Eagles Notebook: Kelly praises Foles, thinks Eagles QB can get even better

Posted: March 28, 2014

ORLANDO, Fla. - Chip Kelly has talked to at least one offensive star this week who isn't DeSean Jackson, Kelly said yesterday.

The Eagles coach said he spoke 2 days earlier with quarterback Nick Foles. Remember him? Twenty-seven touchdown passes, two interceptions? Back before free-agent safety mania, back before the Jackson trade intrigue surfaced, Foles' status and potential were topic No. 1 in Birdland. At some point, Foles will again dominate the spotlight, as he returns for his third NFL season, his first as the acknowledged starter, with his photo now hanging in the NovaCare corridor lined by Eagles Pro Bowlers.

"Now, it's the intricacies of it," Kelly said, when asked about Foles' development. "Exactly what is my footwork? How is my ballhandling? How can I do a better job when I don't have the ball, how can I do a better job faking? What can I do . . . to influence the coverage, how can I move the safety, because I really want to throw the post. Instead of just going, 'Hey, the safety's on the post, I gotta throw the checkdown.' . . . That's the one thing about Nick that's so encouraging is, he always wants to get better. I think he improved as the season went along. A lot of times, you'll see some players kind of plateau, but I think he continued to improve."

Foles loses a mentor in Michael Vick, who signed with the Jets. Indications are he'll be backed up this season by former Jets starter Mark Sanchez, 27, who apparently will get his surgically repaired right shoulder checked out by the Eagles' medical staff no later than today. The Eagles' traveling party returned from the NFL meetings yesterday, so the necessary formalities should be completed by the end of the week.

Several media reports said that Sanchez was in Philadelphia last night.

Asked about Sanchez yesterday at the NFC coaches media breakfast, Kelly called backup QB "a position of need for us."

"We played three quarterbacks last year. I don't think you can ever look at your roster and say, 'Hey, we're good at quarterback.' I think you always have to look at that position. It's the key position in this game . . . I think Mark's a very, very good athlete. He's started [62] games in this league. He's got great experience. There's a lot of positive qualities to him."

Foles, Matt Barkley and presumably Sanchez will work under new quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave, who replaces Bill Lazor, now offensive coordinator in Miami.

Kelly was asked what made him want to entrust Foles' growth to Musgrave, who worked with Matt Ryan during Ryan's formative years in Atlanta.

"Bill's way about himself," Kelly said. "I think he's another guy that's extremely intelligent, but he's got a demeanor in terms of how he gets his point across. He's got a ton of experience, not only as a coach, but as a player. Played for the 49ers and won a Super Bowl. A lot of understanding of the game."

Kelly said that he knew Musgrave from his visits to Oregon on behalf of NFL teams, that offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur knew him as well and that Musgrave "was really the first guy we called."

Kelly and Shurmur come up with the schemes, but the quarterbacks coach is the conduit to the most important performer.

"That's the guy that's with those guys [the quarterbacks] every single day. What the dynamic in that meeting room is [depends on] who's leading that group," Kelly said.

As is often the case with departed free agents, Vick got a hearty endorsement, when New York reporters attempted to assess his viability as a starter.

"I thought how Michael handled that situation was unbelievable," Kelly said, after describing how injury, not poor play, sent Vick to the bench in 2013 and allowed Foles to take over. "I don't know if I would've handled it with the poise and grace that he handled it. He was great for Nick. He was great for our team. He was a true leader, in terms of being selfless. I think he still has a lot of football left in him. He's got tremendous arm skill. I don't know too many guys in the league that have the arm Mike has. There are still days in practice in December when he rips a couple and you go, 'Whoa.' He can throw the football."

Birdseed

When a questioner noted that linebacker Brandon Graham wants a chance to start somewhere, Chip Kelly responded: "He has that opportunity, every day" . . . Kelly indicated the Eagles would really have liked to pick up an edge rusher in free agency, but the difference-maker they sought just wasn't there . . . Kelly was very enthusiastic about getting back ACL victim Jeremy Maclin. He said he isn't sure about Maclin's status for OTAs or minicamp, but said he should be ready for training camp.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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