Every decision that was made in a backup spot on the 53-man roster came down to special teams, coach Chip Kelly said Wednesday. It was Kelly's first time addressing the 53-man roster since the roster was trimmed.
"Any backup spot is all the value of special teams," Kelly said. "If you're going to be a backup player here, you're going to be on teams."
This was the reason the Eagles kept only three outside linebackers. They cut Chris McCoy and kept five inside linebackers. McCoy's best at pass-rushing. Connor Barwin is the only outside linebacker who can consistently drop into coverage.
Right now, at our outside linebacker spots, we have a lot of rush guys, not a lot of drop guys," Kelly said. "To keep a third rush guy, we kept Vinny [Curry], kind of look at Vinny [as someone who] could play in that spot for us. To keep another rush guy who's not contributing on teams just wasn't going to help us. Especially when we go to 46 [on game days]."
Casey Matthews will "cross train" to play outside linebacker, too.
Matthews and wide receiver Jeff Maehl were end-of-the-roster players who made the team with Oregon connections. Kelly said the only advantage they have is if the Eagles were to sing the Oregon fight song, He also said no consideration was paid to what they did at Oregon, and where the familarity helps is that Kelly knows what they can do on special teams.
"It's about special teams," Kelly said. "There's three ways to make this football team: special teams, special teams, special teams. ...If you're going to be the fourth or fifth receiver, it's the value to Coach Fipp and our special teams."
Kelly said that's the reason the Eagles acquired Najee Goode, because special teams outweighs a player's production on offense or defense because that's how they'll contribute in games.
Some other quick notes...
- Nate Allen will start at safety next to Patrick Chung. Earl Wolff will also play.
- Tight end James Casey returned to practice. Tackle Dennis Kelly (back) is out for Monday's game against the Redskins. Cornerback Brandon Hughes is still being evaluated.