When a head coach doesn’t talk for close to three months, there is a lot to catch up on.
Speaking at the Maxwell Football Club awards, Chip Kelly finally spoke to the media for the first time since the Eagles season ended.
Plenty has happened since then, as the Eagles have added five players via free agency, and been involved in a number of rumors — including one report they may be open to trading DeSean Jackson.
Here is what Kelly had to say, per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
“I think he can cover. I think he can play man, because he’s got the corner skills. He can also play free safety, because he has range. He’ll be down on the box. The one thing we felt about Malcolm all along, for us, that he was the right guy we were looking for because of his versatility. There are some other guys out there who are tremendous football players, but from what Billy [Davis, the defensive coordinator] was looking for and what we were looking for on the defensive side of the ball . . . he was the right fit for us.”
The more you look at it, the more the signing of Jenkins does have Kelly written all over it. Kelly believes strongly in the system over the player — not just signing a big name with the most talent. Jenkins may not have been the most talented safety on the market, but last season the Eagles coaching staff showed they can get the most out of their players. One example is Connor Barwin, who came in with little expectations, and turned into arguably the defensive MVP.
So while Jenkins may not carry the name that Jairus Byrd did — or the price rage Byrd did — it’s clear the Eagles believe he is a better fit.
It was an opportunity to complement with what we have. We feel like we have a special, special back in LeSean [McCoy], but take a little load off him a little bit and the fact that he is a punt-return/kick-return guy is a huge bonus for us.”
It is interesting that Kelly said part of the reason they traded for Sproles was to take a “little load” off of LeSean McCoy. McCoy touched the ball a ton last season — 314 rushes, 52 receptions. Giving him a few extra breathers isn’t a bad idea, and could extend his career. Still, it is noteworthy that maybe Kelly sees Sproles running the ball more a fair amount.
Here was the exact question Kelly was asked in regard to DeSean Jackson, and the report that the Eagles would be open to trading him.
“For some reason there’s been a lot of speculation about DeSean Jackson’s future. Can you talk about how important he is to the offense?”
“He’s a priority at wide receiver before Maclin, behind Cooper, or is it Cooper before Maclin, or Maclin before Cooper? I’ll check what you write and tell you how I feel about it.”
Notice Kelly completely side stepped the question — something he did often last season when he didn’t want to answer the question. After listening to Kelly speak to the media all last season, the head coach always uses humor as a defense mechanism when he isn’t comfortable with the question. That seemed to be the case with the Jackson.
Maybe it was just a chance for Kelly to poke fun at everyone’s talk about where the receivers rank. Maybe though, there is more too it.
The Eagles have had two chances to flat out say they are not going to trade Jackson — Kelly last night, and Howie Roseman a little over a week ago. Both they have refused to completely deny the rumor, and interestingly enough, both answered the question with a joke that had nothing to do with the question.
If the Eagles truly were not looking to trade Jackson, they would just say it. The answer Kelly gave sounds a lot like how he used to answer questions about Nick Foles when everyone knew he was the starter over Michael Vick, but Kelly was not ready to commit to it.
The Eagles likely won’t trade Jackson. If they truly plan on not doing it, however, they certainly are not doing a good job proving it.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks