Eagles' Chip Kelly: Jenkins, Sproles good fits

Chip speaks: The Maxwell Club's pro coach of the year opened up.
Chip speaks: The Maxwell Club's pro coach of the year opened up. (   BEN FOGLETTO / The Press of Atlantic City)
Posted: March 16, 2014

ATLANTIC CITY - In his first extensive public comments since January, Chip Kelly said price was not a factor in the Eagles' approach to free agency and emphasized that the Eagles' key offseason strategy was to re-sign core players before free agency even opened.

Kelly said safety Malcolm Jenkins' versatility was the reason the Eagles targeted him. He added that it was too early to determine whether the defense has made enough upgrades this offseason to improve from their No. 29 ranking last season.

"We still have some holes in terms of being a complete football team," Kelly said before accepting the pro coach of the year award from the Maxwell Football Club. "You can fill some of them in free agency, but we still have a ways to go."

Kelly said there was an emphasis on special teams because he felt the Eagles needed to improve their coverage units and return game, where "there were yards left on the field." Kelly said the team is not interested backups if they cannot contribute on special teams.

The two biggest acquisitions this week were Jenkins and Darren Sproles. Regarding Jenkins, Kelly said that the converted cornerback has skills that allow the Eagles to use their two safeties on the field interchangeably. He did not want a player who is strictly a free safety or strong safety.

"When you're playing guys like Peyton Manning, you better not have the same guy doing the same thing," Kelly said. "There are some other guys out there that there are tremendous football players. But for what . . . we were looking for on the defensive side of the ball, Malcolm just seemed to be the guy that was the right fit for us."

The Sproles acquisition was too fresh for Kelly to expound on exactly how the Eagles plan to use him. He said the defensive coaches had shared how challenging it was to play against Sproles, and the Eagles were attracted to a "talented player, dynamic returner."

"It was an opportunity to complement with what we have," Kelly said. "We feel like we have a special, special back in LeSean [McCoy], but take a little load off him a little bit and the fact that he is a punt-return/kick-return guy is a huge bonus for us."

Kelly mentioned the contracts rewarded to Jason Kelce, Jason Peters, Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, and Donnie Jones as examples of how the Eagles "signed our good players back."

The coach sidestepped a question about speculation that DeSean Jackson could be moved, joking that he'll determine the importance of Jackson among the Eagles' receivers by how reporters predict they will be prioritized.

"He's a priority at wide receiver before Maclin, behind Cooper, or is it Cooper before Maclin, or Maclin before Cooper?" Kelly said. "I'll check what you write and tell you how I feel about it."

Kelly earned the Maxwell Award after overseeing a six-win improvement in 2013, but said that last season means "absolutely nothing" moving forward.

"The good thing is, we don't have to play now," Kelly said. "It's get those guys on the field we added, get back on the field, how are our guys, what did they do in the offseason?"


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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