Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly spoke prior to the team's final OTA practice open to the media on Tuesday. Kelly touched on a number of topics.
Kelly was asked for his thoughts on rookie receiver Jordan Matthews, who has been fairly impressive in the limited practices the media has seen.
Jordan has done a nice job since he's gotten here. Obviously for all the rookies it's getting acclimated with what we are doing in terms of schemes and learning new terminology but you get great effort and a consistent approach on a daily basis from what he gives you. So, [we’re] really excited about them. But right now he's still just acting like a rookie.
One reporter asked if it was 'dangerous' that Matthews was being moved all around the field as a rookie. Kelly responded with a troll answer at first.
Is it dangerous? [Joking] It's extremely dangerous.
No, they are just learning the offense and trying to get a feel for what they can do, and part of this process for us is not only are they learning it but we are learning them so what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses. We've got a long way before we play a game, so it's just a matter of getting as many guys out there and getting as many reps as we can with them.
During the first week of OTAs, first round pick Marcus Smith spoke after practice and explained he's exclusively learning the JACK linebacker position as a backup to Connor Barwin. Kelly downplayed the notion that Smith will only learn this position.
Piggyback off of [what I said about Jordan Matthews]. It's trying to figure out what those guys can do and what their skill set is and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and then we'll go from there.
But you got to start them somewhere. You can't say, hey, learn every single position. Just want to put them at one spot and figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are as we evaluate them. We are in the eighth OTA today and see how they go. We have two more OTAs, Wednesday, Thursday, and then we have three days next week. And then we'll sit down as a staff and what's our plan as we approach preseason camp.
Kelly later explained the thought process behind starting Smith at JACK.
We had two, we had Brandon [Graham] backing up Trent [Cole]. So we had no one backing up Connor right now. So let's get him on the field and see what he can do.
Kelly has been impressed with the team's biggest free agent signing.
He’s been outstanding and I said that the last time I talked to you guys; his ability, because he's played multiple positions in this league, he's been a corner, he's been a safety. Rob Ryan, I have a ton of respect for, runs a pretty sophisticated defense in New Orleans, and I think his ability to transition from that to ours, there are some similarities in terms of what we are doing. He's become the vocal leader on the back end for us, so we are excited to see where he's going.
The Eagles coach isn't surprised that Jenkins has made a smooth transition to Philadelphia.
No, it's one of the reasons we targeted him and that's what we were looking for and he had the specific skill set that we were looking for. So he was the No. 1 guy we were looking for in free agency.
Kelly was asked how kicker Alex Henery has looked this spring, especially with his kickoffs.
Yeah, I think [Henery's] gotten a little bit stronger in terms of the distance he's kicking the ball and in terms of where we are placing the ball during kickoff drill. Excited to see where it is, especially when we get into some real live situations. The tough thing with the kickers is we can't rush them, we can't do anything. A lot of times right now it's like they are going out on the driving range and hitting balls. It's not real live action for them. Again it's another position where we won't have anything determined until we get into preseason camp and get into some preseason games.
Rookies earning their role
You may have noticed from my notes that Jordan Matthews is running with the second team, Marcus Smith has been running with the second and third string, and so on. A lot of this has to do with how Kelly wants to run a fast practice.
We script it that way. Our ones obviously have a better grasp of the playbook, so in certain situations, we want to see things done. So instead of slowing down 10 other guys, because one guy is not sure what the play is, we make sure we know when that group is in where they are. I think [offensive coordinator] Pat [Shurmur] and [defensive coordinator] Billy [Davis] have done a really good job of cooperating on how they are scripting and the looks they are going to face. Just a combination of where it is.
Sproles has been another impressive player from Eagles OTAs. Kelly was asked if he learned anything more about his new offensive weapon.
I don't think I learned anything. You know, we knew he was a really, really talented player and when he got here, he showed that right from the jump. We heard from the coaches that coached him what an intelligent football player he is and learned that from the first day he was in this building and how sharp he is and how dedicated he is. I talked to Norv Turner and he remarked to me when I saw him at one of the pro days, he said, ‘You'll have to slow him down because he only knows one speed.’ And that's the same thing you see. Darren practices and trains at one speed. It's awesome. He fits in with the culture that we want in terms of preparation but it's everything we wanted when we got him here.
We got a really good one in [TE] James Casey, also. But again we are not playing any games so we are just trying to get as many reps as we can. They are both playing tight end and they are both playing move tight end. They are just getting better at what they do and trying to get as many reps as they possibly can.
I find it interesting that Kelly made sure to note Casey. While Casey didn't have a huge role on offense, he did see increased snaps later in the year as a crucial run blocker. Plus he arguably finished as the team's best special teams player. Casey's salary may not seem to match his value but it's clear that Kelly likes him a lot.
Lane Johnson's second year
Kelly is happy with the progress he's seen from second year right tackle Lane Johnson.
He's different. Obviously he's not a first‑year player and he's not relying on [G] Todd Herremans to make the call for him. Similar to Mychal Kendricks, I think sometimes Mychal leaned on DeMeco and didn't make the decisions himself. Last year a lot, Lane made decisions with Todd Herremans; and Todd just told me what to do and executed. Now Lane knows what to do and he's communicating a little bit better with those guys.
That's it for now. Kelly will speak again before practice every day during Eagles mandatory minicamp next week (June 17-19).