It's time to think about Duce Staley as a possible offensive coordinator

It's time to think about Duce Staley as a possible offensive coordinator

It's time to start thinking differently about Duce Staley.

Staley, three times a 1,000-yard rusher for the Eagles, enters his seventh year as an Eagles assistant coach and his fifth year as running backs coach.

He's served as an assistant under three head coaches — Andy Reid, Chip Kelly and former teammate Doug Pederson — and he's put together a stellar resume.

And with another productive year in 2017, it'll be time to start thinking about Staley as a top candidate for offensive coordinator positions around the league.

He's ready.

“Yeah, definitely," Staley said recently. "You never know how that works for you. I do know that you wait on those opportunities and hopefully those chances will come. If not, I love what I’m doing. Can’t say anything bad about what I’m doing. I love it. That’s when you know it’s not a job.

"I live vicariously through my players, still, to this day. I catch them out there running and making moves and I catch my knees shaking a little bit, I’m making the move with them. You can’t replace that feeling."

Since Staley became the Eagles’ running backs coach in 2013, the Eagles have the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL (8,114), seventh-highest rushing average (4.4 yards per carry) and fourth-most rushing touchdowns (66).

And that’s with three different lead running backs — LeSean McCoy in 2013 and 2014, DeMarco Murray in 2015 and Ryan Mathews last year.

And a head coach, at least this past year in Pederson, who tended to get away from the running game on occasion.

Staley retired from the NFL after the 2006 season. He ran for nearly 6,000 yards, caught nearly 300 passes, scored 34 touchdowns and won a Super Bowl in 10 NFL seasons.

After four years away from the game, he returned to the Eagles in 2011 as a quality control coach.

When Reid was fired after the 2012 season, Chip Kelly not only kept Staley but also promoted him to running backs coach. Pederson then kept him in that role when he replaced Kelly last year.

That makes Staley the only assistant coach to serve under Reid, Kelly and Pederson.

That speaks volumes about Staley as a coach. Asked why he thinks Kelly and Pederson both kept him around, Staley just laughed.

“I don’t know, I can’t answer that," he said. "Hopefully it’s the job I do. I’m glad to be here and I’m thankful under these new coaches that have come through the door, they look at me and say, 'Hey, we want you to be part of our coaching staff.'"

There are currently only three African-American offensive coordinators league-wide — Edgar Bennett of the Packers, Harold Goodwin of the Cards and Terry Robiskie of the Titans

Staley's body of work says he's ready to take the next step.

This past January, Staley had the opportunity to serve as offensive coordinator for the East team at the East-West Shrine Game, a college all-star game in St. Petersburg, Florida. 

It was a great way to get his name out there and to call plays for the first time in addition to seeing top college players up close.

“It was awesome. It was awesome to be able to be put in that situation," Staley said. "It was awesome to be a coordinator for a week.

"Around here, all the offensive coaches would tell you, we get together and we plot and we plan and we come up with different plays, and you can’t wait to have the opportunity to call them. That’s what you dream about. You dream about being in a position to call a game.

"We all know how tough it is. It’s all about match-ups, and we all know how tough it is to get those matchups, but every coach on every level, if they’re not calling plays, they dream about calling plays, so it’s definitely a dream."

Frank Reich is currently the Eagles' offensive coordinator, but if he gets a head coaching opportunity you'd think Staley would be a top candidate to replace him.

Eagles owner Jeff Lurie did interview Staley before hiring Pederson, although there was a perception that the interview was just to satisfy the NFL's Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching openings.

“It was awesome to have that experience," said Staley, who's going into his 14th year with the Eagles as either a player or coach.

"I thank Mr. Lurie of course just being able to go through that. A lot of coaches don’t get a chance to have that experience and I’m thankful for it."

What about the future? Does Duce fear being stuck in his current position with little chance to advance?

“I don’t worry about that," he said. "You can’t really worry about things you can’t control. The chips are going to fall where they may. You just gotta be ready.”

The biggest positive, Staley said, is that he's part of an offensive coaching staff where every voice is heard.

Although Pederson calls the plays and Reich runs the offense, Staley said both are open to all the offensive coaches making suggestions and submitting plays.

“We’ve got voices in the room now, that’s not a problem," Staley said. "That’s one thing about Doug that’s so good. He listens to all of us. It’s an open forum.

"We all get up and we speak on the team that we’re playing and we all have ideas. The good thing about Doug, he’s open to those ideas and he’ll call those plays."

Eagles Mailbag: Predicting several positions for 2019 team

Eagles Mailbag: Predicting several positions for 2019 team

I’ll be heading to the annual NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday, so look forward to my coverage from Indianapolis. But until then, I put out a call for mailbag questions and you guys came through. 

We had so many that we split them into three parts. 

You can read Part 1 here

And Part 2 here. 

Now, let’s get to Part 3 today: 

RB1: Not on roster yet 

WR1: Alshon Jeffery 

QB2: Nate Sudfeld

I don’t know who the Eagles’ top running back will be, but I don’t think he’s on their roster right now. That means the Eagles will either sign a free agent or draft a running back — or very possibly both. If I had to guess, I’d say Tevin Coleman as a free agent and David Montgomery as a draft pick. 

Unless the Eagles trade for Antonio Brown (unlikely), Jeffery is going to be their top receiver in 2019. 

Some folks think the Eagles should get a veteran backup behind Carson Wentz, but I don’t think they’re going to. I think they’re going to offer Sudfeld a second-round tender and keep him on the team in 2019 as Wentz’s backup. He’s young, they like him and he’s been in the system. 

I’m guessing this question is because of something I have said plenty over the last few weeks: that the Eagles need a feature back. I wouldn’t bet on that being Clement. Could he develop into that one day? Perhaps. But I can’t go into a season expecting it, especially after his season ended with a serious knee injury. 

I did see enough of him as a rookie to think he can be a part of a rotation, but in Year 2, when he had a chance to take over, he was too banged up to do it. Haven’t seen enough from Clement to think he can be a No. 1. 

Nah, it’s not that great of a need. I’m not sure why so many national types keep mocking corners to the Eagles at 25. I guess it’s possible the Eagles could take a corner in the first round if that player is clearly the BPA, but there are more pressing needs. The Eagles still have Rasul Douglas, Jalen Mills, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones and Cre’Von LeBlanc under contract. My money is still on OL or DL in the first round. If a top CB fell to 25 and he was clearly (and I mean clearly) the best player available, then the Eagles could draft him. 

That’s a possibility. I’m not sure Johnson would develop into that true feature back, but as a change-of-pace guy, sure, especially if Darren Sproles retires or isn’t back with the Eagles in 2019. I think getting a guy like Johnson would allow the Eagles to then draft a running back to pair with him. Not sure if they’d sign Johnson and another decent running back in the free agent market. 

Johnson has never had more that 379 yards rushing in a season, but he’s a skilled receiver out of the backfield and the Eagles could certainly find a use for him. 

I like Humphries, but he’s a slot receiver and if Nelson Agholor is back in 2019, he should be in the slot. The Eagles need to bring in outside speed at receiver and the 5-11 Humphries doesn’t have exactly what they need. 

A list of some under-the-radar names I think are viable: RB Spencer Ware, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, S Blake Countess, S Terrence Brooks, DE Margus Hunt 

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Eagles release popular special teamer Chris Maragos

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Eagles release popular special teamer Chris Maragos

Chris Maragos, the popular special teams ace whose career has been derailed by a serious knee injury, was released Friday by the Eagles.

Maragos, 32, played in 47 of 48 games from 2014 through 2016, mainly on special teams but a significant amount at safety in 2015. But he suffered a career-threatening knee injury against the Panthers in Charlotte on Oct. 12, 2017, and hasn’t played since.

Maragos, who won a Super Bowl ring with the Seahawks in 2013 in addition to one with the Eagles in 2017, made all the road trips with the Eagles this past season even though he had no chance of playing simply because he was so respected in the locker room and such an effective leader.

“I’m really more of a coach and cheerleader these days than anything else,” he said with a smile before one game this past season.

Maragos went undrafted out of Wisconsin in 2010 and after a season with the 49ers played three years with the Seahawks before signing with the Eagles before the 2014 season.

He was signed through 2019 and will count $250,000 in dead money against the Eagles’ salary cap, which gives the Eagles a $2 million cap savings.

Maragos earned over $10 million in his career, including over $7 million from the Eagles, according to Spotrac. His career earnings high of $2.5 million came in 2016.

Maragos has had two knee operations since originally getting hurt against the Panthers, most recently this past fall. 

Even healthy, Maragos probably wouldn’t have fit in the Eagles’ plans this coming season.

Since re-signing Rodney McLeod to a contract restructure that lowered his 2019 cap figure from $.9 million to $4.84 million, the Eagles have safeties Malcolm Jenkins, McLeod and Tre’ Sullivan under contract, along with Avonte Maddox, who can play either safety or cornerback. 

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