Redskins

Eager, excited to be Eagle, Kelly has work ahead

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Eager, excited to be Eagle, Kelly has work ahead

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Now that Chip Kelly has settled into his new position, he has quite a challenge ahead.

The Philadelphia Eagles are coming off a 4-12 season, have won just 12 games over the past two years and need to rebuild almost from the ground up. There are some high-priced underachievers on this roster and a few players who quit on former coach Andy Reid.

But the biggest question Kelly faces is whether he can take all his success at Oregon and translate that into wins in the NFL.

``Football is football, and this is football at its highest level,'' he said. ``But it's still a game and it's played 11 on 11. It's about putting together a great coaching staff, having a great organization behind you, and having great players. Ultimately, whether it's in high school football, college football or professional football, it's a personnel-driven operation.

``I know in the experience that I've had is trying to figure out any way we can to put our players in the best situation when they have an opportunity to be successful. That's what this game comes down to. Are there a lot more cameras around? Yes, but that's what this deal is all about. It's still the game of football. It's X's and O's and I understand that aspect of it.''

Kelly is known for being an offensive innovator. He led Oregon to four straight BCS bowl games - including a bid for the national championship against Auburn two seasons ago - and three conference championships.

His up-tempo offense averaged 49.6 points this season and the Ducks averaged an astounding 44.7 points per game in his four years, going 46-7. But the NFC East isn't the Pac 12, and Kelly knows it.

``There's perception and then there's reality,'' Kelly said. ``The perception is we run our quarterback all the time and this is what we do. The reality is that's not the case. One of the best qualities in a quarterback is durability and a lot of that has to do with play calling. Our quarterback is not going to get the direct snap like Dick Kazmaier did at Princeton in the single wing and have him run it 25 times, I can tell you that.

``Part of what we do offensively has always been understanding what personnel is and then how do we maximize that, and what are their best traits. If you're going to ask someone to do something that they're not capable of doing then obviously that's a recipe for disaster. Then I analyze everyone that's in our program (and) in our scheme offensively, defensively and special teams-wise, it's going to be personnel driven. A lot of coaches have great ideas but we're not playing the game.

``The players are playing the game. It's about putting them in position where they can be successful. Our offense is always going to be tailored to who's playing.''

Everyone in Philadelphia wants to know who will run Kelly's offense? Will it be Nick Foles, who started six games as a rookie or Michael Vick? Foles clearly doesn't possess the speed or mobility to fit into Kelly's scheme. Vick does, but he's due to make $16 million next year, will be 33 and is injury prone.

Kelly raved about Foles after Oregon beat Arizona in September 2011, and he still recalls him completing a 13-yard pass left-handed in that game.

``I'm a huge fan,'' Kelly said of Foles. ``He's tough. It's an attribute that I think a lot of people don't understand of how hard it is and what toughness means to the quarterback spot. We hit him as many times as we could hit him and he just kept getting up and making plays. I remember just standing on the sideline shaking my head (saying), `What do we have to do to stop him?' He's a competitor, he's accurate, so I'm excited about that.''

As for Vick, Kelly took the political approach.

``I've followed Michael's career and I understand what a talent he is,'' he said. ``But there is nothing that's on the board right now, there's nothing that's off the board right now.''

Some aspects of Kelly's hurry-up, spread offense are used by New England and Washington. Patriots coach Bill Belichick even brought Kelly in to get advice on his offensive philosophy.

``The one thing is that people want to paint a brush and a label an offense with one word,'' Kelly said. ``What Bill does in New England with Tom Brady is not a spread option offense. If someone tried to make Tommy run the zone read, I think he'd get fired to be honest with you. You need him to sit back in the pocket and throw the ball because he's one of the all-time greatest quarterbacks ever. There are a lot of different facets. For us, it's about what tools do we have in our toolbox and what tools can we use based on the players that we have.''

The Eagles were convinced Kelly can adapt his system and have success no matter which direction he goes.

Owner Jeffrey Lurie praised Kelly's work ethic, communication skills and smarts.

``Forward thinking not just about what he is running at Oregon but where the league is headed and where college is headed, how there are going to be current trends and how there would be trends off of these current trends,'' Lurie said. ``Just somebody who is on the cutting edge of football today, but saw that there are going to be reactions to that and what to do going way past that. Also, someone who was a program builder. That's important because it shows the best possible leader.

``Chip brings everyone together at Oregon culturally in preparing themselves to be the best football players they can be. Organizationally, he just had it all.''

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Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Dwayne Haskins played really well Sunday against the Eagles, and it wasn't just on certain drives or in specific situations. Haskins put together a complete and encouraging performance in Week 15, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.

But the Redskins' coaching staff, and most notably Kevin O'Connell, should be praised as well for setting Haskins up to shine versus Philly.

Here are three things O'Connell and the offense did at FedEx Field that contributed to the rookie's best effort as a pro.

They were more aggressive on early downs

The following two things are true: 1) Bill Callahan loves Adrian Peterson, and 2) Adrian Peterson has a legitimate shot at rushing for more than 1,000 yards this season. Because of those two facts, it felt like Sunday was setting up to be the Peterson Show, especially on first down.

It wasn't, though, and that greatly benefitted Haskins.

No. 7 found Terry McLaurin for a nine-yarder to start the contest, a throw that allowed the QB to settle into a nice rhythm from the start. The 75-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to McLaurin was also a first down toss, one that featured play-action:

A first down pass in the second quarter, meanwhile, led to a defensive pass interference that advanced the ball 14 yards. On that possession, Haskins would eventually find Steven Sims for a score. 

Throughout the matchup, the Burgundy and Gold seemed more comfortable with trusting Haskins to attack the Eagles, and that's something he very much enjoyed.

"I hope to continue to do it," he told reporters postgame.

They targeted Steven Sims a bunch

Want another example of O'Connell's influence over the gameplan? Look no further than how much Sims was involved.

Overall, Sims was targeted 11 times, and while he only hauled in five of those passes, he's a guy worth looking to often. O'Connell has talked for weeks now about how much he wants to use Sims, and while it may sound odd to say that an undrafted receiver from Kansas deserves lots of chances on a unit that includes McLaurin and Peterson, it's true.

He's really difficult for defensive backs to stay in front of and he's shown a penchant for making some tremendous grabs, including his toe-tapper for his first career receiving TD on Sunday.  

"I'm seeing everything and I'm playing faster," Sims said in the locker room. 

O'Connell and Haskins are seeing him, too, and his larger role is giving Haskins another weapon to rely on.

They introduced a creative option play

In addition to the uptick in aggressiveness, the Redskins also were more creative against the Eagles than they had been lately. The best example of that is the option they introduced and executed perfectly on two separate snaps.

On the first option, Haskins fake-tossed it to Peterson before lateraling it to him a second later. The fake from Haskins was a nifty way to buy more time for the play to develop and it set Peterson up to pick up a first down:

They went back to it again in the third quarter, but this time, Haskins kept the ball and cut upfield for a 23-yard gain:

Watch any NFL game on any weekend, and you'll see offenses trying new concepts and surprising defenses with those concepts. In Week 15, the Redskins were finally one of those offenses, and the group as a whole was the most effective its been under Haskins. And for that, both the player and the staff should be recognized.

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Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

The entire Donald Dell interview with Mark Lerner can be seen Tuesday, December 17, at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

For seven seasons, the Nationals and Bryce Harper enjoyed a happy marriage that included four NL East division titles, an MVP award and the respect from the rest of the league as legitimate playoff contenders year in and year out.

But principal managing owner Mark Lerner knew their relationship might not last forever. In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Donald Dell, Lerner talked about how the team balanced making a business decision with the personal side of hoping to extend Harper when he hit free agency last offseason.

“We all like Bryce but at the end of the day, there’s the economic factor, there’s other factors that come into it: clubhouse, interaction with teammates, everything you could imagine in a decision about a free agent,” Lerner said.

Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, which at the time was the record for the most expensive contract in MLB history. The Nationals reportedly made him an offer for 10 years and $300 million that included $100 million in deferrals at the end of the 2018 season.

“He [was] a free agent for a reason, he earned that right,” Lerner said. “It’s his decision and his family’s decision where they play. And he chose to move on. He obviously got an incredible offer.

“Everybody seems to forget it’s not just a bidding war to get the players, the player has to want to play here and sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”

By the time Harper signed with Philadelphia in early March, the Nationals had already reported to Spring Training with starter Patrick Corbin signed to a six-year, $140 million deal as well as a slew of new faces on the roster that had joined the club through free agency. Lerner said Washington never heard back from Harper and didn’t want to wait for him to make a decision.

“We were moving down a different path at that point anyhow,” Lerner said. “Because, as you may recall, Bryce had not given us a response through his agent Scott Boras and we had decisions we had to make so we didn’t get caught waiting too long for him to find out we can’t get other players to replace him.

“And our choice at that point in time was either wait for him or we had the opportunity to sign Patrick Corbin. And we chose to sign Patrick Corbin and get another great starter, which has worked out great, and it was really more us at that point to say, ‘We have to move on.’”

The Nationals went on to win the World Series in 2019 while Harper posted an .882 OPS with 35 home runs in 157 games for the 81-81 Phillies. But as division rivals, Harper and the Nationals will see each other plenty over the next 12 years he’s locked into Philadelphia.

Only time will tell which side ends up wondering what could’ve been.

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