Eagles

All the ways Eagles proved Chip Kelly wrong

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All the ways Eagles proved Chip Kelly wrong

The Eagles are well past the mostly disastrous days of Chip Kelly, but it's astonishing to look at how often they proved him wrong this season en route to their first Super Bowl title.

Time of possession does actually matter
Remember all those times Chip said time of possession didn't matter? 

Well, the Eagles just led the NFL in time of possession, dominated all three playoff opponents in time of possession and won the Super Bowl.

Think it helped that their fourth-quarter, game-winning drive lasted over seven minutes? Or that they set the tone against the Patriots' defense with an opening drive that lasted nearly half of the first quarter?

Eerily, the Eagles held the ball for exactly 34:04 against the Vikings in the NFC Championship Game and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. For the season, they controlled the ball for 32:48 per game.

In some convoluted way, you wonder if the grueling nature of practices and games under Kelly inevitably helped the Eagles' defense. These guys were used to being on the field 35 minutes a game, so they built up that stamina and energy reserve, then didn't need as much of it. 

Foles > Bradford
Remember how frustrated Eagles fans were initially when Chip traded Nick Foles and a second-round pick to the Rams for Sam Bradford?

Sure looks like another talent misevaluation.

Bradford has had trouble staying healthy, missing nearly all of 2017 with a knee injury.

Foles just won a Super Bowl and became the only QB ever to have three TDs, 350-plus yards and 65-plus percent accuracy in consecutive postseason weeks.

There's also this:

As for Bradford, he's still yet to attempt a playoff pass.

Empowering players works ... who'da thunk it?
Jeff Lurie's "emotional intelligence" quote after the firing of Kelly got a ton of attention. It's not a phrase you often hear uttered in sports.

Know what? Lurie got that aspect of his coaching search 100 percent right. Super Bowl or not, innovative play-calling or not, aggressiveness or not, Pederson connected with these players from Day 1. 

The veterans' council he set up went a very long way in creating a harmonious link between locker room and coaching staff. Guys got to rest when they needed to. They got to ramp up practice aggression and hit more when they needed to. Under Chip, the Eagles never hit in practice.

And, maybe most importantly, they got to be themselves. One of the best quotes after the Super Bowl came from Malcolm Jenkins in his postgame message to the locker room. 

If only Chip had past evidence that democracies work better than dictatorships.

'Big people beat up little people'
Not always the case.

Know who's undersized for his position? Mychal Kendricks, who fell out of favor under Kelly and just had by far the best season of his career.

Jordan Matthews is a big receiver Kelly loved playing in the slot, but the Eagles traded Matthews and took their slot production to another level this season with the smaller, shiftier, speedier Nelson Agholor.

On the flipside of that equation is Eric Rowe, a cornerback with good size drafted under the Kelly regime and traded by Howie Roseman. Rowe has been an OK pro, but he was overmatched in the first half of the Super Bowl against Alshon Jeffery and was in coverage on Jeffery's 34-yard touchdown catch. It wasn't until the Patriots moved Stephon Gilmore onto Jeffery that he slowed down.

Interchangeable running backs
Another common refrain from Kelly during his time here was that all of his running backs were interchangeable and capable of doing the same things on the field.

That claim from Kelly defied logic considering he said it about a group of DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles, three very different running backs.

Pederson this season divvied up playing time among his RBs in a strategic, effective way. Darren Sproles, then Kenjon Barner and eventually Corey Clement played well in the James White role. LeGarrette Blount was money in short yardage more often than not. Jay Ajayi's fresh legs provided runs of 71, 46, 30, 22 and 19 yards down the stretch.

Leonard Fournette was the only running back in the NFL this season who had more rushing first downs than Blount and Ajayi.

Values
One thing Chip was right about? Culture does indeed beat scheme. Just not his culture.

Eagles injury update: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles day to day; big week for Alshon Jeffery

Eagles injury update: Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles day to day; big week for Alshon Jeffery

Doug Pederson was pretty happy when he started his press conference on Wednesday morning. He knew there wouldn’t be any more questions about Carson Wentz’s health. 

“The galaxy is in balance now,” Pederson said. “You guys can relax.” 

Wentz will get the full complement of first-team reps this week and make his 2018 debut on Sunday against the Colts. 

But there were some other injury nuggets from Pederson’s press conference: 

Jay Ajayi

The Eagles’ lead running back got hit in his lower back during Sunday’s game and was in pain after he toughed it out. Just before he went to get some treatment, he said, “My s--- is f-----.” 

But, according to Pederson, Ajayi is day to day. “We’ll see where he’s at, at the end of the week,” Pederson said. He might be able to play. 

Darren Sproles

Pederson said Sproles (hamstring) is also day to day but is “a little bit longer.” That makes it seem likely the Eagles’ running back is more likely to miss his second straight week. 

Alshon Jeffery 

It doesn’t seem like Jeffery (shoulder) will play this weekend, but he is definitely getting closer to returning from that torn rotator cuff and subsequent surgery. 

“He’s a lot like Carson was a couple weeks ago, being able to get back into the mix and do some 11-on-11 stuff,” Pederson said. “This will be a big week in that regard.”

Getting Jeffery back in 11-on-11s is the step before getting him back for games. This is an important development. 

Jason Peters

The future Hall of Famer left Sunday’s game early with a quad injury he suffered during the previous week. Pederson said he expects to have The Bodyguard this week vs. the Colts. 

Jordan Matthews

The Eagles officially brought back their former draft pick on Wednesday morning. Matthews, when he was cut by the Patriots in August, was dealing with a hamstring issue, but is healthy now. Pederson said Matthews looked good in his workout and the doctors didn’t see any issues when they checked him out. 

Mike Wallace 

To make room for Matthews on the roster, the Eagles moved Wallace to IR with that fractured fibula. Pederson called him “week to week” but didn’t rule out a possible return later in the season. The Eagles are allowed to bring back two players from IR per season. They might have some decisions to make later this year.

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He's slow and boring, but Jordan Matthews is Eagles' best option

He's slow and boring, but Jordan Matthews is Eagles' best option

Jordan Matthews isn’t a big name, and he’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and he’s been cast off by three teams in the last 14 months, and honestly he was probably just about dead last on most Eagles fans’ wish list when it came to finding wide receiver help.

He’s not the fastest guy. He’s not the most exciting guy. He’s never been on a reality show or done sit-ups in his driveway or been suspended for a positive drug test.

He’s slow and boring.

For this Eagles team right now? He makes the most sense.

When you’re looking for a wide receiver who can come in and contribute immediately – and we can all agree the Eagles desperately need that – it doesn’t matter how many Pro Bowls a guy has been to or how big a name that guy is or how many Instagram followers he has.

You need someone who knows the playbook, who fits into a team’s culture, who has a history with the coaches and understands what they’re looking for, who has the QB’s trust.

Matthews has all of that, and now he’s apparently healthy enough to play.

And there’s no reason to doubt that he can go out as early as Sunday against the Colts and catch the football.

Of all the available options — and there weren't very many — he made the most sense.

Matthews is one of those guys a good portion of Eagles fans inexplicably have never liked.

I never got that.

He’s not a superstar and never will be. He doesn’t run a 4.2. But if there’s anything we learned from 2017 it’s that you don’t need a bunch of superstars to win a championship.

From 2014 through 2016, his three years here, Matthews averaged 75 catches, 891 yards and 6 ½ touchdowns. Only 11 other wide receivers matched that during that stretch.

You can’t argue with that sort of consistency.

Here’s a list of players with the most receptions in their first three NFL seasons:

288 … Odell Beckham Jr.
288 … Jarvis Landry
260 … A.J. Green
259 … Anquan Boldin
239 … DeAndre Hopkins
238 … Mike Evans
238 … LaDainian Tomlinson
230 … Larry Fitzgerald
226 … Brandon Marshall
226 … Randy Moss
225 … Jordan Matthews
224 … Isaac Bruce
224 … Michael Thomas
218 … Percy Harvin
216 … Keyshawn Johnson

There’s a reason quarterbacks love him. He’s solid, unselfish, smart, productive.

He’s not DeSean Jackson and never will be. He’s a different kind of player. A pure slot, a possession guy, a productive player who’s still only 26.

It made sense to trade him to the Bills last year in the Ronald Darby deal, and it makes just as much sense to bring him back.

He’ll help. He won’t show up on a bunch of highlight reels, but he’ll catch passes, which is exactly what this team needs.

I remember talking to Carson Wentz on the grass fields at training camp the morning after Matthews was traded. Wentz completed 73 passes for 804 yards and three TDs to Matthews as a rookie, and he was devastated at losing his favorite receiver:

"It's tough. You have to trust what they are doing upstairs. On the personal side, it's tough. It's someone that was one of my best friends. I spoke with Howie. He obviously knew how I felt with Jordan being one of my best friends. He knew that, he was prepared for that and I told him that."

Now he has him back, and anything that makes Carson happy should make Eagles fans happy.

The Eagles might not be a flashier team than they were yesterday.

But there’s no question they’re a better team.

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