NFC East: LeSean McCoy

Eagles' biggest key to success

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
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Kelly
The elephant in the room when discussing the Philadelphia Eagles' prospects for the next few years is named Nick Foles. If Foles continues to be the quarterback who threw 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions last season, who led the NFL in passer rating in 2013, then the Eagles should be in fine shape for the foreseeable future.

But I don’t think that’s really the question we should be asking. To me, the Eagles’ chances for continued success under Chip Kelly depend largely on the coach himself.

Remember, Foles went 1-5 as a starter under Andy Reid in 2012. He certainly benefited from that experience, but the single most important reason for his big 2013 season was Kelly’s offensive strategy. Foles performed at an elite level while LeSean McCoy led the NFL in rushing. That doesn’t happen by accident. It happens as a result of good coaching that finds ways to get the most of the players available.

As long as that is Kelly’s approach, the Eagles have a chance to contend for the next few seasons. And there is no reason to believe Kelly will change his approach.

Consider the worst-case scenario regarding Foles. If he regresses significantly in 2014, the Eagles are under no obligation to sign him to a long-term contract. They would be free to see if Mark Sanchez or Matt Barkley can excel in Kelly’s system. If the answer is no, they could draft a quarterback in 2015 -- Marcus Mariota, anyone? -- and let Kelly work with him.

If Foles is able to replicate his success, or even build on it, then the Eagles will be fine. So it’s easy to conclude Foles is the key. But in truth, the No. 1 determining factor for this franchise in 2015, 2016, 2017 and beyond is Kelly.
1. I've mentioned Washington Redskins outside linebackers coach Brian Baker a number of times and wanted to give you more of a feel for him as a coach, just by listening to him during practice with his players. A few things I noticed: He's constantly teaching and reminding players when what they've done is right or wrong. It's constant. He even chastised one player (wasn't quite sure who) for not having his eyes on him when he was speaking.

2. During pass-rush drills, he reminded the players, “don't let them control your body! Keep your elbows tight!” It's a point of emphasis. At one point, he told rookie Trent Murphy, “Give me one good one 93; I need one good one before we move on!” Murphy gave it to him. Baker worked with players on where their hands should be on the blocker at the snap (obviously not low, but he worked on getting the hands right before the snap, too). Baker: “You can't let him get into your chest. The closer you are the higher you put your hands.”

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Nick WassJay Gruden had his coaches concentrating on special teams during the Redskins' minicamp.
3. And, finally, I like that Baker does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to pass rushing. He worked with Brandon Jenkins on his footwork off the snap when positioned at right outside linebacker. It's a little different than on the right side and he wanted to make sure he stayed on the right path from the get-go. But he also told Jenkins, “You can't get it to look like everyone else. You've just got to get it right. Make it work for you.” He also worked with Jenkins on accelerating at the top of the rush -- it's where you win.

4. I don't know what sort of difference one outside linebackers coach can make, but I also know it can't be overlooked. He's a legit coach.

5. Redskins coach Jay Gruden incorporated more of his coaches in special teams drills. It's not as if other coaches in past years did nothing here, but it was noticeable this past week. Secondary coach Raheem Morris worked with the flyers in punt coverage while receivers coach Ike Hilliard showed them how to get off a jam. Baker helped with the tackling drills. Gruden said it enables special teams coach Ben Kotwica to get more out of his allotted 10-15 minutes. There is a definite increased emphasis on special teams, starting from early in the offseason.

6. The Redskins now know they'll face quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the season opener against Houston. Not sure it's a big surprise and not sure it really matters. Fitzpatrick was 9-5 as a starter from Nov. 14, 2010 to Oct. 30, 2011 -- that includes the 23-0 shutout of Washington. Since then, Fitzpatrick is 10-23 as a starter. Of course, his first NFL start came against Washington, a 24-9 loss while with Cincinnati in 2005. Fitzpatrick has thrown 106 touchdown passes to 93 interceptions in his career.

7. Three months later DeSean Jackson remains a big topic in Philadelphia. It started, again, with running back LeSean McCoy saying Jackson's release caught everyone's attention. It let them know if you don't buy in, you will be cut. Kelly refuted that notion. “I don't send messages to other players by how I deal with other players,” Kelly told Eagles reporters. “And how LeSean McCoy interprets things … LeSean has a beautiful mind. Sometimes trying to analyze that mind I don't wrap myself around that too much. Or bother myself too much with that. However LeSean interprets things is how LeSean interprets things.” The Eagles do think they have enough speedminus Jackson to still thrive.

8. There was a big to-do over the Patriots having a Jets playbook and that led to a discussion over whether it made a difference. Some who have covered the NFL a long time insist it means nothing; others who have covered it a long time insist it does. With players switching teams all the time, I doubt it's a big secret what's in various playbooks and coaches study so much tape that there shouldn't be many surprises. The bigger issue is when you know another coach's tendencies. I say that because some coaches here in the past felt that part of the success they had against Giants quarterback Eli Manning stemmed from having their playbook. But it also helped that they felt offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn't change a whole lot. Tendencies mattered more.

9. One player who must have a strong year for Dallas: cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys traded up to get him with the sixth overall pick in 2012, but his impact has been poor. Claiborne has picked off two passes, has battled nagging injuries and lost his starting job last year. This is the time of year for player optimism and Claiborne is no different. Everyone is saying the right things about Claiborne, as you would expect. But they like that he's competing. One nugget: Claiborne pulled a rookie corner off the field in order to face receiver Dez Bryant in practice. "Me and him talked about it before we even started up that we want to be the best and we want to go against each other," Claiborne said. "We feel like we both compete at a high level. I get good work when I go against him and it's vice versa. When I'm not up there, he's telling me to come. We're trying to help each other so we can be the best for our team."

10. The Redskins nearly had Antrel Rolle in the 2005 draft, but he went one pick ahead of them at No. 8 to Arizona, so they drafted Carlos Rogers instead. Rolle, a corner when he came out, continues to improve at safety. Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt said of Rolle, “Before, as far as formations, he didn't see formations. He didn't really see the route concepts. Now, the last two years, it's all coming together for him and he's feeling more comfortable. So with Antrel's ability to continue to learn and grow, he hasn't really scratched his ability as a safety yet. Last year was a glimpse of what Antrel could actually become."

Sproles sparks possibilities for offense

June, 19, 2014
Jun 19
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It's easy to point to what the Philadelphia Eagles lost in the offseason -- three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Sproles
It's also easy to forget what the Eagles gained on offense -- running back Darren Sproles.

Along with LeSean McCoy, this duo could wind up being one of the most dominant in the NFL this season.

"You know, first thing that sticks out is just how well he [Sproles] trains," Eagles coach Chip Kelly told reporters Wednesday during the three-day mandatory minicamp. "He's one of the guys that you point out to the younger guys on film as that is what it's supposed to look like. That's the effort and that's what we're looking for on a daily basis from him, very, very intelligent football player. He's got a great knowledge of the game and I think he's really shared that with Duce [Staley] and myself kind of how he sees things and has helped out some of the younger running backs at that position. Besides Darren, we are pretty young. LeSean is the next oldest guy at 25 and the rest of them are younger than he is. Been a great mentor to the younger guys and has really showed how they want them to perform out on the field."

Sproles led the league with 2,696 all-purpose yards in 2011, but his rushing, receiving and return total numbers have decreased in the following two seasons. He joined a team which doesn't need him to put up those kinds of numbers.

Quarterback Nick Foles had one more yard rushing (221) than Sproles did (220) last season. But Sproles can contribute in many ways, though, between rushing, catching passes and special teams.

Training camp is still more than a month away, but it's natural to wonder exactly how Sproles will fit into the high-powered offense.

"I've said that since Day 1: We are just trying to get reps and get plays and we are not game-planning anybody," Kelly said. "That's the fortunate thing for us is let's see how much work we can get done, get everybody on film and then when we start to get into the season we'll start to see how we can deploy our personnel in appropriate manners to win games."
PHILADELPHIA – DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy joined the Philadelphia Eagles in the second round of consecutive drafts. Jackson arrived in 2008, McCoy in 2009.

Jackson, the undersized wide receiver from Cal, and McCoy, the running back from Pitt, earned Pro Bowl appearances during the final, declining years of Andy Reid's tenure. Then they returned to Honolulu after putting up big numbers in their first season under new coach Chip Kelly.

Jackson
McCoy
Within a few months, Jackson was gone, unceremoniously released. It's no wonder that move gave McCoy plenty to think about.

"For myself, I took out of that, no matter how good a player is, it's a team," McCoy said Wednesday. "If you can't buy in, anything is possible. I'm not sure what the rest of the team took out of that. I was speaking for myself."

McCoy told the NFL Network last week that Jackson's release sent a message to the rest of the team.

"A player like that, who's done so much for this franchise -- even the year Chip was here, the stuff he did -- some players may think, 'Well, he produced on the field. That's the only thing that matters,' " McCoy said. "But it's small things I take out of everything, and that's what I took out of that."

Not that McCoy saw a need to change very much. If Jackson's behavior or attitude indicated he wasn't buying in to Kelly's approach, McCoy has been a model citizen.

"I like to do things the right way, anyway," McCoy said. "I don't think it changed too much. But it's the small things that you think about, that you think nobody cares about, when in reality, they do. Take care of the small details, do your work and have fun doing it."

McCoy led the NFL in rushing in Kelly's first season. The Eagles have added some offensive weapons, including running back Darren Sproles and wide receivers Jordan Mathews and Josh Huff. There is a chance McCoy won't amass the kind of rushing yards he did in 2013.

"I never think about that," McCoy said. "I'm productive. I look to make plays and be productive. I look forward to those things. I think Coach Kelly knows the type of guy I am, the player I want to be. If it does change, I know whatever role I get, I can be productive in it.

"The most important thing is the value you bring to the offense. I feel like my value is high. I'll do whatever it takes to be productive. If it's running more, catching less, or catching more and running less, whatever that role may be, I know what type of player I am."

With another typical season, McCoy would break Wilbert Montgomery's franchise record of 6,538 rushing yards. McCoy is 1,065 yards behind Montgomery.

"Nothing's a given," McCoy said. "That's another goal to put on my list of things to get done. The guys up front will block the way they did the last two years, and this offense will get it done."
PHILADELPHIA -- Jeremy Maclin got up. The moment of hushed concern passed, and everything shifted back to normal in the Philadelphia Eagles' world. The wide receiver walked off the field as practice ended, reporting his knee was fine.

In that moment, though, much was revealed about the state of this team as it begins Chip Kelly's second season as head coach.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
Matt Rourke/AP PhotoThe Eagles' offense will depend on more players than just wide receiver Jeremy Maclin in 2014.
The immediate reaction: that another injury to Maclin could be devastating because of his perceived status as the replacement for DeSean Jackson in Kelly's scheme. But in reality, that is not the case and it never was. The Eagles will try to replace Jackson's production with Darren Sproles, with draft picks Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff, with second-year tight end Zach Ertz, with Arrelious Benn and, yes, with Maclin.

The Eagles won 10 games and the NFC East title last year without Maclin, who tore an ACL during training camp last summer. The former first-round pick has been a solid starter during his tenure here, but he has not had the kind of impact Jackson had. That's why, when the Eagles released Jackson in March, it was fair to worry that they were expecting too much from Maclin. Not only has he not been the big-play guy Jackson was, but Maclin would now be playing on two surgically reconstructed knees.

But here's the other twist. Any attempt to project Maclin's production based on his performance under Andy Reid is a waste of time. Kelly's scheme turned Riley Cooper, a former fifth-round pick, into a valuable asset and favorite target of quarterback Nick Foles. It will be fascinating to see what Kelly can do with Maclin.

"I was really excited about how he would fit into what we do because of what he can do," Kelly said of Maclin. "And then to lose him that early in camp was disappointing. You got a taste of him. But having him out there full speed, running out there right now, he's doing a really good job."

Maclin has good speed, but not Jackson's speed. So one issue is whether Maclin or someone else can provide enough of a deep threat to create space for LeSean McCoy to run the ball and for the other receivers to work underneath the coverage. The addition of Sproles by trade and of Matthews and Huff in the draft should help there.

But even McCoy wonders. He led the NFL in rushing last season. But McCoy said this week that he would have to see how the offense functions now before he could assess the impact of Jackson's departure.

The suspicion is that Kelly has all of this worked out in his busy mind. It is clear the coach made the decision to release Jackson. He wouldn't have done so without a sound plan for his offense to remain effective. And that is the objective. It isn't about replacing exactly what Jackson did, it's about building a balanced, varied attack with the players who are here.

All of those players stopped suddenly when Maclin went down at the end of Monday's practice. But that's because they were concerned for a teammate who is coming off a serious knee injury. They were not concerned about the fate of their offense. That is in too many hands this season.
PHILADELPHIA -- LeSean McCoy wasn't sure what Adrian Peterson meant about speaking with his chest. That doesn't mean the Philadelphia Eagles' running back is shy about pounding his a little bit.

McCoy
McCoy, who beat the Minnesota Vikings' star for the NFL rushing title last season, believes himself the most complete back in the league. That led to a media back-and-forth with Peterson last month, which started when McCoy told ESPN he was the NFL's best back.

"I don't know how people may take that," McCoy said after Monday's practice session. "It was a question I was just being honest about. I can't worry about how other people think about it. That's why we work every day. That's why I try to perfect my game. So that if people want to prove me wrong, they can."

Peterson said on the radio McCoy was just kidding, and said he advises young players to speak up when they're serious.

Peterson
Peterson
"It was funny because ... he kind of hesitated, and he didn't believe it when he said it," Peterson said. "I tell the youngsters, 'Say it with your chest, like you mean it!'"

McCoy found that response confusing.

"I don't know him that well," McCoy said. "I don't know if he's joking or what. I play the game. It speaks for itself. I don't know what that meant. I don't know if that was joking. He was saying a lot. I don't know what that meant."

At a time when the running back position seems to be evolving -- with more emphasis on catching passes and blocking than running the ball -- the Eagles were committed to running it under first-year head coach Chip Kelly in 2013. And that was a huge change from the pass-first, pass-second philosophy of former coach Andy Reid.

"Coach Kelly, he just wants to win," McCoy said. "If it's running the ball a million times or passing it, he's going to do it. He doesn't have that pass, pass, pass or run, run, run thing. Whatever's working, that's what he's going to do."

When McCoy finished the season finale in Dallas with a firm grasp of the NFL rushing title, he donned a boxing-style championship belt to celebrate. He is not reluctant to show his confidence. But it is the other parts of his game -- blocking, running routes -- that he feels give him the edge over Peterson or anyone else.

"You look at the tape," McCoy said. "As a back, I do everything -- running, blocking, as a third-down back in and out. There's nothing that I can't do. The last three years, I don't feel there's a back who's more productive."

He couldn't resist throwing another shot Peterson's way.

"Ask my man in Minnesota," McCoy said. "Check the numbers. Especially the last two years, to be sure. Check those numbers."

McCoy: Eagles moving on from Jackson

May, 19, 2014
May 19
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video LeSean McCoy has turned into one of the most vocal leaders on the Philadelphia Eagles.

McCoy on Monday spoke on a number of topics via telephone interview during a break in a media tour of the EA Sports video game "Madden NFL '15," where he has reached the quarterfinal round against Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

Last season, McCoy rushed 314 times for 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns. He carried the Eagles for long stretches and helped them finish 10-6 with an NFC East title and a playoff berth. The Eagles lost 26-24 to the New Orleans Saints but the first season under coach Chip Kelly had to be considered highly successful.

“I didn’t know what to expect when coach came in, but you could see right away that he wanted to win and he was going to work very hard to get there,” McCoy said. “Chip and (general manager) Howie (Roseman) have made a lot of tough decisions, some really tough, but they’re doing what they think will bring the team success and win a championship. We’re all on board with what they’re doing and we’re behind them all the way.”

Still, McCoy is asked virtually every day about the decision to release three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

“It’s always the first question I get asked and the organization made a decision to move on,” McCoy said. “The move was made and he’s moved on with the Redskins and we've moved on. It’s in the past and we move forward as a group with the Eagles.”

McCoy's clearly the best running back on the team. And arguably the best in the NFL. Just ask him.

“I think I’m the best. I like to judge it from the last three years where I think I’ve been the most productive back in the league. I think I am if you look at it from the point of running, catching passes, blocking. There are other great backs who maybe have fallen off a little bit over the past three, four years, but they’re still great backs. I believe I’m the best right now.”

Elsewhere on the Eagles, McCoy likes the direction the team is heading.

“I think we’re jelling at the right time,” he said. “We’re coming together as a group and we all have the same goals. There’s no ego on this team. There’s No I. It’s all team here and it shows with how we work together. I’m very confident in this group moving forward to the season. I’m excited about the team.”

What must happen for the Eagles to make a deep run in the playoffs?

“We have to stay healthy,” McCoy said. “It’s all about health. That’s the biggest key. We have the players to win and the coaches have the blueprint for how to be successful. The hard work starts now and we’re excited to get started and see where this team can go.”

McCoy also plans on winning “Madden NFL 15.”

“It’s fun, and I think so,” McCoy said, laughing. “Andrew Luck is a good player. This is gonna be a good matchup.”

McCoy was also asked for his Super Bowl XLIX prediction. See his answer below.
IRVING, Texas -- Another lively chat Wednesday with more than 100 questions from you guys wanting to know this, that and everything about the Dallas Cowboys.

SportsNation

Who would be the best first-round pick for the Cowboys?

  •  
    21%
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    49%
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    19%
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    5%
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    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 11,576)

In the chat we talked about:

  • The return of Anthony Spencer.
  • The chances of Johnny Manziel coming to the Cowboys.
  • The chances Kony Ealy comes to the Cowboys.
  • The Morris Claiborne "trade" talks. I put quotes around that on purpose.


  • To read the whole chat, click here.

    Let's talk about the whole 'need vs. best player' debate some more:

    Kyle from Virginia asked: With Will McClay playing a bigger role in this draft, do you see Dallas taking the best player available regardless of position more often this year or just filling their needs? I am hoping they are focusing on the long-term, not just the upcoming season.

    Here is my answer: I'm not being a wise guy here, but the answer is: Yes. We always speak in this perfect world of taking the best player available, but you have to factor in need. The key is to not make the need overwhelm the evaluation process so you're inflating a player's worth. I do believe the Cowboys look at the draft as a multi-year deal not specific to one year, but need will always play a part in the process. It just has to. You can't eliminate it.

    To elaborate, much of the draft operates in a gray area. Ideally everything is crystal clear. I'm sure in the past I've said, 'You always take the best player available.' Heck, I probably said it two weeks ago, but I'd like to add two caveats:

    You always take the best player in the first round. You always take the best player when the best player's grade is much higher than the player you are going to take.

    It's clear the Cowboys need defensive line help, though I think the signings they've had in free agency helps steer them away from reaching for a player at No. 16. If they are unable to get one of their top defensive linemen at No. 16, be it Anthony Barr, Aaron Donald or whomever, then don't reach for the next-best defensive linemen if you don't believe he is better than somebody at another position.

    That's why I've had the Cowboys taking Zack Martin in the mock drafts I've been asked about. The Cowboys look to be in no-man's land at No. 16 when it comes to the top defensive linemen. Too low for Donald and Barr. Too high for Ealy or Easley. If they trade back in the first round, then it becomes a little more palatable to take one of the lower-ranked guys.

    In 2009, the Cowboys should have drafted LeSean McCoy in the second round. They had a first-round grade on McCoy but instead of taking him they traded down to get third- and fourth-round picks from the Buffalo Bills.

    At the time the Cowboys had Marion Barber on a big-time deal and drafted Felix Jones in the first round in 2008. They also liked Tashard Choice. They probably thought they were stacking it up at the position if they took McCoy. So what? You had a chance to get a first-round player with a pick in the 50s. Do it.

    We want everything to be black and white when it comes to the draft, but it's not that easy.
    McCoy
    Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post spoke with Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy the other day on a number of topics, including the New York Giants' free-agent spending spree. On the latter, McCoy is not impressed. Per Bart's Twitter page:
    LeSean McCoy to me on the Giants: "I'm not paying attention to the Giants. What've they done (this offseason)? Signed some guys. Big deal."

    McCoy's Eagles are flying high -- defending division champs with plenty of reason to believe things are just getting started for them as they head into Chip Kelly's second year as their head coach. And in general, McCoy has little reason to view the Giants with much reverence, since the Eagles are 7-3 against the Giants during McCoy's career and the Giants have made the playoffs just one time in those five seasons. Yes, we're all fully aware of the way things ended up the year they did make it, but the point here is the Giants aren't keeping McCoy up at night in the first place.

    So the comment likely comes from a place of honesty and not false bravado. McCoy's time in the NFL has not given him much reason to think the Giants are better than his team is. He also was part of a 2011 Eagles team that "signed some guys" in the offseason and saw it not work out too well, so excuse him for not being impressed with a free-agent signing spree.

    But man oh man is it foolish to think you know what's going to happen in the NFL -- especially when the regular season is still more than four months away. I give full respect to the Eagles' and their fans' right to consider themselves the NFC East's top dogs at the moment. And I have my own doubts about the short-term effectiveness of the Giants' offseason moves. But if I played or cheered for a team in the NFC East here in the second decade of the 21st century, I'd be really careful about assuming I had it all figured out, or that the gap between my team and anyone else's was all that considerable.

    This isn't exactly Vince Young blurting out "dream team" in the summer of 2011, and in no way am I saying McCoy should be worrying himself about the Giants' offseason. This was just a chance to point out that no one knows what's going to happen, and it's foolish to act as though you do.

    McCoy, Sproles will give Eagles options

    April, 9, 2014
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    LeSean McCoy turned into one of the most durable and dependable running backs in the league last season.

    McCoy
    McCoy should be even fresher in 2014 with the addition of Darren Sproles.

    Sproles was acquired by the Philadelphia Eagles last month and then was signed to a two-year contract extension through 2016. Sproles, 30, will give the Eagles multiple options out of the backfield and on special teams. Sproles' speed may not be what it was three or four years ago, but it's still good enough for him to be an impact player.

    With McCoy and Sproles in the backfield at the same time, defenses won't be able to focus on one player. It will give coach Chip Kelly plenty of options, especially on third down.

    The change of scenery will give Sproles a fresh start.

    Sproles
    “I just wanted a choice,” Sproles told reporters. "I didn't want them to put me on a team or wherever that really didn't fit me. That's why I wanted to be released, so I could really choose. ...When I heard it (was Philadelphia), I was just happy. They could have traded me somewhere where I didn't want to be. So I was real happy about it."

    Sproles led the league with 2,696 all-purpose yards in 2011, but his rushing, receiving and return total numbers have decreased in the following two seasons. Yet he’s coming to a team which doesn't need him to put up those kinds of numbers. The Eagles just need him to be a consistent element in their offense and special teams.

    Amazingly, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles had one more yard rushing (221) than Sproles (220) last season. But Sproles' contribution won’t simply be on the ground. He can catch passes and turn them into huge gains. He can stretch the field. He can return kickoffs and punts. And he can block.

    If Sproles can perform at a fairly high level, it will be a major benefit to McCoy.
    IRVING, Texas -- It certainly sounds as if DeSean Jackson has played his last game for the Philadelphia Eagles. What would it mean for the Dallas Cowboys?

    Jackson has had his moments against the Cowboys. In his first game against the Cowboys in 2008, he caught six passes for 110 yards and would have had a 61-yard touchdown if he hadn't dropped the ball before crossing the goal line. In 2010, he caught four passes for 210 yards and had a touchdown.

    Those are the only two 100-yard receiving games Jackson has had in the regular season against the Cowboys and that is the only touchdown he has against the Cowboys.

    In the two meetings in 2013, Jackson caught six passes for 49 yards. He has had three or fewer catches in six of the 10 regular-season meetings of NFC East rivals.

    The Cowboys might not be sad to see Jackson go -- if he goes -- but they have done a good job keeping him in check, especially Orlando Scandrick.

    Now if the Eagles wanted to get rid of LeSean McCoy, then the Cowboys would be really happy.
    The impact of the Darren Sproles trade will linger for a while, right up through the season when the Philadelphia Eagles can showcase yet another weapon in Chip Kelly's offense.

    Sproles
    Though Sproles is on the downside of his career, as any running back who turns 30 would be, that doesn't mean he's no longer dangerous. And that's why this move was largely applauded. The only thing that he can't do is improve a defense that struggled, though the Eagles have started to work on that side of the ball a little bit as well, with safety Malcolm Jenkins and corner Nolan Carroll having been signed.

    Still, Sproles is the one worth taking more of a look at -- even a day later. Here's what others had to say about the move:
      • ESPN NFL writer Kevin Seifert wrote that Sproles and running back LeSean McCoy can be on the field at the same time: "Sproles proved especially productive in New Orleans when lined up somewhere other than the backfield. His 89 receptions in those situations since 2011 is twice that of the next-closest running back, Marcel Reece (44). Such familiarity with the slot and outside receiving positions give the Eagles a scary potential to use Sproles and McCoy on the field at the same time."
      • ESPN Saints reporter Mike Triplett said New Orleans letting him go makes sense. “The Saints are still well-stocked at the running back position with Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Khiry Robinson. And Sproles is 30 years old and has shown signs of declining production in recent years. I still believe Sproles can be a dangerous weapon in a limited role. And I'm sure he will be in Philly. But he probably wouldn't have come close to replicating his remarkable 2011 season in either city -- which is the biggest shame of all.”
      • Jeff McLane likes a lot of what Sproles offers, but does not think he plugs any holes for the Eagles. There's also concern because of his age, cap hit ($3.5 million) and having surrendered a draft pick in addition to a lot of cash. But he recognized that Sproles can help, as he wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Sproles isn't the player he was in 2011 when he had an NFL-record 2,696 all-purpose yards, but he is still one-on-one trouble for defenses. Kelly took full advantage of running back LeSean McCoy and wide receiver DeSean Jackson's quickness and lateral agility by designing one-on-one matchups."
      • Few spend more time breaking down X's and O's than Sheil Kapadia of Birds 24/7. His take? “The Eagles bid farewell to Jason Avant earlier this offseason. Look for Sproles to rotate in at multiple spots. Per PFF, he lined up in the backfield 60.9 percent of the time last season. On the other occasions, he was out wide or in the slot. Remember how Kelly used Jackson in the backfield last season to create mismatches? He can do the same with Sproles."
      • In USA Today, writer Lorenzo Reyes took a look at some reaction to the trade. "The big benefit that Sproles adds, however, is an option in the flat and in short-to-intermediate routes in the passing game for Foles. Last season, Sproles caught 71 passes for 604 yards and two touchdowns."
      • Finally, from New Orleans, Times-Picayune writer Larry Holder wrote that, “A pick and salary cap space helps the Saints, plus New Orleans won't face the Eagles in the 2014 regular season. The division-rival Carolina Panthers will, though. And a fresh start with a team on the rise like the Eagles, along with no cut in pay, is about the best Sproles could have asked for from the Saints. But it doesn't come without hurt feelings.”
    The Washington Redskins had interest in Darren Sproles. As has happened often this offseason, another team landed him. According to multiple reports the Eagles traded for the New Orleans running back Thursday, adding another weapon to an already dangerous offense.

    Meanwhile, Dallas defensive lineman Jason Hatcher will visit with Washington on Friday, a source said. But Hatcher is visiting with Oakland Thursday.

    Sproles
    Hatcher
    Hatcher
    The Washington Post’s Mark Maske reported that the Redskins did not want to trade draft picks for Sproles. It also would have required them to pay him a base salary of $3.4 million (in addition to a workout bonus of $100,000). But it’s uncertain why the Redskins would have been interested if they didn’t want to surrender draft picks. Without much depth, there’s little else they could offer New Orleans.

    Philadelphia traded a fifth-round pick for Sproles, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

    Regardless, it’s another weapon for the Eagles to go with LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin. Sproles would lessen the need for McCoy to handle all roles for the Eagles. And Sproles is a perfect fit for that offense, with his ability to line up all over -- he’s also excellent on bubble screens, a big part of their offense. Of course, they have done little to improve their defense aside from signing safety Malcolm Jenkins.

    As for Hatcher, he played well against Washington last season and would be an end in their front. He can also collapse the pocket in their nickel rush, something the Redskins did not do enough of last season.

    The 6-foot-6, 299-pound Hatcher is coming off his best season with 11 sacks, but he’ll turn 32 before the season and would command a salary probably around $5 million per year. ESPN Dallas reporter Todd Archer speculated on Hatcher’s value here. It’s tough to give a lot of money to a player who will be in his mid-30s when the contract nears the end, but that could drive down his price a little.

    Hatcher did not become a full-time starter until 2011. As a 3-4 end, he recorded a combined 8.5 sacks in ’11 and ’12.
    A theory: The media-savvy NFL didn't create this three-day “legal tampering” period to facilitate negotiations between teams and pending free agents. The real reason was to create three more days of intense fan interest and fevered speculation.

    Acknowledging the lack of real news, here are some thoughts pertaining to the Eagles as the actual free agency period draws near:
    • Don't get locked into the names the Eagles reportedly contacted. Yes, they almost certainly did contact the agent for Carolina safety Mike Mitchell. That information leaked out all over the place. Does that mean the Eagles have targeted Mitchell as their solution at safety? Maybe. But all it really signifies is that someone in Mitchell's camp chose to share the Eagles' interest, which could range from casual to intense. The reality is, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman is almost duty-bound to take the pulse of every free-agent safety who has one. It is that big a need for this team, and Roseman loses nothing by getting a feel for what each player is looking for. What if Jairus Byrd or Antoine Bethea really want to play for Chip Kelly and would take a slightly less-than-market deal? It isn't likely, but as long as there's a hint of a possibility, there's nothing to lose, and much to gain, by checking in with them.
    • Nothing matters until Tuesday when deals can be done. If Roseman has his eye on a particular free agent, someone he feels he has to pounce on right away with a major offer, he doesn't want to telegraph that to the rest of the league. That's why I think there has been so little reported “interest” in some of the bigger-name free agents. Having your team linked to a guy like Byrd or Seattle's Michael Bennett would serve only to give your division and conference rivals the heads-up that they may need to make a pre-emptive strike. And if you're a GM who has targeted Byrd -- just to take a random example -- it might be smart to let him spend the three-day tampering period thinking interest in him isn't that high. By Tuesday afternoon, he may be itching to take the first market deal on the table.
    • If the Eagles go after Champ Bailey -- who will be 36 when the season starts and has been hobbled by foot injuries -- it will be hard to defend their policies when they decline to risk big money on a 27-year-old Pro Bowler such as Byrd. The Denver Broncos are the definition of a team in win-now mode. They released Bailey for a reason. He may be able to keep his superb career on life support for another year or two by moving to safety, but giving him that opportunity would defy everything Roseman has said about building a team for the long term.
    • If Saints running back Darren Sproles is released, that is the kind of player the Eagles should be very interested in. Chip Kelly was very impressed with (maybe even envious of) the Saints' diverse running backs when he was preparing for the playoff game against New Orleans. Sproles is 30, but he still brings elements to an offense that complement LeSean McCoy's game and would give Kelly plenty to work with. It doesn't hurt that Sproles returns kicks -- including the one that all but won that playoff game for the Saints.
    • I'm perplexed when people say Green Bay's reported four-year, $39 million deal with Sam Shields represents a wild shift in the market for cornerbacks compared to last offseason. There just weren't any $9- to $10-million-a-year corners on the market a year ago. The Eagles signed Cary Williams from Baltimore at $17 million for three years. That's not because the market was down. Williams is solid, but he wouldn't be getting $9-million-a-year this year, either.

    PHILADELPHIA -- With their new contracts, Riley Cooper, Jason Kelce and Jason Peters will remain Philadelphia Eagles, but that's not all.

    They also officially became Chip Kelly guys. That's important for both the players, in terms of job security, and for the team.

    New coaches often want to clear out as much of the roster they inherit and bring in their own players as quickly as possible. Kelly added just one starter, first-round pick Lane Johnson, to the starting lineup he inherited from Andy Reid. All 11 of those offensive starters are now under contract for next season.

    Kelly said all season that he was impressed with how quickly the Eagles embraced everything from his X's and O's to his sports science-based conditioning program. The coach is now reciprocating, buying into some of the same key players who bought into him.

    Kelce was the easiest call. The center was a sixth-round pick in 2011 who instantly became a vital cog in a very effective offensive line. He had already outplayed his original contract. Rewarding him with $13 million in guaranteed money and with long-term security sends a positive message to the locker room while also ensuring continuity at a vital position.

    Cooper was the toughest call. He placed a target on his back last summer by getting caught on video using a racial slur at a Kenny Chesney concert. The Eagles could have easily released Cooper right away or simply let him walk away as a free agent.

    There are plenty of wide receivers who could catch 47 passes for 835 yards, as Cooper did last season. But Cooper established himself as a favorite target of Nick Foles, who in turn established himself as the starting quarterback. Cooper also embraced the run-blocking aspect of the position as Kelly coaches it.

    In short, Cooper turned himself into a Kelly guy, and he was rewarded with $8 million in guaranteed money on a five-year deal that could be worth $25 million.

    Peters presented a different kind of challenge. He proved in 2013 that he is still, after two tears of the same Achilles tendon, as good a left tackle as there is in the NFL. But he also turned 32 in December.

    The five-year contract he signed all but assures that Peters will finish his career with the Eagles. He will be 36 when it expires. That's pretty old for an athletic offensive lineman, but as Peters' agent, Vincent Taylor, put it, if Peters loses a step, he's still ahead of most players.

    The Eagles' starting five offensive linemen are all signed through at least 2016. They have control for the foreseeable future of Cooper, Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Jason Avant. They could bring Jeremy Maclin back, as well, adding to the already considerable stability among offensive personnel.

    This is Kelly's offense, and these are now Kelly's guys.

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