Thursday's press conference was Chip Kelly's final chance to preview the Arizona Cardinals before Sunday night's game at Lincoln Financial Field. Kelly discussed the Cardinals' big-play offense, led by the veteran Carson Palmer and also talked about the progress Sam Bradford has shown versus the blitz.
Here are five quick takeaways from Kelly's media session on Thursday …
On Preventing The X-Plays
Preventing big plays is important for the Eagles' defense every week, but even more so this week against an Arizona offense that loves to air it out and take the lid off of opposing defenses. Last season, the Eagles let Cardinals receiver John Brown get behind them for a 75-yard touchdown to win the game, so shutting down the X-plays will surely be on the top of the Eagles' minds this week.
"I think we need to continue to improve, but I think we've done a better job," Kelly said. "Obviously last year it was really our Achilles heel in terms of being able to get off the field and giving up huge chunks of yardage in the X-play category.
"I think that we are better this year. The statistics will tell you that, but we still need to improve from that aspect and that's really the big emphasis especially against this team because they may have the most coming in. They do such a good job of getting the ball and pushing it down the field. They've got outstanding speed out there and it's something that you really need to be conscious of, especially against this team."
On Facing The Cardinals Five Years In A Row
It's rare for non-divisional opponents to meet in five consecutive seasons, but that is the case with this weekend's matchups. While the Cardinals' defense is a slightly different since defensive coordinator Todd Bowles left Arizona to become the New York Jets' head coach, Kelly says that the recent experience from playing Arizona will play a part in Sunday's game.
"A lot of times when you're playing teams three years in a row there are staff changes, but you can take some things from those games," said Kelly, who preps for his third matchup with Arizona. "Obviously there are personnel changes, probably more so with us than with them, but you have a chance to go back and look at the games from two years ago and then last year and take a little bit out of it even though defensively they're a little bit different because Todd (Bowles) is gone."
On Blitzing Carson Palmer
The Arizona Cardinals' defense has the most blitz attempts of any NFL team, and on the other side of that coin, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is one of the best in the business at staying poised against the rush, a fact that Kelly is aware of.
"Obviously Carson is in the category with Tom (Brady) and Eli (Manning) because they're at their best standing in the pocket, and the one thing about those guys is that they aren't really affected by the rush," Kelly said. "They do such a great job on focusing and concentrating on where they're trying to place the football that they're kind of impervious of what's going on in front of them."
On Ryan Mathews' Health
After missing three games due to a concussion, running back Ryan Mathews made his return to the lineup last week against Buffalo. While he led the team with 13 carries, Kelly believes that the physical back will be even more prepared for this weekend's game.
"Obviously he missed three weeks and we just got him back last week on Tuesday, so he's a little bit further along just because when you're in that, he really wasn't working out," Kelly said. "That's part of the concussion protocol. So he is a little bit further a long from that standpoint."
On Bradford's Ability Versus The Blitz
While Kelly dished out some praise for Palmer's ability to stay cool under pressure, he was also quick to highlight his own quarterback's ability to hang in versus the blitz. In recent weeks, Sam Bradford has been among the leaders in the league when it comes to attack blitzing defenses. But there's more to the success than just the quarterback.
"It's everybody," Kelly explained. "You have to tie the offensive line in there. You've got to tie the receivers in there, knowing when things are hot and when things aren't hot, but I think Sam has done a really good job. I think he has a better understanding, a better feel of what we're doing from an attack standpoint. What are we trying to get accomplished? And I think he does a really good job with that. "