When the Eagles lost three straight games earlier in the season, people wondered how Chip Kelly would respond in his first year as an NFL head coach. Following back-to-back wins, Kelly and the Eagles are tied for the first place in the NFC East with a huge game against the Dallas Cowboys on tap for this Sunday.
Kelly's first order of business during his weekly Monday press conference was to field questions surrounding the health of Michael Vick. Vick was available only in an emergency situation against the Buccaneers, but Kelly said that he won't know where Vick stands until he can see how healthy the quarterback looks in practice.
"Until we know what the health is I'm not saying what anybody is," Kelly explained. "All of my decisions are made – whether it's James Casey with a groin or Mike with a hamstring or Chris Polk with a shoulder – all of our decisions on who is going to play are based on health.
"All of our decisions are made based off of who's going to give us the best opportunity to win. We have to put healthy guys on the field and make sure that we can put together a scheme that will help us beat the Cowboys. That's all that we're talking about ... Michael wasn't 100 percent on Sunday and Nick did an outstanding job, and I said when this whole thing started that we're fortunate to have two quarterbacks. It's shown already this season that you have to have two quarterbacks to win in this league, and that's where I feel we are right now."
In Sunday's post-game press conference, Kelly said that he was very pleased with the way that his team played against a tough Tampa Bay team. On Monday, Kelly highlighted two players in particular, Brent Celek and Fletcher Cox, for their outstanding play in the Eagles win.
"I think Brent again played an outstanding game," said Kelly. "If you watch the tape and watch how well he blocked- really specifically if you watch just the last drive of the game, he was just moving people. I really think that he's probably been the most underrated or underappreciated (player). I know that from a coaching standpoint that Brent through six games has been fantastic for us and (he's been) a warrior. He's doing everything, he's helping in the blocking game, he had a big catch on the screen, and he's come up with some really big catches during the season, but I thought that Brent played another outstanding football game."
Cox, meanwhile, was a force on the Eagles defensive line for the entire game.
"We had him for five pressures on the quarterback," Kelly explained. "I think Fletcher really cause a lot of havoc in there, that's probably the best way to say it. I think he tied up a couple of blockers and then he pushed the pocket really well from inside. He initiated a key holding penalty. He's started to come into his own and we're really impressed with how hard he played on Sunday."
While Cox garnered most of the praise from his head coach, Kelly also noted that the entire defensive line has really begun to develop as a unit.
"Up until yesterday, I would say that our most productive defensive lineman statistically for us has been Cedric (Thornton)," said Kelly. "(Cox) is really starting to come along and Vinny (Curry) can do some things. We're continuing to develop depth, and it's not manufactured depth. We have guys that are really coming along and figure it out. I think to be successful in this league you have to have depth…The other guys who was pretty productive and had a big sack towards the end of the game was Bennie Logan, and I think that Bennie is coming along. I don't think that theirs is anyone out there who is going to say 'Hey, we have too many interior defensive linemen.' The positive point of is that all of those guys are starting to get more familiar with Billy's scheme. They're starting to get a better feeling and a better understanding for what we're doing, and it's going to help us in the long run."
Though first place in the division will be on the line on Sunday when Cowboys and Eagles take the field, Kelly reiterated that the standings in October don't mean much to him.
"Again, we don't talk about first place seven weeks into the season," said Kelly. "The only time that we talk about wherever this thing finishes is on December 29 after our last game. I've seen improvement on our team from where we started to where we are right now. We're still disappointed in the three loses that we had, so you can't say 'Hey, we're really happy where we are right now' because you don't want to be 3-3. You wish you were 6-0."
For Kelly, Sunday's contest will be his third NFC East rivalry game of his inaugural season on the Eagles sideline. Much to the delight of Eagles fans, Kelly has started 2-0 against divisional teams. So has Kelly had any fans come up to him and tell him how much they dislike the Cowboys, specifically?
"No, but that's just because there are a bunch of other teams that they don't like either," Kelly said smiling. "They all seem to be in the NFC East though, which is a good thing. We played two of them and now we're getting to play the third so I'm sure it will be the same. I've had feelings about the Giants and I've had people talk to me about the Redskins. Coach (Dick) Vermeil came here to talk to our team and he talked a little bit about that feeling and we're ready to go. I know it's going to be a hell of a game."
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