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Eagles' DeSean Jackson unlikely to be used like Ducks' De'Anthony Thomas

If DeSean Jackson thinks he'll be used the way De'Anthony Thomas was used at Oregon, he has another think coming.

(Michael Perez/AP file photo)
(Michael Perez/AP file photo)Read more

CHIP KELLY has been intentionally vague about his plans for the guys on his roster for a couple of reasons.

One is that he's a football coach, and football coaches like to be intentionally vague.

The other is that, until next Monday, when the league's collective bargaining agreement finally allows Kelly to talk X's-and-O's with his new players, the only thing he has been able to say to them is get plenty of sleep and keep eating your Wheaties.

As we go along here in the next several months, we'll start to find out about the specifics of Kelly's offense and defense, and who fits in where and who doesn't fit in at all.

One guy whose role I'm definitely eager to find out about is DeSean Jackson's.

During Super Bowl week in New Orleans in late January, Jackson was asked by reporters what he thought his role in Kelly's offense would be.

"Kind of similar to what De'Anthony Thomas was doing at Oregon," Jackson replied.

That response raised some eyebrows because Thomas was basically a running back for Kelly, although he did have a team-high 45 receptions last year.

Kelly insisted last week that Jackson must have gotten that idea from Thomas because - are you listening, commissioner? - he hasn't talked any ball with his players.

If Kelly had been permitted to talk ball with Jackson, I highly doubt he would have told him he wants to use him like he used Thomas at Oregon the last 2 years.

Thomas is an all-purpose move-him-around-the-formation running back/wide receiver who last year rushed for 701 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 45 passes, including five for touchdowns.

He is a running back (92 rushing attempts in 2012) who can line up wide or in the slot, much like Andy Reid used to do on occasion with Brian Westbrook.

While his measurables - 5-9 and 173 pounds - are similar to Jackson's (5-9 3/4, 171), Thomas has a much thicker, built-to-last body than Jackson.

Early in his career, the Eagles tried using Jackson as a sometimes runner on end-arounds and on direct snaps out of the Wildcat formation.

While he was often effective - he averaged 12.5 yards per carry on 11 rushing attempts in 2009 - he also often got hurt. Which is one reason Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg stopped using him as a runner. After carrying the ball 44 times his first three NFL seasons, he had just 10 carries in 2011-12, including three for minus-7 yards in 11 games last year.

"I think [Thomas and Jackson] are both similar in size and are fast, but DeSean is a wide receiver and De'Anthony is a running back," Kelly said.

"When we got De'Anthony, we looked at some of his traits and thought it was beneficial to get him involved [as a wide receiver] because we had [running backs] LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner [and were asking], how do we get them on the field at the same time."

"DeSean's kind of a wide receiver/running back, but I don't know if he has those qualities of a [running back]. De'Anthony has been a running back his entire life, and my understanding is DeSean has been a receiver his entire life. So they are not similar from that standpoint."

Does that mean Kelly won't use Jackson on an occasional end-around? No. Does it mean Jackson could get 30-40 carries next season? Absolutely not.

Punt 4th down? Hell, yeah

In case you were wondering, Chip Kelly does plan on carrying a punter on his 53-man roster. Might not have a fullback, but he'll have a punter. Those rumors that he always went for it on fourth down at Oregon are slightly exaggerated.

The Ducks went for it on fourth down 31 times last season (and converted 20 of them). That total was only 10th among the NCAA's 120 Football Bowl Subdivision members.

During Kelly's four seasons as Oregon's head coach, the Ducks averaged just 2.2 fourth-down attempts per game. They finished tied for 17th in the FBS in fourth-down attempts in 2009 (22), second in '10 (34) and fifth in '11 (31).

In the Brooks Brothers NFL, usually only bad teams go for it on fourth down. Last year, only four teams had more than 18 fourth-down tries: 2-14 Jacksonville (26), 5-11 Arizona (24), 7-8-1 St. Louis (24) and your 4-12 Eagles (24).

Asked about his reputation as a fourth-down gambler last week, Kelly said: "I think there's fallacy and reality. I don't think very often we went for it on fourth down on our side of the field. It would be once or twice a season, depending on the situation."

He pointed out that the leg strength of his kicker often factors into fourth-down decisions.

"If you don't have a guy that can kick a long field goal, what are you going to do when the ball is on the 37-yard line?" he said. "Will you kick a 52-yarder or are you going to punt it? If [the punt] goes into the end zone, you have a net of 17 yards. Or do you go for it because you have a good defense and you're not averse to putting them on the field on the 37-yard line?"

Kelly didn't have a kicker with a big leg at Oregon. In his four seasons as head coach, the team's longest field goal was 43 yards. The last 3 years, the Ducks were just 5-for-14 on field goal attempts from 40-plus yards.

Quick Hits * 

I'm not sure I understand the Eagles' rationale in releasing punter Mat McBriar and replacing him with Donnie Jones. Yes, Jones was a two-time second-team All-Pro. But that was a while ago (2008-09). He has kicked for dome teams the last 6 years. His numbers had been on the decline for 3 straight years until he finished 11th in the league in gross average last year (47.2). He had the sixth highest rate of punts returned (54.5 percent) in the league last year.

* My personal feeling about the Pro Bowl is that the NFL should dig a deep, deep hole and bury the game in it. But since some of the players actually broke a sweat this year and the game still managed to pulverize "The Good Wife" in the ratings, it's not going away. Having accepted that, I don't hate the idea the league is toying with for next year's game. Stealing a page - OK, the whole script - from the NHL, it's considering having two players choose up sides rather than the current AFC-NFC format.

* Jeff Lurie earned brownie points with Eagles fans last week when he told reporters that he's going to aggressively campaign for a Super Bowl for Philadelphia if next year's game in North Jersey isn't a total disaster. That's nice. And you know what the chances of it happening are? Zero.

* Eagles right tackle Todd Herremans will host the Hoops For Help Fundraiser for his charity, the Herremans Foundation, on Thursday night at the West Club at Lincoln Financial Field. The March Madness-themed event will feature dinner and live and silent auctions. The foundation raises money for a number of causes, including Habitat For Humanity, the American Cancer Society, Magee Rehabilitation, the Anti-Defamation League and autism research. Herremans, who missed eight games last season with a broken foot, expects to be ready for the team's first minicamp in mid-April. "I loved Andy [Reid] to death, but change is often good for both sides," Herremans said. "There's a really good energy around the NovaCare complex. It seems a little more youthful. I'm excited to see what happens. Show how [Kelly] is able to transfer what he's done in college to the NFL." Kelly acknowledged last week that there's a buy-in factor for him that wouldn't be there for a coach with NFL experience. "Yeah, it's different," he said. "I would think people are going to have questions. Guys on the team. Just because I haven't coached at this level yet. I'm aware that's out there."

* The Rams and Vikings are the only teams with multiple first-round selections in next month's draft. The Rams have the 16th and 22nd picks, the Vikings Nos. 23 and 25. The Rams and Vikings are among five teams that have four selections in the first three rounds. The 49ers and Dolphins have the most (five).

This and that * 

The main reason many players and coaches are against the new crown-of-the-helmet rule is because they don't think the officials are going to be able to distinguish between intentional blows with the helmet and incidental contact. But the league's new vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino, doesn't think it will be any more difficult than the rules regarding hits on defenseless receivers. "The way we are going to teach it is we are looking for a player that squares up the opponent, lowers the head and delivers a blow with the very top crown of the helmet," he said. "The official will be looking at those three things to make that determination. We understand that it happens very quickly, but there is an educational process that takes place, and it involves [watching] a lot of tape. We are going to look at a lot of legal plays so that the officials understand what we don't want called."

* This is how bad the relationship is between the NFL and the players union: During the NFLPA's Super Bowl week news conference, union chief DeMaurice Smith cited a union survey in which 78 percent of players polled said they don't trust their team's medical staff. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that he had lunch with Smith shortly after the Super Bowl and requested a copy of the survey. "I told him it would be helpful to be able to look at it, for us to learn from it," Goodell said. "That's the intent here. What can we learn, what can we improve? How can we work together to find better ways of doing things?" More than 5 weeks later, the Goodell still hasn't received it.

* You and I may have found those Oregon unis ugly, but Chip Kelly said he is going to miss them. "The one thing about them is the science behind them," he said. "They were lighter, faster. They wisk away sweat better. That part was always intriguing to me. But everything is standard in this league."

On Twitter: @Pdomo