The main goal for Chip Kelly at this week's Philadelphia Eagles minicamp appears to be assessing personnel. With five months still to go before real games start, the Eagles' new coach is determined to spend his time figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of his players prior to determining how to deploy them.
This is called good coaching. And while there's been a lot of outside speculation about the Eagles switching from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 alignment, Kelly has insisted all along that they will run plenty of both.
This brings up Brandon Graham, the former first-rounder who has always been a pass-rushing 4-3 defensive end. Some have asked me whether I think they'll trade Graham, especially with guys like Trent Cole and Connor Barwin on the roster as pass-rushers. I don't see why trading Graham makes sense, since he's good and 25 years old and finally healthy and costs less than $3 million against this year's cap. Even if they deploy him as a situational pass-rusher, he's got more value to them as a member of the roster than as a trade chip.
As for how they'll deploy him ... they don't know yet. Kelly wants to know if Graham can handle coverage responsibilities if he lines up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. Per Sheil Kapadia:
“Trying to see if Brandon is a guy that can drop and play good in coverage. Or is he more of a natural defensive end?” Kelly said. “That is more of what this process for us is about. Finally getting the chance to identify our talent on the defensive side of the ball and then put them in positions to make plays. If we really feel that Brandon can, then that’s another weapon that Billy [Davis] has to use in terms of what he can use defensively. But if we don’t think Brandon’s a great drop guy, then shame on us if we’re making him do that.”
It doesn't mean he won't have anything to do. Graham is a talent, and he showed last season that he can be a productive and useful one. Good coaches don't cast talent aside just because it doesn't fit their preconceived notions of what they want to do with their schemes. Good coaches don't have preconceived notions about schemes. They identify their best players and find the best way to maximize their abilities. That's what's going on in Philadelphia on Days One and Two and Three of Kelly's program, and I imagine we can expect it to continue for a while.