A year into Kelly's tenure, Eagles more comfortable about Senior Bowl

Posted: January 23, 2014

MOBILE, Ala. - A year ago yesterday, the Eagles arrived to scout the Senior Bowl prospects while still putting together Chip Kelly's coaching staff, 5 days into Kelly's tenure. There were coaches watching drills, taking notes, wearing Eagles gear, but they weren't yet officially working for the team. General manager Howie Roseman used the term "whirlwind" in describing what life was like.

Yesterday, that term came to mind in a different context, as 30 mph winds ripped through the stands at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. But the Eagles seemed much more settled, a year into Kelly's regime.

"It was hard to sit down and watch players. It was hard to sit down and meet as a scouting staff," Roseman recalled. "Now we have everyone in place. We've been very fortunate to this point to keep all of our personnel staff together. I think we have a really good staff . . . that's exciting, for us all to be together and speaking the same language."

Roseman said that going through the 2013 season helped make him "feel even more confident in what our coaches want, what they're looking for," and that Kelly and the coaches have a better feel for how players on the roster do or don't fit into what they're trying to do.

"We knew all along that last year was kind of a trial-and-error period for some of the guys on our roster," Roseman said.

The biggest ripple so far this offseason came when Miami and Tampa Bay said they wanted to talk to Eagles personnel vice president Tom Gamble about their general-manager positions. Gamble confirmed yesterday that he declined to interview and will stay with the Eagles. Roseman said he wants the people who work for him to get opportunities as the team experiences success, but obviously losing Gamble after one season wouldn't have been ideal.

"I feel really confident that if and when somebody leaves and gets promoted . . . we have guys ready to step in and take their place, but hopefully that doesn't happen for a long time," Roseman said.

The Senior Bowl is the kickoff to the draft process, during which a team winnows 500 or more draft-eligible prospects down to the 150 to 200 it will place on its board of draftable players.

"We talk a lot as a scouting staff about knowing a lot about a little, instead of a little about a lot," Roseman said. "That's really important for us, because at the end of the day we're only pulling seven, eight, nine names off the board [to draft], then we're maybe adding 10 [undrafted] free agents. So we're only really making decisions on 20 guys. If we're right on 60 percent of them, we're going to do a phenomenal job. Let's make sure the guys we like, we're spending a lot of time on, knowing everything we can - there's always something you don't know, because these are always kind of arranged marriages when you're picking these guys - but let's know as much as we possibly can."

That's one of the underrated tasks for a scouting staff, assembling the pool of prospects you want to investigate. Two hundred is pretty much the limit, Roseman said.

"It's hard to spend a lot of time on 250 to 300 guys. It's hard for our personnel staff, it's hard for our coaching staff to spend the months of February, March and April chasing around 250 guys, making sure we know a lot," Roseman said.

One challenge of Senior Bowl week that gets tougher every year is that more and more, the top prospects are juniors coming out, or even third-year sophomores who redshirted. The Senior Bowl tried to address this by allowing players with eligibility left who have graduated to participate, but there are only a bare handful of those. This year, 102 underclassmen have declared for the draft, and none of them is on the field at Ladd-Peebles (though South Carolina defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney did show up in street clothes yesterday, explaining that he came to meet with NFL teams. Ditto North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, another top prospect as an underclassman).

The Eagles value the chance to see top players compete against one another in practice, but increasingly they don't see many of the very best. If you're an Eagles fan thirsting for news about the 2014 safety class, for example, the top two prospects rated by ESPN's Mel Kiper, Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor, are underclassmen. The top safeties in Mobile are midroundish prospects such as Baylor's Ahmad Dixon and Florida State's Terrence Brooks.

"It's fun to be here, it's great to be here, but at the end of the day, it's part of the process," Roseman said. "It's not going to be the biggest part of the process. It's going to be part of the process. When you talk about juniors, there's going to be a lot of them taken in the first round, there's going to be a lot of them taken high. We'll be able to spend a lot of time with those guys, see them work out, and then the game tape's going to be the most important part of it for us."

As the Eagles mingle with the other teams here, they get a lot of compliments, in the wake of Kelly's turnaround from 4-12 to 10-6, Roseman said. "But, at the end of the day, we've got to get better . . . we've got to continue to add good players."

On Twitter: @LesBowen

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