In the wake of Brandon Boykin‘s eyebrow-raising comments, head coach Chip Kelly took the podium to address the media before later heading out to the field to oversee the first day of Philadelphia Eagles training camp. Here we’ll take a look at a round-up of observations from the first day of camp, as well as what we can take away from Chip Kelly’s presser.
It should come as much of a surprise that the bulk of the questions that Kelly addressed during his time with the media were in regard to the Brandon Boykin situation.
This morning, Derrick Gunn of CSN Philly revealed some parting words that he had received from former Eagle Brandon Boykin:
It’s understandable that Boykin is upset given the way that his career in Philadelphia unfolded. One could argue — and I’m sure Boykin shares this view point — that he was under appreciated and misused in an otherwise poor Eagles’ secondary. So for Boykin to take a parting shot at Chip Kelly, whether in bad taste or not, is somewhat understandable.
Of course, in reaction to Boykin’s comments many assumed that he was — like LeSean McCoy and Tre Thomas before him — suggesting that Chip Kelly’s roster moves are racially motivated. Later on, however, Boykin elaborated on his statements, and clarified that he was in fact not insinuating that Kelly is a racist, just hard to relate to:
Whether there is a lingering issue in the Eagles’ locker room remains to be seen, however, it sure seems as though Chip Kelly has worked hard to rid Novacare of any dissenters. The racism accusations are entirely unsubstantiated at this point, but for the sake of the team hopefully they disappear. Otherwise, they could prove a distraction if they carry into the season.
As for Kelly’s feelings towards Boykin, he had this to say:
"“I’ve always been a big Brandon Boykin fan. He’s done an unbelievable job in the two and a half years that I was with him. I wish him nothing but success and, you know, I always go back to the pick he had against the Cowboys, to seal it, for us to win a division.”"
It’s clear that Kelly valued Boykin, he was just never in the teams long term plans. Kelly confirmed a few aspects to the trade that we discussed last night:
1) While the team valued Boykin’s contribution, the team considered the draft pick compensation as more valuable given the state of Boykin’s contract, as well as the other slot corner options on the team. In addition, he believes that Boykin will meet the playing time requirements that would turn the conditional 5th round pick into a 4th rounder, which Kelly revealed to be 60% of Pittsburgh’s snaps.
2) The staff is very high on JaCorey Shepherd, and they were “holding their breath,” in hopes that he would drop to the 6th round. Given Kelly’s comments, Shepherd appears to be the front runner for slot duties. In addition to Shepherd taking primary slot duties, one could expect Byron Maxwell to rotate in on a semi-regular basis, as Maxwell was the first player Chip mentioned when discussing the slot rotation, and has experience playing inside.
3) Eric Rowe will likely stay on the outside — As we discussed following the Boykin deal, the staff wants to let Rowe grow on the outside, and moving him inside would put more on his plate and steepen his learning curve.
Moving on from Boykin and the slot position, Chip Kelly addressed another player who has been linked to trade rumors throughout the offseason in Mychal Kendricks. In a mild suprise, Kelly guaranteed Kendricks’ status with the team stating that “he will not be traded,” even going as far to say “you can write that in ink, not pencil.” Although I don’t doubt Kelly’s word, it’s plausible that the team fielded calls, didn’t get a good enough offer, and just decided they were better off holding on to Kendricks.
After wrapping up his session with the media, Kelly made his way out to the field where the new-look Eagles team embarked on its first day of camp.
A few observations regarding the first team offense, defense, and special teams:
Riley Cooper lined up opposite of Huff with Jordan Matthews in the slot. Nelson Agholor, on the other hand, worked with the second team. This serves as a reminder that Agholor is still learning the ropes, although the smart money is on the rookie seeing significant playing time when the snaps count.
No real surprises here. Many have considered Demeco the favorite to start opposite of Alonso, though Kendricks will hardly go down without a fight. JaCorey Shepherd took reps in the slot.
Jaylen Watkins, Emmanuel Acho, and Jerome Couplin will have to prove that they can be effective special teams options to make the squad, so getting them involved from the get-go will give the coaching staff an opportunity to evaluate them, and help them grow into their roles.
On the QB front, Sam Bradford has reportedly shed his bulky knee brace and took all of the first-team reps. And according to Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com, Bradford’s legs look much stronger than they did during OTAs:
This is a good indication that Bradford’s knee has been responding well to the latter stages of the reconditioning process. Following major surgeries the affected muscular regions often atrophy during the time in which they’re not being used, however, in returning to a training program these muscles usually bulk back up fairly quickly.
Despite Bradford’s improved health, not all returns from day 1 were positive:
Bradford had a rough day according to those in attendance, as he was shaky throwing the football and defenders were able to get their hands on multiple passes — not just this one instance with Carroll.
Having taken his first snaps in 11-on-11s since his August ACL injury, it’s likely that Bradford will have to shake off a considerable amount of rust before returning to form. In the present, the Eagles’ staff likely anticipated an adjustment period, and is probably pleased with the fact that Bradford is simply on the field competing. If Bradford isn’t progressing 2 weeks from now, then they will start to sweat a little bit, however.
ESPN’s Louis Riddick singled out rookie JaCorey Shepherd for praise:
Speaking of the DBs, Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll both had themselves a good first day of practice. Carroll in particular seemed very active in coverage:
Maxwell and Carroll will be absolutely integral to the progression of the Eagles defense. Should they disappoint, the ceiling of Billy Davis‘ unit will be effectively capped, despite having what has become one of the most formidable defensive fronts in professional football. Although it’s very early, it’s good to see Maxwell and Carroll playing well — particularly after Chip Kelly praised Carroll for an exceptional offseason, prior to practice.
On a bit of an odd note, DeMarco Murray didn’t participate today:
It’s a bit surprising considering that Kelly said all 89 players on the roster would be full go during his presser. Maybe Murray aggravated something during warm-ups and the staff is just being cautious with it’s investment. Either way, it’s disappointing to see Murray sidelined during the team’s very first session.
With a short, padless, first practice, that’s all for today. Be sure to check back tomorrow for more training camp updates.
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