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September 01, 2015

Linebacker Kiko Alonso plans to make Eagles debut vs. Jets

Plus Chip Kelly on offensive strategy, Kenjon Barner's transformation and more

Eagles NFL
082015KikoAlonso Matt Rourke/AP

Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso hasn't played since 2013.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso, who missed the first two preseason games with a concussion and the third with tendinitis in his knee, returned to practice this week but wasn't a lock to make his Eagles debut Thursday night against the Jets. 

Coach Chip Kelly wasn't willing to say for certain [shocker] whether or not the former defensive rookie of the year, acquired from Buffalo in the LeSean McCoy trade, will play in the preseason finale.

Kelly also said he didn't know if it's the same knee in which Alonso tore his ACL last offseason -- whether or not you chose to believe that is up to you -- but didn't seem too concerned with the former Oregon Duck's status going forward.

"You know what, I don't even know," the coach said when asked if Alonso's tendinitis was in his surgically-repaired left knee. "I know he's got tendinitis. It’s not very pressing. He didn't have any issues yesterday. He'll go out today and tomorrow and we'll see where he is."

After practice, however, Alonso said that he plans to play against the Jets -- don't forget that he also planned to play against the Packers before being scratched at the last minute. If he does play, it will be his first game action since December of 2013.

But that wasn't the only piece of information the linebacker felt more comfortable divulging than his coach. Alonso also confirmed that the tendinitis is in his left knee, and that it is "common" while recovering from ACL injuries. 

It still remains to be seen how much he plays, but at this point, even a few snaps would help put Eagles' fans minds at rest.


When it comes to play-calling, Kelly likes to live in the moment. Here's an interesting back-and-forth from today's presser, in which the Eagles coach discusses the notion of pre-planning which plays you are going to run.

Other play callers that when they are making one call, they are almost ‑‑ that play is almost old news because they are already thinking two or three plays ahead.  Do you think that way when you're making calls?

No.  I really ‑‑ I don't.  I've never heard that either because I don't know how you think two, three plays ahead when the play you just ran, you don't know what the outcome of that play is.  You could get sacked, if it's first ‑‑  say it's 2nd-and-2.  I'm not thinking about my next call because I don't know if it's a first down on the next call.  I could be sacked and now I've got to make a call that's a 3rd-and-12 call, or I've got a first down and now I've got to make a first down call.

So I'm not thinking ‑‑ at least the way I've always approached it.  I need to know the situation.  I'm not thinking to the next play until we have the outcome of the last play.  The important thing for us is right hash, 3rd-and-2, right hash, 1st-and-10, because that drastically changes what your play call is going to be.

Are you perhaps looking for something down the road to set the defense up?

Yeah, we're not trying to set things up.  We'll talk between series over how people have reacted to what we're doing formation‑wise, first play of the series.  You've got the first play of the last five series and they’ve blitzed you. Is there a pattern that's happening there?  But again we talked about it the other day, there's not many constants in this league.  Usually I think the guys on the other side that are calling plays are self‑scouting themselves and saying, ‘Okay, I've come after them the first play the last five possessions, I'm not going to come after them now.” Sometimes I think you can put too much stock in what you think you're going to get.


Kenjon Barner has three touchdowns this preseason (two return, one rush) and has made at least one big play in each of the Eagles' first three games. Kelly is familiar with the speedy back, as Barner was one of the few players on all four of his Oregon rosters.

Here's Kelly talking about converting Barner from a defensive back to a running back during their first spring as player and coach in Eugene:

How has RB Kenjon Barner grown from his time at Oregon to now? Why did you first move him from defensive back to running back at Oregon?

We moved him when he first moved him because we were hurting at running back in the springtime.  We had a couple injuries in the spring, and he was an outstanding high school running back, which a lot of defensive backs at the college level were outstanding on offense.  You've got to kind of settle in on one position.
He was a two‑way player in high school, but was an outstanding running back, and he just seemed like the most logical candidate for us and was really, I think, about ten practices into spring practice when we moved Kenjon and it was really just because of depth.  We had a couple guys banged up and when you're going through spring ball at the college level, to finish out practices 11 through 15 and play in a spring game, you have to have a running back, because no one else ‑‑ you can't be in empty the rest of the next three practices or four practices because the defense needs to have looks, too.

It's just a matter of trying to get a guy to finish out spring practice, and obviously kind of caught our eye that he's pretty talented on that side of the ball. We had some depth in the secondary at the time, so we transitioned him over.

• • • LEFTOVER CHIPs • • •

Here's the rest of Chip's press conference on Tuesday...

WR Riley Cooper didn’t practice yesterday. What's the latest with him?

He'll practice today.

Eight players that predated your arrival have signed contract extensions here, going against the notion that you want to get rid of all of Andy Reid's players.  But what have they done to stick around and be a part of what you're building ‑‑

I didn't know that was the notion.

It's been thrown out there a few times?

Who throws that out there?

Not me.

[Laughter] Interesting. What have [those players] done?  They have shown that they are really good football players.

But besides talent, how about the buying in part?

I don't know where that part comes from, either.  They are really good football players and they fit what we want schematically and they are good in what we do.

G Josh Andrews was with you last year. What kind of camp has he had and has he worked at center at all?

Yeah, he's done both; he's played center and guard.  I think he's had a good camp.  The Jets game will be another big test for him.  He's played both positions, kind of bouncing around, just like all those guys that are not in that first group, and there's got to be some versatility, whether they be a guard-center or whether they be a guard-tackle.
We liked him last year.  He was on the practice squad the whole year for us.  He's got some explosion in him.  He's a bigger body. But we like Josh and I think this will be a big test for him on Thursday.

Are the coaches starting on the Atlanta Falcons game?

Yeah, we started on them a while ago.

In practice this week, will you do anything to prep for the Falcons?

No, not for them.  We'll wait until we get in game week.  We only have two days of training, so yesterday and today.  Yesterday we went against each other and today we'll try to give some of those twos and threes a Jets look and the ones will get matched up against each other.

As you approach this last preseason game, is there one position that you'll really focus in on to identify what needs to be done?

No, I think there's a lot of ‑‑ almost every position, there's still decisions that have to be made towards the bottom end of the roster.  So there's not one that's more important or that we are looking at harder than any of the other positions.  So there's a lot of competition still going on and it will be an important game for a lot of guys on Thursday.

Have you made that last roster move yet?

No, we have to wait until the end of training today just to see where our health is.

Are there some players that handle your pace better right away than others?  Some There have to be some people that struggle with that like you would struggle with decision making?

No, because I think we train that way in the offseason.  So I think they are prepared for it.  When we got to camp in August here, I think they were ready for it.  There are some guys that when they are new to it and haven't trained that way before, it’s probably hard in the beginning. But we had no issues with any of the guys when we started in August, because of what we do from April 20 to the middle of June, kind of prepares them and they have got a pretty good understanding of it.

There's no natural trait though? There’s no --

Yeah, there are some guys that have better VO2 capacity than other guys, but that's just a God‑given ability.
Still, our sport is still an anaerobic sport, too.  It's just the ability of your muscles to just ‑‑ are you in shape or are you not in shape to play at that tempo and that pace? But it's a trained in‑shape, out‑of‑shape, it's not something that I don't think anybody can reach.

Similar to the offensive line, when you’re looking at the final decisions on the defensive line, is it important for those defensive linemen to show versatility, like the ends being able to move inside and play tackle?

Yeah, but almost all of our defensive linemen play both positions: [they] play nose and defensive line.  So Bennie [DT Bennie Logan] can play both, Fletch [DE Fletcher Cox] plays both and Ced [DE Cedric Thornton] plays both. Same with Brandon [DE Brandon Bair] and Taylor [DE Taylor Hart] and those guys. I think we train them that way and really how you lineup as a four-technique is no different than lining up as a shade. You have your head up over the player over you and you have to control two gaps when you're in our base defense.
I think the way we train them lends to their versatility from that standpoint.

How much weight does this final preseason game carry with the decision between QBs Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley? Or are your opinions pretty well formed already?

No, our opinions aren't formed.  It's one more time for a game opportunity.
Obviously, I think especially with the quarterback position, practice is different just because they are wearing red jerseys. When they are not hit, when you get them out there in a game, it's another opportunity to get a legitimate evaluation of them. So there is a lot of weight in it.

Barkley spoke yesterday about how he has never had to worry about his arm strength over the last year or two since that surgery early on ‑‑

I don't think he had surgery.

Coming off the shoulder injury.

But I'm just saying, I don't think he had surgery.

What are you seeing out of Barkley in terms of his ability to make the necessary throws?

I think Matt can make all of the throws in this offense.  It's just about getting acclimated, decision making and he's done a really nice job of it.  I think he's better now than when we first got him, and he's shown improvement in every year.  I think he's really well versed in what we do.  He’s got a big night again on Thursday night, but I know he's excited about playing in it.

In the Jets game last year, Barkley went three quarters and G.J. Kinne went one. Do you want to split the snaps more evenly this year?

We haven't talked about that yet. We know Matt and Tim are playing, but we will sit down and kind of figure out, ‘Who is in, who is out?’ Really what is going on at the other positions, but we'll finalize all that later on.

Barkley said yesterday he was going to start.  Did you inform him he was going to start the game?

Yeah, [Quarterbacks Coach] Ryan [Day] did, yeah.  He'll start the game, but who starts and who finishes in preseason games, I don't think that's important. Trying to distribute the reps is the big thing and we haven't talked about exactly how we'll distribute the reps


With the three backs you have, are you able to do things with this offense running back‑wise that maybe you've never been able to do at any level before?

No, we had a lot of versatile backs when I was at Oregon, but I think for the two years, going into our third year here, we have more depth at the running back spot so since we’ve been here, I think we can do more with those guys.

How is K Cody Parkey?

Yeah, Cody is doing well.

How difficult is it to evaluate LB Marcus Smith with all the time he's missed?

You've just got to evaluate him on what's available.  He did play in the first preseason game and then obviously got hurt while we were training with the Ravens.  So we have that, we have last spring to work off of with Marcus and then obviously the practices and training sessions we had before he got hurt, so that's what we have to go off of with him.

The lactose intolerant secondary as you termed it, is that a product of the personnel that you have or a specific emphasis?

No, I just think when we looked at giving up too many ‘X’ plays last year, what happened, and a lot of times, we were biting underneath routes when we were supposed to play on the deep part of the ball, or biting on ball fakes or things that we shouldn't do.  It's more just what's your responsibility and doing your job.
Some of that was guys just eyes weren't in the right place, weren't as disciplined as they need to be.  That's something we had to correct because we had to correct a number of ‘X’ plays that we had against us because they were too high.

When you look at a guy like S Jerome Couplin, how valuable do you think it was for him to be here towards the end of last season?

I think it's valuable for anybody that's got experience in your system just like it was valuable for [S] Ed [Reynolds] to be here last year with us, and same with [S] Chris [Prosinski].  They were all here with us last year, those guys that are competing for that safety spot.  So I think any time you've got more experience in a system, it's better than having less experience in a system.

Have you seen enough from Couplin? I know he was out for a couple weeks with appendicitis and everything ‑‑

We never look at it as is there enough or not enough.  This is what's presented to us and come Friday morning we'll have to make some decisions and it will all be based upon the evidence that we have in front of us.

What has WR Rasheed Bailey brought to the table?  Can you sense the giddiness of him playing for his hometown team?

No, actually I don't, and I think that's a positive because he's not overwhelmed or overcome because he's playing in his hometown or playing for his favorite team growing up.
I think he's really focused on what he has to do and that's improve on a constant basis.  Sometimes you worry about that when you get a guy in that situation.  Is he just going to press and try to do too many things?  I remarked in our first game, he was extremely calm, went out there and made plays against the Colts, and I think it's been impressive for him, because it's obviously a different situation than anybody else is in.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin