1) If the Eagles saw Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, and Aaron Rodgers in consecutive weeks during the regular season, it could aggravate a coach. But when Chip Kelly saw the Colts, Ravens, and Packers on the preseason schedule in the first three weeks, it “excited” Kelly.
If the preseason is a chance to evaluate the roster, he wants the NFL’s top quarterbacks doing the testing.
“You're talking about three of the top quarterbacks in this league, so our secondary will be tested,” Kelly said. “It's good for them; It's real good work for them.”
Luck played only 11 snaps against the Eagles, so the defense didn’t get much work against him. He completed 5 of his 6 pass attempts, though, giving valuable film – especially third downs, when Luck was 2 of 3.
Flacco will see more time on Saturday to add to three days of practice against the Eagles. The Eagles should get a steady dose of Aaron Rodgers the following weekend. Rodgers played 45 snaps in the third preseason game last year.
The secondary has impressed in practice against Flacco. That’s a major change from the past two years, when Tom Brady picked apart the Eagles’ secondary. Flacco is not Brady, but he’s a Super Bowl winner that Kelly considers “one of the elite quarterbacks.” The key difference is that the Eagles tried rebuilding their secondary this offseason. The results have been positive – at least this week.
2) After James Casey was released in February, Trey Burton came into focus as the Eagles’ No. 3 tight end. When Zach Ertz had surgery for a core muscle injury last week, Burton’s role became even more important.
Burton made the team as an undrafted rookie last season and was a key special teams contributor. He learned under Casey, who had a similar profile to Burton. Both were converted quarterbacks who offer versatility and special teams ability. Casey played 14 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps last season – 170 overall. Burton only played six offensive snaps. Look for him to pick up some of Casey’s playing time and get on the field on offense.
“We’re really putting a little bit more on his plate as a tight end,” Kelly said. “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.”
With Ertz out for the remainder of the preseason, Burton should receive steady work during the next two games. Pay attention to how he functions in the passing game and as a blocker. If he impresses, it could help him earn more time during the regular season.
3) One player who has stood out to Chip Kelly is E.J. Biggers, a veteran defensive back who is trying to make the team as a reserve. Biggers is the most experienced cornerback on the Eagles’ roster and has started 31 games during his NFL career. But this is his third team in four seasons, so there’s a reason why Tampa Bay and Washington moved on from him. The Eagles like what they’ve seen during the past five months.
“He's got versatility because he's played safety before, he's played nickel before and he's played outside corner,” Kelly said. ”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.”
Biggers had an interception returned for a touchdown during practice on Thursday. He played 33 snaps in the first preseason game on Sunday. The Eagles have a few players in contention for reserve cornerback spots, but Biggers’ versatility makes him valuable on game days because he can step at safety, slot cornerback, and outside cornerback, while also contributing on special teams. If he continues playing like he has, look for Biggers to make the 53-man roster.