Head coach Chip Kelly addressed reporters for the first time this week ahead of Monday night's showdown in Atlanta. Here are the five things we learned from the press conference ...
1. TE Ertz Back In Action; Will He Play Monday?
For the Eagles, the return of tight end Zach Ertz was welcomed after he missed the entire preseason after undergoing surgery to repair a core muscle injury.
Head coach Chip Kelly made it very clear in his press conference this morning that Ertz would practice on Wednesday, the entire roster did, in preparation for the season opener against Atlanta on Monday.
"We'll monitor him during the week but he's cleared to go today so we'll see how he handles it," Kelly said.
Heading into his third year with the team, Ertz has become a key pass-catching option for the Eagles' offense. With hopes of returning for the first game, Ertz was preparing from a technical perspective until he was allowed to get physical again.
"We didn't get him in a game but I think he has improved. You can tell from a technical standpoint what he's done and Justin (Peelle, tight ends coach) can tell that during drill work, what he's done to improve from that standpoint," Kelly said of Ertz's blocking.
2. Kelly Explains The Decision To Go With QB Morris
The Eagles claimed Stephen Morris on Sunday off waivers from the Jacksonville Jaguars to be the team's third quarterback.
Morris was signed by the Jaguars as a rookie free agent after the NFL Draft in 2014 and spent most of his time on the practice squad. He was pulled up to the 53-man roster when Blake Bortles suffered a foot sprain injury late in the year.
"We just had him, he was our highest. We have everybody rated and he was the highest rated guy that was available after the waiver wire was through," Kelly said.
Aside from the highest quarterback rating on the waiver wire, Kelly also likes other things about Morris and is looking forward to seeing what he can do at practice.
"We like his arm. He's got a really, really strong arm, quick release. (Offensive line coach) Jeff Stoutland knows him pretty well and was actually at Miami when he played there so he kind of knows the makeup of the player. Talked to him back when he was coming through the draft process so kind of relied on all of our information that we had," said Kelly. "But he was the highest-rated guy that we had on the waiver wire."
3. Gardner Is The Right Guard
The starting right guard position was decided in the preseason as Andrew Gardner proved himself and was able to lock up the position to start the season.
"He's starting during game week so he's the starting right guard," Kelly said.
Gardner, who signed as a free agent in 2014, has helped solidify the offensive line.
"I think he's a lot more consistent. We were excited with how he played during the end of last year. He played an extensive amount after (Todd Herremans) got hurt so he's got a real good grasp of what we're doing," Kelly said. "I think he's a real smart football player and he's always where he's supposed to be when he's supposed to be there. There's a lot of consistency in Andrew's play."
4. Falcons Wide Receivers To Pose Test For Secondary
The Eagles' secondary is going to be tested right away on Monday against the Atlanta Falcons with a big matchup.
"There are a lot of good players down there," Kelly said.
Kelly, the other coaches and the players are preparing for a steady and strong Falcons' offense as they begin practices this week knowing what they would like to improve on before heading to Atlanta.
"Generating a pass-rush, obviously. Pass defense consists of pass-rush and pass coverage so try to get to Matt (Ryan) so we can get the ball out of his hands a little bit quicker than he probably hopes to get it out," Kelly said.
This game will really showcase the talents of the secondary and the way the Eagles have prepared throughout the preseason should allow them to get to the quarterback more rapidly and stop them before they are able to get down the field.
"It depends on how their protection can hold up against our rush and then how does our coverage hold up against some really talented receivers and especially Julio (Jones) and Roddy (White), those are two of the tops and a really good pair so it's not like you can just always single one guy out that we feel like they've got a couple guys there that you have to really put a lot of attention on," Kelly said.
5. Tough To Prep Against New Coaching Staff
As the Eagles prepare for Atlanta, a team Chip Kelly has not yet faced during his career, they will need to take a new coaching staff heavily into account.
Dan Quinn, the former defensive coordinator for Seattle, is the Falcons' new head coach and is joined by two new coordinators as well. It is safe to say this Atlanta team will be different than ones in years past.
"You just got some preseason games, and obviously, I don't think Dan used everything in the preseason both offensively and defensively just because of how preseason expresses itself," Kelly said. "You've got to kind of look at the coordinators and where they came from and kind of match up what you think is going to happen, but there'll have to be some in-game adjustments both offensively and defensively in terms of what we're preparing for."
The Falcons' new defensive coordinator Richard Smith was previously with the Denver Broncos, while their new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan came from Cleveland. Kelly believes by having an understanding of what they've done in past positions, the Eagles will have an idea of what to expect from Atlanta. However, he also believes the Falcons will show things in this opener that they did not during the preseason, making the preparation a bit more difficult.