Chip Kelly hadn’t talked to the media in quite a while, but did so the other night as the Maxwell Club handed out some annual awards. You may remember that they chose Kelly as the pro coach of the year. Kelly didn’t have anything groundbreaking to say, but it was good to get some comments on a few things.
Zach Berman has the full details. Here are the most interesting comments.
Kelly said there was an emphasis on special teams because he felt the Eagles needed to improve their coverage units and return game, where “there were yards left on the field.” Kelly said the team is not interested backups if they cannot contribute on special teams.
The two biggest acquisitions this week were Jenkins and Darren Sproles. Regarding Jenkins, Kelly said that the converted cornerback has skills that allow the Eagles to use their two safeties on the field interchangeably. He did not want a player who is strictly a free safety or strong safety.
“When you’re playing guys like Peyton Manning, you better not have the same guy doing the same thing,” Kelly said. “There are some other guys out there that there are tremendous football players. But for what . . . we were looking for on the defensive side of the ball, Malcolm just seemed to be the guy that was the right fit for us.”
The Sproles acquisition was too fresh for Kelly to expound on exactly how the Eagles plan to use him. He said the defensive coaches had shared how challenging it was to play against Sproles, and the Eagles were attracted to a “talented player, dynamic returner.”
“It was an opportunity to complement with what we have,” Kelly said. “We feel like we have a special, special back in LeSean [McCoy], but take a little load off him a little bit and the fact that he is a punt-return/kick-return guy is a huge bonus for us.”
Kelly really does love versatility and flexibility. That’s huge when figuring out which players the Eagles will target in free agency and the draft.
I am fine with the focus on STs. That’s not the sexiest part of team building, but it can be really important. Kelly placed emphasis there last year, but only got mixed results. The STs did improve from 2012, but not nearly as much as Kelly wanted. Part of that is due to Jason Phillips getting hurt. The Eagles signed him last year to be a backup ILB and key STer. He g0t hurt and missed the season. Phillips was going to be a focal point of the coverage teams. Colt Anderson missed a couple of games due to injury and that didn’t help.
The return game was a major disappointment. The Eagles will likely add another player or two with return skills (in the draft/as UDFAs). They want some competition for the PR and KOR spots.
The moves aren’t guaranteed to work, but you sure can’t say the Eagles haven’t tried to fix STs.
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Some follow-up thoughts on the Jared Allen discussion from yesterday.
Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of expressing my thoughts. Some of you had the notion that I was talking about giving Allen a mega-deal to come in here and be the ROLB. That’s not what I had in mind.
First, let me say that I wasn’t advocating that the Eagles should definitely go out and make a push for Allen. What I was doing was trying to bring up a simple point. The Eagles need to improve their pass rush. Jared Allen is a proven pass rusher. While he doesn’t make sense in the obvious way (4-3 DE to a 3-4 defense), is that being too simplistic? Would there be a way he could fit?
The Eagles use the 3-4 defense as their base look. They use the 3-3-5 and 4-2-5 as the primary sub-packages. Allen doesn’t make sense as the ROLB, but he could be the RDE in the sub-packages. In today’s NFL, that is about half of the snaps in a game. And the Eagles had the most defensive snaps of any team in the league.
Trent Cole played more than 50 snaps a game last year. Does anyone think that was a good thing? Allen played even more than that. I don’t know if you could figure out a way to make this work with both guys, their salaries and roles in a defense where neither guy is an ideal fit.
If somehow the money was right, the players wanted to make it work and the coaches wanted it, maybe the move would be worth trying. That’s a lot of maybes and it tells you this isn’t likely to happen.
As the first week of free agency comes to a close, the market has changed. Most of the mega-money is gone. Compromise becomes a factor in the free agent market. Teams start to settle for players that they didn’t originally have targeted. Players start to settle for less money than they originally wanted. “Good enough” can become good enough to get deals done.
This is the time to start thinking about what might work, although not ideal. You still want to be very picky with the moves you make because adding free agents in too casual a way isn’t a good thing, but I also don’t want to be too close-minded. We should learn from Seattle that you can be creative with players and how you use them. At some spots they’re huge, while others they are undersized. The key for the Seahawks is finding guys with a skill set that is worth forcing into the lineup. That might be a huge DE, small DT or huge CB. Even their QB is unusually small. There is little that is standard about Seattle, but the results speak for themselves.
I’m not wanting another older player or odd fit. I prefer the Eagles to find guys that are exactly what we want. But when those guys aren’t available, I think it is worth at least considering your options and trying to figure out if the risk is worth it.