Eagles head coach Chip Kelly spoke to the media on a wide variety of topics before Wednesday's practice with the Patriots. Here is some of what Kelly had to say:
Q. How did you meet Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and when, and what do you remember about that?
COACH KELLY: When he was coaching here and I was up in New Hampshire and I used to come down and visit practice. Probably my first time meeting Coach [Belichick]. He was very gracious. He's always been really gracious to the local college coaches. They were always open for us to come in and watch and visit when they would start camp. Obviously in the NFL, they start camp a little bit earlier than the colleges, so you get a chance to come down here for the last week of July and watch a couple days of camp. At that time, I think they were still at Bryant College. But [he’s] always been very, very gracious and always great with his time in terms of being able to share football knowledge.
Q. Your thoughts on being back in New England and did you have friends and family coming to practice yesterday?
COACH KELLY: Not really. We are here to kind of go to work, so you know and it's a little bit of a ways away. A couple people, a couple former players of mine at New Hampshire I saw yesterday at practice, so that part was good. But it's really a business trip for us getting ready to prepare against a really good team, giving ourselves an opportunity to test ourselves against an outstanding opponent. So we are kind of looking at it from that standpoint.
Q. What's the rotation for Friday's game?
COACH KELLY: We haven't discussed it. We'll talk about that. It really depends what goes on these next two days of practice. May get an injury today, so doesn't help us to say, ‘Hey, we are going to go this, this, and this and this,’ and all of sudden you lose a guy or two in practice today. We'll look at what the depth is and start to talk about that tonight.
Q. Quick local question – assistant defensive line coach Mike Dawson on your staff has local ties, can you talk about what he brings to the team?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, Mike works with our defensive line. [He] was an outstanding coach, actually worked with him when I was at New Hampshire, then he went on to Akron and was a special teams coordinator at Boston College. Real sharp, intelligent and does a great job in terms of helping [defensive line coach/assistant head coach] Jerry Azzinaro with the defensive line. Just really lucky to have him.
Q. What do you remember from coaching QB Ricky Santos at New Hampshire?
COACH KELLY: We're going old school now, huh? Just a great player, local kid out of Bellingham. Won the Walter Payton Award as best player in I‑AA. Actually coaching at the University of New Hampshire now. Smart, athletic, gifted, one of the best competitors I've ever been around.
He was a four‑year starter there, was literally in the second, third and fourth year was literally like a coach on the field, just a great understanding of football. Awesome person, great person to be around.
Q. You still maintain a lot of ties with people in New Hampshire. Will you continue to do that ‑‑ why do you do that?
COACH KELLY: It's where we grew up. It's your family. I think everybody does that. I don't know many people that, you know, move away or something like that. There's always a place in your heart where you grew up and that you're part of. I'm fortunate that I get a chance to go home and spend time.
My family still lives up there. Have a lot of really, really good friends that I grew up with. I think that's foundations that we are all built upon.
Q. I know you want guys at the bottom of the roster to be able to play special teams. How is WR Ifeanyi Momah doing in that respect and how do you balance what he brings to special teams versus wide receiver?
COACH KELLY: Well, it has to be both. If you're not the starter, because you only have 46 guys active on special teams, you're going to have to ‑‑ your backup receivers, your backup running backs, your backup tight ends, your backup linebackers, your DBs, they have all got to contribute.
He's on the kickoff return team. He's played gunner out wide on the punt team. There's a couple places where his size, obviously being a bigger guy, can be advantageous to us. He's taken some reps on the punt return team and that's a battle for all those guys. If you're not in the one, two, three at the wide receiver spot you've got to be a great special teams player.
I think evidence of that is what [WR] Brad [Smith] did when he came in here last year. I think we got Brad after game 10 or game 11 but before he even set foot on the field as a receiver, he made an instant mark for himself as a special teams player for us. That's what I think he's battling with, and he's done a nice job. One thing about Mo is from last year to this year, he's grown in leaps and bounds and he's continuing to make strides. When they make those decisions when you're getting down to cut down day difficult, that's a good thing I think. Really happy with where he is right now.
Q. With the weather the way it is, are you going to do anything less?
COACH KELLY: We're just going to try to do the same thing and it just depends on how wet it is. We can make adjustments while it's going on.
Q. What did you see from your defense against New England QB Tom Brady as compared to last year, one year farther along in the defense?
COACH KELLY: What we hoped, I hope. You hope you grew over the course of a year, whether ‑‑ in all aspects, whether it's offense, defense or special teams.
So, you know, last year when we played in this situation, I think we were ten days into camp, so to expect us to perform yesterday like we were going to do a year ago, we would be way behind the 8‑ball. But it's the same thing we noticed as the season went along. Our defense grew as the season went along last year. We were obviously better at the end of the year on defense than we were when we started.
You know, there's a maturation process that's going on. I think to have some solid leaders back, like [LB] Connor Barwin and [LB] DeMeco [Ryans] and guys that have played and played a lot of snaps under [defensive coordinator] Billy [Davis] already have a real good understanding and when you add someone like [S] Malcolm [Jenkins] to go along with [CB] Cary [Williams] and [CB Bradley] Fletcher and [S] Nate Allen on the back end, you have someone that has a real good understanding of what we are trying to get accomplished defensively. We are thankfully way ahead of where we were last year at this time.
Q. What is the process like for guys like QB Matt Barkley and other guys, not getting as many reps as you normally get in Philly?
COACH KELLY: Just the by‑product is you're going against better competition so we would always take this opportunity to do it. So you know, it’s just part of the nature when you have a lot of numbers and two teams are getting together, you're not going to be able to get everything accomplished that you'd like to get accomplished. We'd love to get more reps but we are also not going to be on the field for four hours.
As we say, don't count your reps, make your reps count. When you're out there, take advantage of them. Your answer can't be, ‘Well, I'm not playing well because I didn't get enough reps.’ If you only get three reps, make those three reps the best reps you can.
Q. You have some tough decisions to make when it comes to your defensive line. DE Brandon Bair was on the practice squad last year, senior-most member of the unit but seems like he's made progress from year one to year two. Why that leap for him?
COACH KELLY: Well, Brandon wasn't with us last year. We didn't get him until after the cut down dates and then we added him to the practice squad. A lot of that development, never been through an offseason program with us or training camp with us.
So I think [WR] Jeff [Maehl] is in that same boat, Brad Smith is in that same boat, guys that we picked up. [LB] Najee Goode is like that. We didn't pick up Najee until the cut down date from Tampa Bay. So all those guys we talked about missed the benefit of a whole offseason program. They missed the benefit of preseason training camp, and I think what you are seeing out of all those guys, Najee has really stepped his game up at linebacker. Brandon has ‑‑ I think it's just a situation where they understand what we're trying to get accomplished. Now last year they were probably playing catch up so to speak and now they are not playing catch up so they are getting a chance to really show what they can do to contribute.
Q. Brad Smith, he seems to typify the kind of player you really like offensively because he can do so many things and play so many places. How much of a benefit is it having a guy like that?
COACH KELLY: It helps but I don't ‑‑ I would argue that that misconception, if you give me a guy that's just great at one thing, I think we can try to fit that person in, too.
But when you have someone that's the third receiver or the fourth receiver, whatever, that has that multiplicity in them, it really helps. I think when you're trying to round out your roster, the versatility really at the bottom of the roster is the key thing.
When you look at Brad, he's a four‑core special teams guy, and is constantly making tackles on the kickoff cover team and plays wing or personal protector on the punt team, can return kickoff and is on our punt return team and also can play multiple positions on offense. I think it just helps the depth, especially on game day when you only have 46 guys active to be able to have somebody that can play a lot of different roles and also backup in a lot of different roles certainly helps. He's also a former quarterback so he's your emergency quarterback on game day.
It's a huge plus but I think really for that bottom part of the roster, I think it really becomes essential.
Q. In T Lane Johnson's case, what development have you seen from him and would you like to mix him in with the ones so he's ready later?
COACH KELLY: Right now we have got to get [G/T] Allen [Barbre] ready so we have not really talked about that. The one by‑product of it, and I talked about it last week, is that he doesn't really on [G] Todd [Herremans] to tell him what's going on, and I think he's really kind of taken some ownership in that second group because he's really the veteran in that group, especially with [C] Julian [Vandervelde] down. So it's given him an opportunity I think to grow especially on the mental side of the game and we have seen a lot of growth from him from that standpoint.
I don't think if ‑‑ when he does come back, when he gets an opportunity to get to the lineup next to Todd, he's going to forget what Todd looks like. They work closely every day in practice but I think a little bit of that is overblown. The big thing for us is making sure we are getting ready for our first game against Jacksonville and we have to play four games without him, so we have to get Allen as many reps as we can.
Q. Did you see a different kind of energy with the team playing someone else yesterday ‑‑
COACH KELLY: Yeah, in a way but it's not like I didn't like our energy before. I think we have got a bunch of guys that love playing football, love practicing football, love the film aspect, the meeting room aspect of it. I can't fault this group at all in terms of when it comes to energy in what they are doing.
Q. When you compete against somebody. It seems like there’s more energy --
COACH KELLY: I think our guys did that when we were at the NovaCare Complex and I thought our defense really stepped up the competition. Every time we had a situation competition so far, our defense has kind of handled our offense from that standpoint. [Special teams coordinator Dave Fipp] ratcheted it up from that standpoint. We were a lot more competitive this year than a year ago because we were kind of feeling our way through things.
It's good to be around. I think that you don't just turn it on and off depending on who you're playing. You show up every day and try to compete as hard as you can no matter what the situation is.
Q. What have you seen out of C David Molk?
COACH KELLY: You always need to have three centers and we didn't have anybody on the current roster that could be a center. So if [C] Jason [Kelce] were to go down or [C] Julian [Vandervelde] were to go down, where do you turn? We didn't feel the group of guys there that we had another center and that's a critical position.
It's not like I think your guards and tackles can be somewhat interchangeable. There's some athleticism parameters that kind of fit into that but the move from guard and tackle is a lot easier than going into center because you have to make all the calls. You have to really be in control of what's going on out there.
So we try to identify another center prospect and David was available, and there's not a lot of them out there. I think one of the reasons we wanted to move on him early was we didn't think he would be around very long if we didn't move on him early and now you're trying to piece someone in there. He's done a nice job with Julian being out. He's smart. He's grasped what [offensive line coach] Jeff [Stoutland] is teaching up front. He's a real coachable guy in terms of being able to change because some of the techniques he had were not what we were teaching and so he's really adapted very well to that.
So then unfortunately Julian being out for a little bit, it's helped that we got someone like him in there and also the young guy we got at Oregon State, Josh Andrews, has done a really, really nice job, too. We feel a little bit better about the center spot but it will help us and we'll feel a lot better when we get Julian back.
Q. Some of your players talked yesterday about how they liked having the crowd there and obviously the Patriots are favorites. What do you think of this practice facility and would you like to have something with bleachers in your facility?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I think you're just bound by the facility you're at holds. So there's not much you can do with the NovaCare Complex and I know there's some city limitations in terms of how many people you can put in there. You put me in a parking lot, we'll go practice. That's not a big concern of mine.
Q. Does it add a dimension?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, it's a great dimension. I'd like to play on a highway, too, and have a lot of crowd around us. I think about a lot of things but that's not a lot I think about. I think about where are we going to practice and what are we trying to get accomplished that day.
Q. Seems like more teams are using up‑tempo. Is there something about the current NFL that lends itself to that? What do you attribute the trend to?
COACH KELLY: I don't know what the trend is. The rules haven't changed from the standpoint of you can do it, and maybe it's cyclical. You watch Andre Reed go into the Hall of Fame and the offense he ran with the Buffalo Bills was as exciting and outstanding as you get with Jim Kelly at quarterback and Thurman Thomas and that group of guys there, and you can go back to Sam Wyche and Boomer Esiason, they were doing it a long time ago.
I think sometimes there's just cycles that go through. There's a lot more being done at the lower levels, at the high school levels and at the college levels so the people coming up I think have a better understanding of it maybe. That's where they can share with their coaches on how they get that stuff accomplished.
But the game is very cyclical. It will change and go a different way. There was a time when no one ran the 3‑4 and everyone was a 4‑3 team and now it seems like a lot more 3-4 teams are in existence. It's a game of ebbs and flows but I think everybody is just trying it figure out how they can try to stay ahead of it and what's the new trend.
Q. How did QB Nick Foles respond to Friday's game ‑‑
COACH KELLY: I’d go back to our first day of practice. I thought did he a real nice job at Franklin Field. It's not, let's wait till Tuesday. I thought he had a good Sunday and Monday with us. But it was what we expected out of Nick. That's what we've grown accustomed to from him.
Q. In LeSean McCoy's case, how can he be better than last season?
COACH KELLY: He can do everything better. I know we get that question about all the guys and I get the same question all the time but until someone plays a perfect game, I think that's what we are all striving for.
But he can do a better job in pass protection, he can do a better job in short yardage situations, he can do a better job in eliminating negative plays where maybe the hole is not exactly there but second and nine is better than second and 14 where all of a sudden every play he's trying to run has to be a home run.
I think we are seeing that. There's a lot more patience in him in terms of understanding that you have to pick and choose when he has those God-given gifts where he can make people miss but sometimes it becomes ‑‑ when you put us into a negative situation on second down, that's not a good situation. But I think he's worked at it and I think he's in better shape this year.
His conditioning has really upgraded from where it was a year ago, so you kind of see that on the practice field in terms of what he can do and staying on top of it. He can do a better job as a receiver coming out of the backfield. I think the addition of [RB] Darren [Sproles] has helped him from that standpoint. He has a guy to learn from and he's a better route runner right now.
I think the great thing about him is that he wants to be that. I don't think he's complacent or happy in terms of where he is. Hopefully he thinks that last year was just him scratching the surface in terms of what his potential can be.
Q. He thinks he can gain 2000 yards rushing this year.
COACH KELLY: I don't care. I really don't care and he knows that and I've told him that. All we care about is are we winning football games. We've never been driven by individual statistics and he understands that. But if you ask him if he'd rather win a football game and run for 50 yards, I think he would be the first to tell you that than run for 200 yards and lose a football game. He'll tell you he'd rather run for 50 and win a game.
Q. Foles said when Brady is on the field he's watching him. What can he learn from watching Brady?
COACH KELLY: Obviously you're watching a first ballot hall of famer, one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. I think everybody, when you get a chance to watch someone that is as good as they are at their craft, I think he can learn a lot of different things. That's a unique thing when you get to participate in situations like this is that when you're not in, what are you doing?
Nick is a student of the game and for him to get a chance to watch Tom up close and personal in terms of how he interacts, what he does pre-snap, what he's doing post-snap, a lot of times that you don't see on film because the camera is not on him. think anybody can garner anything from that and when you get a chance to see someone that's as special a football player as Tom, it's a credit to this whole operation in terms of what we can get accomplished, not only in the work we can get but when you're watching other people work, so that's a positive for him.
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