The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Lions

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia EaglesChip Kelly might not admit it, but he has favorites.

Players whose names he will bring up unprompted. Guys he’ll go out of his way to mention as underrated or under-appreciated. And atop that list this year has been tight end Brent Celek.

On the surface, Celek’s numbers are unimpressive: 23 receptions for 319 yards. He’s on pace for his lowest per-game averages since 2008 in both categories. But there are plenty of reasons why Kelly has sung Celek’s praises all year long.

“I think Chip respects guys that give everything they’ve got on every single play when you’re out there,” Celek said. “I respect everything that he’s done. Everything that he does makes sense, and you as a football player, that’s what you want. You want answers to some of your questions, and he answers those. And everything he wants you to do, it all makes sense.”

The strong relationship between Celek and Kelly was no given during the offseason. The seventh-year tight end was an Andy Reid loyalist. Even as things fell apart last season, Celek stood at his locker after every game and defended his head coach.

Meanwhile, after Kelly was hired, he made moves to bolster Celek’s position, signing James Casey in free agency and drafting Zach Ertz in the second round. Those moves could have rubbed Celek the wrong way and put his standing with the team in question, but Kelly made sure that was a non-issue. Read more »

Williams On Eagles’ Offense: It’ll Look Like Oregon

No coach on Chip Kelly’s staff has been with the franchise longer than Ted Williams.

He started off as the tight ends coach for a couple years, was in charge of the running backs from 1997 to 2012 and is now back with the tight ends in his 19th season.

At 69-years-old, having seen plenty throughout the course of his career, Williams seemed like a good person to ask about what Kelly’s offense is going to look like once it’s unveiled during the regular season.

“I don’t think that anything’s going to change from what he knows,” Williams said. “It’ll be very, very similar to what you saw at Oregon because the play-calling… he needs to be comfortable with what he’s saying to the offense and how he’s communicating it. So you don’t just out of the box decide that you’re going to do something a certain way and you don’t feel comfortable with it. So it’s going to look like Oregon.”

And what about the zone read? Will that be a part of the offense even if the quarterback is Nick Foles?

“We haven’t decided that particular part of it,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t say we haven’t run it, but we haven’t decided it. But it’ll look like Oregon to a degree based on what we do and how we want to do it and based on game-planning. How much of what we do depends on who we’re playing.”

Williams is now coaching the tight ends, a position of added importance in Kelly’s system. The buzz word all offseason has been versatility. The Eagles signed free agent James Casey and drafted Zach Ertz in the second round. They also still have Brent Celek on the roster.

According to Williams, the overall theme of the offense is that it will have the ability to change, based on the look of the defense.

“The biggest thing about this offense is it has flexibility, so that’s exciting,” Williams said. “You don’t get pigeon-holed. I’m not the guy who always lines up here. I have the flexibility to line up over there, over here, I can be moved, I can motion.”

That could mean plenty of two tight-end sets, running backs motioning out wide and so on. The main idea in practices (that have been open to the media) has centered around getting to the line of scrimmage early, surveying the defense and running plays that give the offense an advantage.

The route-runners face changes too. As we’ve written about on several occasions, receivers (and that includes tight ends) will oftentimes have options on their routes, based on the look of the defense. According to Williams, that’s a major change from previous years.

“The West Coast offense, while expansive, is a concept offense,” he said. “And it’s really based upon pieces fitting into concepts. And if you don’t fit in the correct position in a concept, the concept gets lost. And so consequently, I don’t want to say restrictive, but more demanding to confront.

“This offense is just not like that. There is some regimented, there is some principles in terms of how you do what you do. But there’s also some flexibility. If you see this, here’s what your option is. If you see something else, here’s what your option is. The West Coast offense wasn’t designed that way. From the Paul Brown era, the Bill Walsh era, they knew what they wanted, and they wanted it a certain way.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Bryce Brown, the next Albert Pujols?

Running backs coach Ted Williams had a connection to Bryce Brown — someone with an eye, apparently, for exceptional talent.

“I have a friend who lives in the town where he grew up and knew him as a child. I have a lot of faith in this person,” said Williams, his smile growing, “because he also lived in the same town where Albert Pujols grew up. He knew Pujols when he was a high school junior. When he said Bryce Brown can play and he’s the real deal, take that to the bank.”

Of course, Williams’ inside guy wasn’t the only one who knew just how fabulous a high school player Brown was. The 6-foot, 220-pounder from Wichita East High School was considered the top recruit in 2008. He left Tennessee after his freshman year, however, reportedly citing depression and a feeling that he did not fit in. He transferred to Kansas State and sat out the 2010 season, then played in just one game before leaving that program as well.

It would take more than just a solid recommendation to convince the Eagles that his head is now in the right place.

“I worked him out, I spent time with he and his family and I got to know him,” said Williams. “I don’t think everybody put in that kind of time. He was a guy that was off the radar based on the fact that he played one year of college football.

“In my heart of hearts, he’s on purpose. He has given every impression that he is willing to take the next step.”

Brown was not eager to talk about the past upon arrival at Lehigh Sunday, but said he is now in a different place mentally.

“I think so,” said Brown. “I’m happy. I’ve always wanted to play football at the next level. Things happened in college that I’m not  going to discuss…but this is definitely an opportunity for me, and I recognize that.”

Brown said that Adrian Peterson and Reggie Bush are two backs that he admires and tries to emulate. He appreciates their versatility and wants to be a player that can be a factor both in the receiving game and as a blocker. The latter will be a particular challenge for Brown, who said that he has “never” pass-blocked but is willing to learn. The Eagles won’t keep you around if you can’t handle that element of the game.

As Sheil points out, nobody played more snaps than LeSean McCoy last year and it may have affected him down the stretch, as he averaged 3.4 yards per carry over his final five games. Andy Reid is on record saying he wants to lessen McCoy’s load, and Dion Lewis has yet to distinguish himself as the man capable of picking up the slack. That opens the door for Brown and fellow rookie Chris Polk to steal a roster spot, and maybe even some carries in 2012.

“He is an excellent prospect,” said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. “I know this: He has a great opportunity here, and let’s see if he can make the most of it.”

You can follow Tim McManus on Twitter and email him at tmcmanus@phillymag.com.