NFC East: dennis kelly

PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles don't have a problem if offensive tackle Lane Johnson is really suspended for four games, as reported by Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News.

They have several problems.

Remember, Johnson was a quarterback in high school and then a tight end when he first got to Oklahoma University. The 6-foot-6 Johnson bulked up to more than 300 pounds to become an offensive tackle good enough to be taken fourth overall in the 2013 NFL draft.

Was that physical transformation natural or the result of performance-enhancing drugs? This is more than a theoretical matter for the Eagles. They drafted Johnson based on his size and his physical skills. At the scouting combine last year, Johnson ran a 4.75-yard 40-yard dash, an excellent time for a man of his size. The Eagles drafted him fourth, which meant a contract worth almost $20 million, including a signing bonus of $12 million.

The Eagles made that investment on the assumption that Johnson was clean. He earned his money as a rookie, starting all 16 regular-season games plus the playoff game against New Orleans. But the question becomes, can he perform at the same level if he stops doing whatever earned him a four-game suspension?

If Johnson is sidelined, the Eagles could start either guard Todd Herremans or backup lineman Allen Barbre at right tackle. Barbe performed very well when pressed into action at left tackle last year at Green Bay. Herremans played right tackle in 2012 and 2013 before moving back inside to guard last year.

The other candidates to fill in for Johnson are Dennis Kelly, who was troubled by back pain last season, and Matt Tobin and Michael Bamiro. The Eagles did not take an offensive lineman in this year's draft.

Taking a step back, a suspension would cast doubts upon more than just Johnson.

Head coach Chip Kelly has gotten a lot of attention for his training methods and his sports science-based approach to football. It didn't raise many questions when linebacker Jake Knott was suspended earlier this year. But now, with a first-round pick and starter reportedly testing positive for PEDs, there will be plenty of speculation about what's in those custom smoothies the players drink after every practice.

Johnson would be the fifth Eagles player suspended for performance enhancing drugs. This would be the first time, however, that two Eagles have tested positive in the same year. Instead of a minor player whose absence would barely be noticed, Knott becomes part of a trend for the 2013 NFC East champions. If there are no more positive tests, there will be no more suspicions. But if the trend continues, questions will be asked.
PHILADELPHIA -- There is roster change every year for NFL teams. The Philadelphia Eagles find themselves in pretty good shape going into the 2014 offseason. They have control over most of their roster and can, for the most part, make only the changes they want.

Here's how the roster shapes up:

Unrestricted free agents: Wide receivers Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin; safeties Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Colt Anderson; quarterback Michael Vick; defensive end Clifton Geathers, punter Donnie Jones.

The Eagles could lose all of those players without taking a major hit. That doesn't mean those players aren't valuable, merely that they're not irreplaceable. It's not as if LeSean McCoy or Mychal Kendricks or Jason Kelce were free to leave.

My guess is general manager Howie Roseman will make solid market offers to Cooper, Maclin, Allen, Geathers and Jones. He will not overpay for any of them. If some other team does, the Eagles will move on without the player in question.

Players due for contract extensions: Defensive end Cedric Thornton (exclusive rights free agent) and center Jason Kelce.

Let's project to the year 2022. The 35-year-old Kelce announces he is playing his final season after 13 years with the Eagles. That's how things should go with this guy. He's smart, physical, athletic and exactly the kind of player teams should commit to. So yes, extend Kelce.

Thornton was one of the delightful surprises of 2013. An undrafted rookie from Southern Arkansas, he hung around for a couple years without anyone paying much mind. But he's living proof of Chip Kelly's no-expectations approach. Kelly judges based on what a player does, and Thornton was very good this year.

Players who could be gone: Vick, Anderson, Coleman, wide receiver Damaris Johnson, kicker Alex Henery, linebacker Brandon Graham, safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Phillip Hunt (restricted free agent on IR), wide receiver Arrelious Benn, offensive lineman Dennis Kelly.

Mostly self-explanatory. Vick wants to find a place where he can start. Even if he doesn't, the Eagles really like Matt Barkley and may well prefer a younger (read: cheaper) No. 2 behind Nick Foles.

Henery will have competition for the kicking job next summer. Not sure he'll answer that bell. Graham belongs at end in a 4-3 defense and may get a chance to return to one. The Eagles tried to replace Chung over and over but injuries kept him in the lineup.

Johnson lost his return job and never played on offense. Anderson has been a solid special teams guy, but Kelly likes versatility and may prefer a replacement who can fill in on defense, too.

Veterans on the salary-cap bubble: Tight end Brent Celek, linebacker Trent Cole, guard Todd Herremans, wide receiver Jason Avant. They are all good enough players to stay. That, not their cap numbers, should be the deciding factor.

Youth movement: The Eagles signed their practice squad and one other player to futures contracts. They are linebackers Emmanuel Acho, Josh Kaddu and Travis Long; offensive tackle Michael Bamiro; defensive end Brandon Bair; wide receivers Will Murphy, B.J. Cunningham and Ifeanyi Momah, and tight end Emil Igwenagu.

The takeaway here: The Eagles staff spent a lot of time coaching these guys and one or three of them just might become contributors.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Eagles safety Earl Wolff is inactive for Sunday night's showdown against the Dallas Cowboys.

Wolff missed four games after injuring his right knee in Green Bay Nov. 10. He returned for last week's game against Chicago but left after playing one series. Veteran Patrick Chung will start at safety in place of the rookie.

Backup safety Colt Anderson (hamstring) and backup center Julian Vandervelde, who were listed as out, were both inactive. Otherwise, it was the usual group: quarterback Matt Barkley, running back Matthew Tucker, offensive lineman Dennis Kelly and cornerback Curtis Marsh.

Offensive lineman Matt Tobin is active for the second time this season. He takes Vandervelde's spot on the 46-man roster, but would not play center if anything happened to starter Jason Kelce. That role would likely fall to left guard Evan Mathis.

As expected, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and inside linebacker Sean Lee are inactive. So is former Eagle Ernie Sims, which leaves Dallas even thinner at linebacker.

Quick thoughts on Eagles' inactives

September, 29, 2013
DENVER -- It wasn't surprising when the Philadelphia Eagles announced that safety Patrick Chung will be inactive for today's game against the Denver Broncos. Chung injured his shoulder against Kansas City and didn't practice all week. Rookie Earl Wolff will start in his place.

There was a little intrigue in the rest of the secondary. The Eagles are desperately trying to develop some depth with their young cornerbacks. Roc Carmichael, who was signed off the Texans' practice squad last week, will dress for the first time. Seventh-round pick Jordan Poyer is also in uniform. Both of them were inactive for the Chiefs game. Shaun Prater, who dressed last week, is back on the inactive list this week.

Carmichael and Poyer are likely to see most, even all, of their playing time on special teams. But there is always a chance they will be pressed into action due to injury. Poyer was forced to play against Washington and was immediately targeted by Robert Griffin III.

Offensive lineman Dennis Kelly is inactive for the fourth time. The first three weeks, he was unable to practice because he was recovering from back surgery. Kelly practiced this week, but is behind Allen Barbre, who backs up at both guard and tackle.

Matt Barkley, Matt Tobin, Damion Square and Emil Igwenagu are the other inactive Eagles.

Cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) in inactive for the Broncos. It will be interesting to see if that means Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is assigned to DeSean Jackson wherever he lines up.
Back for more from the Twitter mailbag, which I think is proving a much more efficient way of taking and answering your questions than the old mailbag was. (I haven't even checked that thing in weeks. Don't miss it.) I've solicited questions on my @ESPN_NFCEast account a couple of times, but if you have a question you don't need to wait to be asked. Just use the hashtag #NFCEastMail, anytime during the week, and I'll see it. I promise.

@sjaramillov: what changes were made @halftime so the skins' D looked halfway decent against the Gmen? And do they keep it up?

@ESPN_NFCEast: The Washington Redskins made two key defensive adjustments at halftime of Monday Night's comeback victory against the New York Giants. First, they switched to more man-to-man coverage in the secondary. This was risky due to the mismatches the Giants' receivers have against their defensive backs physically, but the zone they were playing was allowing Eli Manning too many options, especially since they weren't generating pressure against him. This leads to the second adjustment, which was apparently to let outside linebacker Rob Jackson loose in the pass rush at Jackson's request. Jackson has enough speed to rush from the outside, but hasn't been deployed in exactly this way since the Brian Orakpo injury. The success he had getting pressure on Manning in the second half Monday could lead to more opportunities for him to rush the passer in the coming weeks.

@ChrisSca: Due to the bad defenses the NYG will see, (NO, BAL, and PHI) do you think Eli will get back on track?

@ESPN_NFCEast: You list three of the Giants' remaining four opponents. The New Orleans Saints have the league's No. 32-ranked defense. The Baltimore Ravens are No. 25, and the Philadelphia Eagles are No. 17, though their numbers have been almost incomprehensibly horrendous since Todd Bowles took over as defensive coordinator in Week 7. The other opponent, the Atlanta Falcons, rank No. 18 in total defense, so it's not as though they're going to see the '85 Bears in that game either. I do think Manning will improve as the season wraps up. I think he showed a lot in the Green Bay game, and I think we have four games' worth of evidence over the past two years to show us that the Redskins just befuddle him, so we might be able to call Monday Night's game a blip. One thing to watch, though, is the health of wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who showed up on the injury report late this week with a knee injury. If Nicks can't play at something close to full health, that will limit what Manning can do.

@jbeansy217: should Ratliff move to DE? Or should switch to 4-3?

@ESPN_NFCEast: The Dallas Cowboys consistently resist the idea of moving nose tackle Jay Ratliff to defensive end, where the theory is that he might hold up better physically once relieved from the punishment he takes playing on the inside. They think the interior pass rush they're able to generate when Ratliff plays is too big a part of what they want to do on defense, and the fact is, when Ratliff does play, you see the difference. But the larger fact is that Ratliff is missing too much time, and that's hurting more than his presence inside is helping when he's actually in the game. I think he needs to move outside, and the way Josh Brent has played this year should convince the Cowboys that they have an adequate replacement for Ratliff if they make that move. As for Dallas moving to a 4-3, I can't see it happening as long as Rob Ryan is the coordinator. Or really as long as DeMarcus Ware is there. I'm sure Ware could succeed as a 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the dirt, but he's so brilliant and successful as a standup outside linebacker in the 3-4 that it's worth building a defense around him in that role. He's that caliber of player, that everything should work off of him.

@times_yours: Dan, watched any tape on Dennis Kelly? If he impresses the rest of the way, does Herreman's move back inside next year?

@ESPN_NFCEast: Kelly has performed very well since moving to right tackle for the Eagles once Todd Herremans got hurt. Kelly has helped the protection, augmented an already strong run-blocking unit and, I think, benefited from the presence of veteran guard Jake Scott in the lineup next to him. And there's already some chatter in Philadelphia about the possibility of Herremans moving back inside next year and leaving Kelly at tackle. My guess is that they'll assess their needs and fit Herremans in accordingly. He got the contract extension, in part, because they believed he could play any line position for them. And if they like Kelly at tackle going into next year, I'm sure neither the team nor Herremans will blink at the idea of playing Herremans at guard.

Some quick-hitters:

@mcontrerasjr: Do you see the Giants losing 3 out of their last 4?

@ESPN_NFCEast: No. I think they win at least two.

@In__Vader: how long can RGIII survive running the pistol offense?

@ESPN_NFCEast: I think at lot of that's overblown, and I think the plan is for the offense to evolve.

@BigHeadMex: If you are drafting for one game - which NFC east QB do you pick first?

@ESPN_NFCEast: The one with the two Super Bowl MVP awards.

@lanelewis12: what do you attribute the most to disappointing cowboys season? Injuries? Coaching? Talent? Or just a bad team?

@ESPN_NFCEast: I think the Cowboys are having exactly the season any reasonable preseason expectation should have had for them -- .500. Not a bad team, not a great one either.

Enjoyed it, folks. Keep em coming.

Breakfast links: Nicks nicked up again

December, 7, 2012
New York Giants

With four games to go and a one-game lead in the NFC East, the last thing the Giants need is for Hakeem Nicks to have a flare-up of the left knee injury that cost him time earlier this season. But Nicks did miss practice Thursday with an injury to that knee, so there is fresh concern.

Oh, and Osi Umenyiora disagrees with Jason Pierre-Paul's assertion that the Giants will be relieved to see Drew Brees and the Saints this Sunday because Robert Griffin III gave them such a hard time Monday Night. I think I side with Osi on this one. The Saints' defense has been lousy this year, but there's no way a team can be excited to see Brees come to town.

Washington Redskins

Young Washington D.C. sports superstars Robert Griffin III and Bryce Harper recently bonded over a Twitter background that Harper is using. The background was designed by D.C. sports fan Allan Peterson, and it touched off a mutual-admiration exchange earlier in the week between Griffin and Harper, the Nationals phenom.

Cedric Griffin's suspension means potential opportunity for young cornerbacks Richard Crawford and D.J. Johnson, who are going to see more playing time whether they're ready for it or not.

Dallas Cowboys

Marcus Spears says the idea of winning the final four games of the season as a means of challenging for a playoff spot has indeed crossed the Cowboys' minds. Which is nice, but the reality is that would mean ending the season on a five-game winning streak. The Cowboys haven't won five games in a row since 2007. They did win four in a row during one stretch last year, but so far this season have only won back-to-back games once. That'd be a good place to start.

Left guard Nate Livings really wants to play Sunday in Cincinnati against his former team. Problem is, Livings is missing practice with a knee injury and might not be able to play.

Philadelphia Eagles

New defensive line coach Tommy Brasher is already a fan of rookie defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. He says Cox could play any position along the line and would make a fine 3-4 defensive end. Perhaps, depending on who comes in to be the next Eagles coach, we'll get to find out.

Todd Herremans is a key part of the Eagles' future on the offensive line. The team made that clear when it signed him to a contract extension in the offseason. But with Dennis Kelly seeing time (and playing pretty well) at right tackle, there remains a question of what position Herremans is to play in that future, and the possibility that he moves back inside to play guard.
LANDOVER, Md. -- I just don't know how else to put it. This is nothing against the Washington Redskins, who just took a 17-3 halftime lead over the Philadelphia Eagles thanks to LeSean McCoy's last-minute fumble in his own red zone. But the Eagles are simply one of the worst teams in the NFL right now. They do absolutely nothing well. They don't block, tackle, cover, run, pass or catch. They are not creative, on offense or defense. They are not disciplined, as their six first-half penalties for 45 yards attest. They came in here today on a five-game losing streak, with a rookie quarterback making his first start, and they've shown nothing to indicate an ability to avoid losing a sixth straight.

The number of breakdowns so far is too high to cram into one halftime post, so we'll take a look specifically at the 49-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III to Aldrick Robinson in the second quarter. Robinson was so open you'd have thought he had the measles. Good for Griffin for spotting him and heaving the throw into the end zone on a fake-reverse play action play, but this was a screw-up on the part of the Eagles. Safety Nate Allen came up to play the tight end when it's obvious that cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha was expecting him to cover deep, but that still doesn't excuse Asomugha from not going with the receiver, since he appeared to have nothing else to do on the play.

Let's give Griffin credit for a sharp first half in which he completed 8-of-9 passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 20 yards on four carries. But this has not been a challenge for a rested Redskins team coming off its bye and playing at home. They have had a couple of third-down breakdowns on defense, as the Eagles are 4-for-9 on third downs. But that's about all that's gone wrong. They picked off Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles twice in the first quarter, and they seem to be benefiting from the Redskins debut of safety Brandon Meriweather, who missed the first nine games of this season with knee injuries and has one of the two interceptions.

Foles is 12-for-22 for 120 yards and those two interceptions. Frankly, he looks as lost as you'd expect a third-round rookie making his first start 0f the season in Week 11 to look. The first interception went off the hands of tight end Brent Celek, but the throw wasn't very good to begin with, and Foles has shown nothing to indicate that he's in any kind of rhythm with his offense or receivers. The Eagles have had the ball for 19:11 of the game's 30 minutes so far, and yet they have outgained the Redskins only 169 yards to 138.

The Eagles' offensive line, which was a big part of the problem all year when Michael Vick was playing quarterback, still looks shaky. Newly signed Jake Scott started at right guard in place of Danny Watkins, and he's been flagged for two false start penalties. Right tackle Dennis Kelly has been called for holding twice (though one was declined), and left tackle King Dunlap got called for a hold as well. Foles isn't picking up the corner blitz any better than Vick did, and in short the Eagles' offense looks as ugly and disjointed as it has all year.

On the Redskins' side, wide receiver Pierre Garcon is starting his fourth game of the season, but it's clear they're limiting his snaps as he plays with the foot injury that has bothered him since the season opener. Garcon has two catches for a total of six yards.
So Nick Foles is taking the first-team reps and preparing to start at quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Washington. Michael Vick and his concussion were nowhere to be found today at practice. Foles as Sunday's starter appears a foregone conclusion, and some are happy about this, others are not and everybody seems to want to break down what kind of player Foles is, was and will be.

Fair enough, but let me focus for a brief moment on something else that came up at the Eagles' facility today. Right guard Danny Watkins, who's missed the past few games with an ankle injury, is apparently feeling better and practicing again as a starter. Dennis Kelly, who started in Watkins' place, was working some today at right tackle, with King Dunlap over at left tackle.

This may feel like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, this shuffling of backup-quality offensive linemen from position to position, but it goes to show how desperate the Eagles are to finally win a game after losing their last five in a row. Whether Foles plays like a jittery rookie or a poised veteran or a little of each Sunday, his chances for success could be thoroughly poisoned by the play of an offensive line that's operating without at least three of its starting players. The Eagles' coaches must find the right combination on the line, and they haven't found it yet. The fact that Foles throws right-handed means he has a different blind side than the lefty-throwing Vick, and that could factor into the way the Eagles arrange their line this week.

Expect more information on this, more changes as the week goes along, and for the Eagles' coaches to put a great deal of very careful thought into which five linemen start Sunday and at which spots. Foles' future and the Eagles' present may rest on whether they get that right.

Danny Watkins inactive for Eagles

October, 28, 2012
PHILADELPHIA -- Philadelphia Eagles right guard Danny Watkins will miss Sunday's game with an ankle injury. Rookie Dennis Kelly will replace him as the starting right guard on an Eagles offensive line that's already using backups at left tackle and center.

Watkins was listed among the inactive payers for the Eagles' game against the Falcons. Also inactive are defensive end Vinny Curry, whom some have suggested be activated to help the lagging pass rush, and wide receiver Damaris Johnson, who had been the team's primary punt returner for its first five games. Johnson is inactive because wide receiver Riley Cooper is healthy enough to play for the second game in a row, and that's likely to leave the punt-return duty in the hands of Mardy Gilyard and possibly DeSean Jackson.

Full lists of inactives for the Eagles-Falcons game:


LB Jamar Chaney
DE Vinny Curry
QB Trent Edwards
WR Damaris Johnson
RB Dion Lewis
OL Nate Menkin
G Danny Watkins


QB Dominique Davis
WR Harry Douglas
C Joe Hawley
T Lamar Holmes
DE Jonathan Massaquoi
DE Cliff Matthews
DT Travian Robertson
New York Giants

Oh, you know they went to Martellus Bennett looking for some Cowboys trash talk in advance of Sunday's big game in Big D. But the self-proclaimed "black unicorn" wouldn't play along. Says he hasn't circled the date on his calendar because he doesn't have a calendar. He's probably got one on his phone, but you don't really circle dates on those.

The Giants know Tony Romo well, but they don't know what they're going to see from him Sunday in Dallas. Giants LB/DL Mathias Kiwanuka says Romo can be great or... not great.

Philadelphia Eagles

New Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles says he's not planning to reinvent anything, and that the Eagles' defense under him is going to tweak some things they were doing under Juan Castillo but won't make major changes.

The Eagles may have to play Sunday without right guard Danny Watkins, who has an ankle injury and was the only Eagle to miss practice Thursday. Rookie Dennis Kelly would be in line to replace him, it appears, though I still think it might make sense to move Todd Herremans in there and play King Dunlap and Demetress Bell at the tackle spots.

Dallas Cowboys

Tight end Jason Witten was not at full strength in the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants, as he was rushing back from a spleen injury. Todd Archer says to expect Witten to be a big part of the game plan against New York this time around.

Anthony Spencer helped give the defense a jolt last week with his return from injury, and he says the Cowboys' defense isn't going to have to change much just because star inside linebacker Sean Lee is out. Brave talk, especially from someone who's seen Lee's game film.

Washington Redskins

London Fletcher missed practice again Thursday due to the balance issues he's having, and there remains a chance he could miss the first game of his career Sunday. But as Stephen Whyno writes, the Redskins are aware that Fletcher is 37 and won't play forever, and they're already making plans for the day when they can no longer count on him.

Mike Wise writing on Chris Cooley's return to the NFL? Yeah, I'd say that's got a pretty good chance to be entertaining. I'll read that.
The Philadelphia Eagles used their second pick of the sixth round (No. 30 in the round, No. 200 overall) to select Miami offensive lineman Brandon Washington. He played tackle last year at Miami but guard the two years prior to that, and the Eagles announced him as a guard, which is where he projects to play in the NFL. At 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, he feels a little big for a Howard Mudd guard. But perhaps his experience at guard and tackle is part of the appeal for a team that was looking to add bench depth behind its offensive line starters.

As we wrote when the Eagles picked tackle Dennis Kelly in the fifth round, the Eagles allow Mudd to have some say in deciding who they pick at the offensive line spots, and he tends to like a certain kind of player with which he believes he can work. Under Mudd, the Eagles' offensive linemen have to be quick and athletic to get out and block from a position upfield from the one in which they start, and maybe they saw something on tape with Washington that made him think he'd take to it.
We have reached the add-depth portion of the NFL draft, and the Philadelphia Eagles have added some depth -- not to mention height -- at a position of need. With the 18th pick in the fifth round (No. 153 overall), the Eagles took Purdue tackle Dennis Kelly, who is 6-foot-8 and 304 pounds. Kelly moves into the backup offensive line mix following the injury to starting left tackle Jason Peters and the signing of new starter Demetress Bell and the re-signing of backup tackle King Dunlap.

Kelly is a project lineman, but the project lineman that offensive line coach Howard Mudd got in the sixth round last year was Jason Kelce, who emerged as the Eagles' starting center last summer and held that position all year. So Kelly becomes Mudd's next developmental guy, and the speed with which he picks up Mudd's blocking schemes will determine how quickly he can be a contributor on the line for the Eagles.