Eagles starters will play briefly in preseason opener

Eagles coach Chip Kelly said the team's starters will run 10 to 15 plays against the Bears during Friday's preseason opener in Chicago.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly said the team's starters will run 10 to 15 plays against the Bears during Friday's preseason opener in Chicago. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 08, 2014

When Chip Kelly ran onto Lincoln Financial Field on Aug. 9, 2013, it marked his first experience with the NFL's preseason. In college, Kelly's preseason games consisted of intrasquad scrimmages. His introduction to the NFL - even a watered-down version - came with much intrigue.

There is less intrigue about Kelly regarding Friday's game against the Bears in Chicago. The first season only elevated the excitement in Philadelphia, but some of the mystery of his offense has been documented 17 times on film. There is still curiosity about how some new players will function within the Eagles' scheme, but it's likely the Eagles keep a basic approach to the preseason.

The Eagles' first unit will play about 10-15 snaps, Kelly said Wednesday. That could vary based on the outcome, but the starters are not expected to see extended action.

"Just depends on offensively or defensively how much success they're having," Kelly said Wednesday. "Could be you've got a couple three-and-outs, and they've got to go back out there. If you get two decent drives, I think we feel like that's what we're aiming for right now. But it's got to be kind of a fluid situation."

Kelly did not think wide receiver Riley Cooper (foot) would play. The coach said he did not know about Jeremy Maclin, who has experienced soreness in his legs. The receiver said Tuesday that he would play for the first time since 2012.

It's unlikely that new cornerback Nolan Carroll will play. Carroll, who has a hamstring injury, is expected to push for time on defense and is listed as the top kick returner on the team's depth chart.

Kelly downplayed anything on the depth chart, though. He said that the team's public relations staff puts it together and that it is distributed only because the team is required to do so.

"I said a long time ago - it's written in sand. It's written in water. It can be written in anything," Kelly said. "That depth chart means absolutely nothing."

The preseason is considered a chance to evaluate players who are fighting for roster spots, but Kelly said the Eagles need evaluations throughout the team. The lack of hitting in camp puts more importance on the preseason games because it's the only opportunity in August for contact. From Nick Foles' seeing a live pass rush for the first time to backup kicker Carey Spear's potentially kicking late in the game, the coaching staff and front office can finally see their team in a game setting.

It's also the first chance to see newcomers such as Darren Sproles, Malcolm Jenkins, and Mark Sanchez as well as rookies such as Marcus Smith and Jordan Matthews.

Unlike last season, the Eagles don't have much competition for starting jobs. Nate Allen and Earl Wolff are competing to start next to Jenkins at safety. Otherwise, most of the competition is for situational roles and determining who will make the roster.

"There's a certain amount of work I think everybody that's healthy needs to get in, and then we'll move on from there," Kelly said. "There's a lot of things . . . we all need exposure to. There's a new emphasis in the league. There's some rule changes."

The other benefit of the preseason games is a change of environment. This is an emphasis of Kelly's and one of the benefits he has found in the open practices at the stadium. During training camp, players get into a routine. During the preseason, that routine is disrupted. Kelly likes to put the players in different situations so the staff can develop a sense of how they react.

"Sometimes guys will be out here on the practice field doing excellent jobs, and then when the lights are bright, not so good," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "So that's what we want to see."


zberman@phillynews.com

@ZBerm

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