AFC West: Chip Kelly

Terrelle Pryor and LeSean McCoyUSA Today SportsEmerging Raiders QB Terrelle Pryor meets the NFL's leading rusher in the Eagles' LeSean McCoy.
The rebuilding Oakland Raiders were supposed to lay down for opponents this season. The retooled Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to revolutionize the NFL with their brand of offense. Both teams have dealt with crippling injuries while bucking expectations.

Meaning what, exactly? Well, Oakland (3-4) is looking to maintain momentum while the Eagles (3-5) are looking to break a two-game losing streak in which they've scored 10 points total.

ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan break down the matchup at the O.co Coliseum, a venue in which Philadelphia is 0-3:

Paul Gutierrez: Hi, Phil. Oakland is riding relatively high after Terrelle Pryor and the Raiders upended his childhood heroes last weekend in the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now the Western Pa. kid gets a shot at another team from his home state in the Philadelphia Eagles. He's sure to downplay any lingering feelings, but there's no downplaying the Eagles' quarterback situation. With Michael Vick and his strained left hamstring sidelined, how different is Chip Kelly's high-octane offense with Nick Foles at quarterback, or even rookie Matt Barkley, who was a Raiders target in the draft, under center than with Vick running things?

Phil Sheridan: It's funny, Paul. If you ask Kelly or offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, they swear blood oaths that the offense is exactly the same no matter who is playing quarterback. It sure doesn't look the same, however. Vick represents a running threat, obviously, that Foles and Barkley just don't. Defenses don't have to account for them when the Eagles run the read-option. But that doesn't mean the offense can't work without Vick. The offense had arguably its best complete game of the season against a pretty good Tampa Bay defense with Foles at the controls. He got the ball out quickly, made good reads and LeSean McCoy ran for 116 yards. If Foles is that guy Sunday, the Eagles' offense will be productive.

We all saw the highlight-reel run Pryor broke Sunday against Pittsburgh. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he makes a coach say "Wow" a lot while watching the film. But how is Pryor developing as a complete quarterback?

Gutierrez: The hot button topic in the Bay Area is this: Who is the bigger Raiders surprise thus far, Pryor or the defense, which has 10 new starters? Having seen Pryor's first NFL practice two years ago, and then watching him in the first OTA's this past spring, I'd say Pryor. He's always going to be a running threat -- he erased Bo Jackson's name from the Raiders record books with that 93-yard franchise-best gallop that had right guard Mike Brisiel calling him a "dadgum gazelle" -- but his development as a passer has been just as dramatic. True, offensive coordinator Greg Olson admitted the Raiders have changed the offense on the fly (remember, they acquired since-cut Matt Flynn to be the franchise QB) to become more zone-read oriented. Yet Pryor's pocket awareness has been a revelation for the Raiders. He still throws the occasional floater that begs to be picked, but he's also shown touch that did not seem possible two years ago. Much credit goes to Olson and QB coach John DeFilippo, but QB guru Tom House has also played a major role in getting Pryor's mechanics in check. But if one thing is off, the whole operation goes out of whack.

Jumping to the defensive side of the ball, the Eagles trading nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga to New England would seem, to the outsider anyway, as a sort of white flag being thrown up. Why is it not a sign a surrender?

Sheridan: Sopoaga was one of a bushel of free agents signed when GM Howie Roseman knew he needed to facilitate a transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4. The Eagles just didn't have a nose tackle type on their roster at that point. They drafted Bennie Logan from LSU in the third round and have been pleasantly surprised by the play of Cedric Thornton and Clifton Geathers. Both of those guys are listed as ends, but Bill Davis moves his linemen around quite a bit. So I think the idea was just to go with the young guys and move the 32-year-old Sopoaga and his salary. Another way to put it: Sopoaga wasn't enough of a difference maker to qualify as a white-flag kind of transaction. He was a stopgap whose gap had closed.

While we're talking defense, you mentioned all the turnover among the Raiders unit. Eagles fans have seen that. How is that defense coming together and can it replicate the success the Giants and Cowboys had shutting down McCoy and, therefore, the entire Eagles offense?

Gutierrez: Yeah, were it not for the development of Pryor, the Raiders' defense would be the talk in the streets of Silver and Blackdom. And to be fair, tongues are indeed wagging over this rebuilt unit. Consider: After strong safety Tyvon Branch went down to injury in Week 2, Oakland has 10 new starters on defense, and the only returner, defensive end Lamarr Houston, flipped from the left side to the right. And despite 10 new starters, the Raiders currently have the No. 10 overall defense in the NFL, No. 6 against the run. In fact, the Raiders are the only team to not allow a run of at least 20 yards. You could say defensive coordinator Jason "The Mad Scientist" Tarver was giving the finger to the entire league, rather than the refs on Sunday. But I digress ... Raiders coach Dennis Allen tracks what he calls "explosive plays," those that gain at least 16 yards through the air, at least 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders did not allow the Steelers a single explosive play on the ground. In fact, the Raiders have held three of their seven opponents to less than 40 yards rushing -- this after accomplishing that four times in the previous 10 seasons. So can the Raiders bottle up McCoy? Sure. Will they? That will depend on whether Foles can keep them honest through the air.

Speaking of being kept honest, Kelly set the NFL on its ear with his quick-strike offense, but it seems to have petered out a bit of late. Losing Vick to injury would seem to do that. And while it may be a small sample size, and perhaps a bit unfair, I wonder if Kelly is long for the NFL, or if his style of offense is better suited to college?

Sheridan: Now that's the question that will define the Eagles as long as Kelly is here -- and longer, if he turns out to be another Steve Spurrier or Bobby Petrino. It would take time to recover from that. I'm not sure the answer is apparent yet. It is a small sample size, as you point out, but there is encouraging data in there, too. The Eagles became the first team ever to amass 425 or more yards in their first six games. The offense looked impressive for stretches. The past two weeks, it has been utterly terrible. That coincides with the injuries at quarterback. Vick pulled a hamstring. Foles played well for six quarters, then was just awful until being concussed against Dallas. The crash would be consistent with defensive coordinators figuring Kelly's offense out, but it could also be a result of the quarterback injuries. Or -- and this is the most likely theory -- Kelly does not have the quarterback he needs to win in the NFL and he's learning that the hard way. He seems like a smart guy. I think he can adjust and be successful. But I guess there is a chance he just doesn't like it here and wants to go back to the college game.

Here's a kind of big-picture question: The Eagles are struggling, but they have hope because their division is so bad. It's kind of the opposite for the Raiders, who are stuck dealing with 8-0 Kansas City and 7-1 Denver. What's the mood out there in the post-Al Davis era? Are fans and players feeling like there's a bright future or are the Raiders stuck in quicksand?

Gutierrez: The mood, at the moment, is one of hope. Being competitive in every game but one -- the Monday Nighter at Denver -- as well as having a sudden Top 10 defense and Pryor, who is as popular here as any Raiders player in the past decade, will do that. Pryor predicted the playoffs after the loss in Kansas City. This week, he said the Raiders would get four wins, "easy," to equal last season's 4-12 mark. Sure, some have said such things in the past, but this feels like more than whistling past the graveyard. In fact, even as the Raiders sit at 3-4, fans are already angling to see where they stand from the second wild card standpoint. Premature, after 10 years of no postseason, let alone a winning record? Probably. But it answers your question ... the feeling among fans is there is a bright future, one that will glow brighter with every competitive game, let alone victory. And here's this to tie it all up: Pryor was Davis' last draft pick.

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Confidence is not one of Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor’s shortcomings.

Because while it did not have the same ring or feel as another signal-caller from western Pennsylvania sitting poolside in Miami in 1969, Pryor did have a pseudo-Joe Willie Namath moment.

“I mean, this isn’t a potential four-win team,” Pryor said. “We’re definitely going to get to four wins. That part’s easy. I’m not worried about that.”

Say what? Pryor, who has started all of seven games in his nascent NFL career and is 3-4, is guaranteeing wins now? And for a rebuilding team coming off a 4-12 season?

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Ben Margot"Whether it's this week or next, we're going to get to four wins and get a lot more wins, I guarantee that," Terrelle Pryor said.
Well, um, yeah.

“Whether it’s this week or next, we’re going to get to four wins and get a lot more wins, I guarantee that,” he added. “If we work our butts off, it’s only clear for us to win, and I expect that from every team in the NFL to think like that.

“For as hard as they all work, I expect them to believe that they’re going to get more than four wins, more than eight wins. That’s my mindset, and that’s guaranteed.”

So there.

No one can question Pryor’s work ethic ... or his running ability. Least of all the incoming Philadelphia Eagles, whose rookie head coach once unsuccessfully recruited Pryor to Oregon.

“I thought he could be a college quarterback because I’d seen him work, and I know how important playing quarterback was to him,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “A lot of people were telling him that he was a really good athlete and that he could do anything, but Terrelle was always driven to be a quarterback, which is an awesome thing.

“I’ve seen him play quarterback for a while -- I lost to him in the Rose Bowl [in 2010] when he played quarterback at Ohio State. He threw the ball on us then. I think he’s starting to develop, and we’re excited about the challenge of facing him.”

But as tempting as rocking the Ducks’ ever-evolving gear was, Eugene was simply too far from Pryor’s hometown of Jeannette, Pa.

There was also, as Kelly talked about, Pryor’s desire to play under center beyond college.

“How many quarterbacks have they developed that have made it to the league? How is their offense run?” Pryor remembered thinking. “You don’t see a lot of quarterbacks from their system make it into the NFL because of their style of play versus the style of the NFL. You don’t learn how to drop back and run plays, you just look at the sideline and learn.

“I came from a high school like that, so I had to make a grown-man decision when I was 18 and go to Ohio State because they had a lot of pro-style stuff and protection stuff that I knew I had to get caught up on. So, that’s why I made that decision.”

In six games this season -- Pryor missed the Washington loss on Sept. 29 because of the concussion he suffered six days earlier at Denver -- he has thrown for 1,149 yards on 63.1 percent passing (99-of-157) with five touchdowns and seven interceptions for a QB rating of 77.2.

Pryor is also the Raiders’ leading rusher with 391 yards on 53 carries, including his record-breaking 93-yard sprint Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers that was the longest TD run by a quarterback in NFL history as well as the longest run from scrimmage in Raiders franchise history, eclipsing Bo Jackson’s 92-yarder in 1989.

That it came in a victory over his hometown team and childhood idols in the Steelers was gravy.

Is there anything to glean from facing another Pennsylvania team in the Eagles in consecutive weeks?

“I don’t even think of it like that, which you could,” Pryor insisted. “It was big to get it against the [Steelers], bragging rights a little bit ... but Philadelphia is four or five hours away. It’s not very relevant to me.

“I just think getting any win in the NFL is fantastic, and we need to do that. No matter who we’re playing, it’s going to be the same feeling. Winning is winning, and it’s better than losing, no matter who we’re playing.”

Guaranteed.

The Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles will collide in high-speed fashion Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff.

The 3-0 Broncos feature the league's highest-scoring offense -- their 127 points are 31 more than any other team this season after three weeks -- and quarterback Peyton Manning has thrown for more touchdowns (12) than 29 teams have scored overall.

The Eagles, at 1-2, lead the league in rushing and yards per play (7.0), so this one could have the look of a drag race, think Mile-High Nationals, a summer staple for race fans on the Front Range.

Eagles team reporter Phil Sheridan and Broncos team reporter Jeff Legwold break down the game.

Legwold: Phil, you have been around the Eagles for a long time and have seen the organization go through many changes. Coach Chip Kelly's offense was certainly the talk of the offseason around the league, as most teams discussed wanting to join the fun, to go faster, to get more snaps, to stress defenses with speed. But given what the Broncos have done on offense this season, how fast does Kelly really want to go in Denver? Is there a risk of exposing his defense if he gives the Broncos too many possessions?

Sheridan: There is enormous risk, Jeff, but my sense of Kelly is that he'll want to put the pedal to the metal anyway. He's trying to build a culture, with an aggressive approach to every aspect of the sport. I don't see him easing up for one game, no matter the specific challenges. Besides, I think the Eagles' only chance is to try to match the Broncos score for score and take their chances with a close, high-scoring game. As the Eagles learned the hard way the past two weeks, their defense is not good enough to shut down an opponent at crunch time.

That leads me to this question: Doesn't Denver's up-tempo offense put stress on the Broncos defense? Oakland seemed to move the ball as the game wore on. Doesn't that suggest the Broncos will be vulnerable to Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and the rest of the Eagles offense?

Legwold: I think that is the risk overall with the move toward up-tempo offenses around the league. It's all well and good to be fast on offense, snapping the ball at light speed, but those 45-second possessions that end in a three-and-out are just about the worst thing for any defense that just got to the sideline. That's one of the most interesting items about the Eagles so far: They have had just one three-and-out that ended in a punt in 38 possessions.

The Broncos were aggressive against the Raiders defensively last week, and linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan did a quality job keeping Terrelle Pryor hemmed in. The Broncos are a speed defense overall, up and down the depth chart, so the teams that try to run out of open formations, like the three wide, tend not to do as consistently well as the teams that keep them in the base defense and pound away a bit. But McCoy and Vick will easily be their toughest challenge in the run game of the young season. In terms of defense, how would you expect the Eagles to approach the Broncos -- come after Manning a bit or drop into coverage and hope they can fill the gaps?

Sheridan: The Eagles' best bet might be to close their eyes and just pray Manning fumbles the snap. Don't think that's in the game plan, though. Seriously, they know their only hope is to generate some pressure from unexpected sources, be incredibly disciplined in their gap and coverage assignments and be exponentially better at tackling than they have been. They're not going to outsmart Manning, but if they can make him a little uncomfortable and get a break or two -- a fumble, a tipped pass that gets picked off -- they can keep the Broncos from running away with the game. Denver thrives on yards after the catch, which is what killed the Eagles in their two losses.

I was interested in your comments about getting the Broncos into their base defense, because the Eagles have used a lot of three wide receiver sets to get defenses into nickel personnel. So much depends on the corners, so let me ask A) If Champ Bailey is playing, and B) Why Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is so much better than he was in Philadelphia for two lost seasons?

Legwold: Bailey has not played since injuring his left foot in a preseason loss to the Seahawks in mid-August. He certainly wants to play, keeps saying he's "close" and even upped to it "very close" last week. The Broncos would like him out there, especially in this one, but he's going to have to move around better than he did a couple of hours before kickoff Monday night when it was pretty clear he was going to miss his third consecutive game. But if he shows a little better movement this week, especially Thursday and Friday, I think he'll be in uniform.

On DRC, the Broncos gambled a bit on tough love. They essentially, and Rodgers-Cromartie has said this as well, told him what was wrong with him on his visit. They told him why he wasn't playing as well as he should and that they could fix it if he was willing to be coached hard. He said he was and has been. A gifted athlete, Rodgers-Cromartie has been the saving grace with Bailey's injury and has played like a No. 1 guy. I won't be surprised if the Broncos try to work out a little longer deal at some point in the coming months.

I know we've spent plenty of time on offense, but I am wondering if Kelly sees Vick as the long-term future at quarterback -- or as long term as a 33-year-old can be -- or does Kelly have bigger plans at the position?

Sheridan: I would love to know the answer to that one too. The Vick situation is fascinating. If he has a great year and somehow gets the Eagles into the playoffs (not as far-fetched as it sounds in an NFC East where half the teams are 0-3), it would be awfully hard to let him walk. But can you re-sign a guy at his age, with his injury history, and expect him to be the guy when you're really ready to contend in one or two or three years? My hunch is that Kelly would love to get one of the quarterbacks in next year's draft, that this year is about getting as much of the rest of the program in place as possible. But that would make much more sense if he had gone with Nick Foles or even rookie Matt Barkley than with Vick, who is just good enough to keep you from drafting high enough for a franchise quarterback.

Since it's a subject of discussion, let me ask you about the altitude. Do the Broncos believe it gives them a physical advantage, or do they see it more as a psychological thing? Is their home-field advantage about thin air or having good teams with loud, passionate fans rocking the stadium?

Legwold: The Broncos believe it gives both a physical and mental advantage. Objectively, for an elite athlete to work for three or so hours in Denver likely has minimal impact on performance. But who's to say even a sliver of impact isn't enough to tip the scales at times. The Broncos' record at home over the decades is well over .600 since 1960, and in September games, they are over a .700 winning percentage at home. The Olympic Training Center is in Colorado and many of the world-class cyclists on the planet train in the area, so it means there's some athletic benefit for the Broncos to work in the altitude. The Broncos particularly feel it's an advantage when they go fast on offense. Watch the Ravens defense in the second half of the opener and it was pretty clear that group didn't enjoy Manning at 5,280 feet.

Phil, great stuff and that should cover it. It could be a long night for both defenses with these two high-powered offenses going at it.

Vick a familiar sight for Broncos' Fox

September, 24, 2013
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A somewhat salty John Fox made more than one reference Tuesday to the fact the Philadelphia Eagles haven’t played since a Thursday night loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week and the Denver Broncos' win over the Oakland Raiders Monday was only hours into the rear-view mirror.

And while Chip Kelly’s offense will present a game-planning challenge in that compressed time frame, Fox has more than a little experience against Eagles quarterback Michael Vick through the years. Vick was the starter in Atlanta during much of Fox’s nine-year tenure as Carolina Panthers coach. Vick started nine games against the Panthers in that time, going 6-3 with six touchdown passes and eight interceptions. Vick also rushed for three touchdowns in those games.

Fox sees Kelly’s up-tempo read-option attack as a quality fit for the 33-year-old Vick.

[+] EnlargeJohn Fox and Michael Vick
Christopher Gooley/USA TODAY SportsMichael Vick was 6-3 when he quarterbacked the Falcons against John Fox's Panthers.
“In Atlanta he was kind of a run, play-action quarterback as well," Fox said. “The advent of the read-option in college football, and now coming into our league, it fits him perfect. ... He’s explosive, he’s got to have as many explosive runs as any quarterback in the league ... he’s operating that offense well."

Well enough that, despite being 1-2, the Eagles haven’t exactly been pushed off the field quickly by opposing defenses very often this season.

In 38 possessions over the first three games, the Eagles have had just one three-and-out before a punt (in the second quarter of their loss to the Chargers).

Sunday’s game will also mark the second consecutive week the Broncos will face the league’s rushing leader. Oakland led the league in rushing after two games; the Raiders finished with 49 yards on 17 carries Monday night against the Broncos' defense (2.9 yards per carry). The Eagles lead the league in rushing after three games at 209 yards per game. The Eagles are also fifth in the league in rushing attempts at 31.7 per game.

One of the most significant issues for the Broncos will come when the Eagles open up the formation and the Broncos have to defend the run game with smaller personnel from their nickel and dime packages.

“[The Eagles] are fast-break and they’ve got explosive players doing it,’’ Fox said.

  • Fox said Tuesday that he had not gone through the win over the Raiders, but was devoting his time to preparing for the Broncos’ first look at Kelly's offense. He didn’t need a review to reaffirm his confidence in Ryan Clady’s replacement at left tackle, Chris Clark. The Broncos made little concession in their play calling for Clark’s presence in the game. The Broncos opened the game in their base three-wide receiver set and scored on a 10-play drive with all 10 plays run with three wide receivers on the field. “We have great confidence in Chris,’’ Fox said. “ … As I mentioned last week his teammates and coaching staff have a lot of confidence in him.’’ Fox said Clark did surrender the sack from the Raiders' Jason Hunter that resulted in a Peyton Manning fumble. Following the game Manning said: "I thought Chris did a good job from a communication standpoint ... he was on top of it. No miscommunications or having to call a timeout because he didn't know what to do. He was very sharp that way.''

  • The Broncos' players had Tuesday off and when they reconvene Wednesday, the coaches will move on to the Eagles quickly. Fox said the players would be shown a “short little correction reel’’ of the mistakes from the win over the Raiders, but that the majority of the work would be focused on the Eagles.

  • Fox on the team’s performance in a 3-0 start; “Good start, that’s all it is.’’

  • Fox characterized the left thigh injury to linebacker Paris Lenon and the right ankle injury to safety Duke Ihenacho as “nothing serious.’’ Ihenacho originally suffered his injury against the Giants and was limited some in practice last week. He played 25 snaps on defense against Raiders before the Broncos pulled him from the game. Lenon played one snap on defense on the last play of the first quarter when the Raiders lined up with six offensive linemen in the formation. Lenon also played 10 plays on special teams before his injury.

Double Coverage: Chiefs at Eagles

September, 19, 2013
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Andy Reid, Chip KellyAP Photo Can Andy Reid slow Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense and nab a win in his much-anticipated return to Philadelphia?
You may have heard about a certain head coach returning to the city where he spent 14 seasons, revived a franchise, helped build a stadium and went to a Super Bowl.

Yes, Chiefs coach Andy Reid would love to beat his former team Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field. And yes, Eagles coach Chip Kelly would like to make a statement by defeating his predecessor using the offensive stars Reid assembled in the first place.

Ultimately, though, the coaches will be sidebars on the sidelines once the ball is in the air. The players will determine whether the Kansas City Chiefs get off to a 3-0 start or the Philadelphia Eagles can get back into the plus column at 2-1.

Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher and Eagles reporter Phil Sheridan discuss this week's matchup:

Adam Teicher: Once Michael Vick either passes the ball or hands it off, is there anybody for the Chiefs to fear besides DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy?

Phil Sheridan: Those are clearly the most dangerous men on the Eagles offense, and among the most dangerous in the NFL. Washington played a lot of nickel coverage in Week 1, and McCoy went for 184 rushing yards. San Diego stacked the box and Jackson caught nine balls for 193 yards. But Kelly has some other options: rookie tight end Zach Ertz, as well as veteran Brent Celek, could be the next to break out with a big game. Meanwhile, when McCoy is winded, backup Bryce Brown is a very real threat to break a big play.

He may not open up about it until afterward, but how emotional do you think Reid is about coming back to Philadelphia -- especially with a chance to go 3-0?

Teicher: You’re right in that he didn’t open up even the smallest of cracks about this publicly, but absolutely this is a big deal for him. He can’t be human and not feel something after 14 seasons in Philadelphia. The other part is that with the Chiefs at 2-0, he’s going back if not yet as a conquering hero than as much of a success as someone can be at this point of the season. He’s good at compartmentalizing things. The death of his son last year is evidence of that. So I’d be surprised if this issue interrupted his preparation for the game Thursday night. I’ll bet it hits him after the game and hits him with a ton of force. In that case, it’s probably good the Chiefs don’t play again after the Philadelphia game for almost a week and a half. But it is amazing how he can talk about the Eagles this week like how he talked about the Cowboys last week or the Jaguars the week before that. It’s just as though they’re another team.

Chiefs tackle Eric Fisher, the first overall pick in this year’s draft, is off to a rough start. How is Lane Johnson, the tackle picked three spots behind him, doing for Philadelphia?

Sheridan: The highs have been pretty high, the lows fairly low. Johnson had a tough time with Dwight Freeney on Sunday, which doesn’t make him unique. And he was called for two illegal formation penalties -- he was off the line too far because he was concerned about Freeney -- and one of them negated a touchdown. But everything is relative. The Eagles have had plenty of first-round offensive linemen, from Danny Watkins back to Antone Davis, who have been disasters from day one. The Eagles liked Fisher a lot, but they are happy with Johnson’s upside. He adjusts well, he’s still adding strength and the coaches think he could eventually play left tackle, too.

Reid was infamous in Philadelphia for underutilizing his running backs (at least in the running game). How is he using Jamaal Charles this year?

Teicher: Charles has touched the ball a total of 43 times this season (32 carries, 11 receptions) and on average that’s probably close to what he can handle on a weekly basis. He’s only about 200 pounds, so the Chiefs have to be careful about his workload. He also has had some injury problems this summer (foot, quad), though he looks fine physically. The problem is that the Chiefs don’t appear comfortable with either of their backup running backs in all situations. Cyrus Gray comes in on a lot of passing downs. He’s a better pass-blocker and the equal to Charles as a pass-receiver, but he’s certainly not as good as a runner or as much of a big-play threat. Charles might have been given the ball more than he was last week against the Cowboys but he had only 8 yards on his first eight carries and Reid at that point decided to try to move the ball a different way.

The Eagles’ defense is rated 30th overall and 31st against the pass. Is this a true measure of where Philadelphia is defensively or more a function of the fast-paced games the Eagles have played?

Sheridan: Oh, it’s a true measure. The Eagles were brutally bad last year against the pass (33 TDs allowed, just five interceptions). They made huge changes in their secondary, but are also switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base. The combination of new scheme, new players and suspect talent would create problems anywhere. Throw in Kelly’s fast-paced offense and you get enough extra exposure to strain the defense even more. If you watch even the highlights from Sunday’s 33-30 loss, you can see Philip Rivers had wide-open receivers on nearly every play. I’m surprised Alex Smith didn’t fly to Philadelphia first thing Monday.

The Chiefs seemed to shut down the Cowboys offense. How are they equipped to handle Kelly’s pace and unusual approach?

Teicher: The Chiefs did a nice job against the Cowboys, with the exception of Dez Bryant. They were dominant the week before, albeit against the anemic Jaguars. Overall, they are third in the league in total defense and second against the run, so they look like they’re for real. They have a lot of guys playing extremely well on defense. But the Eagles present a different kind of challenge, one that is compounded by having a short practice week. When the Eagles are in their hurry-up mode, the Chiefs may have to go to some default defenses based on personnel and formation. New defensive coordinator Bob Sutton has done a nice job of playing to the strengths of his players, so it will be interesting to see what he has cooked up for Philadelphia.

Double Coverage: Chargers at Eagles

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
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Michael Vick and Dwight FreeneyUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesSan Diego will have to rotate Dwight Freeney to keep him fresh against Michael Vick and the Eagles.
PHILADELPHIA -- The similarities were striking, and then everything was completely different.

New head coaches made their debuts Monday night for the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Diego Chargers. Both teams held big leads early in the third quarter.

Chip Kelly’s Eagles hung on for the win. Mike McCoy’s Chargers lost on a field goal as time expired.

As a result, the mood in Philadelphia is downright giddy as the city prepares for Kelly’s home opener Sunday against the Chargers. The mood in San Diego is a bit different.

Let’s start there.

Phil Sheridan: How are the Chargers handling that dispiriting loss?

Bill Williamson: I think we will see the answer to that question on Sunday. The Chargers are saying the right things and they are going about their business. But this loss was devastating. San Diego led Houston 28-7 in the third quarter before being outscored 24-0 to end the game. San Diego was known for blowing leads in the Norv Turner era. To start the Mike McCoy era the same way has to sting badly. The Chargers looked really good for most of this game. But they have to wallow in the defeat. I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes them a while to get out of the funk Sunday.

Are the Eagles in any danger of being overconfident?

Sheridan: Actually, I think they are. There has been a lot of talk this week about how they showed the world they’re a legitimate contender now, and that Kelly’s offense can work and so forth. Meanwhile, they have former coach Andy Reid coming back Sept. 19 for a much-hyped game against Kansas City. This is a bit of a trap game, for sure.

Can the Chargers handle Kelly’s no-huddle, high-pressure offense?

Williamson: This is not the easiest team to prepare for after such a painful defeat. One of the reasons the Chargers fell apart Monday night was because the defense wore down. It was a nice, comfortable night in San Diego against a normal-paced offense. What is going to happen on a hot day in Philadelphia against Kelly’s amped offense? San Diego has a decent defense but it lacks depth, especially on the line and in the secondary. Keeping bodies fresh could be an issue.

Did the Eagles wear down themselves on Monday night?

Sheridan: They definitely did. It was very humid at FedEx Field. Center Jason Kelce said he needed to hit the oxygen tank for the first time since college (in fairness, it was only Kelce’s 19th NFL game). Kelly said he would be more careful to rotate players in order to keep them fresh. But this will be an issue all season for the Eagles.

Is Dwight Freeney the player he was in Indianapolis?

Williamson: In short, no. But he’s not bad. Freeney, 33, was very active against Houston. He had a half sack, but he was in the backfield often. The question is, can Freeney handle the Kelly attack on a regular basis? He is more of a rotational player. Keeping him on the field against the Eagles may be difficult. I could see his effectiveness wearing down late in the game if he doesn’t get a chance to rest much.

Is the Eagles' defense as good as it appeared against Robert Griffin III?

Sheridan: That is very much up in the air. RG III was not at all himself in his first live action since blowing out his knee last season in the playoffs. He found a rhythm in the second half, and the Eagles were not able to stop him. Philip Rivers is obviously a very different kind of quarterback. This Eagles secondary could be vulnerable to a smart, accurate passer -- especially if starting cornerback Bradley Fletcher (concussion) isn’t able to play.

Mid-week mail call:

Rick Johnson from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., wants to know why quarterback Ricky Stanzi may be on the outs in Kansas City.

Bill Williamson: He was a low-round pick of the previous regime. He hasn’t shown much in two years in the program and the new regime is looking for its own young quarterback to develop. The Chiefs signed the intriguing Tyler Bray out of Tennessee as an undrafted free agent. I expect Andy Reid and his staff to try to develop Bray. If Stanzi impresses, he has a chance, but I think Bray has the edge to stick around over Stanzi.




Rick Cole from Kansas City wants to know how long I think Peyton Manning will play in Denver.

BW: I think we should start with two more years and see how it goes. Manning is 37. He has four more years remaining on his contract.I expect him to play at a high level for another two years. I bet the situation is re-evaluated after the 2014 season. If Manning is still playing at a high level and he feels good, I could see him returning in 2015.




Ibetonart from Oakland wants to know if the Raiders could ever trade Terrelle Pryor to Philadelphia.

BW: Well, I think that wouldn’t happen until 2014. Pryor seems to fit Chip Kelly’s offense and Kelly did try to recruit him to Oregon several years ago. But Kelly is loaded at quarterback. I would think if Kelly doesn’t have his answer at the position next year and Pryor is not in Oakland’s plans, perhaps the idea could be broached.

Evening AFC West notes

March, 13, 2013
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Linebacker Dan Connor, cut by Dallas, is going to visit the Raiders. He started eight games last season and had 56 tackles. He fits the profile of the players Oakland is pursuing: young and inexpensive.

U-T San Diego is reporting the Chargers will visit with Jacksonville cornerback Derek Cox on Friday.

The Eagles reportedly have interest in receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was cut by the Raiders. Speed piece for Chip Kelly’s breakneck offense?

Philip Wheeler told media members in Miami that the Chiefs were interested in him before he left the Raiders for the Dolphins. It’s interesting because he is a 4-3 outside linebacker and the Chiefs are a 3-4 team that is set at outside linebacker. I haven’t heard the Chiefs being interested in any other linebackers to this point. Perhaps that will change.
Dennis Allen and Mike McCoyUSA TODAY SportsDennis Allen and Mike McCoy both fell from the John Fox coaching tree and landed in the AFC West.

If the four 2013 AFC West head coaches were put together for a group photo, folks would wonder why the big guy from Philadelphia crashed the Denver reunion.

The AFC West is undergoing a major change at the top: The division is now headed by a fascinating group of coaches. After just two seasons in Denver, John Fox is the dean of AFC West coaches. Oakland’s Dennis Allen -- who, in his second season, is still the youngest coach in the NFL -- is second in seniority in the AFC West.

When San Diego fired Norv Turner, who was previously the senior AFC West coach with six years in the division, and Kansas City jettisoned Romeo Crennel after one season as the permanent coach, two interesting head-coaching doors opened.

The Chargers followed the stale Turner era with former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and the Chiefs kicked off the 2013 NFL coaching season by making a big splash in the form of Andy Reid, who was fired after a 14-season stay in Philadelphia.

Both hires were met with rave reviews. Reid was the most accomplished coach available, and McCoy -- who was on virtually every short candidate list in 2013 -- was considered the most desirable of the available coordinators. Along with former Oregon coach Chip Kelly's hiring in Philadelphia, the Reid and McCoy hires are the most anticipated of the eight new hires in the NFL.

Making the new division coaching lineup even more intriguing is that both McCoy -- the second-youngest head coach in the NFL -- and Allen are direct branches on the Fox coaching tree. Allen was hired by Oakland in 2012 after one season as Denver’s defensive coordinator. Then, San Diego did the same thing with McCoy after the 2012 season.

[+] EnlargeFox
Chris Humphreys/US PresswireAfter just two seasons, John Fox is now the dean of AFC West coaches.
"There's only 32 of these [jobs], so it's a little unusual that it would be two years in a row that a coordinator [from the same team] would get a head-coaching job [in] the same division,” Allen said.

The changing power structure in the division was a major topic at the NFL combine in Indianapolis last month.

“I’ll tell you it’s a pretty good division,” Reid said. “[Denver has] a lot of good players, and they’ve got a phenomenal coach. You see what happened in San Diego with the hiring there. Mike is a heck of a football coach, great offensive mind. He’s got a quarterback that is a good football player, and he’s got a good surrounding cast. Then, you look at Oakland, they’re a good football team. [General manager] Reggie [McKenzie] is building that thing up and doing a nice job there, so I think there is great competition in there. Obviously, we didn’t do very well last year, so we’ve got our work cut out for us.”

The reason there has been so much change in the AFC West in the past few years is that the division has been among the weakest in the NFL. In 2012, Denver won 13 games, and the other three teams won a combined 13 games.

These changes have people thinking the division can get better quickly.

“Mike McCoy, Dennis Allen and then Andy Reid in Kansas City -- you’re looking at with me really knowing two of them and then Andy Reid and his reputation and what he’s done in this league, we know we’ve got our hands full,” Denver vice president John Elway said. “So we have to continue to get better and hopefully stay ahead of them.”

McCoy acknoweldged that getting his first job in the division where he's spent the past four seasons is a head start. He knows the personnel of his three opponents well. McCoy can focus on getting his new team to compete better within the AFC West.

Still, McCoy is aware that the Broncos will know his traits, as they knew Allen’s when he went to Oakland.

“You got to look at it that you still have to go out and play between the lines,” McCoy said. “You can give the players so much information, but if you give them too much information, you might hurt them to a certain extent. Obviously, knowing the Broncos inside and out, we’ll have a good idea on what they want to do. But they’re going to change also. With Peyton [Manning], he’s going to change code words and all those things. So sometimes, I think there’s too much made of that.”

We’ll find out the answer to that question soon enough in the new-look AFC West.
Alex Smith AP Photo/Tony AvelarAlex Smith may be Kansas City's best option if they are looking to add a veteran quarterback.
The biggest story in the AFC West heading into the new league year will be to see where the Kansas City Chiefs find their new starting quarterback.

We may have an answer soon. Quarterbacks have worked out at the NFL combine and the NFL league season starts March 12. The Chiefs can either then trade for a veteran or sign one. Let’s look at the options as the Andy Reid era in Kansas City begins with a big decision:

CURRENT NFL PLAYERS

I am listing these players first because even though the Chiefs have the No. 1 pick, I think they are leaning toward pursuing a veteran.

Most Likely

Alex Smith, San Francisco:

Why he fits: Several recent reports have identified the Chiefs as Smith’s greatest pursuer. Getting the former 49ers’ starter will probably require a trade instead of waiting for him to be cut. I think it may be worth it since he may be the best fit of all of the available quarterbacks this year. He is not perfect, but he could be a good bridge quarterback for a year or two while the Chiefs wait for a better option. Smith has shown he can be a part of a quality team. He is smart and he has played winning football. With good coaching and a solid unit around him, I think Smith can help the Chiefs win games.

Why he doesn’t fit: He is not going to wow anyone and is probably not a long-term answer. He also probably reminds too many people of outgoing Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. Smith also can’t win games alone on a regular basis.

Nick Foles, Philadelphia:

Why he fits: Reid drafted him in the third round last year and made him his starter. There has been a report that stated the Chiefs have asked about Foles. I think it is worth Reid’s time to pursue him. They made good headway together last year and it could be interesting to see the relationship continue. If Foles can develop, he can be a long-term answer. How many other veterans on this list can that be said about?

Why he doesn’t fit: As of now, the Eagles are maintaining he is not available. But that could change since he doesn’t seem like a perfect fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. If the Chiefs’ compensation package is tempting, I can see the Eagles letting go of Foles. It wouldn't be smart to keep a quarterback who doesn’t fit a system instead of getting an additional draft pick to go after a player who does.

Matt Flynn, Seattle

Why he fits: Flynn is a West Coast offense quarterback who came from Green Bay. He was there with new Kansas City general manager John Dorsey. Flynn doesn’t fit anymore in Seattle, but he can develop into a decent player. If the price tag and Flynn’s salary are right (both should be), it could be worth giving Flynn a flier as a backup option to Smith and Foles. It’s not a great year for quarterbacks. Sometimes, teams have to take chances. This would be a low-risk chance and he fits the team's needs.

Why he doesn’t fit: There is a chance the Chiefs may have to go find another quarterback next year if Flynn is acquired.

Other possibilities:

Jason Campbell (Chicago), Ryan Mallett (New England), Colt McCoy (Cleveland) Kyle Orton (Dallas), Carson Palmer (Oakland), Braden Weeden (Cleveland),

Summary: This isn’t a great list and there are no guarantees everyone on this list will be available. Palmer’s availability will be a longshot. Guys like Mallett and Weeden could be intriguing because they both have a chance to develop even though Weeden is already 29.


DRAFT

First round

Geno Smith, West Virginia:

Why he fits: I put Smith on the favorite list along with Alex Smith, Foles and Flynn. I’m not sure Smith will be worthy of the No. 1 pick, but there are some things to like about his game. Many scouts think he’d be a nice fit for Reid’s offense. He has all the tools and he is a good pocket passer who can get out and run. Of this entire rookie class, he looks like the best quarterback.

Why he doesn’t fit: He’s no sure thing and nothing sets a franchise back like blowing the No.1 pick. Geno Smith comes with risks.

Second-tier options

Matt Barkley (USC), Tyler Bray (Tennessee), Mike Glennon (North Carolina (Syracuse), E.J. Manuel (Florida State), Ryan Nassib (Syracuse) Tyler Wilson (Arkansas)

Summary: I could see the Chiefs getting a veteran, adding a top player elsewhere in the draft and then taking a quarterback at No. 34 or No. 65 to develop. I think Barkley, Wilson, Bray and Manuel could all particularly interest the Chiefs. None of them may be the answer, but it could be worth getting them in the system and to try to develop them in a year where there is no such thing as a guarantee.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The dance has begun.

Foles
USA Today reports the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles have talked about a trade involving quarterback Nick Foles.

However, the report states the Eagles maintained their public stance that Foles is not available to the Chiefs during the talks.

Kansas City's interest in Foles is understandable. Former Eagles coach Andy Reid, now in Kansas City, drafted Foles in the third round last season and Reid made Foles his starting quarterback late in the year.

Foles and Michael Vick will likely compete to be the Eagles’ quarterback under new coach Chip Kelly. However, Vick appears to be a much better fit for Kelly’s system.

Still, until Foles is made available, the Chiefs may have to consider other options at their greatest area of need.

I expect the Chiefs to continue to stay in touch with the Eagles on this matter and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles’ stance changes.

Eagles sending Andy Reid message

February, 15, 2013
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The gamesmanship is on.

CSNPhilly is reporting the Philadelphia Eagles have no intentions of trading quarterback Nick Foles unless they are “blown away” by an offer.

The primary team that would be interested in acquiring Foles would be Kansas City, now coached by Andy Reid, who drafted Foles in the third round last year while with the Eagles. Foles appeared in seven games, making six starts late in the season for Philadelphia.

Quarterback is Reid’s greatest need in Kansas City. It is natural to think Foles would intrigue Reid. The Eagles have said Foles will compete to be the starting quarterback, but he doesn’t appear to be a great fit for the offense of new coach Chip Kelly.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles decided to deal Foles. And I’m not surprised about this report. The Eagles are going to try to get as much a possible for Foles. It’s all part of the game, and it has begun.

In other Chiefs’ news, in an Insider piece, the Football Outsiders believe Kansas City receiver Dwayne Bowe is one of the players in the NFL who should be given the franchise tag because of his value to the team.

Meanwhile, in an interview with a Kansas City radio station, West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith pitched his case to be the No.1 overall pick in the draft by the Chiefs. Smith can say all he wants, but the only way he will be the No.1 pick if he goes out and blows the minds of the Chiefs in the combine next week and in his pro day workout.
Chip Kelly wanted Terrelle Pryor to be his quarterback once before.

Now that Kelly is entering the NFL and he is bringing his unique offense from the college ranks, could Kelly try to work with Pryor again?

Chris Sprow lists Pryor as a potential target of Kelly as he begins his tenure as the coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Kelly’s fast-paced offense relies on a big, fast running quarterback. Pryor fits that bill.

That’s why Kelly heavily recruited Pryor to Oregon. Pryor said he was intrigued, but he ended up staying close to home and he went to Ohio State.

It would be far from a given to think Pryor would be atop Kelly’s wish list. But because of the previous interest and the scheme fit, Sprow is right. Pryor belongs on the list.

Pryor showed some promise in a season-ending loss at San Diego when he started for the injured Carson Palmer. Still, Pryor is considered raw and, at best, he will be Oakland’s backup next season.

Oakland doesn’t have a second- or a fifth-round pick in the April draft. Because Oakland’s brass is likely not totally committed to Pryor, I could see it listening to the Eagles if it was offered a solid draft pick for Pryor because the Raiders have several immediate needs.

Again, I’m not saying Pryor is the perfect answer for Kelly, but there’s enough dot connecting here to think he could be on Kelly’s list moving forward.

AFC West not in on Chip Kelly

January, 2, 2013
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Chip Kelly is set to talk to nearly half the teams looking for a head coach.

However, the Oregon coach’s dance card does not currently include any AFC West teams. USA Today is reporting the offensive innovators will talk to Buffalo, Cleveland and Philadelphia. There are seven job openings including spots in San Diego and Kansas City.

The Chargers and Chiefs theoretically could be added to the list of Kelly pursuers at any time. But I’d be surprised if either team joins the fray.

He doesn’t seem like a typical financial or physical fit for either team right now. Yes, both teams will likely want to hire offensive coaches. But the Chiefs and Chargers are looking elsewhere.

It’s clear Kansas City is focusing on Andy Reid. He met with the Chiefs all day Wednesday and it could come down to Reid making a decision between the Cardinals and the Chiefs. If Reid goes to Arizona, perhaps the Chiefs will re-think their plan.

The Chargers, meanwhile, are concentrating on their general manager search and then they will commence their coaching search. It doesn’t appear a coach like Kelly will fit the structure they want to follow. While anything can change, I’m not surprised the AFC West is not involved in the Kelly pursuit.

In other AFC West news:

As expected, the Jets have former San Diego coach Norv Turner on their short list to be their new offensive coordinator. Turner will not have a shortage of opportunities.

In an Insider piece, Mel Kiper recognizes some AFC West rookies for their strong seasons Insider.

Will Chiefs go after a big fish?

December, 31, 2012
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Monday’s events make the Kansas City Chiefs' head-coaching job one of the most intriguing openings in the NFL.

It makes me wonder if Kansas City owner Clark Hunt is priming to go after a big-name coach.

There are clearly some indications that that could be the case. Hunt fired coach Romeo Crennel but said this about general manager Scott Pioli in a statement announcing Crennel’s dismissal: “The entire football operation will remain under review, and there may be additional changes to come. No final determination has been made at this point on the future of general manager Scott Pioli."

[+] EnlargeRomeo Crennel, Clark Hunt
Zumapress/Icon SMIClark Hunt now shifts his focus to finding a new coach to replace Romeo Crennel.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Hunt will lead the coaching search and then he and the new coach will discuss Pioli’s future.

That means the team will not be hiring another high-powered general manager. It seems like the coach will have more power than Pioli. I think that means Pioli will likely go. Remember, four years ago, Hunt kept coach Herm Edwards on board until he hired Pioli. The reverse may be in play here.

I just don’t see it working between Pioli and a new coach unless the choice is someone like Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz or former New England assistant and current Penn State coach Bill O’Brien.

But it seems like the focus is more on the future, instead of making it work with Pioli.

So, perhaps Hunt will go for a big fish such as Oregon coach Chip Kelly. There has been some speculation Hunt could be interested in former Eagles coach Andy Reid.

However, a wrinkle in that, though, is the report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen that the Chiefs will interview Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter this week. Koetter is not an experienced NFL coach and he is not considered a big-ticket candidate. I’d have a hard time thinking Koetter is prepared to give any input on the future of the general manager.

But it’s early in the process. There is a lot to play out. But Monday’s steps show that Hunt is going about his search in a way that was unexpected. Hunt has a reputation for being immensely private, and he doesn’t show his cards much. The word is even his closest confidantes are in the dark.

Hunt apologized to the fans in his statement Monday, and he used strong words like “embarrassed.” He knows Kansas City fans are fed up. He saw the empty seats in beautiful Arrowhead Stadium. He knows dramatic changes are needed.

So, this might be the time for a big splash. If Bill Cowher ever would want to get back in the NFL, maybe it could be for the team for which he was the defensive coordinator from 1989 to 1991.

I think anything is on the table, and I think coaches will listen to Hunt.

Of course, the biggest ding on this team is the lack of a quarterback. That is a huge problem and the Chiefs will have to figure something out, perhaps bringing in a bridge veteran opposed to staking its future to a risky rookie from a weak quarterback class. But there are a lot of things to like about this team.

It is a talented roster with a lot of salary-cap room. After all, the Chiefs had five Pro Bowl players despite going 2-14. They also have the No. 1 pick in the draft. The fan base is good and the team’s facilities are top-notch.

This is an attractive situation.

For those who think Hunt will not shell out financially for a big-name coach, remember that Pioli was the general manager prize four years ago and Hunt got him. Hunt may think it is time to go for it again, this time with a high-profile coach.

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