Chip Kelly is faced with a good dilemma. The Eagles are talented enough to be competitive right away. Kelly is also a new coach that can think about the future. There is no “win now” mandate for him to deal with. What is a coach to do?
Andy Reid was all about the future. He drafted his franchise QB, Donovan McNabb, #2 overall. His RT was going to be rookie John Welbourn (he tore his ACL in the season opener). Rookie Doug Brzezinski started all 16 games at LG. Reid’s MLB was 2nd year player Jeremiah Trotter, and he was backed up by rookie Barry Gardner. Rookies like Dameane Douglas, Rashard Cook and Damon Moore were key backups and STers. Reid was focused on laying the foundation for the future.
Ray Rhodes as all about winning. Forget “win now”, I’m not sure that was fast enough for him. Ray added veteran players all over the place. His QB was going to be Randall Cunningham, 32, or Rodney Peete, 29. Ray signed Raleigh McKenzie, 32, to be his Center. The MLB was Kurt Gouviea, 31. And those guys were kids compared to Art Monk (38), Guy McIntyre (34) and Ed West (34).
Kelly hasn’t chosen a clear path.
He kept Mike Vick on the roster, showing this isn’t all about the future. The other QBs are a rookie and 2nd year player, so the future hasn’t been ignored. There are plenty of key young players (3rd yr or less) on the roster: Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Zach Ertz, Bryce Brown, Damaris Johnson, Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Boykin, Vinny Curry and Bennie Logan. The Eagles eagerly embraced UDFAs like Damion Square and Russell Shepard. Think about the interesting projects the Eagles added this year in Ifeanyi Momah, Michael Bamiro, Nic Purcell and Clifton Geathers. Not all of them will pan out, but the team wanted to be creative in trying to find unique young talent.
I wonder if Kelly has a specific plan or is looking at this differently than us. He may be true to his word about competition and trying to choose the best players at various spots rather than looking 2 or 3 years down the road. Kelly didn’t have true long-term situations to deal with at Oregon. Players were there for 4 or 5 years.
Kelly wants to win. He’s made no bones about that. He has shown the discipline to not load up on older players. He’s mixed in guys like Isaac Sopoaga, James Casey and Cary Williams. I thought Kelly would have dealt Jason Avant in the spring, but he kept him. One thing these guys have in common is that they are leaders and can help set the tone in the locker room.
There are going to be some interesting decisions coming up, in terms of roster spots and starting jobs. We could get more of an idea of Kelly’s thinking based on what he does with these situations. Future? Win now? Or is he sticking with a mixture?
Right now Greg Salas is a better WR than Russell Shepard. But Salas is 2 years older and has less upside. Which player does Kelly keep? There could be a similar battle between Casey Matthews and Jake Knott at ILB. Heck, think about Punter. Donnie Jones has clearly been better than rookie Brad Wing. But wouldn’t this be the year to roll the dice on the rookie, who could solidify the position for the next 5 years (or more)?
Danny Watkins will be a really interesting case. I mentioned earlier today that I projected him to make the team. I liked what I saw of Danny in the opener and think he could look even better as he gets the hang of the offense. A few people on Twitter strongly objected to keeping Watkins, due to the combination of age, talent, cost and circumstances. If Kelly is trying to keep his best set of OL, I think Watkins makes it. Howie and the personnel guys who factor in age and contracts may push Kelly to dump him. Obviously the real key here is how well Watkins plays in the next 2 games. If he’s pedestrian or flat out bad, that ends the debate.
The Eagles could consider putting Michael Bamiro on the roster and just not playing him. They could keep UDFA Matt Tobin. He’s played LT this summer (mainly due to injuries). I think his future is at OG. There could be a player cut from another team that is a G/C type the Eagles like.
As for starting jobs, we’ll see if Bennie Logan steals away the NT spot from Sopoaga. We’ll see if Earl Wolff can win a starting job. These aren’t spot where the rookies have substantially more talent so the easy move is to go with the more experienced player. Kelly may keep it simple and just go with the guy who is playing the best football. The next game or two will help decide what happens.
I am curious and excited to see how things play out. Every move will give us a hint as to how Kelly thinks. At the end of the year we should have a better feel for things. Of course, Kelly could keep us confused by straddling the fence and trying to win now, but with young talent. Kelly just might be the coach to pull that off.
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Earlier today I mentioned the Eagles having 51 or 52 players I liked right now. Understand that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with them as the best possible 52 guys. Clearly that isn’t true.
Go open your cabinets and look around. Is there enough for you to make a satisfactory meal? That’s different than having the meal that you ideally want.
Team building takes time. The Eagles need another couple of offseasons to get this roster where Kelly wants it. That doesn’t mean he can’t like the current group. They’re just not his ideal group.
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Lots of questions about Clay Harbor as trade bait for the Dolphins. They lost Dustin Keller the other day to injury and have an odd collection of players. Harbor, like Keller, is a very good athlete. The Dolphins don’t have anyone on the roster who fits that description right now.
I’d say a trade is unlikely. I think Harbor will make the roster. The Dolphins aren’t likely to offer enough to make the Eagles want to deal him. Would you trade Harbor for a 6th round pick?
The catch here is that the Eagles could like someone like Derek Carrier more than we know. If so, they could deal Harbor and project Carrier to take his spot. At that point, even a late round pick may make sense. And maybe they could get a conditional pick so that if Harbor played well, his value would go up.
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Do you want to enjoy Jimmy Bama making fun of Jerry Jones? Go here.
He also wrote about the Eagles running the ball…even on 3rd downs. This feels like Jules Verne writing about submarines or rocket ships. Is this really possible?