Sunday, July 5, 2015

Eagles in the a.m.: Chip Kelly on Nick Foles, Marcus Smith's first game, Zach Ertz's improvement

**Nick Foles said earlier this week that reducing the amount of sacks he takes and passing the ball quicker would be an emphasis during the preseason. Coach Chip Kelly said the only way to tell Foles’ improvement in that area is in the games because of the lack of a live pass rush in practice. Plus, Kelly said what might seem like a sack might not be a sack in a game because at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Foles is difficult to take down. So even when the pass rushers get to the quarterback in practice, Kelly does not know whether the result would be a loss of yards.

Eagles in the a.m.: Chip Kelly on Nick Foles, Marcus Smith's first game, Zach Ertz's improvement

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Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

**Nick Foles said earlier this week that reducing the amount of sacks he takes and passing the ball quicker would be an emphasis during the preseason. Coach Chip Kelly said the only way to tell Foles’ improvement in that area is in the games because of the lack of a live pass rush in practice. Plus, Kelly said what might seem like a sack might not be a sack in a game because at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, Foles is difficult to take down. So even when the pass rushers get to the quarterback in practice, Kelly does not know whether the result would be a loss of yards.

“You're making arbitrary decisions if that would have been a sack or maybe it wouldn't be a sack, and he's moving up in the pocket, someone is getting a hand on him,” Kelly said. “I think all the defenders think if they get a hand on him that is a sack.”

Still, it’s been an area of emphasis. Foles likely won’t play more than 15 snaps, but pay attention to how he deals with pressure.

“It's one of the things that he knows he needs to work on and we need to do a better job, and it's something that we talked about in the offseason,” Kelly said. “We need to not be in as many negative yardage situations.

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**Marcus Smith has never been to an NFL game. When he grew up in Georgia, he never went to a game in Atlanta or Jacksonville. During his career at Louisville, he never went up to Cincinnati for a game. So the first game the Eagles’ first-round pick will ever attend is Friday in Chicago. His father will be in stands. Smith will be on the field.

Smith said he has had a “solid” camp, and there’s a clear transition process as he learns the “Jack” role. Look for Smith to get extended duty on Friday as the Eagles see what he can do in that spot. He will be watched closely, and coach Chip Kelly told him not to worry about the expectations of anyone outside the team.

“I’ll handle it as I did in college,” Smith said. “During the game, if I mess up, you just got to live and play the next play. You can’t worry about what’s going on. …It’s not something that weighs on me. I have guys that are in front of me who can teach me the game. It’s not a burden too much. But being the 26th overall pick, I want to go out there and play hard and show the coaches they can trust me.”

**A popular pick for an Eagles breakout player is Zach Ertz. There’s a clear difference in Ertz, who excelled in the last two months of the 2013 season after a slow start to the season. His missed time last spring was one factor, and the familiarity that Ertz has with the system and the league is a drastic change. Ertz could see more time than some of the starters, so there might be an extended look at him.

"He's not a young rookie coming out of Stanford trying to figure out exactly what we're doing,” Kelly said. “He got better as the second part of the season went along last year just because he got more familiar with what we're doing and he kind of picked up where he left off. He was kind of behind a little bit, to be honest with you, because he missed a little part of the spring, but has picked up since we got back here in preseason camp in terms of ‑‑ he's always been great with assignments, and I think that was just a matter of giving him some reps in terms of being confident and what we're asking him to do out there.”

IN THE INQUIRER

- Chip Kelly on playing time, the depth chart, and more in The Inquirer. 

- The Eagles have gone the longest in the NFL between transactions. Find out why in The Inquirer. 

- Two rookie defensive linemen are standing out, and Jeff McLane has the story. 

- Here's Bob Ford on the Eagles' safety competition

zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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