Eagles

The 10 smartest moves Chip Kelly made with the Eagles

The 10 smartest moves Chip Kelly made with the Eagles

It really bugged me when Chip Kelly was selected as the Ultimate Eagles Villain in our recent Philly Villains series

Not that Kelly wasn’t a villain. He was. The guy was a terrible communicator, he alienated his players, he was the world’s worst general manager and his team quit on him.

But the Ultimate Villain?

Norman Braman deserved that prestigious honor

Kelly is certainly not a person to celebrate. He got rid of LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. He traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford. He signed Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray. He released Evan Mathis.

But you can make a case that without Kelly, there is no Super Bowl. Without Kelly, there is no parade down Broad Street. 

So while the rest of Philly vilifies Kelly, we’re going to count down the 10 smartest moves he made while he was with the Eagles. And I guarantee nobody has ever made a list of the 10 smartest things Norman Braman ever did as Eagles owner.

1. April 25-26, 2013: Drafted Lane Johnson in the first round and Zach Ertz in the second round

Howie Roseman was still general manager, and he certainly had a hand in these picks, but even though Kelly didn’t have the GM tag yet he did have significant power in the draft room, and both picks bore his seal of approval. Both have gone on to make numerous Pro Bowls and both are now all-time Eagles.

2. Feb. 8, 2013: Named Jeff Stoutland offensive line coach 

It was a stroke of genius for Kelly to hire Stoutland, who came to the Eagles with zero NFL experience but quickly emerged as one of the most highly regarded offensive line coaches in the NFL. Doug Pederson kept Stoutland around, and he’s done a masterful job, especially during the 2017 Super Bowl season. Stout has sent five linemen to a total of 15 Pro Bowls in his seven years here under Kelly and Pederson.

3. March 11, 2014: Signed free-agent safety Malcolm Jenkins

Roseman was still officially GM in the spring of 2014, but Chip was instrumental in luring Jenkins away from the Saints. Jenkins made his first three career Pro Bowls during his six years with the Eagles and never missed a snap because of injury. Jenkins had 11 interceptions and four pick-6’s as an Eagle and was an inspirational locker room leader and tireless proponent for social justice and change in the community as well. Jenkins re-signed with the Saints this offseason.

4. Feb. 8, 2013: Named Duce Staley running backs coach

Don’t forget, Staley was never a running backs coach under Andy Reid. That was a Chip Kelly invention. Chip moved Staley from assistant special teams coach under Bobby April to a position where his talents were much better used, and Pederson kept him. Staley has proven to be one of the best running back coaches in the NFL, and the Eagles are seventh in the league in rushing in his seven years under Kelly and Pederson. Staley just made our list of the top 10 assistant coaches in Eagles history, along with Stoutland. 

5. March 9, 2015: Signed Brandon Graham to a four-year, $26 million contract

Graham was expected to sign with the Giants and was close to joining the Eagles’ NFC East rival, but Kelly lured Graham back. Kelly was criticized for signing Graham instead of Trent Cole, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal with the Colts. But Cole only recorded 5.0 sacks the rest of his career. Graham has 34 since then. And he recorded one of the biggest plays in franchise history in the Super Bowl.

6. Feb. 8, 2013: Hired Dave Fipp as special teams coach

Fipp has given the Eagles the same sort of smart, productive and consistent special teams play that John Harbaugh’s units delivered from 1998 through 2006. The Eagles were ranked No. 1 in the NFL in special teams by Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News in 2014 and 2016 and they were nearly as good in 2017. Pederson was smart to keep Fipp around when he replaced Kelly.

7. May 1, 2015: Drafted Jordan Hicks in the third round

Hicks was very good when healthy in his four years with the Eagles, with seven interceptions, five sacks and six fumble recoveries. He started the first seven games of the Super Bowl season before getting hurt. By signing with the Cardinals last offseason, he earned the Eagles a comp pick that became promising offensive lineman Jack Driscoll.

8. Aug. 3, 2015: Traded Brandon Boykin to the Steelers

Another move that was roundly panned when Kelly made it, the Eagles shipped the popular Boykin — who had six INTs in 2013 — to the Steelers for a conditional fifth-round pick that remained a fifth-rounder because Boykin played only 274 snaps the rest of his career. The fifth-round pick the Eagles got from the Steelers became Halapoulivaati Vaitai, the Eagles’ starting left tackle in the Super Bowl.

9. Feb. 8, 2013: Hired Press Taylor as offensive quality control coach

Press Taylor was an unknown college grad assistant at Tulsa when Kelly hired him as an offensive quality control coach. Pederson kept him around when he got here in 2016 and in 2018 promoted him to quarterbacks coach. This offseason Pederson added the title of passing game coordinator to Taylor’s job description. Taylor has gone from an obscure college grad assistant to one of the most highly regarded young offensive minds in the league in seven years.

10. Jan. 19, 2015: Named Cory Undlin secondary coach

Undlin replaced John Lovett and although some Eagles fans don’t want to hear it, Undlin was a terrific teacher and motivator and another key coach on the 2017 Super Bowl team who originally came here under Kelly. With a constantly changing array of cornerbacks, Undlin kept the secondary together, and in his four years under Pederson and Jim Schwartz, the Eagles held opposing QBs to the eighth-lowest completion percentage and 12th-lowest passer rating in the NFL. Undlin is now starting his first season as Lions defensive coordinator.

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Eagles draft pick Casey Toohill didn’t let a pandemic slow him down

Eagles draft pick Casey Toohill didn’t let a pandemic slow him down

As far as built-in excuses go, this would have been a pretty good one. 

After all, it’s not Casey Toohill’s fault there’s a global pandemic. It’s not his fault gyms were closed and OTAs were canceled. And it’s not even his fault that he’s an undersized 7th-round pick entering a season where all rookies are at an extreme disadvantage. He won’t even have preseason games. 

But you can save the excuses. Toohill did. He refused to let the COVID-19 pandemic stand in his way. 

I knew I needed to gain weight, so that’s what I did,” Toohilll said last week. “I bought a squat rack, I borrowed weights. Eventually, I was able to find a place to work out with maybe a little bit more equipment. But from the first day on, I came home to San Diego, where I’m from, and I knew that was going to happen. I had that foresight, I purchased that equipment and then I hit it hard.

Toohill, 23, is listed at 250 pounds but he is already up to 255. He’s not done yet, but he’s off to a good start. 

This is an offseason where we got to learn a lot about the desire of football players at various levels. The self-motivators found a way. Even in inopportune situations, those guys were able to lift and workout and train and prepare for camp. Then there are guys who might not be self-motivated. 

There’s no question what category Toohill falls into. 

“A lot of guys need that structure and organization,” Stanford director of defense Lance Anderson said to NBC Sports Philadelphia last week. “If anyone can do it on their own, it would be a guy like Casey. He’s going to take the initiative to get in and do what he needs to.”

A self-starter 

Anderson said it didn’t surprise him — “not a bit” — to hear that Toohill put in extra work this offseason despite the conditions. And he thinks if anyone can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to make an NFL roster under these conditions, it’s Toohill.  

Anderson saw those qualities from Toohill even as they were recruiting him as a high school player. But he really saw those qualities up close and personal during 2015, Toohill’s redshirt freshman season. 

Stanford’s strength and conditioning coach had been watching Toohill work out with two players a year ahead of him that the coaching staff had high hopes for — and Toohill was outworking both of them. 

“This is a guy that you need to keep an eye on,” Anderson remembers the coach telling him. “Don’t worry about those other two. Keep your eye on this guy just because of what he’s shown already.”

Gaining weight  

Toohill is now at 255 pounds and he doesn’t have a definite target in mind. His main goal is to increase his weight slowly without losing the athleticism that caught the eyes of NFL scouts and coaches. 

“I’ve gained weight and I want to continue to,” he said. “But I think it would be a mistake to rush to gain a lot of weight and then maybe feel like I’m slow or not as explosive.”

At 6-foot-5, now 255 pounds, Toohill is still undersized for an NFL defensive end, but that’s where the Eagles want to play him. He’s actually already heavier than the listed weights of Josh Sweat and Shareef Miller. 

If Toohill can improve his strength, he has a ton of other attributes to work with. Check out his athleticism numbers compared to other edge players: 

“Casey, naturally, he is an athletic kid,” Anderson said. “He can run, he can jump, he’s explosive. It’s just finding that right balance of gaining that weight and getting bigger, stronger but doing it the right way and doing it slow enough where it’s not bad weight and you start to lose that speed that makes you a good football player. That’s why you were drafted; that’s why you have an opportunity in the NFL. 

“It’s just that balance of doing it the right way. But it’s getting bigger and stronger to be able to hold up against those tackles and tight ends and fullbacks in the NFL.” 

Role in the NFL 

Anderson said Toohill garnered interest as both a 3-4 outside linebacker and a 4-3 defensive end during the pre-draft process. Some teams even inquired about him possibly playing as an off-the-ball inside linebacker or even an H-back or fullback. Teams were intrigued by his athleticism. 

But with the Eagles, Toohill is in the defensive line room, learning how to play defensive end. At Stanford, Toohill was an outside linebacker, but the outside ‘backers in that defense become like ends in a four-man rush in their nickel package, so he has some experience. 

“Now, he’s just gotta get used to doing it every single down, where you gotta be able to line up and knock a guy back and set a great edge, be able to stuff the run,” Anderson said. 

Anderson made sure to point out that Toohill’s size and athleticism should make him a good special teams player. That’ll be important, especially early in his career. If Toohill has a shot to make the roster — the odds are stacked against him — it’ll be because he flashes on special teams and shows his value there too. 

“What I’d love to see from Casey, because he does have so much athleticism and potential, and I think he has that work ethic, that drive, that desire to do it,” Anderson said. “What I’d love to see from him is just embrace that work ethic, get bigger, get stronger and be able to have a nice, long career playing at defensive end.” 

It won’t be easy, especially not starting out like this. But don’t expect to hear any excuses, especially not from Toohill. 

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After grieving loss of his brother, Vinny Curry back with his second family

After grieving loss of his brother, Vinny Curry back with his second family

If Vinny Curry decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season, absolutely no one would have blamed him. 

As the league prepares to hold a season during a pandemic, Curry unfortunately knows better than most about the dangers of COVID-19. He helplessly watched as the virus took one of his closest family members earlier this year. 

Dr. Gerald Glisson died from the coronavirus on May 3. He was 46. 

And Curry was left grieving for his half brother, friend and idol. 

Football? Football was the last thing on his mind. 

“The passing of my brother has been really, really hard on me,” Curry said Thursday on a Zoom call with reporters. “I just thought I would take my time with it. I didn’t even think about the game honestly. But I started to get the itch. So that’s what brought me back.”

But in May, June and July, Curry just wasn’t ready to get back to football. The 32-year-old needed to grieve; he needed to be with his family. 

On Thursday, Curry got emotional as he talked about his appreciation for his teammates, who constantly checked in on him during the rough time in his life. He also thanked all the teams who showed interest in him for understanding the situation and letting him take his time. 

“It’s crazy, man,” Curry said. “It happened so fast. It’s like, ‘wait, what?’ So when that happened, free agency just started and I’m just sitting there stuck like a deer in the headlights.” 

Glisson was a principal at Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, he was a teacher, an athletic director and a football coach. According to NJ.com, he held two master’s degrees and recently earned his doctorate. It’s clear how much Glisson meant to his family and the community; the field house at Bauerle Field in Paterson is being renamed for him. 

A large man, at 6-5, 300, Glisson was weakened by the coronavirus. Curry said his brother couldn’t even walk to the bathroom after contracting it. The virus snuck up, took Glisson and left his family devastated in its wake. 

 

Curry was especially devastated. Even though Glisson was 14 years his senior, they were extremely close. And when Curry began to make his athletic rise, it was Glisson’s legacy he was chasing. 

The Eagles drafted Curry back in 2012 and he has spent seven of his eight seasons playing for the team he rooted for as a child. Curry left the Eagles for Tampa Bay after the 2017 season, but lasted just one year and has since said that it never felt right there. He thinks he never should have left. 

Philadelphia is Curry’s home and the Eagles are his second family. So at a time when his heart was heavy, of course he returned. 

Curry signed a one-year contract to rejoin the Eagles on Aug. 10, just over three months after his half brother died. 

While Curry said the dangers of COVID-19 “absolutely” gave him pause about playing in the 2020 season, he heard about how safe NFL facilities were and has been thoroughly impressed since reporting for training camp, calling the NovaCare Complex’s safety precautions “phenomenal.” 

This will be Curry’s ninth NFL season and he figures to play a big role as a rotational defensive end just like he did last season. Even though the Eagles seemed to need pass rush depth, they didn’t sign someone else. They knew Curry needed time and they waited to sign him. 

“When you’re grieving like that and you talk to somebody every single day and that happens the way it happens, you ain’t thinking about nothing else but the family,” Curry said.  

“But then once teams got into training camps, I’m pretty sure you guys have heard about how safe the facility are. My thing was, it was just time to get back out there. I felt like, you know what, I’m gonna go and do it.” 

Curry will be thinking of Glisson every step of the way. 

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