Chip Kelly will always remember his first win as an NFL head coach.
After an offseason filled with questions about how his offense would translate into the NFL, Kelly and the Eagles put the NFL on notice with a 33-27 win over last season's NFC East champion Washington Redskins. While the game marked a milestone first for Kelly, it was also the first game back for quarterback Robert Griffin III since his offseason knee surgery. The former Heisman Trophy winner showed some rust in that game, but Kelly knows that this time around will be a different story.
"Obviously, when we played him the first time he was coming off of the injury and he didn't get any live reps in camp to get ready for it," Kelly said on Wednesday. "He's a lot different now. Offensively, I think they're in the top five or 10 in the league in rushing, passing and total offense. They're moving the ball really well and they're kind of back to where they were last year, so it's a big challenge for us. He's running around a lot more and he's throwing the ball really well, so we expect a little bit of a different look than we got in the first game."
The Redskins offense has certainly improved since the first week of the season, but the same can be said for the Eagles defense. Bill Davis' crew has held their last six opponents to 21 points or fewer, and that improvement has pleased the Eagles head coach.
"I think our defense, just in this year, has improved on a weekly basis," said Kelly. "The more familiarity that our coaches have with our players and our players have with our coaches - they keep growing on a weekly basis and we have improved, and that's what we have stressed since day one here.
"We knew that it wasn't going to be coming in on day one and (saying), 'This is how it's going to be,' whether it's offensively, defensively or special teams, but there has been a weekly improvement with them, and I'm really happy with where they are now and I know that they can get better and they know that they can get better, and that's what we're working on every day in practice."
Something else the Eagles worked on in practice Tuesday was finding the best way to utilize new addition Brad Smith, who was signed by the team on Tuesday after being waived from the Buffalo Bills with an injury settlement on Friday. The NFL version of a Swiss Army knife, Smith has done it all in his career, and Kelly is looking forward to what he can bring to his team, especially on special teams.
"The one thing that stuck out to us was that he is an outstanding special teams player," Kelly explained. "He can cover kickoffs. He has returned kickoffs. He's been on the punt team and he's been on the punt rush team, so he's a four-core special teams player. The way that we design this thing, if you're a receiver and you're not a starter, you need to be able to play special teams. I think a prime example of that was Jeff Maehl on Sunday. Jeff had two tackles and then drew a penalty … so if you're up and you're on the 46-man active (roster), you've got to be able to go.
"The fact that he is that versatile, that he's not just a returner … he can also play receiver, he's played some emergency quarterback at times, he's played some running back at times, and I think that versatility is a huge plus for him. Where he fits in this Sunday - we got him out here and he literally walked in the bubble yesterday and I shook his hand and told him to run down on the kickoff right away … We'll see where he is and then we'll make an educated decision as we get to Saturday of how much we can use him and can't use him."