Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly spoke prior to the team's first mandatory minicamp practice on Tuesday. He touched on a number of topics.
Nick Foles progression
Just a better command and an understanding of what's going on. You know, lining guys up. Coaches were lining everybody up last year. But now Nick has really got a great command of what we are doing offensively to kind of ‑‑ and you can just see it. There's a lot more confidence in how he's playing and now it's just a matter of refining the little things for him, footwork, hand‑offs, carrying off fakes. Not the minor details; they are really major details, but he's not worried with where he's going with the ball. It's just how is he going to do that; how can he manipulate the safety, but he's still going to throw the ball to his left.
Fletcher Cox evaluation
He was transitioning from a 4‑3 to a 3‑4 defense so I think his production towards the end of the year was most like everybody else on our defense. It was a little bit better towards the end of the year than it was the beginning of the year. But he's big, physical and can run for a big guy. Very difficult to block in one‑on‑one situations, try to create some one‑on‑one situations for him but I think he's really starting to get acclimated to what we are doing on the defensive line and obviously like everybody, I think year two will be better than year one for him.
Cox is only 23 and he flashed real pass rush ability at times last year. I fully expect his sack total to rise in 2014.
2014 offseason compared to the 2013 offseason
Yeah, it's a lot different. Obviously there's a transition that goes on when you have a new staff. So we are all teaching new systems offensively, defensively, special teams. Players are getting to know the coaches. Coaches are getting to know the players. We are evaluating what they can do and they are evaluating us from that standpoint. I think when everybody knows where they are supposed to go, and you don't have to explain what's going on, what this meeting is about, where we are headed to, what's the schedule, why we are doing it in this manner, [we’ll be on the right path].
We spent a lot of time explaining not only what our systems were but why we were doing what we were doing. So guys had an understanding that we are not an operation that just says do it because we said so. I believe we need to explain and make sure they understand, because the more they have a better understanding of what we are trying to get accomplished, whether it's in a meeting room for weight lifting session or training session or whatnot, I think the more they are going to get out of it. Spent a lot of time in our first year explaining what we were doing, why we were doing it and now it's more of the older guys grabbing the younger guys and saying, ‘Hey, this is where we're going and this is what's going on and this is the reason we are going to do it’ so we don't have to spend as much time on that stuff.
I wrote earlier this offseason that continuity would be a big factor in this team's success moving forward. The Eagles played their best football at the end of the year and part of that could have been because the team finally caught on to the new changes. This year they have a better opportunity to start strong in the sense they won't be behind the 8-ball.
Alejandro Villanueva evaluation
He's doing a real nice job. I think you forget what he's transitioning from. Not only did he spend his stint with the Army, but his last year at West Point, he was a wide receiver, and now he's playing defensive line in the National Football League. So not only is it a transition because he has not played football in a couple years; it's he's playing really a new position. He played some defensive end I think his sophomore, junior year at Army, but then he was moved to offensive line. Then he went from offensive line to wide receiver, so he's had a real varied background.
But it's impressive to see a guy that's had that much of a background, have that much of a layoff, to see how he's acclimated and fit in. When we got a chance to see him work out, when we brought him in to work him out, you could tell how athletic he is for a guy that's 6‑9. Now he's up, I think he was 277; he's gained some weight now, because he was running four or five miles a day just to keep in training for the army, so it's a little bit different running that's going on here. So he's a guy that I think you can really keep an eye on just because he's got such an upside and I really don't know how the whole thing will pan out but in terms of a work ethic and things like that, his is kind of second to none.
Villanueva is very much a camp body at this point but it'll at least be interesting to see how he plays when the pads goes on. He could figure to be a practice squad player.
I don't know. I think it's a difficult time in a lot of these evaluations in the spring because there's no contact, you really can't get in front of people and do things. So we are just rolling guys through there, really working on the fundamentals of how to field the kick and how to catch a kickoff or punt and how to get it up the field a little bit. But there's a lot of ‑‑ especially in the special teams, cooperation that has to go on because of the non‑contact and everything.
So it's just getting fundamental reps of guys back there fielding balls. But who it's going to end up being or where it is, Darren is the one proven commodity that has had a lot of success in the league doing it. But anxious to take a look at two of the young kids, Josh Huff returned kickoffs in college and Jordan Matthews returned punts in college. So get a chance to take a look at those guys and add them into the mix with some of the other guys we have active. Damaris [Johnson] and Jeff Maehl have returned kicks before. We have always tried to get Coop back there.
Just because when you have a 46‑man roster, who is your backup returner, it becomes a big question. So if you lose your returner in the game, who can go out there in a pinch. We are just trying to get those guys fundamental reps right now.
Sproles seems the favorite to return for the Eagles but I think a number of other guys are in the mix here.
Josh Huff's role
The same thing, I know him extremely well just because I had an opportunity to coach him for three years. Great work ethic, an explosive player that really can change direction very, very quickly. He's big, he's physical. He's just transitioning because our terminology is different than what he had in college. I can explain because I know what his terminology in college was like, so we called it this [at Oregon and we call it this now]. Real student of the game. I think he and Jordan [Matthews] have hit it off and really play off each other right now so it's two good young guys to go together. [...]
[Huff] has the ability [to get the ball in different ways]. He's a dynamic kid, running after the catch with the ball in his hands and that's why we are looking at him as a returner now. We are conscious with our young guys not to overload them from a mental standpoint and there's still a lot of learning. I think the perception that because Josh played with Oregon, he can step up. But our offense is totally different than it was at Oregon.
It's still a learning curve for him. The one thing that he has that I don't have the benefit of with Jordan is I understand where Josh came from. So I know the language that he spoke the last couple of years. So I can help him and say, this is this, this is this. But this is new, this one is new, and this is what we called it over here. There's some similarities but I understand where the terminology gap is going to be for him.
I don't expect Huff to have a major role in his rookie year but there he will definitely get some touches here and there. He also figures to be a key member of the special teams unit.
Jeremy Maclin's health
He's participated in everything, so, you know, whether it's ‑‑ I mean that's more of a question I think for Jeremy but I think he's been cleared to do everything and has not missed anything, so he's been running around doing everything for us. He could probably give you a better indication percentage‑wise where he feels he is at this point in time. But he's doing everything and you'll see him out here doing everything.
Maclin is good to go.