Early Birds: Chip Kelly on NFL's ruling on Suggs-Bradford hit; keeping preseason point differential in perspective; Najee Goode helps his case
"Those are the rules, so if you're handing the ball off, you can be hit,” Chip Kelly said Monday.
1) The NFL sent its weekly officiating video to teams last week with clarification on the league's ruling about Terrell Suggs' hit on Sam Bradford in the Eagles' second preseason game. The league's position is that a quarterback can be hit at the mesh point (when the ball is being handed off) because it's not clear whether he will keep the ball. The quarterback is not off limits until it's clear he does not have the football or he re-establishes a passing position.
"Those are the rules, so if you're handing the ball off, you can be hit," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Monday. "Whether you're underneath the center, it doesn't matter what run play you have. It was explained to us that you could have your back turned to the defense and if there's potential for you to bootleg out of it, then you can be hit."
The league's video said the play call doesn't matter – whether it's a zone read, read option, or straight handoff. The focus is on when the quarterback gets hit, as opposed to what play the offense has called. That's why Kelly said the ruling would not alter how the Eagles call a game. But it will make the team more cognizant of the rule, which sounded different from Kelly's interpretation last week that focused on whether it's a zone-read play or a straight handoff.
"It has nothing to do with the play; that was the biggest thing that we came away from it with," Kelly said. "It doesn't matter what play you're running -- if you're handing the ball off and there's a potential that you could keep it on a bootleg or whatever, you can be hit. So, those are the rules. We'll practice with the rules they got."
2) There's much excitement in Philadelphia about the Eagles' preseason, and it's understandable – they have outscored opponents, 52-3, in the first quarter of three preseason games, and they're plus-62 overall. That's 19 points better than any other team's net point total.
Kelly did not go overboard with the team's preseason results, though.
"I don't think people have game-planned for us, nor have we game-planned for them," Kelly said. "I think we're all trying to get our players to get opportunities on film where you can teach them off of and also make full evaluations of guys."
In Saturday's 39-26 win over Green Bay, the Eagles scored all 39 points before halftime. Quarterback Sam Bradford was a perfect 10 for 10 with three touchdowns, and the defense returned an interception for a TD. Kelly kept that win in perspective, too.
"I'm happy with how we've performed in certain situations," Kelly said. "But looking at just specifically our defense the other night, those penalties, if that's a real football game, we have three major penalties on one drive, and one that negates a turnover, that could be the determining factor in winning and losing a football game. So there are some real teachable moments that came out of that Packers game."
3) Najee Goode was expected to play a role in the Eagles' defense last season, even mixing in at first-team linebacker during training camp. Those plans were interrupted when a torn pectoral muscle in the first game ended Goode's season. Had he been healthy, he would have been in line to start last season considering the injuries elsewhere at the position.
When Goode returned to full health, the depth chart was more crowded. He went from an expected contributor to a player on the roster bubble. His candidacy for the roster was bolstered by a strong performance on Saturday, when Goode had four tackles, including one for a loss.
"I think certainly the Packers game was his best game to date out of the three preseason games we played," Kelly said. "He's a guy that was hurt last fall, and once we started the season, he got hurt pretty early. But coming back and starting to kind of hit his stride. It was really good to see Najee back out there running around."
The tackle for a loss caught Kelly's attention because Goode blitzed through the SA gap and "probably could have tackled the ball carrier and the quarterback at the same time."
With Kiko Alonso, DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, and Jordan Hicks making the team at inside linebacker, and Brad Jones expected to make the team as an inside-outside combination player, Goode will need to persuade coaches to go heavy at the position. But his experience at a position with injury problems and his special teams ability are assets in his favor.