When Chip Kelly was introduced as the Eagles’ head coach earlier this month, he was asked if he believes the team is capable of making a quick turnaround in 2013.
“I’m still in the process of evaluating that,” Kelly said. “The one thing that attracts me about the roster is the youth. It’s one of the youngest teams in the league. You have to watch about three plays to understand the speed. Youth and speed are two things you can’t coach. I’m excited about that.”
The point about youth is worth exploring. Coaches and GMs constantly talk about how young their teams are. Sometimes, it’s used as a built-in excuse. And other times, well, it’s the truth.
A new name entered the public discussion about the Eagles’ defensive coordinator opening Thursday when the Saints fired Steve Spagnuolo.
Sean Payton explained that the Saints are moving to a 3-4. Of course, it didn’t help that New Orleans’ defense was terrible last year.
Andy Reid and the Eagles tried to hire Spagnuolo (in some capacity) last offseason, but he decided to go to the Saints. He spent eight seasons as an assistant in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2006 (quality control, defensive backs, linebackers). Spagnuolo was the Giants’ defensive coordinator in 2007 and 2008 before going to St. Louis. The Rams went 10-38 in three seasons under Spagnuolo’s direction.
So, the question is: Should the Eagles give him a serious look as defensive coordinator?
Mobile, Alabama was taken over this week by scouts, coaches, agents and, of course, Birds 24/7 writers, all looking to spot the next big thing. There is value to Senior Bowl week, as the NFL decision-makers get to visit with the prospects and watch them compete up close against top-tier collegiate talent. It is also dangerous to put too much stock in what you see.
With that in mind, a look at some players whose arrows appear to be pointing up after a week in the Mobile sun. We’ll focus on potential positions of need for the Eagles.
A tiny nugget to start with:
Chip Kelly is big on speed, and Denard Robinson is world-class in that category.
It comes as no surprise, then, that Kelly tried to get Robinson to come to Oregon out of high school. Robinson chose Michigan instead, something Kelly reminded him of when the two sat down for a meeting this week at the Senior Bowl.
“I talked to Chip. I talked to him for a while,” said Robinson. “It was good. He told me he came down to Deerfield Beach to recruit me. He was like, ‘I wish you would have came [to Oregon].’ But it all worked out.”
A week ago today, the Eagles introduced Chip Kelly as their new head coach.
His first order of business was to fill out his staff. The Eagles are not confirming any of the moves and plan to announce all the hires at once. But many of the pieces are in place. Here’s a look at where things currently stand.
Chase Thomas was in no mood to crow.
The Stanford linebacker was part of a defensive attack that slowed down Chip Kelly and Oregon last season. The Ducks failed to score at least 35 points just one time in 2012 – against Thomas, head coach David Shaw and the Cardinal in a 17-14 loss.
There is a good chance the Eagles switch over to a 3-4 under Chip Kelly — a sizable project in what will turn out to be a rather extensive remodeling effort this offseason.
Kelly hasn’t publicly committed to the transition, and perhaps it would be best to officially have a defensive coordinator in place before doing so. But there is a sense that he would like to make the move.
According to Howie Roseman, the team’s preparations for such a change predate Kelly coming on board.
Chip Kelly has a connection with Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel. He recruited the 6-4, 240-pound signal caller when Manuel was coming out of high school. Manuel, a Virginia native, ultimately chose FSU because it was closer to home than Oregon, but continued a relationship with Kelly.
And now, he wants to play for him.
MOBILE, Ala. – Kyle Long remembers the teaching moment quite well.
Oregon was getting ready for its Fiesta Bowl matchup against Kansas State. During practice, the Ducks ran a screen, but execution was far from perfect. Long and his buddy, tight end Colt Lyerla, went to block the same defender.
After the play, they started arguing over who screwed up. That’s when Chip Kelly stepped in.
“Chip ran over and said, ‘Both of you shut-up. Get over here,'” Long recalls. “And he had this smirk on his face. I knew something good was coming. He always has this little paper in his back pocket. He pulls it out and draws a square.”
Gus Bradley held court on the field of Ladd-Peebles Stadium following Senior Bowl practice Tuesday, dressed in Jaguars gear and wearing a big grin.
Half the media in the gathering was from Philadelphia, steering questions away from what’s to come in Jacksonville to talk about what almost was with the Eagles. The brief courtship drew big attention. Bradley had heard about the passion of this fan base, and saw it first hand before he even touched down on Philly soil.
During Chip Kelly’s time at Oregon, his practices became the stuff of legend.
From a November article by Chris Brown of Grantland.com:
For all of the hype surrounding Oregon games, Oregon practices might be even better. Oregon practices are filled with blaring music and players sprinting from drill to drill. Coaches interact with players primarily through whistles, air horns, and semi-communicative grunts. Operating under the constraint of NCAA-imposed practice time limits, Kelly’s sessions are designed around one thing: maximizing time. Kelly’s solution is simple: The practice field is for repetitions. Traditional “coaching” — correcting mistakes, showing a player how to step one way or another, or lecturing on this or that football topic — is better served in the film room.
But will those methods translate to the NFL? We asked Kelly how his practices at this level will differ from the ones at Oregon.
The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. is where the different arms of the NFL connect. You’ll see coaches like Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier catching up in the bleachers. Drew Rosenhaus walking around on his cell phone, looking to pick up a new client or two. Scouts and GMs keeping an eye on prospects. And college kids looking to get to the next level.
For Kelly, this marks his first offseason as an NFL head coach. He looked right at home, talking shop with Nick Saban one minute. And catching up with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin the next.
After being officially introduced on Thursday, Kelly’s in the process of finalizing his staff. No names have been announced, but we saw plenty of guys with Philadelphia Eagles credentials hanging from their neck today.