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August 31, 2015

Eagles coach Chip Kelly talks Tebow, injuries, cuts, and more

Eagles NFL
072415_Chip_AP Matt Rourke/AP

Eagles coach Chip Kelly addresses the media.

There was a lot to talk about following the Eagles' strong showing against the Packers on Saturday night.

On Monday, after having a chance to go back and watch the game on film, head coach Chip Kelly met with the media. But that wasn't all there was to discuss. 

First, even before the team's preseason finale against the Jets, the Eagles need to cut their roster down to 75 players. That deadline's on Tuesday afternoon, and the Eagles are already down to 78 players. And what about the injuries? Kiko Alonso and Cody Parkey were both held out against Green Bay, and Lane Johnson left the game with a knee injury.

However, the first question didn't have to do with either of those things. It was, somewhat unsurprisingly, about Tim Tebow, who is battling Matt Barkley for the third QB spot. And although Kelly was positive overall in his appraisal of Tebow, he admitted that the job will likely be won or lost this week.

"I've seen Tim improve since he got here," Kelly said Monday. "He's improved in his throwing motion since we got him in April; I think he's really worked very hard at that. [He’s worked at] sequencing his throwing motion, so I think he's been a lot more accurate with his passes."

"He's had a good camp," the Eagles coach continued. "He's got a big week again this week. The guys that are going to play against the Jets have a big week.  I anticipate him working really hard like he always does."

Positive, right? 


You don't have to read more than three words into it see that Timmy "Tim" has fallen from his coach's favor.

RELATED: Could the Eagles cut both Matt Barkley AND Tim Tebow?

Jokes aside, both he and Matty Barks will have ample opportunities against the Jets -- as well as in practice -- to make their closing arguments as to why they deserve to be on the team. Because as of right now, it's still too close to call.

Here's the rest of Kelly's session with the media...

Through the first three games, WR Riley Cooper hasn’t received a lot of targets or snaps.  Is that because he's a veteran and you know what you’ve got in him or is that just the way it has gone when he has been out there?

I just think it's the way it’s gone when he's been out there.  We haven't scripted or game planned for any of our first three opponents.  We're just calling plays and however [the plays] express themselves, they express themselves.

On the flipside of that, WR Josh Huff hasn't seen a lot of work.  He's not a veteran.

Yeah, Josh had obviously a very personal situation last week with the passing of a dear friend, so -- That had nothing to do with being a veteran or not a veteran.

What’s the plan with him going forward? Will he play Thursday?

We haven't talked about anybody playing or anything.  We're just going to go out and train today.  We'll take a look at what we’ve got health‑wise and then make some adjustments tomorrow with that.

Has G/T Andrew Gardner shown you enough to prove that he is the starter at right guard?

I think Andrew has played really well here in the preseason, but we haven't finalized anything.

Do you have an update on K Cody Parkey?

Same thing.  He's still got a slight groin.  We'll see where he is after tomorrow before we make any decisions in terms of what we're going to do.

Is LB Kiko Alonso going to practice this week?

Yeah, he should practice today.

Would you like to see him play Thursday night?

We're going to evaluate everybody after Tuesday's session and we'll make a decision on what they're going to do.  It doesn’t mean anything for me to say, ‘I want this or that.’  If someone can go or can't go, we'll find out after we're done Tuesday.

DE Taylor Hart is getting a lot of reps out there.  What do you see?

Yeah, I don't think it’s an inordinate amount though.

Right, not an inordinate amount, but what do you see out of him?

I've seen improvement from him.  I think Taylor's had a really good camp.  I think he's a year older.  I think he's really made some plays and he had a couple real big plays for us against the Packers in the run game on Saturday.
I think he's improved from a year ago.  I'm really happy where his development is right now.

After watching the tape from Saturday night, did anything on the defense in the second and third quarter bother you at all in terms of coverage and things like that?

No. Well, even with the first group, I think on [the Packers’] touchdown, the one thing that was really concerning for all of us was that we had three major penalties on that drive and one of those penalties negated an interception. We’ve got to clean up that aspect of it.  I think there were too many penalties on the defensive side that extended drives.
A lot of things that Billy [defensive coordinator Bill Davis] was doing in the second half, we were playing a lot of coverage and not blitzing people. I think we blitzed less than 10 percent of the time and were trying to see if guys could get home in one‑on‑one, four‑man rushes.
So, it was just a chance for a good evaluation for us.  That's kind of what we saw.

How hard is the process for you to get the roster down to 53 players and how much time are you going to spend just looking it over and agonizing over those decisions?

I don't think it's hard because you have a deadline.  It is what it is.  You know, we talk probably every other day about personnel on each side of the ball and special teams.  We sit in with our personnel guys and coaches talk about the individual guys at their position.
So it's an every‑other‑day thing that we continue to go through.  We use our full allotment of time as we go through.  We have one more big test this week against the Jets to make that final decision.
The cut process itself is the hard part; you know, when you have to tell kids, like we did yesterday, tell players that they're no longer members of the Eagles.  I think that's the difficult part of it.

But the decisions themselves, do you find those very difficult?

No, I mean, you have to make them.  You’ve got to make a decision.  You have to choose between Player A and Player B because there's a time when you’ve got to do it.
But it's based on the full body of work that they've done since they've been here.  This is a critical week for a lot of those guys because you've got to go from 75 to 53. So, we're going to have to release 22 guys after the Jets game.

How is TE Zach Ertz coming along?

Zach is doing a good job.  He’s rehabbing.  Feel real comfortable with him right now.

Is playing in Week 1 still realistic for him?

Could be.

Is T Lane Johnson’s knee injury the same as you thought after the Green Bay game?

Yeah, I think he's going to try to go through some things today.  I think he'll be fine. I know he could have gone back in the game on Saturday.

If it was a regular-season game, would he have gone back in?

Yeah, if it was a regular‑season game, he would have gone back in.

Anybody not practicing today?

I think [LB] Marcus Smith is not practicing today.

You have some tough decisions to make down the roster at wide receiver, etc.  You have talked about the importance of special teams, so how do you also factor in what they can do at their positions in case some gets hurt? Does that factor in?

Everything.  Everything factors in.  It's not, ‘He's better in special teams so he plays.’ You’ve got to put it all together.  So if an injury comes about, who can play?
Just because a guy is great on special teams, if he can't contribute at another position, that's a factor also.  It's got to all come into play when we put this together.

What is TE Brent Celek’s value to this offense?

Huge.  I think he's underrated in terms of kind of everything he does.  I think he may be one of the best blocking tight ends in the league, but I think -- You know, you saw he made a great catch on the touchdown pass from Sam [QB Sam Bradford] going in there in the red zone.  I think he's a big target.  He's got real good range in terms of if the ball's not exactly thrown on him, he can catch it.
I think his run after the catch is a little bit underrated.  We have hit him on a couple screens in the last two years that he's taken pretty far.  I think his value is huge, yeah.

With Ertz being out with an injury, how much have you been able to see of TE Trey Burton and what are your impressions of him?

I think Trey has done a great job.  He's another guy who is in Year Two.  I think he obviously stood out early in his career here as a special teams player and that's why we kept four tight ends, even though we had Zach and Brent and James [former Eagles TE James Casey].  But Trey was an integral special teams player for us.
We also felt like we could develop him after we released James and I think you're seeing that.  I think he's good with the ball after the catch.  He's got really good hands.  He has a great understanding of what he's doing and he's still relatively new to the position because he really didn't play tight end -- he played quarterback, played running back, played receiver and did a lot of things -- when he was at Florida.  I think he's adapted really well to what we've asked him to do.

What were your takeaways from the officiating video that the NFL sent out regarding Ravens LB Terrell Suggs’ hit on Bradford?

Those are the rules, so if you're handing the ball off, you can be hit.  Whether you're underneath the center, it doesn't matter what run play you have.  It was explained to us that you could have your back turned to the defense and if there's potential for you to bootleg out of it, then you can be hit.

Do you feel their interpretation has changed or their enforcement has changed?  If so, does that alter the way that you think about zone-read looks?

No, it has nothing to do with the play; that was the biggest thing that we came away from it with. It doesn't matter what play you're running, if you're handing the ball off and there's a potential that you could keep it on a bootleg or whatever, you can be hit. So, those are the rules. We'll practice with the rules they got.

Is keeping two quarterbacks on the roster in consideration or do you want to keep three?

We haven't really discussed the exact number of anything.  We’ve got these two days and then we’ve got the big game against the Jets before we start to say, ‘We're keeping four tight ends, or three running backs, or two quarterbacks, or nine DBs.’  We haven't really got to that point yet.

In four weeks here, what have you seen from your safety depth?

You know, I think it took a little bit of a hit when Cup [S Jerome Couplin] was down just because he wasn't involved.  It was a tough evaluation of that.
Feel real confident with Walter [DB Walter Thurmond] and Malcolm [S Malcolm Jenkins]. I still think we’ve got to figure out who our third and fourth safeties are.
It's still a big question mark going into Thursday’s game against the Jets.

Couplin made a nice play the other night, too.

He did.  He did.  I think they've all shown up at times.  It's just a matter of kind of figuring out which of that group we're going to be able to keep.

Is the nickel corner job still kind of up in the air?

Yeah, it is.  We’ve got time.  We’ve got two weeks from today before we play [the Atlanta Falcons].  We'd like to solidify that before we get ready to play Atlanta and start to put in our game plan and all that stuff.  There's still some real valuable reps for who the fifth DB is going to be coming up here.

What did DB Eric Rowe show you in the nickel?

He didn't really play nickel; he played outside the other night.
I thought he did some good things, but he also did some things we can teach him off of.

If you did use him, he would be the guy, right? Then you would move --

We’ve got a lot of options there.  So there's not a set option in terms of being able to do that.

What has G/T Dennis Kelly done to keep hanging around?

Dennis has been really consistent.  I think this has been his best camp, to be honest with you.  But he's been really consistent at both guard and tackle.  We've used him on the left side and we've used him on the right side.  He's got experience.  He has started in games for us.
I'm a big Dennis fan.  I think the one thing you know is this is what you're going to get from him every day. There are not a lot of missed assignments; there are not a lot of mental mistakes out of Dennis.  He's always dialed into what he's done.
We've asked him to play both guards, we've asked him to play both tackles and the only thing he hasn't played for us is center.  But I think he's been really consistent and fits in really nice in terms of what we're doing.

Is he more athletic than what he gets credit for?

I don't know.  What do you guys give him credit for?

The feeling has always been that he is big, tough and physical, but he isn't the greatest athlete.

Well, that isn't what we say.  You tell me.  You guys write it.  I don't care.  I mean, I don't write things.

That's what I'm asking you.

I think Dennis fits perfectly in what we're doing offensively.

After the game Saturday you said that there was a breakdown on the first two-point conversion, but you would have to look at the film.  Did you look at the film and see what it was?

Yeah, we had penetration up front, so Tim [QB Tim Tebow] had to cut it back and then we had an unblocked guy coming off the backside edge. We’ve got to kind of solidify the penetration up there so we can press a little bit longer on the front side.

It's been 20 months since Alonso played in a game.  Do you expect rust at all in terms of him coming back?

Yeah, he's looked sharp in practice, but games and practice are a little bit different.
You know, we'll see where he is.  But we're hopeful to get him back out there.

DT Bennie Logan appears to have made a big jump this year. What have you seen from him?

Yeah, he has.  Bennie has just really been a disruptive force in the run game for us. I think he's been difficult to block in all three of these preseason games, is causing a lot of havoc, getting penetration into the backfield and disrupting the timing of plays.
I think he's played really well and may be playing as well as anybody on our defensive line right now.

It’s obviously only the preseason, but your team is outscoring opponents 52-3 in the first quarter and 86-17 in the first half. What does this say about this team?

We scored a lot of points and haven't given many up.  We're just trying to get better every day and improve as a group.  I don't think people have game planned for us, nor have we game planned for them.  I think we're all trying to get our players to get opportunities on film where you can teach them off of and also make full evaluations of guys.
I'm happy with how we've performed in certain situations. But, you know, looking at just specifically our defense the other night, those penalties, if that's a real football game, we have three major penalties on one drive, and one that negates a turnover, that could be the determining factor in winning and losing a football game.
So there are some real teachable moments that came out of that Packers game.

You have three more spots to cut before you get to 75 tomorrow.

We have one more spot.

So why hold off?

Because we're not sure who's going to be healthy for the game.

What did LB Najee Goode show?

Najee played really well the other night.  I think he had that one blitz where he hit the A Gap on the backside and probably could have tackled the ball carrier and the quarterback at the same time.
But I think certainly the Packers game was his best game to date out of the three preseason games we played.
Again, he’s a guy that was hurt last fall and once we started the season, he got hurt pretty early.  But coming back and starting to kind of hit his stride.  It was really good to see Najee back out there running around.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin