot wait to go in and get that ball in the end zone. So there’s a fire right there. You never want that to happen. It does. And you’ve just got to bounce back from it.”

Foles said that he and Vick split first-team reps Sunday. Only the first half-hour of practice is open to the media now, so we don’t know if it was a 50-50 share or not. On Saturday, Vick got the bulk of the work with the first team.

Does Foles still have a chance to be the starter?

“My mindset is I’m gonna work as hard as I can. My ultimate goal always is to play,” he said. “That’s my ultimate goal. I’m gonna work towards that. I’m not changing anything.”

Dennis Kelly update

I caught up with offensive tackle Dennis Kelly outside of the NovaCare Complex Sunday. He is still walking gingerly following surgery earlier this month to repair the L2 disc in his back . He said he is “very confident” that he will not be placed on injured reserve. And while he acknowledged that being ready for the opener is a long shot, he is thinking that he might be back on the practice field around then.

That seems like a pretty quick turnaround following back surgery. Kelly, though, says modern technology has cut down the recovery time.

New Role For Remington

Isaac Remington  turned his white No. 61 jersey in for a green 52 on Sunday, as the former Oregon defensive lineman worked with the O-line at practice. The undrafted free agent is probably a long shot to make the 53-man roster.

Injuries

Curtis Marsh (broken hand), Felix Jones (oblique), Danny Watkins (concusion), Emil Igwenagu (concussion),   Kenny Phillips (quad) and Casey Matthews (knee) sat out practice once again Sunday.

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Eagles-Panthers Game Review: The Offense

Below is a position-by-position review of how the Eagles’ offense looked against the Panthers, after having reviewed the game.

* Note: Snap counts are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

QUARTERBACKS

* It was an up-and-down performance for Nick Foles. He played 19 snaps, fumbled twice (recovered both) and threw one interception. On the other hand, he was 6-for-8 for 53 yards. In four preseason drives, Foles has led the offense to a pair of touchdowns, but has turned it over twice. On the first drive, Foles showed good anticipation on this throw to Riley Cooper.

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You can see Cooper has a defensive back all over him when Foles releases the ball. But the throw is put on the money where only Cooper can catch it.

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Later in the quarter, Foles kept the ball on an option play and picked up 6 yards. He also made a smart decision in taking off on the 7-yard touchdown. Through two games, Foles looks capable of running the offense and has made good decisions for the most part. Even the interception in the end zone was more bad execution than bad decision-making.

* There’s no denying that Michael Vick brings a dynamic element to the offense. Through his first four preseason drives, he was 12-for-13 (92.3 percent) for 190 yards (14.6 YPA). Vick also had two rushes for 20 yards and had not been sacked. On the final drive at the end of the first half Thursday night, he was finally sacked and threw an up-for-grabs interception. But there’s no denying that he looks comfortable in Chip Kelly’s offense. Vick is averaging a whopping 13.3 yards per attempt, compared to 7.1 for Foles.

He looked patient, poised and accurate on a 15-yard strike to Jason Avant on 3rd-and-12. And Vick threw a laser to Emil Igwenagu for 15 more. He avoided a rusher, rolled to his left and delivered to Cooper for 22 yards in the second.

Is there room for improvement? Sure. It looked like Vick was late on a throw to DeSean Jackson on a corner route near the sideline. And he still seems to absorb awkward hits every time he takes off and runs. But if this really was an open competition, Vick is the winner through two games.

* I did not review the fourth quarter, but Matt Barkley went 8-for-14 for 72 yards. He made a nice throw to Zach Ertz in between defenders for 21 yards in the third. Overall, though, too many throws that seem to get his receivers crushed. Don’t know if that’s an arm strength issue, a timing issue or something else. But it’s something to keep an eye on in the final two games.

RUNNING BACKS

* If the offensive line stays healthy, LeSean McCoy is going to have a monster year. He looked great, carrying eight times for 47 yards and catching three balls for 16. McCoy has been up-and-down with his blitz pickup in the past, but he looked excellent in that aspect vs. Carolina. Take a look at the first play of the game:

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The defensive back is going to blitz untouched from Foles’ back side. McCoy has to recognize him inching up pre-snap, then carry out the fake handoff and then stone the pass-rusher. Not an easy play, but he executes his blocking assignment flawlessly.

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McCoy did a great job here of finishing the play too, carrying out his block deep into the end zone until the whistle blew.

As a runner, he showed his usual wiggle. On the first series, the Eagles ran the read-option, and even though the defensive end crashed inside, McCoy made him miss and picked up 8. He juked linebacker Luke Kuechly on 3rd-and-4 to pick up 5. And of course, everyone saw the 21-yard highlight where he made most of the Panthers’ defense look silly.

* Chris Polk mixed in with McCoy on the first series and had runs of 5 and 7 yards. Later, he did a great job of running through a Kuechly arm tackle for a 12-yard pickup, but the play was brought back because of a holding call. Polk, of course, had the costly fumble with the team driving. Other than that, he played pretty well, carrying five times for 24 yards.

WIDE RECEIVERS

* It looks like the Eagles are going to be content taking the underneath stuff if defenses guard against the deep ball with DeSean Jackson. On this 12-yard completion in the second, you’ll see the Panthers have only one safety deep, and it’s to the other side of the field.

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That means the corner opposite Jackson is bailing at the line of scrimmage. He can’t afford to get beat deep. Jackson runs a simple comeback route and gets a huge cushion. Easy throw for Vick and a 12-yard pickup.

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Jackson had two catches for 28 yards. And while he’ll never be the best blocking receiver in the game, I thought he gave good effort in that aspect.

* Jason Avant was his reliable self, picking up 10 on a bubble screen in the first, flashing great hands for an 11-yard grab on third down and picking up 15 on a 3rd-and-12. Same ole, same ole. Nothing to see here.

* Good job by Riley Cooper turning into a blocker on Foles’ touchdown run. He also did a nice job of coming back to the ball for a 22-yard catch from Vick in the second.

* If preseason is any indication, the Eagles are going to be massively improved on special teams. Damaris Johnson made a great cut on his 18-yard punt return in the first, making a pair of Panthers defenders look silly. In the third, he picked up 15 on a bubble screen, running behind Zach Ertz and Clay Harbor. And Johnson went up in between defenders for a 7-yard gain in the third. Overall, four catches on five targets for 21 yards.

TIGHT ENDS

* Zach Ertz only had two balls thrown his way, but he made nice grabs on both of them. One was a sliding 15-yard catch on the first possession. The other was a 21-yard pickup from Barkley in the third.

* Brent Celek only had one catch for 6 yards, but he and Allen Barbre did a good job with their double-team on Polk’s 5-yard run in the first.

* In case you missed it, we posted a No-22 breakdown of how the Eagles used 4-TE packages to their advantage.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

* The Eagles’ five starters played the entire first half together (40 snaps) and looked great. Let’s start with the rookie. Lane Johnson had two issues in pass protection. On one, Vick got away from the defensive end and made a nice play. On the other, Johnson gave up a sack. Other than those two plays, though, he was really good. Johnson showed his athleticism getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 8-yard run. He was good in protection on Foles’ 15-yard completion to Ertz and picked up a blitzing cornerback on Vick’s first throw.

McCoy’s 21-yard run probably presented a learning moment for Johnson. After initially executing his assignment, he sees McCoy on the other side of the field, probably figures his work is done and decides he can get ready for the next play.

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But after breaking a couple ankles, McCoy reverses field, and Johnson realizes he better kick it into high gear and help out his running back.

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Granted, McCoy’s already going down, but Johnson finally finds someone to hit, about 28 yards downfield.

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Gotta like that (eventual) hustle.

* We criticized Todd Herremans in this space last week, but he was probably the Eagles’ best offensive lineman vs. Carolina. Good job pulling on Polk’s 7-yard run. Really nice job getting to the linebacker on McCoy’s 7-yard red-zone run in the first. Pulled again and got to the linebacker on McCoy’s 21-yard run. I also thought the holding call against him was bogus.

* The Allen Barbre pickup is looking like a good one. He showed a lot of improvement this week. I didn’t see Barbre give up a hurry all night long. He showed good athleticism on the double-team with Celek on Polk’s 5-yard run in the first. And did a good job again on McCoy’s 7-yard run. Barbre had an issue with the defensive end on a McCoy run that got stuffed at the line, but overall, he played well. He looks like a competent, versatile backup lineman through two preseason games.

* Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis each had a couple issues, but played well overall. Kelce got to Kuechly on McCoy’s 8-yard run in the first. And he did a great job on the linebacker on Polk’s 12-yard run. In the first, he nearly got pushed back into McCoy on a red-zone run. Mathis might have let his defender through too early on a screen that was blown up in the first. He also had some trouble on the play where McCoy was stopped for no gain. Good blocks by Mathis on Polk’s 7-yard run and 12-yard run.

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