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Early Birds: Chip Kelly on Marcus Smith, coaching staff changes, and Darren Sproles

1) If you expected Chip Kelly to offer some encouraging words about Marcus Smith entering the offseason, think again. Kelly has been hard on the first-round pick throughout the season, and his message didn't change on Monday. It doesn't matter when Smith was selected; he needs to beat out the players in front of him.

"If anybody realizes one thing about this place is nothing is handed to you," Kelly said. "You've got to be better than the guys that are playing in front of you if you're going to earn playing time. We're not going to just say because you came in in this situation it's going to be teed up for you. That's not the way it's going to be. It's never going to be that way.

"It's going to be based on competition. We have to have confidence in you based on demonstrated ability whether it be on the practice field or in preseason games to show us that you're better than Connor Barwin or  Brandon Graham or Trent Cole."

Those three players Kelly mentioned are outside linebackers. That would make it seem that the Eagles view Smith as an outside linebacker. He has shuffled between positions this season.

Kelly would not even concede that Smith is an outside linebacker, and said the Eagles must evaluate Smith and figure out his future.

So to recap: Smith was drafted in May, he played only 68 defensive snaps this season, and the coaches do not know where he will play next season.

 2) Last season, the Eagles looked like they were going to stick with their coaching staff until mid-January, when quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor was hired by the Miami Dolphins as offensive coordinator. The Eagles could be in a similar position this season, and Kelly said he would not stand in the way of his coaches earning promotions.

"It's really their decision, not my decision," Kelly said. "I'll weigh in on it if they want me to give advice. But I would anticipate as openings happen around the league and there could be openings in college where people want to go to a college job. But that's always done on an individual basis and you never know. …So we'll cross that bridge if it happens, but I would anticipate it. We do have some really good coaches here, so I'm hopefully that we can keep everybody together."

Kelly did not give a firm yes about whether he would make changes with the staff, but he sounded as if he likes the staff as it's assembled.

"I think everybody's evaluated," Kelly said. "That is what this whole process is all about. But I really like our coaching staff. I think we get along very well. I think we have a lot of really good teachers here who do a really good job."

3) Kelly's admiration of Darren Sproles has only grown throughout the season. It continued on Tuesday, when he explained the effect Sproles had on the team in 2014.

Kelly thought the Eagles were inconsistent on punt returns in 2013. Enter Sproles, who was the top returner in the league. Punters started to punt away from the Eagles, which helped the Eagles' field position.

On offense, Kelly said Sproles was "the only receiver we really had that ever got doubled." He gave the example of the Redskins game two weeks ago. Sproles caught one pass and drew a double team. Ertz caught 15 passes and was never doubled.

"He…opens up other guys when he's out there at the running back spot," Kelly said. "Just the consummate professional in terms of his approach and what he does, and how hard he works. Probably the best training or practice player I've ever been around in terms of his approach to everything. So really excited about Darren and thought it was a huge boost for us."