Eagles Wake-Up Call: On McCoy And Rep Management

Philadelphia Eagles RB LeSean McCoy. The irony was not lost on LeSean McCoy.

For the past four seasons under Andy Reid, the popular argument was that McCoy did not get the ball enough. Now one game into the Chip Kelly era, and the concern is that his workload will be too large.

“Which one is it?” he asked.

You tell us. Were the 31 carries and 32 overall touches too much? Not enough? Just right?

“I didn’t mind it Monday night,” he said. “I think we can do a better job rotating because it’s a long season. I don’t think I need to have the ball 31, 32 times in a game for us to be a successful offense. We have too many different weapons. I think the running backs we have here can definitely play. Bryce Brown showed you last year he’s definitely a talented back. So I think we have to do a better job of monitoring the reps.”

On Monday, Brown had nine carries while Chris Polk had none.

McCoy said that while there are some packages that don’t include him, the majority of the time the coaches give him the option of whether he stays in the game or not. So some of the snap management falls on his shoulders.

“You try to give 100 percent on every play, and there’s times when you get gassed or you get nicked up a time or two and that 100 percent drops a little bit, and I think that’s the time you come out and get the other guy in that’s fresh and get his 100 percent,” he said.

“They just talk about, if you’re tired, come off, because the coach understands that it’s a fast tempo. We train hard and are in good enough shape to run the offense but we’re only human so we’re going to be tired.”

McCoy’s high-water mark for carries came in 2011 when he ran it 273 times (in 15 games). If he keeps up Monday’s pace for a full 16 games, he will have run the ball 496 times. In other words, that average is coming down. Has to.

Safe to say, though, McCoy is going to get his opportunities. There will be no talk of play-calling holding him back this year. Does has he set any new personal goals?

“I don’t really get into yardage and the different type of records,” he said, “that stuff will come. We’ve got to worry about winning. My focus is winning. The last couple years we haven’t been winning. When I got to the Eagles we were a winning team and teams kind of feared to play us. I want to get back to that level before I can start talking about yards and all that other stuff.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

 Zach Ertz hopes that his drop “spell” is now behind him.

Sheil uses the All-22 tape to break down the Eagles’ touchdowns against Washington. Good stuff, as always.

Is Kelly’s offense sustainable? We give our take in the latest Twitter Mailbag.

DeSean Jackson says the Eagles have to keep their foot on the gas.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

New opponent, new defensive approach, writes Phil Sheridan.

“It’s a completely different challenge this week,” [Connor] Barwin said. “It’s that West Coast offense. Their run game is inside the tackles. Last week, their run game was outside the tackles. The quarterback sits in the pocket and gets the ball out on time, which is the opposite. Last week, the quarterback ran. They ran bootlegs and play-action. San Diego is completely different.”

So the Eagles’ defense will look completely different. Or it will look the same and then behave differently. Much of what coordinator Bill Davis has his players do is reliant on their reading the offense and reacting to it.

“The scheme is built to where any member of the defense can be blitzing at any given time,” Davis said. “We have blitzes for every position — corners, safeties, nickels, dimes, Mike ‘backers. Anybody can be a blitzer, either through an active call or a check.”

Fletcher Cox says that a published report alleging that he received improper benefits from a booster while in college will not become a distraction. From Reuben Frank.

Because Cox is not currently in college, the NCAA does not hold subpoena power over him. Of the five players identified by Yahoo!, only Tennessee defensive end Maurice Couch, who is currently on the team, would be bound to speak with NCAA officials.

Cox’s Twitter timeline is full of messages from people asking him about the allegations.

“I don’t worry about those things,” Cox said. “I barely check all of that, and I’ll just go forward when I hear from my agent.”

COMING UP

Preparation for the Chargers continues. We have plenty to get to.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: DeSean Urges Foot On the Gas

DeSean JacksonIt’s amazing how much the conversation can change in the NFL on a week-to-week basis.

Last Thursday, the discussion focused on whether Chip Kelly’s system would work at the professional level. But now, there’s a whole new set of topics, including this one: How should Kelly go about protecting leads?

That’s what happens, I suppose, when you build a 26-7 halftime lead on national television, but end up needing to recover an onside kick to clinch a victory in the final minutes.

“Just talking to Chip, just saying regardless of how much we get up and lead by, just don’t take your foot off the pedal,” DeSean Jackson said. “We’ve got to continue to go out there… still gotta keep pounding, keep pounding because later towards the game, they started making a comeback.”

After scoring a touchdown on the first drive of the second half, the Eagles punted three times and fumbled once on their next four possessions vs. the Redskins. They moved at a fast pace throughout the first half, but slowed things down in the second. The offense wasn’t as productive, and the Redskins scored 20 unanswered points.

“I think the thing that we really need to do a better job of in the game is when we’re slowing down towards the end of the game, finishing it off is what we need to really fix up,” said center Jason Kelce. “But there’s still adjustments to be made throughout the whole game.”

Added Jackson: “We just got content a little bit as far as play-calling and just slowing our tempo down. We have to use that as a fast pace to continue to keep defenses off-guard. I think Chip probably learned something in that first game. Things hit the fan sometimes, and as long as we’re able to go out there and continue to play at a high pace and do what we’ve done to get us that lead, we have to continue to do that throughout the game.”

There are the two perspectives. One is to get better at the four-minute offense, be more efficient, chew up clock and still play at a slower pace with a big lead.

The other option is to just go with what’s working. Keep the foot on the gas, push tempo and realize there’s no such thing as too big of a lead.

If Kelly’s biggest problem against the Chargers is figuring out which route to take, Eagles fans will probably be pretty happy.

WHAT YOU MISSED

A No-22 look with player explanations about the ‘Emory Henry’ formation where Jason Peters and Lane Johnson split out wide.

“I think I can make it through,” says Michael Vick. The QB talks about hits and throwing his body in harm’s way as a lead blocker.

A position-by-position game review of the Eagles’ offense. And here is the defense.

Cary Williams is trying to change the conversation, writes T-Mac.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com always does a terrific job with his game reviews. Here’s what he saw from Lane Johnson:

Solid game. Beaten by Kerrigan on pass play. Didn’t give up, though, and was able to keep him occupied as Vick slipped to the outside. Got confused and failed to block Kerrigan on pass play. Blitzing LB is the one who got the sack, but Kerrigan blew up the play. Johnson has to know to take the guy going to the inside. Lined up on the left side on Shady’s TD run. Had an outstanding block of DT Bowen. Gave Shady a big lane. Generally controlled Kerrigan when he faced him on pass play. Lane also did a good job as a run blocker. You would think a rookie playing in an up-tempo attack and being moved around might struggle, but that wasn’t the case. Still adjusting to pro football and has his moments, but is physically ready.

ESPN.com rounds up Kelly reaction from people around the league. Here is Tom Coughlin’s take:

“The version that Chip Kelly has brought to Philadelphia is in itself new to the NFL. We’ve all had the two-minute offense where quite frankly we are snapping the ball at that speed, the idea of playing for a full game like that, you know, is new for me in watching it in the NFL. They’re putting the pressure really on the defense to get lined up and communicate and recognize again what all the options are and be in position. Even when it isn’t something that is going what I call Mach speed, it still forces you without a huddle to do a great job communicating.”

COMING UP

Don’t forget we’re broadcasting live from Smith’s in Center City from 6 to 7  tonight. Listen in on 97.5 The Fanatic or online.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Williams Trying To Change the Conversation

0V3J8877Cary Williams hasn’t exactly blended in since arriving in Philadelphia via free agency back in March.

He has mixed it up with both the opposition and his own teammates. Has been outspoken on a number of issues from race relations to defensive toughness. And of course he made the most un-Philadelphian word ever — sconces — a part of our city’s lexicon.

“I think it’s been more than a rocky start,” said Williams following Monday’s win over Washington. “But at the end of the day I just want to play football. Every time I am on the field I want to put my best foot forward. I want my teammates to understand that they can have confidence in me, that I go out there and I prepare and I play my tail off each and every play.”

The 28-year-old admits that his experience has been a little different so far, but says he wouldn’t trade it in. And he recognizes that city and player are still trying to figure one another out.

“I understand that this is a learning process for everybody. It’s a learning process for me because I have never been quote-unquote the guy, because I played behind Ed Reed and Lardarius Webb and guys like that. I guess being honest isn’t necessarily the greatest thing in the world, because sometimes people can take your words out of context. I just to continue to keep my head down and perform as well as I possibly can, just give my team the best opportunity to win.”

As we know, performance on the field will heavily influence how this fan base views the fiery corner. If he excels his aggressiveness and candor will be embraced. If he struggles, his antics will be perceived as bravado.

His debut in an Eagles uniform couldn’t have gone much better. Williams had a sack, an interception, a tackle for a loss and two passed defensed on the night — including one on fourth down in the closing minutes of the game. The pick was a beauty . RGIII  tried to hit Pierre Garcon on an out route early in the third quarter. Williams cut under the route, dove and made a spectacular grab right in front of the Eagles’ sideline.  LeSean McCoy broke off a 34-yard touchdown run moments later to make it 33-7.

“Cary is a really, really good football player, and I think it showed tonight,” said Chip Kelly. “I talked to him specifically at halftime. I thought he was close — and I’m not a big prognosticator — but I said I think you’re going to get one. He comes up that first drive and gets one for us, and we score off it. I thought Cary played really well.”

For the week at least, the focus has shifted onto the field. And that’s just fine by Williams.

“I’m just trying to play football, man, trying to get away from those negative things because I don’t want to be known as just a Negative Nancy or a negative guy in the media, because I know who I am and the way I was being portrayed is not that.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Vinny Curry‘s agent is open to a trade.

James Casey talks about not getting much playing time against the Redskins.

Kelly’s offense has been a pretty popular topic across the web, as you might imagine. Here’ s a round-up courtesy of Sheil.

Kelly thought the offensive pace was too slow against Washington. Really.

Some snap count analysis from Mr. Kapadia.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Bill Barnwell writes about how comfortable the Eagles looked going for it on 4th-and-1 Monday.

When the Eagles faced that fourth-and-1, there was no confusion. Michael Vick didn’t stare at Kelly for 15 seconds waiting for a play call. They didn’t waste a timeout debating the percentages or trying to find the perfect play. The Eagles simply lined up immediately after their third-down snap and handed the ball to LeSean McCoy, who burst up the middle for four yards and a first down.

Knowing that you’re going to go for it on fourth-and-1 in a given zone in advance has a number of advantages. As I just mentioned, you don’t burn a timeout or struggle with the percentages while you’re trying to manage every other part of an NFL game. You can open up your playbook on third down, since getting the first down doesn’t become a necessity to continue the drive; it allows you to take a shot downfield or even run an intermediate passing play against a defense that isn’t expecting either of those things. It also allows you to dictate the personnel on fourth down with your personnel set on third down; when Kelly had his team run up to the line and snap the ball on fourth down, the Redskins weren’t able to bring in any of their goal-line personnel, which allowed McCoy to run against a tired, soft front.

Tommy Lawlor examines the defense’s performance.

I wish Bill Davis had run a conventional Nickel look in the 2nd half (4-2-5). He kept using the 3-3-5 look and blitzing off it. With the score 33-7, I wanted to see Graham at LDE and Cole at RDE with Cox and Thornton inside. I’m not sure if Graham and Cole were ever on the field together. The Skins RT struggled all game long. I really wanted to see Graham light him up, but the coaches mostly kept BG on the other side.

I did like the aggressive blitzing approach that Davis took for the first 3 quarters. He turned Cole, Kendricks and Ryans loose and let them attack. The DBs got to blitz. Allen, Chung, Williams and Boykin all were turned loose as blitzers. The Eagles only finished with 3 sacks, but they got regular pressure. RG3 didn’t have a clean pocket for much of the game. He took some big hits and got up sl0w a couple of times.

COMING UP

We’ll talk to the coordinators in the morning. Practice starts at 11:45.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Vick, DeSean Connect In Opener

DeSean JacksonDeSean Jackson thought for a moment that the press conference was over.

This was post-game in the cramped visitors media room at FedEx Field. Jackson had just talked for six-plus minutes about the Eagles’ season-opening victory over the Redskins. As he prepared to step away from the podium, a media relations staffer stopped him and told him there was just one more question.

But this one was from a familiar face.

“How would you rate your performance?” asked Michael Vick, who had snuck into the crowd before it was his turn to address the media. “I saw you running down the field a couple times with your hands up.”

Answered Jackson with a huge grin: “I got mad a couple times, you know, Michael Vick didn’t throw me the ball.”

The pair shared a laugh and a handshake before going their separate ways. Another sign that for one week at least, life is good in Eagle-Land.

The offense moved the ball up and down the field during the team’s 33-27 win over the Redskins. While the running game behind LeSean McCoy was huge, Vick and Jackson provided the Eagles with a spark early.

At one point in the first half, Vick was 6-for-6 for 90 yards on throws to Jackson. He was 4-for-11 for 53 yards to everybody else. Overall, Jackson finished with seven catches for 104 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. Vick was 15-for-25 for 203 yards and a pair of scores. He also ran it nine times for 56 yards.

“Last year was last year,” Jackson said. “This year, 2013, is a whole new year. So we want everybody to know we’re a serious team. Everybody’s been kind of counting us out, thinking that we’re underdogs and things like that. I feel great, confident in the guys in my locker room.

“I think this is a team that could make it to the playoffs and hopefully take it all the way.”

The speedy wide receiver is clearly excited about the prospects of this offense under Chip Kelly. He played 11 games last year before going down with an injury. Now, Jackson is being featured in a variety of ways. And while it’s only one game, so far, so good.

“I was able to get the ball in my hands,” Jackson said. “A lot of times in the past couple years, teams were so afraid of me beating them down the field, but as you see, a lot of my catches was underneath, short routes, caught a ball across the middle, tried to break one for long. So doing whatever I need to do to help my team win games and create big plays and kind of spark ‘em up with energy is something I look forward to.

“Being in the slot, motioning, doing things like that. In the past, I had so much success with getting big plays, 50-plus plays in my career. Coming in this year, this offense is getting the ball out so quick, so fast. There are times we do have down-the-field throws as you saw when I caught the touchdown on the post. … I’m all in. I’ll do what it takes to get it done.”

When the Eagles first hired Kelly, the consensus was that the running backs would be featured heavily. And while that’s true, there’s a domino effect too. If teams are forced to cheat their safeties up – and given how well McCoy looked, that’s going to happen – there will be less help for Jackson over the top.

Given the nature of the game, the numbers are skewed. But the Eagles ran it 49 times, compared to 25 passes. They ran 53 plays in the first half and 77 overall.

“When the first quarter was over, I thought we were about to go into halftime,” Vick said. “It was unreal. The only thing I kept telling myself was it’s gonna be a long season.”

Added Jackson: “I think everybody was very excited to see how good we did moving the ball up and down the field. There wasn’t one time where we felt we were gonna be stopped, besides a couple penalties here and there and a couple turnovers. But aside from that, I don’t think we was able to be stopped.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

I posted instant observations following the game.

Players survey: We asked players which of their teammates is primed for a big year.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com offers his post-game observations:

The secondary still scares me. Cary Williams had a big game in his Eagles debut, and Brandon Boykin got the first-half interception, but once Robert Griffin III got into a rhythm and shook off the rust, he was able to pick apart the Eagles’ pass defense. He threw for 276 yards after halftime.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com has post-game reaction:

The Eagles offense was simply amazing at times. Shady had a monster game, rushing 31 times for 184 yards and a TD. He made some sensational moves at the LOS and in space. I also loved the fact he ran hard when he needed to. He converted a couple of short yardage plays by attacking up the field and not looking for big plays on the edge.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly and the players on Tuesday. Also, stay tuned for our game reviews.

** Note: Because of the late game, this version of the wake-up call was posted early.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip Kelly, Full Steam Ahead

0V3J8539“I think Chip Kelly is going to have as much influence on the game and the way it’s played now as anyone. If for no other reason, just the pace of the game and the number of plays.

– Hall of Fame coach John Madden

When Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie talked about Chip Kelly being on the “cutting edge of football today,” you wonder how much he was referring to tempo.

Look over the last decade, and you’ll see that all 32 NFL teams averaged between 54 and 68 plays per game in a given season. Those were the high and low water marks. That stayed remarkably consistent until an outlier emerged in 2011 in the form of the Saints, who averaged 71 snaps per game. Drew Brees broke Dan Marino‘s single-season passing record that year (5,476), while New Orleans established a new league-high for offensive yards from scrimmage with 7,474.

Last season the number of teams averaging 70-plus plays suddenly tripled, as three squads — the Patriots (74), Lions (73) and Colts (70) —  reached the mark. (The Broncos and Texans were right behind them with a 69-play average.) Chances are, that number will grow again in 2013.

Of the 28 teams that have played in a regular-season game so far this season, nine hit or exceeded that 70-play number: the Patriots (89), Ravens (87), Lions (77), Niners (75), Cowboys (74), Jets (73), Browns (72), Jaguars (70) and Cardinals (70).  New England and Baltimore went off the charts. One week is a small sample size, but don’t be surprised if the “Legion of 70″ adds a couple members again this year. Meanwhile, some teams will continue the push towards new heights. The Eagles will  undoubtedly be one of those teams.

Kelly’s offense will be unveiled tonight, and there’s not a soul in the league that isn’t curious about what it will look like. Will it be a carbon copy of what he ran at Oregon? Will it be read-option centric? Will it work?

At the very least, we can bank on the fact that it will be fast. With Kelly at the controls, Oregon averaged 83 plays/game last season. It was more than simply getting off a bunch of snaps. It took an organizational dedication to run a high-octane operation successfully. That dedication is very much in place in the pros as well.

Since Kelly took over, it has all been about speed. Eagles meetings run as short as 15 minutes and max out at around 50 minutes. Where Andy Reid may have had his players in a classroom for two-hour stretches at a time, Kelly likes to keep it moving, rapid-fire style. There may be more meetings  but they come in bursts.  Everything — from practices to meal time — is up-tempo.

“I think the whole schedule is laid out to be more in line with the way we run our offense. Meetings, everything is fast-paced. It’s what they want,” said Jason Kelce.

The center was presented with one of the theories that is floating around: that Kelly’s offense couldn’t possibly come out of the gates flying; that the Eagles’ tempo won’t be as fast Monday night as it will be in, say,  Week 10.

“Oh, I would disagree,” said Kelce. “I think that we’re going to go…When we want to we can go as fast as the referees allows us. The only people that hold back the tempo are ourselves or the referees. When we’re calling a tempo play, when we’re trying to get up there and get the no-huddle, if we want to go full-speed we can go full speed. In that instance, usually you’re waiting for the referee to get down and set the ball more than you’re waiting for yourself.”

So just how fast can it get?

“You may see the ball carrier hit the ground and if you count to 10 we may be on the ball snapping the ball again,” said Michael Vick in a conversation with ESPN. “Within 10 seconds or maybe less…It’s a lot faster than what I thought. I could never imagine an NFL situation, playing for an NFL team and getting the ball snapped that fast and getting plays signaled in and out consistently that fast to disrupt timing for the defense.”

The recent leaders in snaps/game have been teams managed by the likes of  Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. Is an elite QB required in order to run a successful high-tempo in the NFL?

That is one of the many questions in front of us as the Chip Kelly era begins. Answers will begin arriving in haste.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Sheil provides a cheat sheet for the Eagles-Redskins. Read about the offense here and defense here.

The Eagles released cornerback Brandon Hughes over the weekend.

An update on Lane Johnson as he gets set to make his NFL debut.

Sheil and I make our season predictions.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Lurie will not be judging Kelly based off the Eagles’ record in 2013. From Zach Berman:

“I just think it’s not in wins and losses,” Lurie said in an interview with The Inquirer. “It’s absolutely instilling a culture in the program that he brings to it, a sense of preparedness, a pride in being the best you can be for the fans and the team, and winning every day – winning the day, each day. And whatever happens, happens.”

Lurie said there are too many unknowns. He cited injuries and turnovers as variables. The offensive and defensive schemes have also been dramatically changed. So Lurie’s evaluation will be based on building a sustainable culture.

“We know his attention to winning each day,” Lurie said. “If that can be completely instilled in the culture, it’s going to make us better and better. 2014 will be better than 2013, and it will have a steamrolling effect and will sustain itself.”

Domo has turnovers on the brain as he takes a look at this Monday night matchup:

The Eagles had a league-worst minus-24 turnover differential last year. Coughed it up a league-worst 37 times and forced a league-worst 13 turnovers. That’s a lot of league-worsts. Things didn’t go much better in the preseason. They had a minus-5 turnover differential and picked off just one pass in four games. Quarterback Michael Vick has had just four turnover-free performances in his last 31 starts in which he’s played at least a half.

COMING UP

Eagles at Redskins. Kickoff at 7:10. Sheil and I will be at FedEx Field and will be holding a live chat. Look forward to talking to you guys then.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: No-Huddle Will Affect the ‘D’ Too

Billy DavisChip Kelly doesn’t like assumptions. He said as much earlier this week.

“It’s never safe to assume, just in general,” Kelly pointed out, interrupting a reporter’s question.

That belief is at the foundation of his football philosophy. The new Eagles’ head coach wants to use practice time to prepare for as many scenarios as possible. That means simulating fake field goals and trying offensive players like Jason Avant at defensive positions like cornerback just in case there ends up being an emergency situation.

Which brings us to today’s topic: How will the pace of his offense affect the guys on the other side of the ball?

Most defensive players I’ve spoken with believe this offense is going to be really good. They believe in the talent, and they’re excited about the scheme. But it’s one thing to believe in those things and another to assume production right away.

So the defense has been preparing for what could essentially be described as a worst-case scenario. It goes like this: The offense plays fast, but is not productive. There are three-and-outs. There are turnovers. There are short breaks on the sideline for the defensive players before they’re called on to take the field once again.

“From the very beginning, we have talked in the Eagles locker room and our meetings rooms defensively about [how] it’s not the Philadelphia Eagles offense that is no‑huddle and up‑tempo, it’s our whole team,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis.

“The defense has to be in equally great shape to handle the no‑huddle offense, because we are running it. So we pride ourselves on being in that great condition, and we can no-huddle all game. Our defense is just as ready for us to be a three-and-out or a three-and-in. If it’s half a sip of Gatorade and you have to go back on the field, so be it. That’s who we are as a team and it’s a positive, not a negative.”

The other factor to consider is playing time. Oregon rotated defensive players with Kelly at the helm. And according to Davis, the Eagles will likely do the same thing.

“I think the nature of the defense, if you’re active on the roster, you’re probably going to get on the field,” Davis said. “Especially on the D-Line, especially when you talk about the no‑huddle and your group being in shape. That’s a natural progression of who we are as a team that the D-Line definitely will roll through, and backers, they are all [gonna] play.  It will be a rotation, definitely. Probably more so than you’ve seen.”

Last year, Oregon’s defense averaged 75.8 plays per game, which was fifth-most among the 61 Division I schools that played 13 games. As a point of reference in the NFL, the Patriots, who ran the fastest offense last year, logged 65.4 defensive snaps per game, eighth-most.

The Eagles have seven defensive linemen on the 53-man roster. That’s a natural place for a rotation. And Brandon Graham figures to mix in with Trent Cole at outside linebacker. It’d be surprising if DeMeco Ryans or Mychal Kendricks came off the field much. And same goes for the starting secondary, although Earl Wolff is supposed to fill in for Nate Allen at times.

Managing the defense on a team where the offense is expected to move quickly is just another piece of the puzzle. After a long offseason, answers about the new era of Eagles football will start to be revealed in three days.

WHAT YOU MISSED

LeSean McCoy said he expects opponents to “try and do dirty things” to Riley Cooper.

Full details and video of the Cooper-Cary Williams scuffle.

Davis is not exactly brimming with confidence as his defense prepares for the Redskins.

Good piece by T-Mac on how DeSean Jackson is at a crossroads.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

The Eagles are 25th in ESPN.com’s power rankings:

The Chip Kelly experiment begins with Michael Vick under center. Kelly’s Oregon team averaged 20.9 seconds per play last season, four seconds faster than the NFL’s fastest team (Patriots).

Bill Barnwell of Grantland says there’s some hope for the Eagles:

And in their place is … hope. Chip Kelly was the highest-variance coach a team could have hired this offseason, a coach capable of either giving whoever hired him a significant strategic advantage or, perhaps, an even more notable disadvantage. Eagles fans only need to look as far as Washington to see how effective a dramatic change in offensive scheme can be, but it’s still unclear whether Kelly has the personnel to make his offense work.

COMING UP

We’ll hear from Kelly and have more on Eagles-Redskins from the NovaCare Complex.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: DeSean At the Crossroads

0V3J0818We have seen the invested DeSean Jackson and we have seen the detached DeSean Jackson, and we understand just how different those two players can be.

When he is engaged and confident and feeling the groove, he can be a lethal weapon. A Pro Bowl caliber difference-maker. When he falls into a funk, his game follows suit.

The good news for Eagles fans is that Jackson has been clear-eyed this spring and summer. He has had a much lighter air about him than in years past and has been generally scowl-free. He seems happy and– most importantly for this team — dialed in.

There are a couple likely reasons for this.

For one, he has seemingly gained perspective. Hard to believe, but Jackson is now a six-year vet. He is 26, and has had his share of highs and lows in the NFL. Two high-quality seasons in 2009 and ’10 were followed by a pair of underwhelming campaigns in 2011 and ’12. He is at the crossroads, and appears to realize that his legacy is on the line.

“Honestly, always, since I’ve been playing this game I always wanted to be known as one of the best players that played this position,” said Jackson. “I just look at it as, to play wide receiver in this league there is something about you that has to be intriguing – either your size, speed, your hands, your routes. When I look at myself being a 5-10 guy, at the most 170-175, just looking back in history I don’t really see any guys of that stature and size that is able to contribute the way that I have contributed in my first five, six years in this league. I think when it’s over and said and done, the more I go out there and do the things I need to do I think I’ll go down in history as one of the smallest guys to play wide receiver to do some great things.”

Jackson will need to be at his best if he wants to keep the big pay days coming. As we have detailed in the past, the Cal product is in a virtual contract year because his base salary jumps to around $10 million next season and it is not guaranteed. Hard to see the Eagles paying him that much if his production hovers around 2011-12 levels.

He has money and legacy to motivate him. And he has Chip Kelly.

The new head coach caught Jackson’s attention by bumping him down with second and third teamers earlier this offseason. Kelly wanted to convey that every player must learn everyone else’s position on the offense, and that there will be no preferential treatment. Jackson soon discovered the importance of becoming well-versed in all positions. He better know it, because he may be asked to play it.

When Kelly was first hired, Jackson believed he would be used similar to the way receiver/running back De’Anthony Thomas was deployed at Oregon. Now that Jackson has worked with Kelly, does he still feel the same way?

“The only big difference is that I’m not really getting the ball from a running back perspective, but as far as being in motion, doing all the motions, being behind the quarterback, things like that, definitely still being used that way,” he said. “Playing in the slot. Going back and forth. Not just standing in one position and being there the whole game, so I definitely feel that him being able to move me throughout the offense and me knowing the offense and every position is definitely almost to me coming in and really coming in and learning every position, so I think he’ll be able to move me around everywhere and not just keep me in one spot, so that’s definitely a plus as well.”

Jackson is excited about how he will be used in the Kelly offense. He appears to be a little more mature. It’s always subject to change with Jackson, but at the moment he’s in a good place.

“Definitely not satisfied, still want to go out there and keep adding to the list.,” said Jackson. “I actually saw a great stat the other day: since 2008, I am number one in yards per catch since entering the NFL [he's actually second to Vincent Jackson], so just doing things like that is actually something that I live for, not only about myself  but being able to go out there and win games and hopefully bring a championship to this city that I think everybody would go crazy over.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Vick had one of his best professional performances against Washington at FedEx Field. He is hoping to recapture the magic.

Earl Wolff might not be starting, but he’s been told that he will play in all four quarters Monday night.

Kelly talks about the collection of Ducks he has on his roster.

RGIII talks Vick, his health and even bounties.

The Eagles rounded out their practice squad by adding defensive end Brandon Bair.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Brian Billick says that Kelly’s approach won’t revolutionize the NFL.

 I like Kelly and think he has some terrific offensive ideas, but I don’t think number of plays is any more of a magic bullet than time of possession. Obviously every play or second you can possess the ball, you are better off than when your opponent has it. But whether you subscribe to the Bill Parcells school of football, in which time of possession is paramount, or fall in love with the new wave that says you impose your will on the other team by running plays until your opponents’ tongues are dragging on the ground, neither method means anything without accompanying points. Without steady scoring, both philosophies are like empty calories in a diet — they fill space, but serve no purpose.

In 2012, Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles were sixth in total plays (1079 on the season, for an average of 67.4 plays per game). The problem was they ranked 29th in the NFL in scoring — in large part because they tied the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets for most giveaways in the league with 37. Michael Vick is a scary quarterback to play against because he can hurt you in so many ways, but he’s also thrown 24 interceptions and fumbled 21 times in 23 games over the past two seasons. Nothing will bring the high-paced offense to a screeching halt quicker than a turnover.

Domo talked to an NFL scout about the Eagles’ outside linebackers.

“Outside of Connor Barwin, they don’t have one outside ‘backer that can play the position. (Trent) Cole didn’t play well last year, and you wonder the same thing about him as you do about (tight end Brent) Celek. Is he a declining player?

“And the whole switch from a hand-on-the-ground guy to a linebacker, I know there are a lot of rush linebackers who don’t drop into coverage much. But let’s see how teams game-plan him and how they get him into space and how good he is out there. If they’re going to put him in space by formation, then what do you do and how does he handle it?

COMING UP

Preparation for the Redskins continues. The coordinators will speak with the media in the morning. We’ll post our season predictions today.

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Depth Chart Notes

With kickoff just five days away, the Eagles have released their Week 1 game notes, which come complete with an unofficial depth chart.

Here are some thoughts on various positions.

Running back: It should come as no surprise that Bryce Brown is listed behind LeSean McCoy, and Chris Polk is third. McCoy will get the bulk of the carries when he’s healthy. And while Chip Kelly will find a way to spell him given the tempo, remember, McCoy played more snaps than any other running back in the NFL back in 2011. In other words, he’s capable of handling a heavy workload.

Brown will certainly get his chances, and Polk could be mixed in here and there.

Tight end: Interestingly enough, the first team features 12 personnel, or one running back and two tight ends. Kelly has flat-out said that Brent Celek is the starter. And on the depth chart, he is joined by James Casey. Rookie Zach Ertz is on the second team, along with Emil Igwenagu. The guess here is that snap counts among the tight ends will largely depend on the game-plan each week. But if I had to project playing time from most to least for the season, I’d go Celek, Ertz, Casey. As we’ve mentioned several times, look for a lot of two tight-end sets.

Offensive line: Allen Barbre is listed as the top backup at both guard spots. The truth is, he may be the top backup at every offensive line position except for center. Right now, Dennis Kelly is listed as the backup at right tackle, but it’s unclear when he’ll be fully recovered from back surgery. Undrafted free agent Matt Tobin is listed behind Jason Peters. And Julian Vandervelde is your backup center.

Defensive line: Probably shouldn’t read too much into it, but if this depth chart is any indication, undrafted free agent Damion Square figures to be the seventh D-Linemen and a likely gameday inactive. The first team is Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga and Cedric Thornton. The second team is Vinny Curry, Clifton Geathers and Bennie Logan. All six defensive linemen are expected to rotate. All except for Sopoaga are options as pass-rushers in nickel. Cox figures to play the most snaps out of the group.

Inside linebacker: Underrated concern on this roster: The Eagles could be in trouble should DeMeco Ryans or Mychal Kendricks go down. Casey Matthews, Jake Knott and Najee Goode are the backups. On the depth chart, Matthews is listed behind Ryans and Knott behind Kendricks. Goode is on the third team. Should Ryans or Kendricks suffer an injury, we’ll find out what kind of confidence the team has in Knott, an undrafted free agent.

Safety: Nate Allen is listed as the starter alongside Patrick Chung. Their backups are Earl Wolff and Kurt Coleman, respectively. If Allen struggles, which is entirely possible, Wolff or Coleman could replace him early on. Colt Anderson is listed with the third team.

It’s also worth noting that DeSean Jackson is the No. 1 punt returner, ahead of Damaris Johnson. Johnson is the top kickoff returner, ahead of Brandon Boykin.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Danny Watkins responds to Howie Roseman’s comments, questioning his toughness.

A roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles, including preseason predictions and wide-ranging opinions on Kelly.

T-Mac has the practice squad tracker updated.

Here are 10 Eagles numbers that matter as we look ahead to the opener.

McManus looks at what the Eagles’ roster moves tell us about Kelly.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Good No-22 breakdown of the Eagles’ defense by Derek Sarley:

Lacking pressure from the front four, Davis will turn to the blitz, where he’s already demonstrated a Jim Johnson-esque flair for breaking protection schemes. The last 2 years of “send four and hope for the best” are definitely behind us.

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers thoughts on Najee Goode:

There are things to like about Goode. He has a thick, squatty build at 6-0, 245. He is a physical player. He’ll take on blocks. Tampa had him blow up FBs on iso runs. In the preseason finale, Goode broke up one pass (that he probably should have picked off) and then a few plays later made a good pick and returned it for a TD.

I just didn’t see anything special about him. He doesn’t have great instincts. He’s not speedy. He isn’t a great hitter.

COMING UP

Back to NovaCare for practice and the official start of game week. We’ll hear from Kelly this morning.

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

Eagles Wake-Up Call: Where Things Stand With Nick Foles

Nick FolesWhen asked about Nick Foles’ 6-for-17 performance Thursday night, Chip Kelly was quick to defend his second-year quarterback.

“I don’t think we protected him very well,” Kelly said. “A lot of times, it was a four-man rush that was in his face. He didn’t really have time to set his feet. We had some protection issues with the second O-Line.

“Way, way, way, way too many mistakes. Too many dropped balls for a fourth preseason game. Very shoddy in protection early.”

Foles threw for just 63 yards, averaging 3.7 yards per attempt. He fumbled once and was sacked twice. As Kelly pointed out, there were other factors at work, but after completing 84 percent of his throws through the first three preseason games, this was clearly a disappointing outing.

“I’ll learn from my mistakes,” he said. “So it doesn’t kill me. I’m gonna fix it. I’m gonna get better from it. I’m not gonna cry myself to sleep tonight. I’ll leave with a smile on my face knowing I’m gonna get better from it. That’s just how I look at it.”

Foles acknowledged that the Jets sent extra pressure often, but he indicated that the blitzes were pretty vanilla and nothing that caught the Eagles off-guard.

“They blitzed a lot,” Foles said. “I expected them to blitz and when they blitzed, we need to capitalize on it. So it’s something to look at.”

Foles has had his moments this preseason. Before Thursday night’s game, Ron Jaworski joined Mike Missanelli on 97.5 The Fanatic and said he thought Kelly might have made his QB decision “a little bit prematurely.” Jaws added that Foles has showed a lot of progress from Year 1 to Year 2.

“I did see some very positive things from Nick Foles in the preseason,” Jaws said. “His reading progressions is better. He’s a much more quick thinker than he was a year ago. It looks to me like he may have gotten a little quick-twitch in his legs. He moved very well, better than I thought he moved a year ago. I think clearly going into his second season, Nick Foles has really improved to me.”

Foles will now meet with the coaches and sketch out a plan for how he can improve without getting reps on a regular basis, and without playing on Sundays. If Michael Vick falters or suffers an injury, he’ll get his shot.

But for now, the 24-year-old will fade into the background.

WHAT YOU MISSED

Here are my observations from last night’s Eagles-Jets game.

T-Mac looks at red-zone efficiency and more in his weekly Twitter mailbag.

Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles, including Michael Irvin’s advice for Vick and season predictions.

The Eagles reportedly worked out a cornerback and an inside linebacker earlier this week.

Tim with a telling review of the 2011 draft class.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com has the Eagles keeping Russell Shepard over Greg Salas:

Salas deserved to make the team but Shepard’s versatility — he also played quarterback and running back in college — helps the rookie free agent land the last spot. Momah has a nice spot waiting for him on the practice squad. He’s just not ready.

Jeff McLane of The Inquirer offers his thoughts for the offensive line. He has Danny Watkins making it:

Watkins, the Birds’ 2011 first-round draft pick, makes the team by default. Playing only guard could hinder his chances. Tackle Matt Tobin, an undrafted rookie out of Iowa, could sneak onto the roster. Rookie tackle Michael Bamiro is an intriguing prospect destined to land on the practice squad.

COMING UP

Off day for the players, but there could be roster news. Cuts have to be made by Saturday at 6 p.m. We’ll have it all covered.

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