Early Birds: Why Chip Kelly is impressed with Darren Sproles; No Marcus Smith on defense; Evaluating Byron Maxwell's performance

1) Last December, after the Eagles’ season went awry, Chip Kelly still couldn’t help but marvel at Darren Sproles. He called Sproles “the best training or practice player I’ve ever been around” when reflecting on the trade that brought Sproles to Philadelphia.

In Sproles’ second season with the team, Kelly still gushes about Sproles. Sproles had a punt-return touchdown and a rushing TD in the Eagles’ 24-17 win Sunday over the Jets. 

“We always talk about 'you sink to your level of training' and what you see on Sundays from Darren is what we see every single day, whether it's a walk-through or whether it's a practice,” Kelly said. “It's an amazing thing to watch. I wish more players would emulate it because it seems like a pretty good formula that's working.”

Kelly said Sproles has “one speed” in practice. When Sproles catches a punt, he returns it for a touchdown. There’s a consistency to how Sproles practices that Kelly has tried to impart on other players.

“I've never been around a guy, and I've been around a lot of guys, that practices as consistently as hard as Darren does every single day,” Kelly said. “In walk-through, we are done telling him to slow down in walk-through, because he's not going to slow down in walk-through. He goes full speed.”

When Sproles arrived in Philadelphia, Kelly tried instructing Sproles during practice. Now, he just knows Sproles will do what’s needed. Kelly even told punter Donnie Jones to stop chasing Sproles on punt returns because Jones would pull a hamstring.


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“That's just the way [Sproles] is built and the way he's wired,” Kelly said.

2) Marcus Smith did not play on defense Sunday, playing only on special teams. Considering the Eagles did not have a third outside linebacker because of injuries, it would have seemed a good opportunity to get Smith some work.

Kelly explained that when Smith practiced during the week, it was in base formation. The Eagles played more nickel and dime in the second half because of their early lead. That meant few opportunities for Smith.

"He does have a future here,” Kelly said. “I just think each game expresses itself differently and how it is.”

3) Byron Maxwell didn’t allow a touchdown Sunday for the first time in three games. He needed to spend most of the game covering Brandon Marshall, the Jets’ top receiver. Maxwell was targeted six times and allowed six catches, according to Pro Football Focus. But the longest was only 18 yards – a decrease from previous weeks, when he allowed X-plays.

“There was some ups and downs in there,” Kelly said. “A couple times when he was isolated, there was some plays there. And I know he had a penalty, a hold, in front of our bench, but there was more consistency out of Byron's game here as we have gone on through Week 3. I think he's improved as the season has gone along.”