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August 20, 2015

What does Chip Kelly think about Joe Flacco, John Harbaugh and the Ravens?

Eagles NFL

When Chip Kelly met the media on Thursday, just two days before the Eagles second preseason game, it wasn't surprising that several [read: many] questions revolved around the status of quarterback Sam Bradford. 

But there were almost as many questions about the team's opponent on Saturday night, the Baltimore Ravens, who have been practicing with the Eagles since Wednesday as part of a growing trend of joint practices around the NFL.

While Kelly was able to successfully dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge all the questions about his QB's status vs. Baltimore, he was more than willing to discus, well, pretty much anything else, from his days at Johns Hopkins to Ed Hochuli's guns. Some of his best answers, however, came when he was asked about the Ravens, their coach, and how his players have looked against their AFC counterparts.

Here are some of the highlights:

JOINT PRACTICES

There’s been a rash of injuries throughout a lot of these joint practices. Do you take notice of that? Does it affect anything you do?

Yeah. I mean, that's why we have the sports science staff that we have. That's a huge part of this league, is can your good players make it to the games and are they healthy?
We spend an inordinate amount of time in terms of monitoring and maintaining our players. I think it's the reality of what you deal with. But we think about it, talk about it and try to troubleshoot injuries and situations that come up all the time.

Are players more prone to injuries during joint practices?

We didn't find that. Our last two years with the Patriots, we didn't find that. Through our studies, I don't see that statistically bearing out that that's the case.

How do you balance calling plays against the Ravens in practice with the risk of showing them too much? You didn’t do a lot of tempo in the first two or three team sessions yesterday?

Yeah, that’s just so everybody can get a line. It's got nothing to do with not showing anybody anything. We're just scripting the scenarios that we're going through.
I don't think we're showing anything to the Ravens on film. We're not playing the Ravens this year, so that's not a concern for us.

But what if you play them in the Super Bowl?

If we play in the Super Bowl, I don't think we're going back and looking at the practices. There will be 16 games for us to look at in the regular season and then playoff games. I don't think you'll be going back and looking at plays that happened in a preseason scrimmage in August.

RAVENS COACH JOHN HARBAUGH

How well did you know Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh before this and what are your impressions of the way he runs things?

I didn't know John. I knew [his brother] Jim just because we had coached against Jim when he was at Stanford. So I know Jim very well, but I didn't know John. I knew of John's reputation and that he has done an unbelievable job at Baltimore.
Then yesterday, really our interaction was we just got a chance to talk before, but then he was on his field and I was on our field. I didn't really get a chance. Then I followed up with him afterwards.
Obviously, he’s done an unbelievable job with Baltimore: won a Super Bowl, they are always in the playoffs and they are always one of the top teams in the league. I’ve got a great deal of respect for him in that respect.

QB JOE FLACCO

How is it to have a guy like Flacco here? He’s a guy who is accomplished in this league and is in his prime. What does that mean for a team and what are your impressions of him from what you have seen in the last couple years?

It's a great test. We experienced it the last two years because we got to run these practices with the Patriots and got a chance to see [QB] Tom Brady up close and personal.
You know, I was excited when our preseason schedule came out because our guys get an opportunity to play against [Colts QB] Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, and [Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers. You're talking about three of the top quarterbacks in this league, so our secondary will be tested. It's good for them; It's real good work for them. So we're excited about getting this opportunity, not only to play them in the preseason game on Saturday, but get these training sessions in against them in these three days.

What are your impressions of Flacco and how do you see him as a quarterback?

I think he's one of the elite quarterbacks in this league. He's got a big‑time arm. He’s obviously a big -- when you kind of roll up on Joe, he's a big human being. He's tough to break down and tough to bring down.
He's also just so poised when he plays back there. You talk about when guys really get it, the game is slowed down for them. He's such a good decision maker. He's an unbelievable clutch player. You look at him in all the situations that he's been in, he always just seems to have poise, and nothing seems to rattle him.
I had the opportunity when I was at New Hampshire, we played against him when he was at Delaware, so I knew how good Joe was going to be a long time ago.

RAVENS' PHYSICAL STYLE

Tell us your impressions of the way that the Ravens practice and their physicality and intensity?

That's one of the [reasons why] we wanted to work with them, because they're so stout and strong, especially in their offensive and defensive lines. That was something we were excited about and what they were advertised is what we saw.
That's a tough, hard‑nosed, physical front seven that we have an opportunity to go up against offensively. That's great work for our defensive line against their offensive line.

EAGLES vs. RAVENS

Did you get an opportunity to watch film of the offensive line vs. defensive line one-on-ones went yesterday? The Ravens offensive line is pretty formidable. How do you feel your defensive line did against them?

I thought it was good. It was just great give‑and‑take. That's what happens in one‑on‑ones. I think the one thing with one‑on‑ones, is it’s a little bit different than obviously a game, but it's more of a defensive drill than it's an offensive drill because there are going to be people setting with them and maybe a slide protection where they have help to a gap and they can overset and do some of those things.
I thought it was a real good battle and we're excited about seeing it again today.

What did you see from some of your younger secondary players yesterday in practice against the Ravens' receivers?

I saw them competing and that’s what I think -- trying to get those guys, because they are young, as much exposure as we can. When you have someone like [Ravens WR] Steve Smith [Sr.], who I have tremendous respect for [given] how many years he's been in the league and [how he is] still playing at the level he's playing at, the toughness that he brings, how physical he is in terms of trying to get off a press and things like that. We were excited about that matchup.
Yeah, I was impressed with the young guys; Eric [DB Eric Rowe] and Denzel [CB Denzel Rice], the rookies that we brought in here, I thought did a nice job. It's good that you get a chance to do that. We'll get one‑on‑ones in again today, and some of those reps are really valuable to those guys.

•  •  •  LEFTOVER CHIPs  •  •  •

Here's the rest of Chip Kelly's session with the media on Thursday:

Is the plan still to play QB Sam Bradford this weekend, and if so, how deep into the game?

The plan is to have a great day today. We have not talked about – we have today’s training and tomorrow’s training, and then we will sit down as a staff tomorrow afternoon and outline who is playing what and what is going on for Saturday night.

Does Bradford look game‑ready to you and how does he look in your eyes?

I thought Sam did a real nice job yesterday. We're excited where he's going. Hope we can put another day together today.

You talked about having Bradford out there with another team rushing him. How is that helpful and did he get the kind of exposure yesterday that you had hoped for?

Yeah, I mean, obviously Baltimore's front is very formidable with [OLB Terrell] Suggs, [OLB Elvis] Dumervil, [DE Chris] Canty and the rest of the guys in there. But again, they’re still not hitting him.
There's great respect for both teams. We're staying off of [Ravens QB Joe] Flacco, they're staying off of Sam and all the other quarterbacks.
I thought the work we got in with them yesterday was good.

How will LB Kiko Alonso progress and will he continue to do more this week?

Yeah, he will continue to do more. He was out for almost a week and a half or two weeks. We're just easing him back in. But he looked good yesterday and there were no effects. We'll continue to ease him back in here.

At practice yesterday, S Earl Wolff was not on the field. Is there something going on?

He went to go see the doctor. He's still at the doctor so he won't be here today either.

Ideally, how many snaps would you like to get Bradford before the regular season?

We haven't talked about a number there. So I don't know [an ideal number].

You don't have a number in your head that you would like to see him hit?

106, ideally. [Laughter] We'll see if we can get there. [Joking]

Is the matter of getting Bradford up to speed in game conditions as formidable of a hurdle as his knee?

As formidable as his knee? I don’t know. 

Is it a big hurdle to get over?

I don’t think it’s a big hurdle. No.

What have you seen from Bradford during training camp that shows he's making progress?

I've just seen him make a logical progression. It's kind of what we anticipated; it’s the plan we had for him all along, that he would be ready to go at the start of preseason camp. He's done it and he’s had no ill effects. There's never been any day where we go, ‘Hey, his knee is bothering him, we need to take days off,’ or anything like that. I just think he's getting more comfortable in terms of what we're doing scheme‑wise.

It was only one year, but how beneficial was the year you spent at Johns Hopkins?

It was awesome. That's a truly special place. I think a lot of the coaches that I had an opportunity [to work with], in all sports there, are still there. Jimmy Margraff is still the head [football] coach. Bob Babb is still the baseball coach; He used to coach our linebackers when we were there. Bill Nelson is still the basketball coach. Tom Calder, who is the AD, was the assistant AD when I was there.
It's a unique place. It was a Division III school in every sport except for lacrosse, but I think it had a Division I mentality, maybe because of the lacrosse program. Bob Scott was the AD when I was there and he's a legend in terms of being one of the best lacrosse coaches ever. So it was a great experience.

Last week, when you talked about the decision to sit Bradford against the Colts, you suggested that he would be getting ready to play against Baltimore. Has anything changed?

No, but we have training today and training tomorrow. So if Sam rolls his ankle today, he's not going to play on Saturday.

How would you evaluate TE Trey Burton's performance this camp?

Trey stepped up; it’s Year Two for him. He was a key special teams player for us last year. We’re really putting a little bit more on his plate as a tight end because he's moving into that third tight end role with James Casey not being here. We’re trying to figure out exactly how he can fit into being one of our weapons because he's a really good offensive player.
I think when he was at Florida, he played multiple positions and there was a lot of versatility coming out. I think he still holds the record -- I think he scored six touchdowns against Kentucky -- for most touchdowns in a game as a Florida player.
Just trying to fit him in and see where he fits into our rotation at the tight end spot behind [TE Brent] Celek and [TE Zach] Ertz.

How about CB E.J. Biggers? What have you seen from him since camp started?

Biggs has done a really nice job. I think he's competing. He's got versatility because he's played safety before, he's played nickel before and he's played outside corner. But he's a guy that I think has shown up really on a consistent basis for us. He’s someone that's got some experience. He’s another guy that doesn't get rattled back there. He has seen it, been through it and played in NFL games before. I've been real happy with what Biggs has done so far.

At this point, do you anticipate giving QB Tim Tebow any special teams reps?

No. Tim is not involved in special teams.

When you talked on Sunday about a couple of throws that QB Mark Sanchez would like to have back, is that just mechanical things?

Yeah. Just setting your feet and throwing the ball the right way and making sure you’re sequencing the right way to your target.

Is there any way to troubleshoot that?

Just repetition.

When you look at LB Deontae Skinner, he’s a guy who played a bit with the Patriots last year. Has he shown you anything since he’s been here?

Really just the first day we had him was yesterday. You know, he showed up. He got a lot of reps. I think he was 20-plus reps out there. So it's just a matter of kind of seeing how he fits into the mix there, because we’ve had some issues at outside linebacker and are moving some guys around. [LB] Brad Jones swinging inside and outside, [LB] DeMeco [Ryans] had been down, but he'll be back today. We lost [LB Brandon Hepburn] Hep and that was the biggest reason we brought him in. But he's played in games. It will be interesting to see how it plays out for him.

You were able to get a lot of production out of that three-man outside linebacker rotation last year. Is that a concern area for you?

I don't say it's a concern. It's trying to figure out who all those guys are. We knew two proven ones in [LB] Brandon [Graham] and [LB] Connor [Barwin] and then who is the third is really going to be the big question for us. That's what we're trying to find out here in this preseason.

Is Brad Jones a candidate for the third outside linebacker spot?

Yeah, he could be. He's definitely a candidate for that third outside linebacker spot.

Why don’t you call plays during practice?

We do. They're right here. They're all written down. (Holds up playsheet) [Offensive Coordinator] Pat [Shurmur] calls them in to the quarterback. Every play we have is already called, so we've already met in the meeting. All Pat is doing is talking to the quarterback. I have to referee, so it's very difficult to blow the whistle and talk to the quarterback at the same time.

Do you want to watch other things too? Is that part of the reasoning?

Really, it's just because I can't blow the whistle and call the play at the same time. I'm not that good.

Do you label your refereeing style as more NFL referee Ed Hochuli --

No, he's in a lot better shape than I am. And I miss a lot of things because I get distracted.

How frustrating has it been with Wolff?

I don't look at it as frustrating. I think for Earl, it's frustrating. For us, we just have to make evaluations based upon how they're presented.
It's the same thing with [LB] Travis Long. We had tremendous hope for Travis. I feel bad for the player. But the only thing we can do is evaluate who's available to you.
I think that's the hard part. There's that part of how much you care about the individual player, and it's tough. But you still have to move on. We still have to be able to find eight or nine DBs that are ready to play when we go play the Atlanta Falcons. I hope Earl is healthy and is in that mix, but you never know.
That's the hard part of this league. We've talked about it a lot of times. The injury rate in this league is 100%. It's unfortunate and frustrating for Earl. But we just evaluate what's out there.

How do you weigh waiting on these injuries versus needing a roster spot?

Yeah, it's just what do you think is going to happen? Is anybody else going to pick him up? Does he revert back to you? It’s really just when you expose him, is someone going to grab him and if you're afraid someone is going to grab him, sometimes you don't do it.
That's what you worry about, losing that player. But if you waive him injured and he clears waivers, he can revert back to a team.

How has S Jerome Couplin done since his return?

He's done a nice job. He was behind a little bit just because of the time off. But there's no ill effects from the injury. I think you'll just see him getting better and better each day out here.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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