Eagles Analysis: Chip Kelly has tough decisions to make


The Philadelphia Eagles are halfway through their slate of four preseason games. It’s getting to crunch time for many players who are on the “bubble” of the roster; those players fighting for their spots among the final 53 players who will form the 2015 Philadelphia Eagles. On September 1, the Eagles roster will be cut initially to 75 players. By September 5, the final 53 will need to be in place.

This will be Philadelphia Eagles’ Head Coach Chip Kelly’s first full season in charge of personnel and he has many key  decisions to make. Cutting the roster down to 53 means that coaches all over the NFL will be saying goodbye to players that the really want to keep. Chip Kelly will be no different, but the NFL is a ruthless world and Kelly will have to make the decisions for the future of the Eagles and select the players who are most likely to be able to help his team during a gruelling season.

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The preseason games so far have given some insight to Kelly’s way of thinking, as the Philadelphia Eagles have defeated the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens in style so far.

Most eyes will be on the selection of the third string quarterback. The position has been held by Matt Barkley for the last two seasons, after Chip Kelly selected him in his first draft for the Philadelphia Eagles. This year, however, Barkley has had true competition in the form of former Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow has worked hard in preseason and brings a running option to the table, something Kelly’s other quarterbacks don’t have. Tebow also has a strong arm and has improved his throwing motion, even if he still struggles to be consistently accurate. Tebow is a far better option than most other third stringers around the league, if you are able to manage the circus that surrounds the player and his fame. I strongly expect Tim Tebow to be on the team in 2015, at the expense of Barkley.

The Philadelphia Eagles also highly value versatility. An ability to play multiple positions on the field or, crucially, on special teams will make the difference for many players. It is on special teams that one player in particular has made a strong case in the preseason games. Running back Kenjon Barner has burst onto the scene, fighting for the fourth running back slot behind DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Barner has made a name as a punt returner, particularly excelling during his 93-yard return against the Indianapolis Colts in the first preseason game. In many ways, Barner is reminiscent of Darren Sproles, who also made his name as a returner during his time with former team the New Orleans Saints.

Special teams will also play a big part in the wide receiver selection. Several slots are locked up with Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Joshua Huff, Miles Austin and, probably, Riley Cooper. Players like Seyi Ajoritutu will look to their ability to play well on special teams to help bolster their case for a slot on the team.

Finally, roster cut time can be nerve-wracking for front office staff as well. Players that were drafted highly in previous years may end up getting cut, leaving people in the organisation looking for blame. This year, Kelly almost has a free pass, as he can cut players and blame their selection on previous GM Howie Roseman. Chip Kelly may end up using this opportunity to cut a couple of recent picks, or even former high picks for the Philadelphia Eagles.

This may well be the last that we see of former fourth round pick defensive back Jaylen Watkins, selected in 2014 but has failed to make a meaningful impact for the team. Over the offseason, he’s looked to transition to a safety and this may be the versatility that saves him. The most intriguing decision, for me, surrounds last year’s first round pick. Linebacker Marcus Smith barely saw the field in 2014 as he lacked strength and was weak in many areas.

In preseason, Smith showed signs of improvement before suffering a hamstring injury that will cost him crucial time as he tries to impress the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff. It may well be this injury that spells the end for Smith in midnight green, because as Chip Kelly once said, the best ability is durability.

Next: Philadelphia Eagles Must Continue To Lock Up Their Own Talent

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