Eagles Wake-Up Call: Chip On Developing Rookies
The Eagles drafted seven players back in May, and through five games, only two have been weekly contributors: Jordan Matthews and Beau Allen.
First-rounder Marcus Smith II has played a total of 34 snaps, and those have come at a new position (inside linebacker). Third-rounder Josh Huff had been bothered by a shoulder injury and finally saw some action against the Rams. Jaylen Watkins has yet to play a snap, and Taylor Hart has yet to be active. Ed Reynolds, meanwhile, is on the practice squad.
Matthews is playing 58.2 percent of the snaps and has 19 catches for 176 yards and two touchdowns. Allen has played 18 percent of the snaps and flashed a few times in the past couple of weeks.
On Wednesday, Chip Kelly was asked about the rookies and made it clear that he’s not planning on using game action to develop them. They’ll get on the field when they’re ready.
“We say the same thing about everybody when they get here: ‘When you get here, you’re a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, and the best players are going to play,’ ” Kelly said. “If the best player happens to be a young player, then he’s going to play. If the best player is an older player, he’s going to play. But it’s all based on what you do when you get here. We don’t look at a guy and say, ‘Hey, he’s this, we have to force him in.’ I think you’d lose the rest of the guys on your team if you say, ‘Why are you playing this guy? Just because we drafted him high.’ He has to prove that he deserves playing time.”
Kelly has backed up that philosophy with his actions. Brandon Bair, for example, had an excellent summer so he made the 53-man roster even though he turns 30 in November.
In Kelly’s first year, more rookies played. Lane Johnson was a starter, and Bennie Logan moved into that role as well. Earl Wolff started games at safety, and Zach Ertz rotated in at tight end. But put simply, that’s because those players were better than the other guys on the roster.
“The emphasis is winning each week, that’s it,” Kelly said. “Bottom line. If I’m going to try to groom a guy because he’s going to be a good player two or three years down the road, I ain’t going to be here two or three years down the road. We’re trying to win our next game, and our best guys are going to play in our next game. That’s the way I’ve always approached it and that’s the way I’m going to approach it.
“It’s been a meritocracy. If you merit playing time, you’ll get playing time. But it just can’t be because we took somebody ‘here’ or we think ‘this’ about that guy. That’s not the way I want to do it. That’s not going to be done. We’re going to play the best guys and give ourselves the best opportunity to win each and every week. If we start planning now that we want to develop someone three or four years down the road, I think we’re short-changing them. I think we’re short-changing the guys in the locker room that are giving everything they’ve got and trying to understand, ‘Why am I not playing if I’m better than that guy right now?’
“The bottom line is we’re winning right now and that is the most important thing for us. That’s what we’re always going to look to is, ‘What is our short-term goal in terms of winning football games?’ I know if I was a paying fan, I wouldn’t want to go out there and say, ‘Hey, they’re going to develop and be somebody and three or four years down the road they’re going to be a really good football team.’ That’s not what this deal is about. You have to win every single Sunday.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Kelly’s “winning right now” philosophy plays out when it comes to cutting ties with older players or signing older free agents.
But for now, it’s clear that the rookies are going to have to prove their worth if they want to get on the field.
WHAT YOU MISSED
On Wednesday, Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans sat out from practice.
We take an All-22 look at the Eagles’ defensive breakdowns.
“I wasn’t pissed about it.” LeSean McCoy addresses being pulled late in last week’s game.
Nick Foles is riding the wave of being a young starter at QB in the NFL.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Paul Domowitch of the Daily News has his Eagles-Giants scouting report up:
No one expected Nick Foles to match his once-in-a-career 2013 statistics, but they did expect better numbers than he has put up in the first five games. Foles is 23rd in the league in passing (82.5), 26th in completion percentage (59.1), 22nd in yards per attempt (6.80) and 18th in interception percentage (2.5). He has struggled with his footwork, his accuracy and his decision-making. His 81.3 third-down passer rating is nearly 30 points lower than it was a year ago. What has really impacted the offense has been his lack of success with the deep ball. In the last two games, he’s 1-for-16 on throws of 20-plus yards. TE Zach Ertz is averaging 16.2 yards per catch, but has been underutilized. The Giants have eight interceptions in the last three games. But injuries have cut into their cornerback depth. Ex-Eagle Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was in and out of the game last week with a leg injury. Slot corner Walter Thurmond is lost for the season. And dime corner Zack Bowman also is hurt.
Tommy Lawlor of IgglesBlitz assesses the defense and discusses Billy Davis‘ play-calling:
Bill Davis cut back on the blitzing and played a more conventional style. He rushed 4 and had the DBs try to keep everything in front of them. The goal is to make the offense move down the field in short chunks and burn the clock. You hope a sack or holding penalty will put the offense in 3rd and long and that you’ll then be able to get them off the field. This if defensive football 101.
The problem is that the Eagles did a lousy job of playing that way. I’d love to blame one person or position, but this was a group issue. There were mistakes on each level of the defense and from a variety of players. I do think the absence of Mychal Kendricks really hurt the defense in that situation. The one thing you really want when playing like that is speed in the middle of the field. You need defenders who can fly to the ball.
We’ll talk to Kelly and have notes from practice.