Tag Archives: Chip Kelly

Injuries Give Barner An Opportunity To Display His Skills

5 Aug
Kenjon Barner

Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenjon Barner (34) looks on from the sidelines as he watches the action on the playing field during a preseason NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, August 29, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Eagles defeated they Packers 39-26. (Scott Boehm via AP) Photo courtesy of the Philadephia Sunday Sun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With Ryan Mathews and rookie Wendell Smallwood on the shelf nursing minor injuries, running back Kenjon Barner has been getting extra reps in practice in their absence.

Barner’s all-around game as a running back has been impressing Eagles coaches since the beginning of minicamp. On a team that’s looking for someone to be the featured back, Barner has been turning the heads of head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich.

“Kenjon [Barner], I think is a really good, all-around back. He can make you miss in the open field,” Reich said. “I like his vision. He’s doing great in protections. I’ve been very impressed with him the whole offseason. Of course, when we got here everyone was in my ear about how good this guy is going to be a player, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

Since his days at Oregon, Barner has always had the speed and elusiveness needed to be a good running back. Last season, Barner got some time at running back and had one 19-yard run. During last year’s preseason, he showed flashes of what he can do in the open field with a couple of long punt returns.

When former head coach Chip Kelly brought Barner to Philadelphia in a trade with Carolina, he was seen as another one of the guys who was familiar with Kelly’s offense and some even expected him to be gone once Pederson arrived.

But Barner is definitely on the new regime’s radar and it likes what it sees.

“He’s an explosive guy with the ball in his hands, and he’s pretty good out of the backfield as a receiver,” Pederson said. “I love the fact that anytime you put the ball in his hand, he has the ability to make some big plays for you. He’s shown that here in the first week of camp.”

With Smallwood and Mathews not on the field, Barner is getting valuable time in front of the team video camera so the coaching staff can evaluate his progress.

“I thought he handled it well. His conditioning is good. It’s improving,” Pederson said. “He got a little tired towards the end of practice, but, again, that’s just the nature of the camp practice. Overall, I thought he did a good job. This will be a good film for him to watch: a good practice tape for him to watch to be able to make the necessary corrections. He’s headed in the right direction.”

Prior to training camp, Barner told philadephiaeagles.com that he has spent the offseason doing everything from changing his diet to working on his footwork. He said he wants to do everything he can to put himself in the position to compete with the other running backs.

“It’s about me wanting to be the best me I could be and I knew that in order to the that I had to take the necessary steps,” Barner said back in June. “I lost a lot of body fat, gained muscle mass. It was a lot different than what’ve I done I in the past.”

Barner said he hasn’t had any difficulty learning Pederson’s offense during the course of mini-camp, something that’s coming through in the first week of training camp.
For him, it comes down the basics of being an NFL running back.

“Your job is to run the ball, make the right cuts, catch the ball out of the backfield and block,” he said. “The scheme may be different, but my mindset is the same.”

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Eagles Wheeling, Dealing and Erasing the Chip Kelly Era

15 Mar
HowieandDougie

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, left and Eagles VP of Football Operations, Howie Roseman have done their share of altering the roster. Photo by Webster Riddick.

In the first week of free agency, the Philadelphia Eagles have started the process of re-making the team in the image of head coach Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman, the team’s vice president of football operations.

The high-profile guys that former head coach Chip Kelly brought in via trades and free agency last season will not be with the team in 2016, most notably running back DeMarco Murray, who was traded to the Tennessee Titans for a fourth-round draft pick.

After leading the NFL in rushing in 2014, Murray gained just 702 yards, averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and was frustrated in Kelly’s system because it didn’t utilize his strengths as a downhill runner. Even with the coaching change, Murray was still not happy and he was sent packing to play with Kelly’s former quarterback Marcus Mariota.

The Birds also acquired former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel to compete with Sam Bradford for the starter’s position.

Two more of Kelly’s acquisitions from last season were also sent packing via the trades. Linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell were sent to the Miami Dolphins to clear some salary cap space and to swap places with the Dolphins in the 2016 Draft. The Eagles will now have the eighth pick instead of the 13th.

The Eagles haven’t had that high a draft pick since 2013 when they used the fourth pick to draft solid right tackle Lane Johnson.

The Eagles could use that pick on a variety of things. With Murray’s departure, they could use it to  pick a running back, possibly Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliot or Alabama’s Derrick Henry.

But the smart use for the pick would be an offensive tackle. In a draft that will be heavy on linemen on both sides of the ball, the Eagles have a couple of possibilities.  Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley (6-7, 312), Michigan State’s Jack Conklin (6-7, 315) and Ohio State’s Taylor Decker (6-7, 315) are possibilities.

With 34-year-old Pro Bowl tackle Jason Peters on the downside of his career, the Eagles could cut him as soon as this year. At some point, the Birds are going to have to find a replacement for him.

“The O-line is a priority period,” Roseman said during a press conference last  week. “It’s a priority today, it’s a priority tomorrow, it’s a priority next week, it’s priority in April. Every day we’re looking for an offensive lineman. I think the good news the lines in this draft are very strong.”

The place on the offensive line where the Eagles really struggled was at the guard positions. That’s why they signed 6-5, 335-pound offensive guard and former Houston Texan Brandon Brooks.

For the past three seasons, Brooks has been the starting guard for the Texans, playing in 44 of 50 games. The Eagles singed him to a five-year, $40 million deal. Considering how badly the Eagles guards played last season, Brooks is a definite improvement and they’re going to need somebody to protect quarterback Sam Bradford.

The Eagles also bulked up their secondary by signing former Buffalo Bills cornerback Theodis McKelvin to a two-year deal. McKelvin has been in the league for nine years and has 12 career interceptions. The Birds also signed McKelvin’s teammate, former LSU star safety Ron Brooks, who’s been a backup since coming into the league in 2012.

Former St. Louis Rams safety Ron McLeod (5-10) also came to terms with the Eagles this week. A proven starter in 48 straight games, McLeod has the ability to cover receivers in the passing game as well as play the run.

In just a short period of time, Pederson and Roseman have basically disassembled everything Kelly put together.

Considering how many Eagles fans felt about the changes Kelly made during his tenure, they probably think that’s a good thing.

 

Can Doug Pederson Rescue the Eagles?

22 Jan
pedersonphoto.

Doug Pederson, who served as an assistant under former Eagles head coach Andy Reid, will try to put the Birds on the right track as the team’s head coach.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Philadelphia Eagles began the transition from the Chip Kelly era to the Doug Pederson era when they introduced him as the team’s new head coach on Tuesday.
But before the ink was even allowed to dry on his contract, jaded Birds fans were looking at the new coach with a side-eye that suggested that they’d already been down this particular road.

Because Pederson’s last job was Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City, Eagles fans on social media were having flashbacks to Super Bowl XXXIX when the Birds offense moved with no urgency even though they were down 10 with about six minutes left in the game.

Those flashbacks weren’t triggered by Pederson’s presence on the podium with team Jeffrey Lurie on Tuesday, but by his last game as the Chiefs offensive coordinator, a playoff game against the New England Patriots that raised a few eyebrows with some “say-whats” and some “what the entire hells” throw in for good measure.

In the Patriots game, the Chiefs were down by two touchdowns late and got the ball back with about six minutes left in the game. Instead of acting like they were down two scores and needed to get points quickly, the Chiefs took nearly all of the 6:29 remaining to get one touchdown and lost 27-20.

When Pederson was asked about that drive, he gave an answer that probably raised even more questions.

“It took us time because number one, we did not want to give Tom Brady the ball back,” he said. “We knew we were going to score and we knew we had timeouts and the time. We were also limited with the number of receivers we had. Jeremy Maclin was out of the game.”

The Chiefs scored with just 1:13 left and three timeouts, but the onside kick failed and the Patriots ran out the clock. If the Eagles get into a clock management situation during the 2016 season and they lose, fans will revisit this. Count on it.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Pederson did call plays in the second half of games during the Chiefs 11-game winning streak that got them into the playoffs and led quarterback Alex Smith to his best year as a pro.

Smith passed for a career-high 3,486 yards and had a career-high 498 yards running the football. He threw 20 touchdown passes and during the Chiefs 11 game-winning streak, had a run where he threw 312 passes without an interception.

During the news conference, Pederson said that he believes Eagles starting quarterback Sam Bradford, who will become a free agent in March, is a good fit for the offense he wants to run, something that probably resembles the West coast offense. Bradford passed for 3.725 yards with 19 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.

“I think Sam’s a quality quarterback. I think he’s a top notch quarterback,” Pederson said. “Look at what he did the last half of the season, the numbers he was able to put up, I feel like he’s a quarterback that would fit perfectly into the system that I’m going to bring.”

You would think Pederson as the head coach would also bode well for running back DeMarco Murray. In Kansas City, Jamaal Charles and the running game thrived under Pederson and Reid. Charles gained over thousand yards in 2013 and 2014.

Pederson said he thinks that Murray is also good fit for his offense in the way that Charles did with the Chiefs.

“I think there’s a unique style with him. When you look at his tape in Dallas, I think there’s some great opportunities with him. He’s more of a downhill guy, a physical running back,” Pederson said.

Eagles Still Searching for Answers on Offense

10 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

DeMarco Murray is looking to have a breakout game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

DeMarco Murray is looking to have a breakout game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Photo by Webster Riddick.

In the Philadelphia Eagles’ first four games this season, they have only played three halves of good football and have just one win.
That’s due to an offensive line that keeps allowing penetration into the backfield, which has led to a poor running game, which has led to the Eagles not being able to get anything else started offensively.

As a team, the Eagles are averaging just 3.1 yards on the ground. Running back DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing last season as the featured back for the Dallas Cowboys, has just 47 yards on 29 carries and is averaging just 1.6 yards per carry.

After the Birds 23-20 loss to the Washington Redskins, Murray complained about not getting enough carries. Considering how abysmally the offensive line has performed to this point, more carries for Murray or any of the other running backs may not help.

I’m not so sure things are going to get any better when they take on the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday because this already much maligned offensive line is riddled with injuries. Left tackle Jason Peters left the Washington game with a quadriceps strain and it’s uncertain whether he will play on Sunday because he didn’t practice on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

Right tackle Lane Johnson played with a sprained knee and has had limited participation in practice. But even before those injuries, the Eagles haven’t gotten the running game going all season.

Center Jason Kelce said it’s been a frustrating season so far and doesn’t see things getting any better for the offense at this point.

“Really, the only reason we’re losing football games is because of offensive mistakes, penalties and frankly, not being able to run-block well and move the football,” Kelce said.”We haven’t adjusted well in game situations, we’ve gotten frazzled, when guys slant across our face we don’t handle it well. When teams blitz us, we’re not on the same page. It hasn’t been a unified offense.”

Eagles’ offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur attributes the offense’s slow start in games on the Birds inability to convert on third down situations, especially on third and long. The Eagles tied for last in the NFL in third down conversion percentage.

“I think what happens is we don’t convert on third down. You see in the second half where we’ve been able to kind of stay on the field and extend drives and score points. We converted on third down,” Shurmur said.
“Now there are multiple reasons for that. It could be a longer third down because you didn’t do so well on first or second, orit could be a manageable third down and you don’t execute that play,” Shurmur said. “So it’s a combination of things. We’re searching to make sure we get that right.”

Getting it right has been a huge challenge for the Eagles offense so far this season. In one of those few halves in which the offense has gotten into a rhythm, it’s been the Eagles passing game that’s got the offense going.

That was the case in the game against Washington where Sam Bradford completed a pair of touchdown passes that went beyond 40 yards and helped the Eagles take the lead in the fourth quarter.

Maybe the Eagles need to pass to set up the run, something that head coach Chip Kelly alluded to in his Wednesday press conference. Kelly said the Eagles inability to convert on third down comes from falling behind on first and second down.

“We’ve got to make sure we’ve got some quick throws, maybe we can get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands that are nice, easy throws to kind of get going,” Kelly said. “I think with this group, once you establish and can get into a rhythm, we can be pretty good.”

That’s something the Eagles have to do starting with the first quarter and they have to maintain that rhythm for the full 60 minutes.

(Today’s column is dedicated to the late J. Whyatt Mondesire, Publisher

and CEO of the Philadelphia Sunday Sun who passed away last Sunday)

Truly Offensive: The New-Look Philadelphia Eagles are 0-2 With an Offense That’s Bringing New Meaning to the Term

24 Sep

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

Eagles running back DeMarco Murray gets run down by Cowboys middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens during the Eagles 20-10 loss to Dallas last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

When Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly shipped LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, Nick Foles to the St. Louis Rams and gave an unceremonious heave-ho to Pro Bowl offensive guard Evan Mathis, the warning from fans and the media was “You’d better replace them with something better…”

Did the Birds do that?

If the last two games are any indication, the answer has to be an emphatic Hell No!

After a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons and the debacle that was last Sunday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles are hoping to redeem themselves on Sunday at MetLife Stadium when they take on a 2-0 New York Jets squad.

The big question that everyone is asking now is whether or not the Eagles offensive line can protect quarterback Sam Bradford and open up the kinds of holes that will allow running back DeMarco Murray, who was held to two yards on 13 carries and has only 11 yards after two games this season.

Murray led the NFL in rushing in 2014 with over 1,800 yards.

The Eagles offensive line got beat down by the Cowboys front seven that had seven tackles for a loss of yardage. A quick Dallas defense outmuscled center Jason Kelce, guards Allen Barbre and Andrew Gardner and tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson.

Two plays, in particular, symbolized the Eagles’ frustrations.

On a running play late in the first quarter, Murray lost two yards when Cowboys defensive tackle Terrell McClain got into the Eagles backfield by slicing between Kelce and Gardner. The penetration forced Murray to go right where he was taken down by linebacker Sean Lee.

Perhaps the most blatant example of how poorly the offensive line performed in the running game was the Eagles first possession of the third quarter. On first and 10 from the Birds 32, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence streaked past tight end Brent Celek and dropped Murray for a six-yard loss.

On the next play, Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey sped past Peters and tackled Murray for a loss of another five yards. No matter how you slice it, Dallas owned the trenches and the Eagles didn’t.

“There were a couple times … when the linebacker level would shoot through and then kind of disrupt and knock our guys off of our double teams,” said Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “Then there were other times when we got split, whether it be the double team or the edge block with the tight end. So there was no consistent one reason. It’s just areas where if we just block better, I think we’ll get it fixed.”

With an even better Jets defense on the horizon, the Eagles have to do something, anything to fix the offensive line.

“We just couldn’t get things going at different times. We have to be better, no matter what the play calls are,” Murray said after the game. “I think individually and collectively, as an offense, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror, watch the film and go on from there.”

The Eagles coaches have been saying that their issues in the offensive line can be fixed by the offensive line simply executing and doing their jobs. I don’t know if it’s really as simple as that. Not the way they were dominated by Dallas.
I don’t pretend to be an offensive coordinator, but from what I saw on the film, the Cowboys had the Eagles number. Usually, when the middle is jammed in Kelly’s offense, the running backs can find a cut back lane and bounce it to the outside.

The Cowboys, especially linebacker Sean Lee, had the edges covered. Lee had two tackles for a loss as a result. It was that kind of a day for the Eagles.

Now Kelly has to figure out a way for his offense to get its mojo back because if it doesn’t, it’s going to be a long year for Eagles fans.

Eagles Rookie Wide Receiver Nelson Agholor Getting Rave Reviews After Preseason Debut

19 Aug

By Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report 

and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun 

Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor gave up Eagles a glimpse of what he can do with a spectacular 34-yard touchdown pass.  Photo courtesy of NFL.com

Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor gave up Eagles a glimpse of what he can do with a spectacular 34-yard touchdown pass. Photo courtesy of NFL.com

Although he has yet to play a regular season game in the National Football League , Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Nelson Agholor has impressed his coaches and his teammates with his work ethic, his speed and his ability to catch the football throughout organized team activities in the spring and training camp in August.

“You talk about going straight forward, that boy Nelson just goes from zero to 100,” said teammate and fellow wide receiver Jordan Matthews. “I’ve just seen it day in and day out. They talk about explosive efforts every day in practice, that cat has them. You turn on the film; he’s out on every single catch.”

As the Birds first round draft choice, Agholor has a lot of work ahead of him and is going to go through the ups and downs of being a rookie. That said, the former University of Southern California star gave Eagles fans a glimpse of the upside of his potential.

In the Eagles 36-10 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday, Agholor caught five passes for 57 yards including a spectacular 34-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter that thrilled the Eagles faithful at Lincoln Financial Field.

On his touchdown, Agholor hauled in a short, overthrown hitch pass from Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez and just sped past defenders for a touchdown.

“When I caught the ball and I wanted to finish,” Agholor said. “Every day in practice we try to finish to two lines and that was the objective and I wanted to turn it into more.”

If there’s one thing that has stood out about Agholor from the time he was drafted to his first preseason game on Sunday, it’s that he  doesn’t go around tooting his own horn, at least not yet.  He’s the first to acknowledge his own mistakes. He had a couple of drops that cost the Eagles a couple of third down conversions.

“I need to work on just finding the ball and not looking at who’s throwing the ball,” Agholor said.  “I think my eyes went to the quarterback.  At the end of the day, I like the fact that it happened today.  It’s a good thing to learn from.”

During his career at USC, the 6’1”, 190-pound Agholor played in a variety spots at the wide receiver position at both the slot and as an outside receiver.   He put up numbers no matter where he played, especially in his final season with the Trojans. Agholor caught 104 passes for 1,313 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said the thing he liked about Agholor when he was at USC was his ability to run after the catch.  The touchdown that Agholor scored Sunday against the Colts was a classic example of why the Eagles drafted him.

“Yeah, I mean the one thing with Nelson is when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s real explosive,” Kelly said.  “So, you’re anticipating run after the catch with him.  He did that a ton in college.”

Agholor is also showing that as a rookie that’s important for him to be a student of the game and that each situation, whether it’s practice, the film room or a live game, every situation is an opportunity for him to make his game better.

“That’s what you do every day on the practice field, too,” Agholor said. “You have meetings that carry over from previous days; you just go out there and perform what you’re coached up to do. And that’s all (Sunday) was.  It was an extended practice for a lot of us.”

If Agholor wins the starter’s job as a starting wide receiver, the Birds are going to have a pretty decent group of receiver when you throw Matthews, Miles Austin, Josh Huff and Riley Cooper into the mix.

Stop Telling Athletes to Just Shut Up and Play

13 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

cardaleJones

A fan on Twitter chided Ohio State quarterback for expressing his views on the Black Lives Matter Movement.

PHILADELPHIA—Last month, Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones took to Twitter to express his support for the Black Lives Matter Movement and was met with the typical response from fans that African American athletes get whenever they speak on social justice issues.  

Jones tweeted: “#AllLivesMatter why is that the only ones getting beaten, killed when unarmed, & mysteriously dien in custody African-American …You tell me that #AllLivesMatter well I say how do you define “All”?

An Ohio State fan responded with: “Worry about getting us fans another championship …Stay out of this bulls—.”    

Jones shot back at the fan with a Tweet steeped in sarcasm: “Sorry Mr. master, I aints allow to tweet nothing but foolsbaall stuff I donts want you think I more than a foots ball playa sir.”

The fan then apologized to Jones and later shut his Twitter site down.

Last week, I wrote about the complaints that several former Philadelphia Eagles players have leveled about ill treatment at the hands of head coach Chip Kelly, some of which has accused the former Oregon coach of racism. In a recent story on the Bleacher Report website, a pair of unnamed Eagles said that it wasn’t racism, but Kelly’s need to have total, dictatorial control of his team.

Like it or not, some veteran ball players aren’t going to take too well to that kind of coaching and some like former Eagle Brandon Boykin are going to complain about it, possibly in front of a live microphone.

Now whether or not I agree with the athlete isn’t the point. His right to be honest and have his own opinions is. While I have no problem debating the veracity or even the credibility of an athlete’s point of view, it bothers me when fans and media people tell athletes, especially African-American athletes, to just “shut up and play.”

For example, you might have thought that former Eagle Cary Williams’s complaints about Kelly’s hard practices causing team burnout late in the season may have been a little ridiculous considering some of the completions he gave up in some of those games, but I appreciated the man’s honesty.

And it’s hard to take reporters seriously when they complain about clichéd responses from athletes when sincere, heartfelt answers that challenge whatever the prevailing narrative is at the moment also bring scorn.  

Of course, the first response that seems to come from social media or sports talk radio when professional athletes speak their minds is that they have no right to complain because of the millions of dollars they make. It’s as if money is supposed to suppress your right to express yourself.

You’re supposed to turn a blind eye to injustice just because you’re rich. Your financial security means that you can’t protest your work conditions the way Curt Flood did in refusing to be traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies, the move that eventually led to free agency in Major League Baseball.

Being a Black man of means doesn’t mean that you won’t still have problems getting a cab in New York or Boston. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t get pulled over by the cops for no reason other than the color of your skin like any other Black person in America.

For African-American athletes there’s a perception that they should be grateful for making the millions they make and shouldn’t rock the boat by daring to make a statement about something that impacts everyone, including them. While there is a certain amount of gratitude that these athletes probably have for their God-given abilities, they’re in the NFL because of that ability and their hard work. It’s something they’ve earned…and they shouldn’t be expected to give up their First Amendment rights in order to enjoy it.

What’s really ironic about all this is that I’ve heard those complaints in blue-collar, union towns like Philly, Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh, New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit.

Seems to me that you folks need a little bit of a history lesson, so let me help you out.

Were it not for people like Walter P. Reuther (United Auto Workers), A. Philip Randolph (Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), and Cesar Chavez (United Farm Workers), people who refused to just “shut up and work” and rocked the boat instead, that 40-hour work week, with the living wage, the paid sick and vacation days and the healthcare plan that so many of you union workers enjoy wouldn’t exist.

Might want to remember that the next time you want to shut down your favorite athlete on Twitter.