With the players taking part in what is essentially a padless walkthrough, there isn’t much going on in way of Philadelphia Eagles football this afternoon. However, this morning, the local media put Chip Kelly through his paces, and as always, there was no shortage of takeaways to be had.
The predominant topic in Philly sports this week has undoubtedly been the prevailing question as to whether or not Sam Bradford will suit up for the Eagles preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Today, Kelly answered that question with a resounding “no,” citing his personal preference — and not Bradford’s recovery — as the reason his quarterback is set to sit on Sunday.
While many fans — and Bradford himself, for that matter — are uneasy awaiting the quarterback’s Eagles debut, allowing him the time needed to reach his peak physical-mental condition is the prudent measure.
As I noted during the Eagles’ Sunday practice at the Linc, while Bradford was unarguably sharp in the pocket, he looked less than 100% on the move:
"Where Bradford does have an issue, however, is when he breaks the pocket and has to make plays on the move. Bradford’s tentativeness when moving outside of the pocket was apparent, and he looked very uncomfortable throwing on the run. Whether this issue will persist and become a problem in the regular season is tough to say, however, as of right now it’s an issue that he and the staff will have to work through."
While few others have opined that Bradford appears limited in his mobility, Phillyvoice.com’s Jimmy Kempski has recently voiced concerns of his own, observing similar issues.
Although Chip holding Bradford out of Sunday’s opener is not a definitive admission of his being injured or otherwise entirely incapable, it is a clear indication that something about Bradford’s progression didn’t sit well with the head coach; And as Jeff McClane reported following this morning’s presser, whatever issue that Kelly has with Bradford is not of the “talent,” or, “being behind the curve,” variety:
As far as Kelly’s claim that Bradford is set to start the following week against the Ravens; that’s a statement that I would take with a grain of salt. Chip cares very little about public perception, so an empty promise that Bradford will take the field in Baltimore means nothing. If need be, Kelly can easily backpedal away from his previous statement, and hold Bradford out until the Eagles dress rehearsal at Lambeau. Now to be fair, I’m sure Kelly has at least a little confidence in Bradford’s prospects of playing in week 2, however, it remains clear that in the short term, he has his reservations about Bradford’s ability to function in live-game action.
Last season, Bradford suffered his second consecutive ACL injury while playing in a preseason game, so you better believe that Kelly will be cautious with his prized investment. However, at the same time, Kelly wants to get Bradford on the field to compete and get better acclimated within an in-game scenario. The Bradford query is a precarious and delicate situation that will take a carefully measured approach by Kelly and the staff. As of now, they’re playing things extremely safe, and will have to be convinced without a shred of doubt that Bradford is unequivocally 100% before they even consider easing him into preseason action (as they should).
The bottom line is this: Bradford is not 100% ready to be thrust into live action, against an NFL pass rush, with no red jersey. How far Bradford is from returning to form is an unknown at this juncture, however, I would guess that he’s ready by Week 3 of the preseason, at the latest.
In terms of other player updates, Kelly had much pertinent information to pass along.
Third year tight end, Zach Ertz has been diagnosed with a “core muscle” injury, and will be sidelined the remainder of the preseason, at a minimum. The hope is that Ertz doesn’t require hernia surgery — the same procedure that held Jason Kelce out for 6 weeks in 2014 — and that he instead has a minor strain, or groin related injury.
Ertz’s injury is a particularly disappointing one. The coaching staff had finally begun to note Ertz’s improvement as a blocker, and were anxious to see whether his hard work would translate to the games. Now, Brent Celek will resume starting duties unopposed while Ertz is on the mend. Ertz’s journey to uproot Celek and claim the #1 role will likely now extend into the regular season.
The silver lining here is that Trey Burton will now get an extended look as the primary backup. Already a core special teams weapon in his rookie season, Burton possesses the ability to be an effective option as a move tight end. Burton is another player that caught my eye during practice at the Linc, making a number of splash plays in the one-on-ones. Subsequently, the three undrafted tight ends vying for the 4th slot — Eric Tomlinson, Andrew Gleichert, and Justin Tukes — will have an extended opportunity to prove themselves to the staff. Chip mentioned Tomlinson — and to a lesser degree, Gleichert — as a player that has showed promise during the early stages of camp.
UPDATE: Ertz did undergo surgery today, however, he may not be out as long as you might fear. The procedure appears to be somewhat minor compared to sports hernia surgery:
Another topic that has been covered at length is the absence of DeMarco Murray, which Kelly also addressed during his press conference, confirming what I suggested on Wednesday: Murray is being held out at his discretion, largely for preventative/restorative purposes, and in response to his arduous 500 touch season (as Kelly directly referenced).
This is an obvious measure, albeit not necessarily one that every coach might take. The Eagles have a lot invested in Murray and he’s set to be a big part of the team’s plans in both the short and long term. Chip the coach is doing Chip the GM a huge favor by taking preventative measures to extend the effectiveness of an expensive player, who happens to play a position with a notoriously short shelf life. Limiting a veteran like Murray’s preseason reps should not affect his regular season production in any notable way.
In other injury news, Kiko Alonso will not suit up Sunday, as the staff is bringing him along slowly in his recovery from the concussion that he sustained earlier in the week. According to Kelly, the team has yet to put Alonso through the league mandated concussion protocol at this point.
Some seem concerned that the team’s approach is an indication that Alonso’s injury is more severe than originally reported, however, it seems that the Kelly and company are simply not taking any unnecessary risks. There really is no reason to enter Alonso into protocol until the team seems fit to activate him, and as of now, they’ve deemed his participation unnecessary.
Sunday will be the first preseason game, and Alonso would likely take very few reps regardless of his injury status. Kelly is correct in his approach, in that traumatic brain injuries are not to be taken lightly. Thus far, reports of Alonso’s camp performance have been glowing, so it’s likely that he will be quickly inserted into the lineup upon his return in week 2 against Baltimore.
Today, the Eagles’ PR department released the team’s first unofficial depth chart, which can be found here.
There really aren’t many takeaways here. As Chip would say, the depth chart is “written in sand,” at this point. One thing that remains certain, however, is that the right guard job is very much still up in the air. The preseason games will ultimately decide who will take the field when the snaps count, but I’m sure the coaches have a pretty good idea of who will win the right to start in Atlanta.
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