NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
PHILADELPHIA – The Philadelphia Eagles got their roster to the 75-man limit Tuesday with a handful of moves.
Running back Kevin Monangai, a Villanova product, was released. Monangai carried the ball 21 times for 126 yards through the first three preseason games. He gained 87 yards on 10 carries in the game against Baltimore.
Linebacker Emmanuel Acho, whose locker was cleaned out last Thursday, was waived with an injury settlement.
Finally, rookie cornerback JaCorey Shepherd was placed on injured reserve. Shepherd tore his ACL during a practice at Lincoln Financial Field last month. He will miss the entire 2015 season.
The team released 12 players on Sunday, leaving three more players to be trimmed before Tuesday’s deadline.
The Eagles’ roster now stands at 75 players: four quarterbacks, 13 offensive linemen, five tight ends, five running backs, 10 wide receivers, nine defensive linemen, 12 linebackers, 13 defensive backs and four specialists.
That team will be at the Meadowlands for Thursday night’s preseason game against the New York Jets. Many of the starters will not play, giving those players fighting for roster spots more opportunity to make their case.
“This is what's presented to us and, come Friday morning, we'll have to make some decisions and it will all be based upon the evidence that we have in front of us,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.
Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley have been competing for the Philadelphia Eagles' No. 3 quarterback job since Tebow was signed back in May. Eagles coach Chip Kelly and his staff will make their decision based on all Tebow and Barkley have done over the past few months -- and all they can do moving forward.
But the final preseason game against the New York Jets, Tebow's team in 2012, will count.
“Our opinions aren't formed,” Kelly said Tuesday, before the last practice of the week. “It's one more time for a game opportunity. Obviously, I think especially with the quarterback position, practice is different just because they are wearing red jerseys. When they are not hit, when you get them out there in a game, it's another opportunity to get a legitimate evaluation of them. So there is a lot of weight in it.”
“(Barkley) will start the game, but who starts and who finishes in preseason games, I don't think that's important,” Kelly said. “Trying to distribute the reps is the big thing, and we haven't talked about exactly how we'll distribute the reps.”
“You approach it the exact same,” Tebow said. “Just go out there and compete.”
The competition has been a friendly one, Tebow said.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Tebow said of Barkley. “We’ve been friends for a while. I think he’s a really good quarterback. He’s got a great family. I consider him a good friend.”
Doesn’t that make it awkward to be competing for the same job?
“Not at all,” Tebow said. “You just come out here and compete. You root for each other. You cheer each other on. I think that’s just something that comes from trying to care about people. Just from my faith -- yeah, you’re competing for something, but at the same time you want to do it the right way. You want to treat others the way you want to be treated.”
PHILADELPHIA – There’s a good chance the Philadelphia Eagles' intriguing situation at inside linebacker will remain mysterious until the regular-season opener in Atlanta Sept. 14.
DeMeco Ryans said Monday that he doesn’t expect to play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the New York Jets. Kiko Alonso, who was a late scratch in Green Bay Saturday night, said he expected to be ready to go in Atlanta.
During the offseason, coach Chip Kelly acquired Alonso from Buffalo in the LeSean McCoy trade. Ryans’ contract was extended at the same time, creating the impression that Mychal Kendricks might be the odd man out.
But Kelly said Kendricks wasn’t going anywhere, then followed up that declaration by extending Kendricks' contract through 2019.
Kendricks and Ryans played against the Packers -- the first preseason action for both players. Ryans played 20 total plays, while Kendricks was on the field for 26 plays. Alonso warmed up but was inactive for the game with what Kelly described as tendinitis in his knee.
“It was OK,” Ryans said of his performance. “It was good to be back out there. Not my best outing, but it was something to start from, to improve on.”
During the season, the expectation is that all three will play a considerable amount of time. Over the last couple seasons, the Eagles defense has been on the field for more plays than the average team, a side effect of Kelly’s uptempo offensive pace.
Two years ago, Ryans played more defensive plays than anyone in the NFL. Last year, Kendricks missed four games because of injury, while Ryans was on injured reserve for the second half of the season after tearing his Achilles' tendon.
So there are plenty of plays to divide among the three inside linebackers. And injuries have already limited the workload for each of them.
But if all three are healthy, it remains to be seen how the Eagles will split up their work. Who will start? Which of the three will be on the sideline? Could Alonso or Kendricks play outside in some situations?
There were no hints given in the first three preseason games and none are likely in Thursday’s final tune-up against the Jets.
“I probably won’t be out there,” Ryans said.
It seems likely Alonso and Kendricks will be on the sideline with him.
PHILADELPHIA -- The excitement is building. The Philadelphia Eagles are 3-0 in the preseason for only the second time since 1995. And the last time was in 2012, when the team followed a 4-0 preseason with a 4-12 regular season.
There are good reasons for the mounting optimism. Most of the sometimes controversial moves coach Chip Kelly made in the offseason are looking very good at this point. Sam Bradford, coming off his 10-for-10, three-touchdown performance in Green Bay, has the look of a franchise quarterback. With DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews rushing with abandon, no one is pining for LeSean McCoy.
But there are also reasons to be at least a little bit cautious about the team.
"We're just trying to get better every day and improve as a group," Kelly said Monday. "I don't think people have game planned for us, nor have we game planned for them. I think we're all trying to get our players to get opportunities on film so you can teach off it."
That is the point of the preseason. But Kelly is also trying to get a newly assembled group of men to bond as a team in time for the regular season.
"This team, coach Kelly -- we've approached every preseason game as if it's the Super Bowl," safety Ed Reynolds said. "It's just going out there and treating it like it's the Super Bowl."
And that's fine. But it's also fine to acknowledge that the opponents aren't necessarily approaching the games with quite the same intensity. Against the Colts, especially, it looked as if the Eagles were playing at a higher intensity level throughout the game.
That difference in commitment won't necessarily be there once the regular season begins. And while Kelly is right that neither team has been game planning the way they do in the regular season, that may give the Eagles a bit of an edge. Their uptempo offense is unusual enough in the NFL that teams are at more of a disadvantage if they haven't prepared for it.
Let's be clear here. The point isn't that the Eagles have looked anything but very strong so far. If Bradford had completed three of his 10 passes in Green Bay and thrown an interception, it wouldn't matter that the Eagles were treating the game like it was the Super Bowl. If the offensive line wasn't protecting Bradford and creating space for the running backs, there would be little reason to get excited about this team.
Kelly took some risks when he parted with McCoy, Nick Foles, Evan Mathis, Trent Cole, Todd Herremans and three-quarters of his starting secondary. He took risks when he brought in injured players such as Bradford and Kiko Alonso.
Now Kelly is trying to forge a team out of all those new players. He is doing it by taking the preseason games seriously and creating a wave of momentum that should carry into the season. There's no way to know how far that wave will carry the Eagles. But it is clear, through three preseason games, that Kelly's approach is working pretty well.
Bradford took the field in Green Bay with something to prove. He had played one series in the Philadelphia Eagles' previous preseason game, completing three of five passes on a touchdown drive. But most of the conversation afterward was about the hit Bradford took on his surgically repaired knee from Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs.
The truth was, Bradford seemed understandably shaky in his first game action in 12 months.
In Green Bay, Bradford played three series. He threw 10 passes. He completed all 10. Three of those went for touchdowns. Bradford threw for a total of 121 yards before stepping to the sideline for the second quarter with a 25-0 lead.
Bradford dropped a perfect throw to running back Darren Sproles down the left side. He found tight end Brent Celek in the back of the end zone. And he took a big hit from a blitzing Packer while delivering a perfect throw to tight end Trey Burton.
Chip Kelly has always said that repetitive accuracy was the most important quality a quarterback could have in his offense. Bradford gave a clinic on what that meant. He also gave a preview of what could be a special combination if Bradford is able to stay healthy for the entire 2015 season.
The Philadelphia Eagles released 12 players Sunday in preparation for cutting their roster to 75 by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. The Eagles now have 78 players on their roster.
Most significant move: G.J. Kinne spent two seasons on the fringe of the Eagles’ roster as a quarterback. As a practice squad player, he helped the defense prepare for mobile quarterbacks like Cam Newton and Russell Wilson. During the offseason, Kinne asked coach Chip Kelly if he could try to make the team as a running back and wide receiver. Kelly had signed Tim Tebow and traded for Sam Bradford. The quarterback meeting room seemed a little crowded. Kinne gave it his best shot, catching two passes for 4 yards in Saturday night’s preseason game in Green Bay. But he was among the first cuts announced by the team Sunday.
Local hero: Mike Coccia’s family still has its Eagles season tickets. The dream of seeing Coccia play in a regular-season game at Lincoln Financial Field will have to wait. The Eagles signed Coccia as an undrafted rookie free agent this year out of New Hampshire. He worked at center and guard during OTAs and minicamp and was trying to make the roster as a backup. But the Eagles have a few candidates for that role in David Molk and Julian Vandervelde. There just wasn’t room for Coccia at this point.
What’s next: The Eagles did not make any cuts at quarterback. The expectation is that Tebow and Matt Barkley will play most of Thursday’s preseason finale against the New York Jets at the Meadowlands. That will give each of them one final chance to make a case for himself as the No. 3 quarterback. The final roster cutdown to 53 players is Saturday at 4 p.m.
Eagles moves: CB Marc Anthony, S Brandan Bishop, OL Mike Coccia, OL Kevin Graf, DE Alfy Hill, WR Mike Johnson, WR G.J. Kinne, LB Dasman McCullum, WR Josh Reese, DE Jeremy Towns, TE Justin Tukes, OL Jared Wheeler.
That debut is still on hold. Alonso was inactive for the game, meaning the Eagles’ three primary inside linebackers have yet to play together in a game.
“Kiko tried to run around a little bit,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “His leg’s bothering him a little bit, so he tried to run around pregame. He’s got a nagging knee -- leg -- injury, some tendinitis. It should be fine.”
Alonso missed the 2014 season with a torn ACL in his knee. Kelly stressed that his current injury is not related to the ACL. But he said Alonso had some unrelated soreness that kept him from playing against the Packers.
With Alonso out, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks started at inside linebacker. Ryans did not play long. Kendricks, in his first preseason action, looked rusty. He missed a tackle that led to a long Green Bay gain and committed a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
The situation both explains why Kelly added Alonso to the mix at inside linebacker and highlights the risk he took by trading LeSean McCoy for a player coming off ACL surgery.
Last year, Kendricks missed four games with a calf injury and Ryans missed the second half of the season after tearing his Achilles tendon. Kelly felt that he needed to add depth at inside linebacker.
Saturday night, when Alonso couldn’t go, Kelly still had Ryans and Kendricks ready.
At the same time, Alonso’s status was an example of how things could go wrong for the Eagles at inside linebacker. Alonso missed two weeks of training camp, plus two preseason games, due to a concussion. Now his knee is the problem.
Meanwhile, Ryans was limited throughout camp as he returns from his second torn Achilles tendon in four years. It is up in the air whether Ryans will be able to play regularly once the regular season starts.
Alonso was supposed to be the insurance policy at Ryans’ position, and Alonso has yet to take the field in a game.
None of this matters in the preseason. But the Eagles open the regular season Sept. 14 in Atlanta, and they have as many questions at inside linebacker as they had most of last season.
QB depth chart: Holding steady? It was tough for Mark Sanchez. In a strong quarter of work with the second-team offense, Sanchez completed 13 of 19 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. But it was almost impossible to outshine Sam Bradford’s 10-for-10 passing performance for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Bradford will be starting in Atlanta when the season opens on Sept. 14.
Maybe that dude could start: Maybe this will be the week that Chip Kelly acknowledges that Andrew Gardner is the Eagles’ starting right guard. The purported open competition has consisted of Gardner playing every down with the first team. He has played well, too. It has been obvious for a while. Time to say so.
Who got hurt? There was a scary moment in the first quarter when Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson went down. The medical staff examined his left knee on the sideline, but Johnson got back up and was walking around. He did not return, but that had more to do with it being a preseason game than anything else. Inside linebacker Kiko Alonso did not play after warming up. Kelly said Alonso’s knee was bothering him, perhaps from a case of tendinitis.
A surprise player who looks amazing: As a rookie last year, Trey Burton mostly made a mark blocking punts and causing havoc on special teams. This year, Burton is in the tight end role that James Casey held last season. He caught two touchdown passes in the first half, one from Bradford and one from Sanchez.
Rookie watch: It was kind of a slow night for first-round pick Nelson Agholor, but that’s because he ranks among the key players whose time was limited. Cornerback Eric Rowe, the second-round pick, was tested and held up fairly well. If nothing else, there were some teaching moments. Third-round linebacker Jordan Hicks was on the field a lot and played pretty well, an illegal-contact penalty notwithstanding. Fifth-rounder Randall Evans made a diving interception in the fourth quarter.
When it was starters vs. starters, we looked …: OK, so it was never really starters vs. starters in this one. Not with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the sideline in a baseball cap. But the Eagles finished the first half with a 25-7 lead while working against Green Bay’s starting defense. That’s pretty encouraging.
One reason to freak out, good or bad: Bradford. Kelly’s whole offseason strategy hinged on Bradford being not only healthy, but the kind of franchise-caliber quarterback that can make the Eagles a contender. His perfect performance -- 10-for-10, 121 yards, three touchdowns -- certainly gave reason to believe in Kelly’s plan.
Cody Parkey went missing: Kip Smith, who was signed as a punter, handled the Eagles’ kicking duties. That was a little odd, considering that Parkey was considered a sure thing for the kicker job. Kelly said Parkey had a minor leg injury. Smith did pretty well, by the way.
A rough night for Tim Tebow theorists: Kelly had Tebow line up for two two-point conversion tries in the first half. Tebow Nation pointed at the TV and said, “Aha! Just like we thought!” But Tebow was short running for the first attempt and threw incomplete on the second try.
The fans who showed up at Lambeau Field or tuned in on television were no doubt disappointed they didn’t get a chance to see Aaron Rodgers play.
Sam Bradford gave them their money’s worth.
The Philadelphia Eagles' new quarterback completed all 10 of his passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns. By the time Bradford punched out after one quarter, he had given the Eagles a 25-0 lead on the Packers.
It was the kind of performance coach Chip Kelly envisioned when he acquired Bradford in an offseason trade. Kelly has said he didn’t feel that Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez gave him the kind of quarterback play that could compete for a Super Bowl. So he traded Foles and a second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams for Bradford.
The Rams had given up on Bradford, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL draft, as a franchise quarterback. Bradford tore the ACL in his left knee twice, ending his 2013 and 2014 seasons. Kelly has said that franchise quarterbacks don’t change teams unless injuries are in the mix. He has cited Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as precedents.
In last week’s preseason win over the Baltimore Ravens, Bradford made his Eagles debut. He played a total of 14 snaps, completing 3 of 5 passes for 35 yards on a touchdown drive. But Bradford also took a shot at the knees from Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs.
Throughout the week, Kelly wouldn’t commit to Bradford playing against Green Bay. But it seemed clear that Bradford needed the work. The shot from Suggs was a worrisome reminder of Bradford’s history, but it also was a sign that Bradford needed to get more comfortable in the pocket at game speed.
Against the Packers, Bradford looked much more comfortable. His second touchdown pass, to tight end Trey Burton, was a case in point. The Packers blitzed from the defensive left side. Bradford stayed in against the blitz, waiting for Burton to get free. He fired the pass as he was taken down by a defender.
Bradford looked as accurate and as comfortable as he did in organized team activity practices back in June. But this time, he wasn’t wearing the red jersey that signified that quarterbacks aren’t to be hit. Bradford faced a pass rush without flinching and was still able to deliver his passes on time and on target.
For Bradford, it was probably the end of his preseason work. The Eagles play the New York Jets Thursday night in their preseason finale. There’s a good chance the starters will mostly sit out that game.
With the Eagles set to open the regular season in Atlanta on Sept. 14, Bradford not only looked ready to be their starting quarterback, he looked an awful lot like Aaron Rodgers.
Why watch: That first glimpse of Sam Bradford last week was encouraging, but it will be good to see the Eagles’ first-team offense play long enough to develop a rhythm. That assumes, of course, that Chip Kelly decides to play Bradford, DeMarco Murray and the rest of the offense for a quarter or longer. Example: Bradford said (and Kelly agreed) that his first throw to an open Riley Cooper was too long because Bradford was overanxious after a year without playing. Playing two or three series would give Bradford a chance to settle down and run the offense.
Did you know: The Eagles’ secondary was looking forward to testing itself against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But there’s a very good chance Rodgers won’t play in this game. Three of the Packers’ starting offensive linemen are hurt and unlikely to play, leaving coach Mike McCarthy with a choice between risking injury to his most important player and trusting that Rodgers will be ready for the regular season without a bit more work. With wide receiver Jordy Nelson tearing an ACL last week, McCarthy is likely to err on the side of caution.
PHILADELPHIA – The next week is a busy one for Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. They play two road preseason games – one Saturday night in Green Bay and one Thursday against the New York Jets – and face two rounds of roster cuts by next Saturday.
NFL rosters have to be cut from 90 to 75 by Tuesday at 4 p.m. They have to be down to the final 53-man roster by next Saturday at 4 p.m.
Kelly said that cuts will be “definitely more difficult this year than it was in the last two years.”
In Kelly’s first season, there were several players he inherited from Andy Reid’s 4-12 2012 team. During the last two years Kelly has whittled away at that group, getting rid of players who didn’t fit his specifications.
This year, Kelly will be cutting a roster he has built up through three drafts and three free agency periods. There are more players who were acquired with his offensive and defensive schemes in mind.
“I think we have more depth,” Kelly said, “so I believe we'll cut some players that will make other rosters. I'm hoping. That's our goal for all of our players, and we tell them that on Day 1 -- I want them to play in the NFL. Hopefully, it's on our team. If it's not on our team, it's on another team.
“But it is going to be difficult and we'll have to sit down long and hard after this Packer game and when it's difficult to get to 75, I think from a coaching standpoint that's a good thing. But there is still a human factor that gets involved with cutting somebody, and that part is not a lot of fun.”
Of the players who traveled to Green Bay, 37 won’t be on the team one week later. A few will likely wind up on the Eagles’ practice squad, but close to 30 will scatter. Some might wind up on other teams; others will work out in hopes of getting another chance next year.
This group has largely been together since May. In one busy week, it will finish the preseason and go through two tough rounds of cuts.
He would like to play some football at Lambeau Field Saturday night.
“We still haven’t even talked about this game,” Bradford said. “I don’t know how coach does it here.”
In 2013, Kelly’s first season in the NFL, he had Michael Vick and Nick Foles competing for the starting quarterback job. Kelly declared Vick the winner before the third preseason game. Vick played the entire first half of that game, in Jacksonville, and one series in the third quarter.
Vick completed 15 of 23 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown.
Last year, Foles was the starter going into training camp. In the third preseason game, against Pittsburgh, Foles played the entire first half. He completed 19 of 29 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown.
So that would seem to be “how coach does it” in Philadelphia.
“I think it would be nice,” Bradford said. “The biggest thing would just be getting into a rhythm. Obviously, last week we played the one drive and it was great. It’s nice to go on the field multiple times, establish that rhythm, work on communication with the line, with receivers, talk about what we’re seeing on the field -- so when we get to the regular season, that’s not something we’re trying to work through.”
Kelly said he and his staff will meet Friday afternoon to discuss playing time for various players. But it seems likely the head coach has a pretty good handle on how he wants to bring along the quarterback he traded for in March.
Bradford played one touchdown drive in the Eagles' preseason game against Baltimore on Saturday. He took a couple of hits, including the controversial low hit by linebacker Terrell Suggs, in his first live action since tearing his left ACL a year earlier.
“I think it was nice to get out there, take a few shots, get back up and know that my body can still take those hits,” Bradford said. “I think it was kind of that last box that needed to be checked off.”
There are a few other boxes. The Ravens game was at home, while the Packers game will be on the road at Lambeau Field. That will give Bradford and the first-team offense a chance for a dress rehearsal for the season-opening game at Atlanta in three weeks.
“We’ll probably have to work some silent count, which is what we expect to do Week 1 in Atlanta,” Bradford said. “That changes some things, just with motion timing, some little things in our offense that you take for granted when we play at home and everyone can hear the snap count. I think it will be good to get a challenge from a good Green Bay team on the road.”
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles have every reason to feel good about themselves after two preseason games. They have won both games by a combined score of 76-27 and amassed 888 yards of offense.
This weekend brings a good test. The Eagles travel to Green Bay for a preseason game against the Packers. Last year, they went to Lambeau Field and were destroyed, 53-20.
It was the game that illustrated how far the Eagles were from the NFL’s elite, a lesson Chip Kelly applied while radically reconfiguring his team during the offseason.
But the biggest test will be presented to the Eagles’ reconstructed secondary. Aaron Rodgers threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns in that game. This time, he won’t be playing the entire game, and he’ll be without wide receiver Jordy Nelson. But Rodgers represents the highest level of quarterback play.
“I'm excited,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “I hope Aaron plays a lot because I'm really excited to see our guys go up against them. We took a pretty good beating last year down there, and we're excited about the challenge. We love competing against the best, like Aaron is, and they've got some quality receivers that hopefully they play that first half and we can really get a good test of where we are.
“And even in the second half when Aaron Rodgers isn't in, they're still moving that ball, throwing it around, and they've got depth at the receiver position, and we'll be challenged. It'll be interesting to see where we are.”
“Just going up against that form of offense -- Rodgers, [Eddie] Lacy, they have a ton of talent -- it’s always good,” Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. “In that third game, you do a little bit of game planning. You want to let your [starters] go a little longer. It will be a good matchup for us.”
The Packers will be without Jordy Nelson, who tore his ACL over the weekend. Nelson caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown in last year’s game. Bradley Fletcher, the cornerback Nelson victimized, is long gone.
But the Packers still have Randall Cobb, who caught 10 passes for 129 yards against the Eagles. Cobb often lines up in the slot, which is where the Eagles have been auditioning replacements for Brandon Boykin.
“We’re really looking to see who we want our starting nickel [cornerback] to be,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “It’s going to be a good test for them. He’s one of the best slot receivers in the league right now. Obviously, with the quarterback he has, he’s going to get a lot of targets.”
“It’s risk/reward,” Kendricks said Tuesday. “For my security, for my family’s security, everything says, 'Do it now.' This is one of the biggest moments of my life. It’s a really big decision. It’s just about security.”
A day earlier, Kendricks agreed to a new four-year, $29 million deal with $16.4 million in guaranteed money. Kendricks said it took about two weeks for the negotiation.
“The fact that it happened here is great,” Kendricks said. “I wouldn’t want to be any other place. Now it’s just about playing football and about being the best.”
Getting a second contract is the goal of every young player. With the NFL’s rookie scale, drafted players make good money by most standards, but only the top few picks really get financial security right away.
For the rest, that comes with the second contract. Kendricks now has that security. The next step is how he responds to it. Some players see it as a sign they’ve arrived and can switch to cruise control. Others are motivated to live up to their new deal.
“It gives you peace of mind, the ability to relax your mind a little bit,” Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. “He has lifelong security, now he can really focus on his craft and getting great at it. It’s really great for Mychal. He’s the kind of guy that will really flourish because he has a contract done.”
Kendricks’ deal came at an interesting time. He was a second-round pick in the 2012 draft, the last under former Eagles head coach Andy Reid. At 6-foot, 240 pounds, Kendricks is not exactly one of the “big people” that current Eagles coach Chip Kelly likes to have on his roster. He doesn’t fit the prototype of an inside linebacker.
“In this day and age,” Davis said, “I think he’s close to it. With all the spread offenses, you need speed and athleticism in there. In the old days, we used to find the big Levon Kirklands who could butt heads with a guard. You don’t need that quite as much any more.”
“I do believe I am the new prototype,” Kendricks said. “The game is becoming more fast. Everyone’s spreading out. I think a faster, quicker linebacker that can go and create disruption from the center of the field, being able to attack from inside out, it opens it up. My goal is to become the best inside pass-rushing linebacker.”
Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and Kiko Alonso give the Eagles three inside linebackers who can play a significant amount over the course of the season. No one seems concerned about the playing time or how to divide it.
The Eagles defense was on the field more than any defense in the NFL last season, a byproduct of Kelly’s uptempo offense. Two years ago, Ryans was on the field for more plays than any defender in the NFL. Last year, he missed half the season with a torn Achilles tendon.
This season, the plan is to keep each linebacker fresh by rotating all three.
“I think you need a mixture,” Kendricks said, “and I think that’s what we have here. I think you need depth. I feel like we cover all areas with our depth at linebacker. By the way we play football, and as fast as we go, there’s plenty of snaps. Trust me.”
This isn’t about whether a read-option play allows the defender to hit a quarterback. It is about where the quarterback is hit.
"It’s real simple to me," Davis said Tuesday. "You tackle the man with the ball in the backfield. Whoever has the ball is who you’re trying to tackle. From there, when you hit a quarterback in the backfield, you’ve got to stay above the waist and below the neck, whether he has it or not.
"If you go below the knees, absolutely you’re going to be called 100 percent of the time. Whether you say he might be a runner or not, it doesn’t matter. The NFL’s going to protect quarterbacks."
Suggs dove at Bradford’s knee from the quarterback’s left side. Bradford’s left knee has been surgically repaired after torn ACLs twice in the past two years.
Referee Jerome Boger threw a flag. He called the Ravens linebacker for roughing the passer, which was not quite accurate since Bradford wasn’t passing. But the penalty is the same -- 15 yards -- whether it is called roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness.
The issue flared up Monday, when the NFL’s head of officiating, Dean Blandino, went on NFL Network and said that the hit was legal and should not have drawn a flag. As Blandino explained it, the rules allow the quarterback to be hit on a read-option play, which is designed to fool defenders as far as where the ball is.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly responded, saying the play was not a read-option. Bradford was simply handing off to Darren Sproles while lined up in the shotgun. He was not basing the decision of whether to hand off or keep the ball himself on what Suggs did. That is the essence of the read-option.
Ravens head coach John Harbaugh responded to Kelly, as well as Eagles players who said that Suggs targeted Bradford’s knee deliberately.
"When you start popping off about somebody's character, you cross the line," Harbaugh said. "That's not really something that we would respect. But most of their guys over there understood the play and understood [Suggs] was playing hard and trying to get stops."
That debate, though entertaining, doesn’t address the primary point that Davis made.
"When it’s in that gray area," Davis said, "the NFL is going to protect quarterbacks. Period. They always have and they always will. That is what drives the NFL.
"I don’t care who says what about anything. What I know, in my experience in the NFL, a quarterback is going to be protected. They are going to protect them. It’s always been that way, and it will continue to be that way."