Head coach Chip Kelly explained on Tuesday morning what the personnel and coaching staff are looking for as they determine which players will survive the final cuts and make the 53-man roster. Kelly referred to "versatility," an attribute he has stressed as being of the utmost importance with players, especially for those who are not starters.
"When you only have 46 guys active on gameday, you have to have versatility in your non-starters because there’s not just enough numbers," Kelly said. "If you’re two-deep at every position, that’s 44, excluding specialists. At some positions you’re going to carry a third – you’re going to carry a third running back, so where does that spot come from? It has to come from somewhere. When you’re talking about making the 46-man (active gameday) roster, that versatility part is huge for guys who aren’t the starters. … When you talk about backup guys, they have to have versatility."
Though ideally every position on the roster would be "two-deep," Kelly acknowledged that is simply not a reality and therefore necessitates "flexibility." The restrictions inherent with only being able to have 46 players active on gameday makes it more difficult when figuring out which players, at which positions, to keep.
"You’re not going to keep (a player) for the sake of keeping one if your fourth tight end is better than your sixth receiver of your fourth running back is better than this or your sixth receiver is better than the third tight end," Kelly said. "I think you’ve got to have some flexibility in that. So there are more guidelines than stringent numbers, but there are certain spots where you hope you can be two-deep, but you’re not going to be able to be."
Player versatility will be something the Eagles focus on in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Jets, and Kelly emphasized that there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the final composition of the roster. Though it will be a night in which the starters have off, a majority of players will be fighting for their jobs.
"There’s a lot up in the air right now," Kelly said. "I think every chance you have an opportunity to see our guys compete, and obviously the games are different than the training sessions out here – it’s the last real good shot of us getting an opportunity to see how they react in an environment. It’s as close to a regular season as you can get. It’s a huge night for all those guys."
Versatility aside, Kelly does not get wrapped up in who starts. He cares about who plays the most and how they contribute to the overall success of the team.
"Do I care who starts? No, I never have," Kelly said. "I know it’s the phenomenon of who starts but who plays the second snap, who plays the most snaps, that’s the part that’s the most important. I’ve always been like that, I don’t care – you could be the sixth man for the Boston Celtics, you could play more than the starter. Do you want to be the sixth man or do you want to be the starter? We don’t introduce you as an individual so it doesn’t matter to me who starts, it just matters who plays well."
The Eagles have until Saturday at 6 PM to get to the 53-man roster limit. Kelly said that he has final say on the roster, but it remains a collaborative effort with general manger Howie Roseman. Their relationship and shared big-picture philosophy makes it easier to agree on personnel decisions, as does their ability to set aside egos and focus on their mutual desire to do what is best for the team above all else.
"(Howie Roseman and I) are on the same page in everything," Kelly said. "There hasn’t been a decision made personnel-wise since I’ve been here where I felt one way and he felt the other way. … I think when you have guys who are professional and can see the other side of it and understand how it fits in the grand scheme of things – I think (Roseman) sees big picture and I see big picture, so that’s why we get along so well."
Lastly, Kelly offered an interesting insight into the "Win the day" mantra he preached at Oregon, and how that relates to his vision for approaching the NFL and molding his team both now and for the future.
"It’s just about embracing the process," Kelly said. "I think too many people see too far down the road. You can talk about championships all you want, but if you don’t take care of what you’re supposed to take care of today, it really doesn’t matter what your long terms goals are. It’s just really making sure that you’re focused. No matter what your long term goals are, you have to be on the short term and what can I get accomplished today.
"We can control what we can control today, go to bed and get up tomorrow and do it again. It’s about being consistent with your behavior. I think too many times everybody talks about the big picture but they neglect to look at what the small picture is. It’s an accumulation of things on a daily basis that gets you to where you are a year from now. It’s not, ‘let’s try to jump to a year from now.’ It’s take care of what you can today and what you can control is just today."
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