Chip Kelly addressed the media on Thursday morning for the last time until Eagles training camp begins in early August. He touched on number of topics, including what he's learned about his team during this year's spring drills.
"I think their capacity to work is the biggest thing our staff has been impressed with in terms of the amount that we've gotten in since April 20 with this group. It's an extremely thirsty group in terms of they always want something more and they want something new. You'll see them today. A lot of people kind of mail in this last day, but these guys are fired up about getting out there one more time. We have a lot of situational work we've got to get done today, but I think that's the biggest thing is the capacity to work was really impressive with them."
While a lot of NFL teams canceled their last minicamp practice, the Eagles were in action even though it was raining. It was an abbreviated practice for Philadelphia, but Kelly isn't the type to short change his team of the limited practice hours they're allowed due to CBA restrictions.
Here are some more topics Kelly touched on.
Doesn't a potential Sam Bradford extension guarantee he's the starter?
The best players are always going to play. I think that's always been the way it has to be, and that's the way it will be. One more time. My theory is the best players always play. It's not fair to the rest of the guys on the team if the best players aren't playing. It's not fair to this city, it's not fair to the staff and it's not fair to anybody, if the best players aren’t playing and the best players are always going to play.
Send off message to the players
It’s the same message we always have with them. It's a great group. We trust them. They've got their individual workouts that they'll be accountable for when they come back. Just , ‘Enjoy your time off. You deserve your time off. You've worked extremely hard since April 20, and looking forward to getting you guys back in here on the first.’
Mark Sanchez's improvement
He’s just so much more comfortable in terms of what we're doing. Last year he was coming off an injury, coming off missing a year, probably still wasn't a hundred percent when we were with him last year at this point in time. [He was] learning a new offense on the fly, as you said. So there's a whole different comfort level when you see Mark out there now. Obviously he's just sharper. Just because of his knowledge. He knows where No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 are. He understands protections better. It's not the first time. The game of football is a huge game of repetition and you can't manufacture those repetitions unless you're out on the field actually doing them. So he's got that whole year in the bank, so to speak.
Next step for Sam Bradford as he prepares for camp
Just to continue to work on his rehabilitation. As I said before, there is medical rehab, performance rehab, and then prepare to play. He's in the performance rehab aspect now. He's got six weeks before we get back here in August, and then it's prepare to play and get out there and wing the ball.
Progress made by Josh Huff
I think he’s made great progress. The biggest thing with Josh is just consistency. I think it is for most guys. When you come in as a first year player, he was obviously set back a little bit because of his injury, and then missing the first portion of the season, but then just flashed at times. Has a kickoff return for a touchdown, which was a heck of a return. Just a more consistent basis in terms of his performance out there. I think he's really been a lot more consistent, and that's what we've been trying to work on with him.
Miles Austin's value to the team
Been really impressed with him. He's an outstanding route runner. Does a great job at getting separation at the top of his routes, understands leverage, understands coverage. I think that wealth of experience that he has. He's a big target. He's got really, really good range. Catches the ball extremely well. Intelligent. Kind of knows the subtleties of the exact route running, kind of exactly where to maybe place his elbow to get separation in terms of pushing off the hip and things like that. And he's imparted that on the younger guys which I think has really helped us to have that true veteran route runner in there, and I think he's been really good at doing that.
Jerome Couplin's in the mix for a safety spot
He can compete. He's big, he's physical. He looks like a safety. We were impressed with him in terms of watching him on tape at Detroit so we felt when we had the opportunity, let's see if we can go get him and bring him in here and develop him. And I know [defensive backs coach] Cory [Undlin] and [defensive coordinator] Billy [Davis] are excited about him on the defensive side. Smart kid. He was a William & Mary grad, so really intelligent football player to go along with that physical skillset. So it's just applying it, like I said earlier, with Josh, on a more consistent basis. But he's got a legitimate shot.
G.J. Kinne's transition from QB to WR
He's actually done a really nice job. The one thing with G.J. that we didn't know because he's coming from quarterback, is he was obviously a running/throwing quarterback coming out of college, so you knew he had that kind of athleticism. But one thing [that you see] if you ask any of the coaches or even the players is how well he actually catches the ball, which you would never know if a quarterback can do in that transition because they're not making any attempts. But he's got really natural hands. He's a hands catcher. He plucks the ball. He's always catching the ball away from his body. He made an outstanding catch to finish training yesterday down the sideline on a back shoulder throw that he opened up and caught. So for him, it's just getting familiar with everything. I think he's always seen it through the eyes of a quarterback, but now he's seeing it through the eyes of a receiver. So he can tell you what everybody was running on the route. Now, how do you run the route and what are the subtleties as I talked about with Miles of getting that route run so you can create separation to give yourself an opportunity to catch it?
I think he's done a really nice job. It will be really interesting to see what happens with him in August, because the other thing, we've used him a couple days here at running back. He's got some versatility. He's playing in a couple of different spots on special teams. So we'll see how that versatility fits in terms of getting towards the 53 [man roster].
Eagles biggest strength and weakness
Our biggest strength is we have six weeks before training camp. Our biggest weakness is that we have six weeks before training camp. The offseason program, we don't really put a lot of stock in terms of making real solid evaluations in terms of where they are. It's about them working, getting better, getting smarter, understanding schemes and all those other things. But really, trying to figure out your strengths and weaknesses comes when we actually put the pads on because to make those assessments now, it's really not fair. Our d‑line is taking two steps and pulling off. You really can't see pass‑rush moves because we're not allowed to do that in this phase of the game. So we don't look at it from that standpoint. When we come out of this and sit down as a coaching staff this afternoon [and ask], ‘Hey, what are our strengths and weaknesses?’ It's how did each group improve based upon the rules that the CBA gives us in terms of getting these guys better from April 20th to today.
Impression of Byron Maxwell
One was versatility. He started at outside corner, but then when they went to nickel, he came inside. You watch him covering [Chiefs WR Jeremy Maclin] Mac and Coop and then moved inside and covered [WR] Jordan [Matthews]. So that was the biggest thing. Really when you see him in person, not evaluating him on film, but it's just how big and tall and long he is, and what a disruptive force he was especially when he was playing those guys in press man. So had a really good game against us. I think if you asked Jordan, I think Jordan said he was the best cover guy he faced last year as a rookie. So that stood out to us. I thought he was the best nickel defender that defended us in the 16 games that we played.
Zach Ertz pushing Brent Celek
I think I've seen that drive from Brent since we got here. I'm not sure there is a harder worker in this organization than Brent, and that's a testament to Brent in terms of what he does. I think the two of them complement each other. I think they both bring out the best in each other.
I think because Brent works so hard, Zach has learned a lot from Brent. Brent has always been a great mentor and really tried to help him. I think, obviously, Zach's ability has pushed Brent, so I think the two of them really complement each other very well.