Versatility will be key for players as cut deadline draws near

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eagles coach Chip Kelly (left) says he and general manager Howie Roseman are 'on the same page on everything.'
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eagles coach Chip Kelly (left) says he and general manager Howie Roseman are 'on the same page on everything.'
Posted: August 29, 2013

NFL TEAMS must get down to 53 players by Saturday afternoon, which means tomorrow night's preseason game against the Jets will be the final opportunity for Eagles players on the roster bubble to make their case to Chip Kelly and his coaching staff.

"There's a lot up in the air right now," Kelly said. "This will be the last opportunity to see how those guys react in that [game] environment. It's a huge night for all those guys."

Linebacker Phillip Hunt was waived injured yesterday as the Eagles reduced their roster to 75 players. If Hunt isn't claimed by another team by 4 p.m. today, he will go on the Eagles' injured reserve list. He tore his left ACL and had surgery in mid-August.

Kelly said versatility will be a key factor in determining who stays and who goes Saturday. He's not looking for guys who can sing and dance, but he is looking for guys who can play more than one position or who can play on multiple special-teams units.

"When you're not a starter, versatility becomes a big thing," he said. "Because it gives you the opportunity to kind of take more than just one role. You don't get position-specific. A guy may play just one position [on offense or defense], but he also may play on four special teams. So that's like gaining four starting spots.

"When you only have 46 guys active on game day, you've got to have versatility in your non-starters, because there just aren't enough numbers. If you went two-deep at each position, that's 44, plus your specialists. And you're probably going to carry a third running back. So where does that spot come from? It's got to come from somewhere."

Kelly has an idea how many players he wants to carry on each position unit. But that number is fluid.

"You'd like to be two-deep [on each unit], but it kind of depends on the depth there," he said. "Do you keep five inside [linebackers] and three outside? In an ideal world, you'd like to keep four inside and four outside. But it doesn't always work out the way you want it to work out.

"It's always plus-1 minus-1. Because you can't say we're definitely keeping X amount of receivers. What if you don't have X amount of receivers that you think are game-ready? You're not going to keep one for the sake of keeping one, if your fourth tight end is better than your sixth [wide] receiver, or your fourth running back is better than this. You have to have some flexibility there."

Case in point: tight end/wide receiver Clay Harbor. Harbor, who is fighting for a roster spot, will play wide receiver in the first half and tight end in the second half against the Jets. If he ends up making the team, the Eagles likely will keep only five wideouts rather than six, because Harbor can play inside or outside.

Same with offensive lineman Allen Barbre, whose ability to play both guard and tackle appears to have helped him sew up a roster spot.

"You're only going to have seven to eight [o-linemen] active on game day," Kelly said. "You're not going to be able to keep 10 guys active on game day. So that versatility is huge."

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Chip and Howie, so happy together

Kelly said he and general manager Howie Roseman have been "on the same page on everything" in the 7-plus months since he became the Eagles' head coach.

"There hasn't been a decision made personnelwise since I've been here where I've felt one way and he's felt the other way," Kelly said.

Kelly said he will have final say on the makeup of the team's season-opening roster. In the Eagles' revamped power structure since the firing of Andy Reid, Kelly and Roseman work together, but report separately to owner Jeff Lurie.

When Reid was the team's head coach and executive vice president of football operations, Roseman was under Reid.

"There's never been a situation where it's been two guys standing on soapboxes and we're going one direction and not another direction," Kelly said. "When you have guys that are professional and can see the other side of it and can understand where it fits in the grand scheme of things, I think he sees the big picture and I see the big picture. That's why we get along so well."

Herremans improving

Todd Herremans' sore knee is doing much better. The right guard tweaked it when he "stepped funny" in the Eagles' first preseason game against the Patriots.

"I thought [the pain] would go away, but it didn't," he said. He ended up needing a cortisone shot to get rid of the inflammation. Since then, he said the knee has felt as good as new.

"It feels really good now," he said. "I've got a fresh pair of legs."

Fighting for a job

Safety Kurt Coleman has started 27 games the last 2 years for the Eagles. But he is staring at the very real possibility of being on the outside looking in when the Eagles make their final roster cuts.

"By no means am I frustrated," Coleman said yesterday. "I have proven that I can play in this league, and I can play at a high level. But that's just the way it is. Every year, you've got to be able to compete. What Chip did was bring in people to compete at every position."

If Kelly keeps only four safeties, they likely will be Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, rookie Earl Wolff and special-teams demon Colt Anderson. If he keeps five, Coleman could survive, though there's also a pretty good possibility the Eagles will be on the lookout for another veteran safety after teams cut down to 53 players.

Coleman, like Anderson, is an excellent special-teams player.

"Whatever they see fit for me, I'm willing to excel at that," he said. "I'm looking forward to the next challenge, looking forward to this next week and seeing where I land. I'd love to be a part of this and what's going on here."


Chip Kelly will give his players Friday and Saturday off following tomorrow's game. They'll practice on Sunday, but won't start putting in the game plan for the Sept. 9 season opener against the Redskins until next Wednesday. "We'll try to get back into a normal week in terms of what our normal week would be for a Monday game," the Eagles coach said. The Eagles open the season with three games in 11 days. During normal Sunday-to-Sunday work weeks, Monday will be the players' regular day off, and they'll begin prepping for the next opponent on Tuesday. The league's other 31 teams give the players Tuesday off and start putting in the game plan on Wednesday. "It's what worked best for us at other places I've been," Kelly said. "I'm going to do what's best for us. Just because someone else does it one other way doesn't mean that's the way it should be done" . . . Three players didn't practice yesterday - cornerbacks Brandon Hughes (hand) and Curtis Marsh (hand) and offensive lineman Dennis Kelly (back). None of the three will play against the Jets.

On Twitter: @Pdomo


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