Roseman: Criticizing Chip For Oregon Bias Is Unfair

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Chip Kelly answered several questions last week about the number of Oregon players on the Eagles’ roster.

When the team made final cuts this weekend, five remained: defensive ends Brandon Bair and Taylor Hart; wide receivers Josh Huff and Jeff Maehl; and linebacker Casey Matthews.

General manager Howie Roseman met with reporters Saturday afternoon and defended his head coach when it comes to choosing former Ducks. Read more »

Roster Analysis: Sizing Up the Eagles’ Defense

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

The Eagles made cuts today, trimming the roster down to 53 players in advance of the 4 p.m. deadline. Here’s a position-by-position look at what the squad looks like on defense. If you missed the post on the offense, click here.

Defensive line (7): Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen, Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart.

If you would have told me a month ago that Bair was going to make the roster, I would have vehemently disagreed. But his preseason performance made keeping him seem like a no-brainer. Read more »

How Long’s Injury Affects the Eagles

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Eagles outside linebacker Travis Long suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during Thursday night’s preseason finale and is out for the season, according to the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane.

Long had drawn praise from the coaching staff all summer. An undrafted free agent last year, he figured to be a part of the rotation at outside linebacker. Long had also been cross-training at inside linebacker and was being counted on to add some depth there as well.

But because of the injury, he’ll be out for the season. Read more »

Notes: Henery Misses the Mark

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Alex Henery got one opportunity on Friday night, and missed badly. His 47-yard attempt in the second quarter never had a chance, sailing wide right.

“You’ve got to make 47-yarders in this league,” said Chip Kelly afterwards.

Henery made seven of 10 kicks between 40 and 49 yards last season. He had only one miss from that range over the previous two seasons.

Is Kelly confident that Henery is the answer at the kicker position? Read more »

Inside Voices: Getting On Kelly’s Bad Side

chipkelly_400_102613Casey Matthews was asked: What’s the angriest you’ve ever seen Chip Kelly? He smiled immediately as the answer popped right to the front of his brain.

The offseason heading into Matthews’ senior year, Kelly’s players kept showing up in the news for all the wrong reasons.  Running back LaMichael James was arrested  on domestic violence charges. Place-kicker Rob Beard and defensive end Matt Simms were charged with misdemeanor assault for their involvement in a street fight. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was identified as a suspect in a theft.

Kelly called a team meeting to express his disappointment. That night linebacker Kiko Alonso was cited for driving under the influence.

“He told us the guy was off the team. He was mad,” said Matthews. “We were in the team meeting room. He rips us for the offseason — everyone is getting in trouble, the star quarterback was stealing from a frat, domestic violence charge, a bunch of little stuff — finally he calls a team meeting, rips us — get it together — and then that night [the DUI]. It was bad.

“He couldn’t breathe. That was the worst I’ve seen.” Read more »

Game Review: Eagles Defense Vs. Redskins Offense

Mychal Kendricks 1If you missed the offense, click here. Below is the position-by-position review of the Eagles’ defensive performance against the Redskins, after having re-watched the game.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

* The starting defensive line from left to right was Cedric Thornton, Isaac Sopoaga and Fletcher Cox. Cox moved around a bit in nickel, sometimes playing left defensive end. A big hole opened up between him and Trent Cole in the first as Alfred Morris picked up 15. But Cox gave great effort on the play and eventually chased him down. He didn’t do much as a pass-rusher until late. Cox got free on a big blitz in the fourth and crushed Robert Griffin III. He later sacked Griffin when the Eagles used just a three-man rush.

* Thornton had a good second half too. He hustled from the back side, dropping Morris for a 2-yard loss and later charged through a double-team on the play where DeMeco Ryans sacked Griffin. Thornton also used his length, batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage. He missed a tackle on a 3rd-and-1 in the fourth, but otherwise played well.

* Tough to grade Sopoaga without the All-22 (not released yet). But he drew a holding penalty on a run play in the third and chased Griffin to the sideline on an incompletion later in the quarter.

* The backups from left to right were Clifton Geathers, Damion Square and Bennie Logan. Geathers got good pressure on two occasions, once fighting a double team and forcing Griffin to scramble. Logan blew up a stretch play in the third as Mychal Kendricks finished the tackle after a 1-yard run. Logan also played some nose tackle and drew a holding penalty in the third.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

* In case you were wondering, Trent Cole was still a beast upon re-watch. The Eagles’ right outside linebacker owned the first half. He flew in from the back side and forced a Morris fumble early on. He jumped on Morris in the end zone to notch a safety. He dropped Morris for no gain on a zone-read play. He came flying in at Griffin and hit him as a pass-rusher. He slipped past the fullback and dropped Morris for no gain. And he tackled Griffin after a scramble on third down, forcing a punt. That was all in the first half.

* Cole dropped 23.8 percent of the time on pass plays, per Pro Football Focus. His best option in coverage might be to drill the opposing receiver. That’s what he did on one play in the third, forcing the receiver to the ground within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Cole hit Griffin on a play-action pass in the third and closed in on the play where Cox got a sack. Cole gets this week’s award for “player who most exceeded expectations.”

* Connor Barwin also played really well. The Eagles’ primary goal was to limit the Redskins’ ground game early on. Barwin forced Morris out of bounds for a 3-yard loss in the first. He stood up over the center and rushed the QB on the Brandon Boykin interception. He hustled to bring down Pierre Garcon after a 5-yard gain on a screen. And Barwin pressured Griffin on at least four occasions. Really strong debut.

* Brandon Graham played 19 snaps. On 14 passing plays, he never dropped back. Looked a lot more like a nickel pass-rusher than a 3-4 outside linebacker to me. We’ll wee if that continues. Graham set the edge on a Morris run that was dropped for a 2-yard loss and pressured Griffin on two occasions.

* Casey Matthews mixed in for three snaps, and it looked like he was actually playing outside linebacker.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS

* Mychal Kendricks was everywhere. All signs point to a big second-year leap out of him. He flew to the ball and knocked Morris out of bounds for a 3-yard loss early on. Kendricks did a great job to avoid blockers and tackle Morris on a first-quarter screen. His versatility was on full display. Kendricks blitzed seven times, per PFF. He rushed unblocked in the second and crushed Griffin, forcing him into an intentional grounding. And Kendricks leveled Griffin again in the third. On the Cary Williams interception, Kendricks dropped back as a safety. Outstanding performance overall.

* DeMeco Ryans was solid too. He blitzed and knocked over the left guard on a play-action pass in the third and sacked Griffin later in the quarter.

* Jake Knott mixed in a little as well. It looked like Kendricks might have had an equipment issue at one point.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

* It’s difficult to gauge their play based on TV tape. But I didn’t see either Williams or Bradley Fletcher give up a completion in man coverage. There were a few times when they were dropping in zone and allowed receptions in front of them. But that seemed to be the design of the defense. Definitely did not see that performance coming from the starting corners.

* Williams came flying in on a corner blitz and sacked Griffin in the second. He made a fantastic interception near the sideline in the third and broke up a deep fourth-down pass late. Great performance from Employee 26.

* Fletcher was really good too. He made two good plays on the ball, forcing incompletions and once had a little luck on his side as the receiver dropped the ball. Fletcher suffered a concussion, and his status for this weekend is up in the air.

* Brandon Boykin got picked on quite a bit. No one’s confirming, but he may been a little banged-up. Boykin blitzed five times, the most of any defensive back. He played the slot, but then moved outside when Williams and Fletcher got dinged-up in the second half. Boykin would likely play the outside if Fletcher can’t go this week.

* Rookie Jordan Poyer played 17 snaps in the slot and got picked on. It looked like the 10-yard Leonard Hankerson TD was on him, and Poyer also allowed a 5-yard completion on 3rd-and-2. He had trouble getting off his block on a screen to Pierre Garcon that picked up 17.

* Safety is impossible to assess off TV tape, but the Eagles did not give up a completion that traveled more than 20 yards from the line of scrimmage until the Redskins’ final drive. The game-plan once they got the lead seemed to be to blitz and keep all receptions in front of them.

* Overall, Billy Davis dialed up a lot of blitzes. Per Stats, Inc., the Eagles blitzed Griffin 29 times on 56 dropbacks, or 51.8 percent of the time. On those plays, he was 13-for-26 (50 percent) for 121 yards (4.7 YPA). Griffin was sacked twice and took off once.

* Patrick Chung seemed to hold up fine until that fourth-quarter touchdown. “Needs to have better ball skills than that,” said Jon Gruden on the play. Earl Wolff played seven snaps, but mostly, it’s going to be Chung and Nate Allen early on.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Kelly: No Favoritism Towards Ex-Oregon Players

0V3J8539Of the 61 spots on the Eagles’ roster (practice squad included), five are occupied by guys who played their college ball at Oregon.

Today, Chip Kelly was asked if his familiarity with the former Ducks can help him build his program with the Eagles.

“If we were gonna sing the Oregon fight song, it would,” Kelly joked.

“Besides that, I’m familiar with them and I know what they do, what Jeff [Maehl] can do as a special-teams player. I know what Casey [Matthews] can do as a special-teams player. I was with Pat [Chung] for a year. Isaac Remington’s a kid that we brought in. We moved him to the offensive line just before we released him. The other guys that we released on the offensive line are not practice-squad eligible. So we think he’s got an upside as an offensive lineman. We’re gonna take a look and see what he can do.”

Maehl, Matthews and Chung are all on the 53-man roster. Remington and defensive lineman Brandon Bair were added to the practice squad.

Maehl was acquired from the Texans and made the squad over undrafted free agent Russell Shepard and veteran Greg Salas. Matthews made the team in favor of Emmanuel Acho.

Asked specifically what role his familiarity with Maehl and Matthews had on his decisions, Kelly said: “None. It’s about special teams. Every backup player on this team, and we’ve said it since Day One, there’s three ways to make this football team: special teams, special teams, special teams. So it’s where did they contribute from a special-teams factor.

“If you’re gonna be the fourth or fifth receiver, and right now that’s Damaris [Johnson] and Jeff [Maehl], it’s the value that they have to Coach [Dave] Fipp and our special teams. And it’s the same thing: Why did we keep three [backup] inside linebackers as opposed to one backup outside linebacker? It’s how those three players contribute on special teams, and that’s kind of where it was. That’s why we made the move to get [Najee] Goode from Tampa Bay. It’s the same thing.”

Kelly had an interesting comment when explaining why he kept five inside linebackers instead of OLB Chris McCoy.

“Right now, at our outside linebacker spot, we had a lot of rush guys, not a lot of drop guys,” he said. “The one drop guy we had was Connor Barwin, so to keep a third rush guy… we kept Vinny [Curry]. We kind of look at Vinny, could play in that spot for us if possible. But to keep another rush guy that’s not contributing on teams just wasn’t gonna help us.”

Of course, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham have been practicing as rush/drop guys all preseason long. Perhaps Kelly’s response suggests they’re not going to be in coverage much once the regular season begins.

ALLEN TO START AT SAFETY

Nate Allen will start opposite Chung at safety Monday night.

Asked how he came to that decision, Kelly said: “Film evaluation, games played, production so far for the preseason camp and OTAs.”

But he also added that rookie Earl Wolff is “pushing” Allen and will see playing time Monday night. Whether he and Allen will rotate is unclear.

“We’ve just got to get him in the game,” Kelly said.

INJURY UPDATE

Offensive tackle Dennis Kelly (back) is officially out for Monday. Cornerback Brandon Hughes (hand) is likely out, although that’s not final. And tight end James Casey (hamstring) is practicing with the team today.

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.

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