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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Chip Kelly talks final say, roster building

By Phil Sheridan

PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly had some interesting things to say this morning about finalizing his first NFL roster. Some highlights:

*Kelly has final say on the 53-man roster. This was always a subject of speculation during Andy Reid’s 13-year tenure, largely because the Eagles were vague about their process for selecting and evaluating personnel. Kelly couldn’t have been more direct when asked if he had final say.

“Yeah,” Kelly said.

He added that he and general manager Howie Roseman are “on the same page. There hasn’t been a decision that’s been made personnel-wise since I’ve been here that I’ve felt one way and he’s felt the other way. We’ve never had a situation where ... two guys are standing on a soapbox.

“I think he sees big picture and I see big picture.”

*At Oregon, Kelly didn’t have to cut his roster to 53 or decide which 46 players to dress on game days. He did have to decide on reduced numbers for road games, however, and said the same principles apply.

“It’s part of the same thing,” Kelly said. “You still have to look at what guys can be more versatile. I think versatility is the key. You have travel rosters in college. You can only bring X amount of guys to a game. It’s the same thing: Why are we bringing the fourth running back if he doesn’t contribute on special teams when the sixth receiver does contribute on special teams?”

*It follows, then, that versatility will go a long way toward final decisions on the 53-man roster, which must be made by Saturday at 6 p.m. The Eagles will not play their starters Thursday night against the Jets, but Kelly called it a “huge game” for sorting out those final roster spots.

“A lot is up in the air right now,” Kelly said.

His starting five offensive linemen are set, but Kelly will keep four or five reserves. The advantage of playing multiple positions, as Allen Barbre does, could hurt former first-round pick Danny Watkins’ chances to make the team. Watkins only plays guard. One wild card: backup guard/tackle Dennis Kelly is still not recovered from back surgery. Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Kelly will likely be unavailable for the first two regular-season games.

Another big factor on offense: How does Kelly break down his skill-position players? Clay Harbor could be both a wide receiver and a tight end. If Kelly keeps four backs, Matthew Tucker could sneak onto the roster.

On defense, the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 means keeping more linebackers than usual. Kelly said the ideal would be “two deep,” or eight LBs, but special teams and versatility could be deciding factors there, as well.

“When you’re not the starter,” Kelly said, “versatility becomes a huge thing. He may be at his position but he also plays on four special teams, so that’s almost like four starting spots.”

*One other thing seems certain. All 53 men who will be on the roster for opening night at Washington aren’t here yet. Kelly said Roseman was working on moves before Tuesday’s cut to 75. The GM will certainly be looking to add help in the defensive backfield and possibly at linebacker.