This Time, Reid Leaves Town A Happy Man

Andy Reid has never been one to pour out his emotions publicly. And he predictably deflected questions about his return to Philadelphia this week by turning the conversation to the game at hand.

But as time began ticking off the clock Thursday night and victory was his, the generally stoic Reid looked downright giddy. His players topped the night by giving their new head coach a Gatorade bath and carried the celebration in the locker room. Reporters waiting for Reid in the press conference area could hear the festivities loud and clear.

“It was a big roar, a big cheer, we were cheering Andy on,” said running back Jamaal Charles. “He wanted to get this win. He may not tell anyone but at the end of the day, he had the biggest smile on his face.”

Reid still wore the look of a happy man as he made his way to the podium.

“You put it out of your mind the best way you possibly can,” said Reid of returning to Philly as an opposing coach, less than nine months after being relieved of his duties with the Eagles. “I mean, 14 years is 14 years — that’s a long time, especially for a chubby old guy. I can tell you I enjoyed every minute here. I am enjoying my time in Kansas City. Coming back, I didn’t think much about it until the game was over. It was great to see the guys, the players that are here, and I got a chance to speak to a couple of them after the game. It’s all kind of settling in right now. I’m not sure exactly how I feel other than I’m glad we won the game.”

His wife, Tammy, was in the room as is custom, and was all smiles as she watched her husband answer questions about his triumphant return.

Downplay it all you want, but this couldn’t have been just any game for Reid, right?

“Yeah, it was different. I’m on the opposite end of the field…but I wasn’t caught up in that part of it,” he said. “I was too busy — it was probably a good thing it was a short week — I was too busy trying to make sure we had the offense and the defense and the special teams going right that I didn’t have time to think about all the other stuff that goes along with it.”

Reid joked during the week that he was going to have Donovan McNabb come out of the tunnel with him to help take some of the heat  the Philadelphia fans may throw his way. But it was all love on this night, at least before the game. He received a standing ovation as he took the field, and the Eagles put up a “Thank you” message on the big screen briefly, listing all of his achievements while head coach of the Eagles.

“I did, I saw that, I appreciated that. It was very kind of the Luries, and of Jeffrey to do that and for the fans the way they reacted there,” he said.

Reid talked briefly with Chip Kelly before the game. Spoke with Jeremy Maclin and several of the players during warm-ups. The game soon took over and his former players morphed into the opponent. He was back in his element, where the task at hand blocks out all the “fluff,” as he called it on Tuesday. But when the task was completed, we saw the human side of Reid come out.

“We wanted it for him,” said cornerback Brandon Flowers. “We appreciate Coach and what he does for this franchise. Even though he thought it was just a game, we definitely wanted it for him.”

Cheat Sheet: Eagles Defense Vs. Chiefs Offense

Billy DavisIf you missed the first cheat sheet, click here.

Now, 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ defense matches up with the Chiefs’ offense.

1. Billy Davis and company used an effective blitz-heavy package to slow down Robert Griffin III and the Redskins in Week 1. But the Eagles’ D looked much more like the unit everyone was expecting going into the season last week against the Chargers. Philip Rivers completed 36 of 47 passes for 419 yards and three touchdowns. He was sacked once, and the Chargers were 10-for-15 on third down, effectively keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field. Through two games, the Eagles’ defense ranks 29th, according to Football Outsiders. The Chiefs have been efficient, though not spectacular. Kansas City scored 17 points in a win against Dallas last week, and Andy Reid’s offense ranks 12th overall, per FO.

2. The Chargers’ game-plan was pretty simple: Get Rivers to the line of scrimmage early, force the defense to show its hand, audible into a play that works, and move the football.

“They’d get up, take a look, then come back, sometimes they checked, we checked, and then they checked again,” Chip Kelly explained. “I think when you’re playing a quarterback like Philip Rivers, I think basically they put the game in his hands and he was making a lot of checks at the line of scrimmage depending on the looks we were presenting. That’s what you get when you’re going against someone as talented as him. You’ve got to get lined up and you’ve got to play because you just can’t say they’re not going to run a play here. When they’re ready to run a play, you’ve got to be lined up ready to run a play.”

Davis believes strongly in disguising looks and confusing opposing quarterbacks. But the Chargers’ offense controlled the game by lining up early and dictating when the ball was snapped.

“There were times they checked, we checked, and then tried to give them a different look, and then he came back with a play,” Kelly continued. “You know, it becomes a‑cat‑and‑mouse‑game and you get going, but they’ve got to snap the ball at a certain point in time, and we’ve got to be lined up and ready to go. …We have to be prepared with a defense when he gets up on the ball, and then we’ve got to do a job of trying to give them a disguise and make sure that it’s not totally something that he’s going to see, and then we can rotate into some things.  But sometimes your disguise ends up being a liability because you’re not close enough in coverage when you’re that far off.”

3. The crew at NBC’s NFL Turning Point did a great job of catching wide receiver Eddie Royal talking to coaches about a specific look the Eagles were showing. It came late in the third quarter. Royal noticed that safety Nate Allen was stationed about 11 yards directly behind Patrick Chung, who was playing slot corner. He raised his hand as if to say, “Chung’s blitzing here. You got me.”

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That’s exactly what happened, but Trent Cole manhandled the left guard and forced Rivers to roll to his right where he dumped the ball off to Ronnie Brown. If Rivers had time, he would have had Royal open in the middle of the field.

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But with 3:11 left in the game, on the Chargers’ final touchdown of the day, they got the same look.

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The safety’s lined up directly behind the slot corner, who is going to blitz.

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As soon as he gets the snap, Rivers knows it’s coming and unloads to Royal behind the line of scrimmage. You can see how far away Allen is. King Dunlap takes care of Allen, Royal jukes DeMeco Ryans, and the Chargers have a 15-yard score.

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Davis wants the Eagles to be unpredictable on defense, but that didn’t happen last week.

4. So far in Reid’s offense, Alex Smith is completing 60 percent of his passes, but averaging just 5.7 yards per attempt. That ranks 29th among starting quarterbacks. Last week, the Eagles wanted to guard against the big play. But this week, there’s far less need to play their safeties deep. Per Pro Football Focus, just 4.3 percent of Smith’s throws have traveled 20 yards or more from the line of scrimmage. That’s 31st among starting quarterbacks. Smith will look to be efficient and control the tempo of the game, while keeping the Eagles’ offense off the field.

5. Up front, from left to right, the Chiefs have: Branden Albert, Jeff Allen, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah and No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher. Albert will often get matched up against Trent Cole, who has exceeded expectations early on. Cole only dropped back into coverage three times last week, per PFF. Fletcher Cox leads the team with three QB hurries (coaches stats), but has been quiet overall. Isaac SopoagaDamion Square and Bennie Logan have been unimpressive at nose tackle. Same goes for Clifton Geathers at LDE. And Cedric Thornton has been OK. A lot of questions about Vinny Curry. My take? The Eagles don’t think he fits, and he won’t see the field unless someone is injured. We’ll find out about 90 minutes prior to kickoff (when inactives are announced) whether I’m right or not.

6. The Eagles have been blitz-heavy in each of the first two weeks. Against San Diego, Davis sent five or more pass-rushers at the QB 53.8 percent of the time. Rivers completed 76 percent of his attempts and averaged 8.4 yards per attempt against the blitz. But it must be noted that his numbers were even better when the Eagles didn’t send pressure (77.3 percent, 9.5 YPA). Alex Smith was not blitzed much through the first two games. He’s 9-for-11 for 73 yards against extra pressure and has been sacked twice, per Stats, Inc. While the Chiefs rely on a short-to-intermediate passing game, Smith doesn’t get rid of the ball as quickly as you might think. Per PFF, it takes him on average 2.76 seconds to make a decision (attempt a pass, run or get sacked). That ranks 20th in the NFL.

7. On the ground, the Chiefs feature Jamaal Charles. Ready for a stat that will blow your mind? Since 1920, among running backs who have had at least 300 carries, Charles has the highest yards-per-attempt average at 5.72, per Pro Football Reference. And last year, he piled up 1,509 yards while averaging 5.3 YPC. I know what you’re thinking: Good thing Andy won’t give him the ball! Charles is averaging 16 rushing attempts per game, 12th-most in the NFL and down slightly from last year’s mark (17.8).

8. Charles has also caught 11 balls, more than any other Chiefs player. The Eagles were a mess in coverage last week. Mychal Kendricks got worked over by Antonio Gates all game long. In the secondary, Cary Williams was called for three pass interference penalties. This week, the Eagles will get Bradley Fletcher back from a concussion. Fletcher played well in Week 1 against Washington. Brandon Boykin will go back to the slot full-time. The Chiefs’ top wide receiver is Dwayne Bowe. He’s got eight catches for 86 yards and a score through two games. Among Kansas City’s six players who have at least four catches, none has a yards-per-reception higher than 12.3.

9. At safety, the Eagles will once again go with Chung and Allen, but expect rookie Earl Wolff to once again rotate in. Last week, the Chargers killed the Eagles with in-breaking routes, and the safeties were slow to react and failed to provide adequate help all game long. There’s no need to be conservative against Kansas City. The Chiefs will also line up in the Pistol. It’s worth noting that the Pistol is not what Kelly and the Eagles run. It’s a formation where the quarterback sets up in shotgun, but is closer to the line of scrimmage (usually 4 yards). And the running back lines up directly behind the quarterback, instead of to one side or the other. Kansas City has hired Chris Ault as a consultant. Ault is credited as the creator of the Pistol from his time at Nevada. Matt Bowen has a good breakdown here of some of the new concepts the Chiefs are showing under Reid.

10. Brandon Graham has played just 21.6 percent of the Eagles’ defensive snaps through the first two games. …Casey Matthews saw some time at outside linebacker, backing up Connor Barwin vs. San Diego. …Derek Sarley has an excellent All-22 breakdown of the Eagles’ defensive woes on Philly.com. Also check out Tommy Lawlor’s always-informative detailed game review on IgglesBlitz.com.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Reid Back By McNabb’s Side

photo (48)Donovan McNabb said that 65 friends, family members and former teammates will be in attendance Thursday to watch his No.5 go into the rafters. His parents, Sam and Wilma, will be there. Brian Dawkins will emcee the ceremony. Chad Lewis, Correll Buckhalter, Jon Runyan, Bobby Taylor, Jamaal Jackson and more are expected to show.

And, by no coincidence whatsoever, his former head coach will be in the building as well.

“That was part of the decision-making,” said McNabb to a small group of reporters Wednesday evening at Lincoln Financial Field. “I wanted him to be a part of it. I think it it’s rightfully so, for me to go into the ring of honor and have my number retired, I want the person who was more than responsible for it, took a chance on me, stuck with me for 11 years and had success with me [to be there.]”

It was often said that the coach and quarterback were “attached at the hip” during their time in Philly. But Easter, 2010 served as a reminder that all unions in the NFL are temporary. McNabb was shipped to Washington, and headed south with a bad taste in his mouth. The negative feelings lingered for a couple years.

A lot of the ice was chipped off during a face-to-face meeting with Reid in March.

“We had lunch together at the [owners] meetings in Arizona. He ate more tacos than I did,” said McNabb. “It was needed. I wish it could have happened earlier but it was needed. We were able to talk about a few things and get some stuff out on the table. I think that conversation alone has given us the opportunity to move forward.

“I thought that it was important that we sat down and looked each other eye-to-eye and got a chance to talk about a few things.”

Such as?

“First and foremost I wanted to know whose decision it was to move on, and what was the next step? What was your game plan when you decided to trade me? Was it to play Kevin Kolb or start a new regime to see what happens?”

Did he just blame Joe Banner?

“No. Well…No,” he said, drawing laughs.

McNabb did not reveal the answers to those questions, but obviously felt good enough with the answers to move on. And, as he gets set for Thursday’s retirement ceremony, he appears to be in a good place when it comes to the relationship with both the organization and his longtime coach.

That doesn’t mean he’s ready to take a bullet for the Chiefs’ head man. Reid has been joking that he wants McNabb to come out of the tunnel with him Thursday night to absorb any of the potential punishment that might come his way from Eagles fans.

“No I told him if they boo him, they’re booing him,” said McNabb. “I’m not being a part of that one.

“Andy’s just going to keep the same straight face, he’ll probably pump the fist or something. I think the fans will truly show their appreciation for what he was able to do here.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

Good All-22 look from Sheil on how Chip Kelly is getting DeSean Jackson loose.

What will the Eagles do to mark McNabb and Reid’s return?  Here’s a look. 

Stanford head coach David Shaw talks to The MMQB’s Peter King about Kelly.

Here’s a link to the Birds 24/7 podcast if you missed it. How can you resist Kapadia in stereo?

The Eagles sign cornerback Roc Carmichael.

Checking in on Fletcher Cox.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Ray Didinger shares an interesting conversation he had with Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi before the 1999 draft.

Accorsi knows a quarterback when he sees one and he was high on McNabb. He stunned me by comparing McNabb to Roger Staubach. “He is like Staubach,” he said. “He can do everything.”

Accorsi related a story from the Scouting Combine.  He was in a restaurant one evening and a group of players were seated across the room.  All were college stars in town to take part in the combine testing.  They were from different schools and different conferences. Most had not met prior to that week.

“All through the meal I watched them,” Accorsi said.

Hey, when you’re a GM, you never stop scouting. And what did Accorsi see?

“McNabb ran the show,” he said. “All the conversation, all the energy revolved around him. He just had a way about him. The other guys – and, remember, they’re all big-timers themselves – deferred to him. He had that ‘It’ thing we talk about.  I thought, ‘That’s a quarterback.’”

Bob Ford notes that Thursday’s game marks the end to the Eagles’ prime time schedule.

There is always the possibility, if the Eagles win more than expected, that some of their late-season games could be switched to showcase programming, but that seems like a long shot right now. Thursday’s game will probably be the last one in the national glare and if it also represents the final closing of the door on the Reid Era, then bring up the lights, cue the Liberty Bell and the city skyline and offer a hearty farewell to the guy who made the team a prime-time staple in the first place.

COMING UP

Game day. Eagles host Reid and the Chiefs at 8:25. We’ll hold a live chat during the game.

Cheat Sheet: Eagles Offense Vs. Chiefs Defense

Michael VickHere are 10 things to know about how the Eagles’ offense matches up with the Chiefs’ defense:

1. Two weeks into the Chip Kelly experiment, the Eagles boast the NFL’s leading rusher, leading receiver and third-best offense, according to Football Outsiders. And the truth is, the Birds have left plenty of points on the field. But the Chiefs figure to present a bigger challenge defensively than either the Chargers or the Redskins. Kansas City is No. 1 in overall defense, per Football Outsiders, and has allowed 18 points through two weeks. Sure, they got to face the Jaguars in Week 1, but Kansas City held the Cowboys to a touchdown and three field goals last week.

2. Offensively, the most encouraging sign for the Eagles might be that they’ve shown they can be productive in multiple ways. In Week 1, it was a heavy rushing attack behind LeSean McCoy, who has piled up 237 yards and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. San Diego moved a safety up for much of the game and challenged Michael Vick to hurt them through the air, which he did. Vick completed 64 percent of his passes, averaged 11.9 yards per attempt, threw two touchdowns and didn’t turn the ball over. He looked like he knew where to go with the football all day long, made quick decisions and avoided big hits (except for that final drive in the fourth quarter). When given time, he’s generally an accurate quarterback, but Vick missed a few throws against the Chargers that could have led to an even bigger game. He leads the NFL in yards per attempt (10.34) and is third in passer rating (119.0).

3. McCoy and the Eagles’ rushing attack will be challenged by a talented front seven. The Chiefs run a 3-4 and have a tackling machine in Derrick Johnson at inside linebacker. Eagles offensive linemen have been outstanding at getting their hands on linebackers in the run game, but Johnson will be the best they’ve faced so far. At the other inside linebacker spot is a familiar name: Akeem Jordan. The former Eagle was active last week against the Cowboys, forcing a big fumble in the third quarter. The Chiefs limited DeMarco Murray to 25 yards on 12 carries. The previous week, Maurice Jones-Drew managed just 45 yards on 15 carries against them. McCoy will get plenty of touches, and Bryce Brown will provide him with breathers.

4. The Chiefs have a talented group up front. Dontari Poe’s stock rose during the combine, and he appears to be taking a nice leap forward in his second season. Poe is tied for third in the NFL with 3.5 sacks, and he played all 67 snaps last week against Dallas. Eagles center Jason Kelce is playing at a really high level, but he’ll be challenged with Poe lining up across from him all night long. Kelce had his right thumb wrapped after suffering an injury against the Chargers, but he’s listed as probable. Keep an eye on his snaps in the early going.

5. Elsewhere up front, the Chiefs go with defensive end Tyson Jackson, a former first-round pick (2009) and Mike DeVito, whom the team signed away from the New York Jets as a free agent. Evan Mathis played well against the Chargers, but Todd Herremans had issues. Communication, as always, will be critical. Bob Sutton, the Chiefs defensive coordinator, spent the past several years under Rex Ryan and is not afraid to dial up blitzes when he has the opponent in obvious passing situations. According to Pro Football Focus, the Chiefs blitzed Tony Romo on 19 of 46 dropbacks last week. He went 12-for-18 for 108 yards and was sacked once in those situations.

6. Kansas City has impressive rush linebackers too. Tamba Hali, the Penn State product, had 35.5 sacks from 2010 to 2012. He has rushed 77 percent of the time and dropped 23 percent of the time on passing downs this season, per PFF. Hali will most often line up against Jason Peters, who has played well the first two games. On the other side, Justin Houston had 10 sacks and made the Pro Bowl last year. On the season, he’s rushed the passer 61 percent of the time and dropped 39 percent of the time. Houston already has three sacks in two games and will often get lined up against Lane Johnson. The rookie had a critical penalty last week and allowed a hit on Vick that caused hm to overthrow a wide-open DeSean Jackson deep. Overall, Johnson looks good, but he’s had his share of rookie mistakes, which is to be expected.

7. Jackson leads the NFL with 297 receiving yards, and Kelly is doing a remarkable job of maximizing the wide receiver’s ability in this scheme (All-22 breakdown here). Jackson said earlier this week that he’s expecting the Chiefs to play man coverage against him quite a bit. But that might depend on who Kansas City has healthy. The Chiefs’ top corner, Brandon Flowers, is questionable with a knee injury. At the other spot, Kansas City signed Sean Smith in the offseason. At 6-3, 218, he’s one of the bigger corners in the league. Last week, Tony Romo completed 30 of 42 attempts (71.4 percent) against the Chiefs. Nine of those completions (and 141 of his 298 yards) were to Dez Bryant, who looked un-guardable for much of the game.

8. At safety, the Chiefs go with Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. Berry, the No. 5 overall pick in 2010, is a two-time Pro Bowler. Lewis has 37 starts under his belt. The Chiefs will show some “big nickel” looks too, playing with three safeties. They’ve got former Eagle Quintin Demps and Husain Abdullah on the roster. The Chiefs limited Jason Witten to three catches for 12 yards. Brent Celek was shut out last week, but rookie Zach Ertz had a pair of catches for 58 yards. Despite all the talk about using 2-TE sets under Kelly, the Eagles had just one tight end on the field for 81 percent of their snaps last week.

9. Special teams has been a major difference for the Eagles this year. The offense, on average, is starting drives at its own 30.92 yard line, per Football Outsiders. That’s sixth-best in the NFL. Last year, they started at their own 25.19, which ranked 27th. Turnovers on defense have helped too. The Eagles have five takeaways and are a +3 in turnover differential. The Chiefs, meanwhile, are a +4. They are one of two teams (Tennessee) that has yet to turn the ball over this season.

10. The Eagles used the read-option nine times for 54 yards last week. In Week 1, they used it 49 times. …The Eagles have scored touchdowns on three of six red-zone possessions. …The Chiefs have the second-fewest penalty yards through two games. The Eagles have the eighth-most. …The Chiefs have nine sacks, tops in the NFL. …The Eagles are 3.5-point favorites, according to Bovada. The over/under is 51.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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What To Expect For Reid And McNabb

Donovan McNabb and Andy Reid are back in town, you may have heard. The Eagles are hosting Reid’s Chiefs on Thursday night, of course, and decided to hold a retirement ceremony for their former quarterback while their old head coach is in the building.

What should you expect?

Aside from perhaps a few highlights running on the big screens during the course of the game, McNabb’s moment will come at halftime. Brian Dawkins will serve as the emcee for the ceremony, and there will be a laser light and fireworks show as part of the festivities as the No.5 goes up into the rafters.

The following excerpt from a recent Ashley Fox article had some fans scratching their heads:

Reid said he asked McNabb, who will have his jersey number retired at halftime, to walk onto the field with him, as well as the other former Eagles who will be in attendance.

“Donovan and all those guys, they were giving me the business about it,” Reid said. “I told them they all have to walk out of the tunnel with me and see where the loyalty stands.”

Probably just a joke. Wouldn’t be the best PR move for McNabb to come out of the Chiefs’ tunnel. Crazier things have happened, but I don’t anticipate seeing McNabb walking out with Reid — or crawling out of the Eagles’ tunnel like B-Dawk.

From what I have gathered, if Reid is acknowledged it won’t be during the game itself. This is a pretty big spot for the Eagles, and it makes little sense to be paying tribute to the opposing coach once the ball is in the air. There will probably be a tip of the cap to Reid pregame, but that’s it.

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Andy Reid Homecoming Watch

Andy Reid brings his Kansas City Chiefs to Philadelphia on Thursday night, after 14 years and five NFC championship games here. Here’s what’s being said:

ESPN:

Andy Reid won’t say it. It’s not his style. He is a process guy. Next day, next practice, next game.

But the Kansas City Chiefs‘ next game means something a little bit more, even if Reid won’t admit it. It is Reid’s homecoming. On Thursday night in Philadelphia, he will be the Eagles’ opponent, instead of their leader, which he had been the previous 14 seasons. He will prepare in the sparse confines of the visitors’ locker room at Lincoln Financial Field instead of inside the Eagles’ plush, spacious quarters.

Reid will be cheered. He will be booed. He will be appreciated by some and vilified by others. That’s just how it is. Reid knows it. It was 14 mostly good years — 130 regular-season wins, six NFC East titles, nine playoff appearances, five NFC Championship Games, one glorious Super Bowl run — but ultimately Reid did not bring home the Lombardi Trophy. In Philadelphia, a city with a rich sports history and a passionate fan base, winning a Super Bowl is all that matters.

SI:

He is the only man having already made the same trip down memory lane that Andy Reid faces this week in his much-anticipated return to Philadelphia, and somewhat predictably, he predicted cheers will greet his fellow former Eagles coach Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

Of course Dick Vermeil did. Vermeil, the perpetually positive thinker who has spent a lifetime appealing to the better angels of our nature, believes that a wave of appreciation will roll over Reid when he leads his undefeated Kansas City Chiefs onto the field against Chip Kelly’s 1-1 Eagles. Even if the frustration felt by Philly fans at the dismal end of Reid’s long, 14-year coaching era remains painfully fresh.

“I think you’re going to hear mostly cheers for Andy Reid,” said Vermeil, from his home near Philadelphia. “I’ll be surprised and disappointed if that’s not the case. Because these fans know football, and they know he did a good job. They know it withered the last two years, but I think they’ll show they really appreciate what he did do well while he was here. I really believe Andy will get a very positive reception from the fans.”

NBCSports:

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles has already said that he wants to win the game for his coach, but Reid said on a Tuesday conference call with Philly reporters that football is the only thing on his mind.

“Once you’re in this thing and you’re grinding and you’re getting ready for a football team, a good football team, you put all of that aside,” Reid said. “I know all of the questions and all of that. … It’s not very fluffy, but that’s what’s real.”

 

What They’re Saying About the Eagles

Chip KellyHere’s the weekly roundup of what the national media are saying about the Eagles.

ESPN.com moved the Eagles down five spots to No. 19 in its power rankings:

There’s the track meet everyone expected. Philly averaged 20.4 seconds per play, more than five seconds faster than last week, and gained 8.8 yards per play Sunday.

Stanford head coach David Shaw talks to The MMQB’s Peter King about Chip Kelly:

“That’s why I love Chip Kelly,’’ Shaw said. “He knows that I love him. He used to say it all the time and no one would believe him. He would just laugh, one of those smirk laughs that he has, and he would always tell people, ‘What we’re doing is not hard. We’re doing it faster, and we’re doing it with big kids who are smart kids.’ We’re like that—changing formations, making our players communicate, communicate, and the ball is getting snapped and they’re running something very simple. Now, with Chip, he gets the ball to DeSean Jackson in space, he gets LeSean McCoy in space, he’s created the same thing. So it’s not just schemes, it’s the combination of schemes and personnel. If you’ve got the guys to do it, to get guys in space, you can make big plays.’’

Bill Barnwell of Grantland looks at Kelly’s decision to throw the red flag last week:

Chip Kelly stretched his streak of somewhat-bizarre challenges to two, having challenged an obviously dropped pass at the beginning of the Washington game a week ago. (That play at least fit the first-down-deep-in-opposition-territory criteria from above.) Here, Kelly challenged a first-quarter sideline catch by Malcom Floyd that would have turned a nine-yard completion on second-and-12 into an incomplete pass. The two replays shown between the completion and the ensuing snap raised some doubts about the catch being valid without making it clear that Kelly would win the protest, but again, the context didn’t make much sense. The upside of the challenge was turning a third-and-3 from the Philadelphia 19 into a third-and-12 from the Philly 28-yard line. Given how bad the Philadelphia defense is, I wouldn’t trust them to stop Philip Rivers in either situation; you’d rather force the opposing team to need 12 yards, but is that difference worth throwing the flag on a call that was ruled a catch on the field without seeing any indisputable evidence suggesting otherwise? I have to think it wouldn’t be the case.

Former Eagles head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder reflects on Andy Reid’s time in Philly, via ESPN.com’s Ashley Fox:

“What happened to us at the end was it wasn’t about the process anymore,” said Rick Burkholder, who spent all 14 seasons with Reid in Philadelphia as the Eagles’ trainer and joined Reid in Kansas City. “It wasn’t about Wednesday or Thursday or Friday. It was about the Dream Team. It was about, ‘You have to win 12 or you’re a failure.’ ‘If he doesn’t win the Super Bowl, he should be fired.’

“I don’t know how he lasted as long as he did there. The pressure’s so great in that city. It just wears you down. Ten [wins] is not good enough. If he wins 10 games for 10 years in this city they’ll put a statue of him outside of Arrowhead. He won 10 games for 10 years in Philly basically and still in the end it wasn’t enough.”

Dick Vermeil talks to SI.com’s Don Banks about Reid’s return:

“It is a different experience for Andy in coming back,” concedes Vermeil. “He left after being relieved of his responsibilities, and I left on my own. But I think what’s the same is once you’ve coached in Philadelphia, you get emotionally connected with the city and the fans get emotionally connected with you. Once they identify with you, I think they hang with you. They’re very, very loyal, and that’s why I think there will be a strong consensus, a high percentage of fans who will react with the very positive side of their passion when Andy takes the field. They will appreciate what he got done here.”

Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has the Eagles 18th in his power rankings:

Can Chip Kelly fix the defense? That’s the issue. They can score all they want, but they have major problems on defense.

Prisco predicts a 30-23 Eagles victory Thursday night:

The Eagles can score. The Chiefs have been really good on defense. Something has to give. I say it’s the Chiefs’ defense that gives a little. Mike Vick and the offense will have some success down the field against the Chiefs. The Eagles defense has been awful, but it is better here against a Chiefs offense that is just OK.

Gregg Easterbrook of ESPN.com weighs in on Kelly’s second game:

It took exactly one week for the NFL to adjust. San Diego held the ball for 40:17, converting 10 of 15 third down situations and posting 33 first downs, to keep the Blur Offense off the field. Fast-snap offenses accustomed to flying down the field as spectators gasp become frustrated when they have to stand around watching the opponent, and the visiting Bolts quickly got the home Eagles frustrated. Maybe in retrospect, Philadelphia jumped ahead of Washington 33-7 in Week 1 for same reason Green Bay jumped ahead of Washington 31-0 in Week 2 — the cover-your-eyes awful R*dsk*ns defense.

Brian Billick of FoxSports.com has the Eagles 19th in his power rankings:

Well one thing hasn’t changed for the Eagles … the Swiss cheese defense.

Elliot Harrison of NFL.com has the Eagles 17th:

Chip Kelly revolutionizing the NFL in its 94th season lasted one week. At least now that the Eagles are 1-1, people will tap the brakes when it comes to anointing them the second coming of “The Greatest Show on Turf (Er, Grass).”

Of course, the offense still put up a 30-spot in Sunday’s loss. Philly’s weak spot — as we suspected would be the case two weeks ago — proved to be the defense. Still, win or lose, this is an exciting team to watch.

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Roseman Reflects On What Went Wrong With Watkins

Danny WatkinsHowie Roseman had a few different options in attempting to answer a question he clearly knew was coming.

Hours after the Eagles decided to release 2011 first-round pick Danny Watkins, Roseman sat at the head of a conference room table at the NovaCare Complex and was asked to set the record straight on what his role was in selecting the offensive lineman.

“As you’ve seen here, a lot of the leadership positions and the responsibilities have changed in our organization,” Roseman said. “So when you have changes that are so drastic in an organization, there’s also going to be drastic changes on the field and the way you do things. We’ve obviously changed a lot of people in our personnel department. We’ve changed the way that we look at things because we have new people in place. I think that’s gonna be different just because the nature of personalities and people trying to do their own things and whether that’s me and our personnel staff or Chip [Kelly] and his coaching staff or Don [Smolenski] as the president of the team, it’s gonna be different.”

The message was clear: No trip down memory lane, but we’re not going to make the same mistakes again.

As Tim pointed out last week, Andy Reid gave Roseman credit for the Watkins pick shortly after the draft.

“Howie had this guy, right from the get-go, at the top,” Reid said at the time. “This was a guy that he really wanted and liked.”

But when owner Jeffrey Lurie addressed reporters earlier this year, he absolved Roseman of blame for the 2011 draft.

“I keep voluminous notes on talent evaluation on not just who we draft, but who is valued in each draft by each person that is in the organization that’s working here,” Lurie said in January. “I came to the conclusion that the person that was providing by far the best talent evaluation in the building was Howie Roseman. I decided to streamline the whole decision-making process for the 2012 draft and offseason and that’s the first draft and offseason I hold Howie completely accountable for. The mistakes that were made in the 2011 draft have little or nothing to do with Howie’s evaluations and I think it was important for me to own up to the mistakes that were made and understand where they were coming from, and it was awfully clear.”

Lurie had the scorecard. He sent Reid and Joe Banner packing. And he decided to keep Roseman as he ushered in a new era with Kelly.

As for Watkins, we pointed out earlier that many scouts, analysts and personnel people thought he was a good prospect coming out of school. The issue for the Eagles was more about deciding to take a 26-year-old guard in the first round than mis-evaluating a prospect.

Asked what he remembers about his personal evaluation of Watkins, Roseman said: “When you watched Danny play, the toughness, the hockey-playing aspect of him never translated to Philadelphia. And that’s one of the things I told him today, was that when you watched him at Baylor and when you watched him at the Senior Bowl and when you met him, he had this innate toughness about him. You felt like you were getting an enforcer. And he never let himself go here on that. And I don’t know why that was. I told him that was part of the thing that I was the most confused by because that was something that everyone at Baylor told you about and you saw in his play on the field. And I think it all goes back to the pressure he put on himself here.

“Part of his personality, and you talk about him being a firefighter, is that he feels like he has to help save people, and he put a lot of pressure on himself and he couldn’t just go out and play. I think getting away from Danny Watkins the first-round pick and just being Danny Watkins will really help him.”

As for the need to take age into account during the draft, Roseman made it sound like the Eagles learned multiple lessons from the Watkins pick and looking back, probably should have seen some of the warning signs.

“There have been some guys in the last couple of drafts who have been over-age, and we’ve spent a lot of time just looking at that,” he said. “And I think I’d answer it this way: When you’re successful in anything, especially in football, a lot of times coaches are selfish, they want to win games. So they’re going to put you out there really early. You’re gonna play at a really young age. And you’re gonna play a lot at a young age. So when you look around the NFL at the successful players, there’s not a lot of guys that are one-year starters and are seniors or playing at a later age. And it makes sense because if you’re really that talented, people find you.”

The Eagles’ expectations when they selected Watkins were for him to step in and play right away at a high level. But that didn’t happen. He did not play well in 12 starts as a rookie. Going into his second season, he didn’t take well to the coaching of Howard Mudd and struggled again through six starts. He suffered through what Reid called a “chronic” ankle injury and then was benched for journeyman Jake Scott.

Now, Watkins, who turns 29 in November, is left to figure out what’s next for him. The Eagles, meanwhile, will move forward with hopes of not repeating similar mistakes in the future.

“You’re disappointed,” Roseman said. “You’re disappointed when any of your players don’t work out obviously. And when they’re first-round picks, it’s more of a disappointment. I think if there’s a positive to it, in the last couple of years, we were able to really evaluate ourselves and make some substantial changes in how we do things. Going forward, I think that’s really gonna benefit us. And I think it’s benefited us already.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: The ‘Compelling’ 2004 Squad

Today, we take a trip down memory lane and remember a team that will either bring a smile to your face or elicit tears from your eyes: the 2004 Eagles.

ESPN.com is doing a series on the five most compelling NFL teams since 2000, and the 2004 Birds, led by Brian Dawkins, Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens, Brian Westbrook and company came in at No. 3, behind only the 2010 Brett Favre-led Vikings and the 16-0 New England Patriots (2007).

Ashley Fox provides a recap of the 13-3 campaign, which ended in a 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl:

“When we stepped on the field from OTAs to the first game against the New York Giants, we felt no team could beat us,” Ike Reese said. “We were hunting for the St. Louis Rams and the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. That’s who we had to beat. I just remember the level of confidence was at an all-time high for a team coming off three NFC Championship Games. It took us to an almost invincible feeling.”

It’s impossible to discuss that season without mentioning the fallout afterwards. Despite how things turned out with T.O. and the ensuing 6-10 campaign in 2005, Andy Reid told Fox the gamble on Owens was well worth it.

“I like Terrell. All of us could’ve handled it a little different,” Reid said. “I take a little of the blame for that. Everybody I know wants to come after Terrell. I take some of the blame, too. There were things we could’ve done better after the way it worked out. But was it worth it? Yes. I would do it over again. I would. I wish things could’ve worked out better during the Super Bowl. Philadelphia deserved to have a championship there, but it didn’t pan out that way.”

The Eagles had strong leadership on that team, but nobody could seem to find a way to keep McNabb and Owens on the same page for another season.

“If you can somehow keep that team in tact, that offensive staff in tact for another season… you would definitely be the favorites to win the Super Bowl,” Westbrook said last year. “That offense [would have been] the No. 1 offense in the league for a long time, and we would have been so productive.”

Added Dawkins: “What I tried to do was pull guys to the side, away from everybody, and just have conversations with them. ‘What’s going on? What’s the deal? What can I do to help? This is what we need to do to get back on the winning track, and if I can assist in any way, let me know. Even if you don’t let me know, this is what I’m willing to do. This is what we need to do in order for us to get this thing going in the right direction.’

“The thing that you always want to do is get everybody in the room at the same time. That was never able to be done.”

And so, Eagles fans are left to wonder what could have been. But there’s no doubt that “compelling” is a fair way to describe the team that got the franchise closer than any other to the Lombardi Trophy.

WHAT YOU MISSED

What the Oregon sanctions mean for Chip Kelly.

Will Kelly run a physical camp? Players weigh in.

We asked three players a simple question: What do you know about Kelly now that you didn’t know a few months ago? Here are their answers.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz.com offers some thoughts on the defense:

The defense won’t be a top unit until the right players are in place. It is possible we could find out we already have those players, but I think that is an extreme longshot. I like this group, but don’t see them turning out to be a great defense. The secondary still needs work and there are front seven questions to be answered.

I’m not enamored with the system we’re running, but it has grown on me. The most important issue for me is that the team did hire the right coaches to teach the scheme. This staff has a lot of 3-4 and hybrid defense experience. If you want to be creative and complex, you must have the right teachers. I think the Eagles accomplished that.

Over on The Philly Post, Richard Rys is not happy that Marvel has teamed up with the Cowboys:

What’s worse, for me as an Eagles fan, is that the one Marvel/NFL tie-in that makes sense for adults who are not virgins is right here in Philadelphia. Future Hall of Famer Brian Dawkins was known for his love of Wolverine, the X-Men member with unbreakable bones and a berserker rage. He kept Wolverine figures in his locker and named his on-field alter ego after the character’s code name, “Weapon X.” Marvel honored Dawkins with a Wolverine-inspired poster after he retired. But they could have made a mint with Weapon X shirts; in fact, one local company has made a very cool Dawkins tee that isn’t anywhere near as corny as the Cowboys line. Forget Hugh Jackman — if B-Dawk says a Canadian with retractable claws is cool, it’s gospel.

COMING UP

Haven’t you learned by now that we always come up with something?

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip Just ‘One Of the Guys’

According to the creepy robotic voice booming out of the oversized speakers, it was time for Period 4.

“Period 4. Period 4,” warned the voice, as if it was counting down to detonation. Time to move — and move swiftly — to the next phase of practice. Chip Kelly and Michael Vick fast-walked side-by-side to the other end of the field. As Kelly gave instructions, Vick leaned in and put his arm around his new coach.

In another sequence, Kelly noticed something that Riley Cooper did that needed correcting. Instead of waiting for Cooper to return to the line of scrimmage, Kelly jogged out to meet him and coached him up on the way back. (The two seemed to enjoy some good banter for the rest of that session.) Later, during a wide receiver drill, Kelly demonstrated what he wanted out of DeSean Jackson by running the route himself. Of course he had to demonstrate it; how could anyone hear over Thunderstruck?

The new era is officially upon us — that was evident from the moment we stepped out onto the field Monday. This was far from an Andy Reid production.

Between the music blaring and the reporters lounging on the previously-forbidden concrete bleachers, it almost felt like the crew was cutting  loose while the supervisor was away. Until you remember that there is a new supervisor, and this is all his idea.

Change has swept through the entire building since Kelly took over for Reid. The atmosphere is different. Granted it’s only May, but there is little tension. There are fewer barriers and the hierarchy has been de-emphasized. That goes for the relationship between coach and players as well, according to Jason Kelce.

“With Andy — especially with me coming in later in his career after he had built up such a reputation in Philly among the players in the locker room — there was an aura around him where you never wanted to be yourself around him. You always had to have this front up,” Kelce told 97.5 The Fanatic Tuesday. “You always had to be, ‘Yes sir.’ You had to be on your P’s and Q’s. He was a hard man to kind of talk to and be loose around.

“It was always an uptight conversation whenever I had one with him. Whereas Chip is a lot more — at least at this point — one of the guys. He’s still the head coach and you still have great respect for him, but he converses with everybody, he strikes up conversations. He’s much more of a loose guy to be around than Andy was, that’s for sure.”

Maybe, but it’s important to remember that Reid’s approach served him well overall. He was the steward during one of the most successful stretches in franchise history. He established order and developed a winning culture doing things his way.

Kelly’s methods are decidedly different. And while in the honeymoon phase, different wins.

There is no telling how his approach will ultimately translate to the NFL. All we know for sure is that this era will be unlike anything we’ve seen over the last 14 years.

WHAT YOU MISSED

LeSean McCoy‘s publicist calls the allegations against the running back “unequivocally false.”

Wide receivers in Kelly’s offense will have option routes. Sheil explains.

Jason Kelce says his knee is “not 100 percent by any means.” 

Felix Jones talks about being an Eagle.

Kapadia provides some depth chart notes.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Jason Cole had a lengthy one-on-one with Michael Vick. There is a lot in there. One thing we learn is that Kelly doesn’t want his players talking Super Bowl. (Safe to say, he doesn’t want to hear the word “dynasty” either.)

Right, and I won’t go into detail about [my goals]  because Coach Kelly told us as a team, “Don’t talk about winning the Super Bowl, just put in the hard work to get there. You talk about if you get there.” So I don’t think about winning the Super Bowl anymore. I just think about working hard as I can and whatever’s in the future is going to come.

Dan Graziano believes Donovan McNabb’s retirement ceremony should be separate from Reid’s return to Philly.

Nice idea, but if it were me I’d do it some other week. I think the Reid return is going to be its own circus, and that the fans’ feelings about Reid are still too raw and negative to mix those up with McNabb’s big day. Reid will someday have his own day in Philadelphia, but I’d keep McNabb’s separate from that particular game this year. Just my $0.02.

COMING UP

The first set of OTAs wrap up.

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