OVERALL, CHIP KELLY said yesterday, defensive coordinator Bill Davis has done a "really good job" in converting the Eagles from a wide-nine 4-3 to Kelly's preferred 3-4 defense over the past 2 years.
If Sunday's meaningless, 34-26 season-ending victory over the Giants proved anything, it might have been that Davis was right when he kept telling us he really didn't have better alternatives than Bradley Fletcher at cornerback. With Fletcher sidelined by a hip injury, corners Nolan Carroll, Brandon Boykin and rookie Jaylen Watkins put in time outside, where Fletcher and Cary Williams had played almost every snap until the finale. Eli Manning threw for 429 yards, and Odell Beckham Jr. caught 12 passes for 185 yards, including a 63-yard touchdown.
"I thought our defense improved in a lot of categories," Kelly said. "There are still things we need to clean up. We were really good in 2013 in X-plays; we weren't good at all in 2014 in X-plays," giving up a league-high 72 pass plays of 20 yards or longer, and a league-high 18 pass plays of 40 yards or longer.
"I think he's one of the better ones I've played for, and I've played for a few," safety Malcolm Jenkins said yesterday, when asked his assessment of Davis. "I think he has a sound scheme. It's detailed pretty well, so everybody can understand their job. It's not complicated. But it does allow the players [to do] what they do best. Obviously, we did a really good job stopping the run this year, and got after the quarterback.
"You can't double-team somebody every play. I think we do a good job, honestly, of leaning toward big-time receivers and trying to take 'em away . . . those plays that we don't [give help], guys gotta hold up, win matchups. That's what it really comes down to. Just like we ask our d-line to win their one-on-ones, sometimes we've got to have guys on the outside that can win their one-on-ones, just like on the inside. In certain games, we probably could have adjusted a little quicker, but we all get paid to do a job, and we've got to do it."
That's about as clear as you can possibly make it - in Jenkins' view, the problem this season was the talent, not the coaching.
Asked whether he expected the secondary to look a lot different next season, Jenkins said: "I expect the team to look different. Every year, there's somewhere between 25 and 35 percent turnaround . . . we show up in April for OTAs and see what we've got."
Kelly said all the assistants will be evaluated, including defensive-backs coaches John Lovett and Todd Lyght, but he added: "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."
Boykin has chafed at Davis' (and Kelly's) preference for taller corners on the outside, but he had nothing bad to say about the coordinator yesterday.
"I think he's a good players' coach," Boykin said. "I think he comes in and kind of asks us what we like and what we don't like. You kind of feel like you can have that personal relationship with him, and that's always good."
On his 94WIP radio appearance yesterday morning, Chip Kelly indicated he wanted LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin back next season - Kelly called Maclin "huge" in terms of offensive success. But when he talked to reporters a little while later, Kelly clarified that he was speaking generally, not making a proclamation on contract matters.
Maclin (85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns), who can be franchised, just finished a 1-year deal. McCoy (1,319 yards on 312 carries) has 3 years remaining, and an $11.95 million cap number for 2015. Maclin has said he thinks he will be able to reach agreement, and McCoy indicated after Sunday's game that he would be open to restructuring - given that he only has $1 million in guarantees remaining, it might seem to benefit both sides.
"I don't know what's going to happen," Kelly said. "What if someone gives us 17 first-round draft picks for LeSean? Should I say, 'No, I made a statement on a radio show at 8 o'clock in the morning after the game and said that I want LeSean back, so I'm not going to do that'? We'll look at everything."
General manager Howie Roseman spoke glowingly of McCoy and Maclin, on Roseman's 94WIP radio show yesterday evening, but he made no commitments.
McCoy, by the way, said on his radio show, right after Roseman's, that he'd gotten his left knee checked out, a day after twisting it late in the season finale, and that tests were negative.
The case of pending free-agent outside linebacker Brandon Graham is much less clear than that of Maclin or McCoy. Graham, the Eagles' 2010 first-round pick as a 4-3 defensive end, developed into a viable 3-4 linebacker, managing 5 1/2 sacks while playing about half the snaps. Graham has said repeatedly he wants to return.
But Graham acknowledged yesterday that he still thinks he's a better fit for a 4-3, where he can just set the edge and rush the passer, without dropping into coverage. He indicated that his top priority in free agency will be getting a chance to start.
"I look at it like this - I work hard. Just give me chance to get out there," Graham said. "If I lose my job because I'm not playing well, then so be it. At least I was out there. But I think once I get that opportunity - I hope it's here - I'm going to prove 'em right, that I definitely can get the job done."
Chip Kelly said he did not think Nick Foles' broken collarbone raised any concerns about his durability . . . Kelly said he would support player personnel vice president Tom Gamble, if Gamble were to get a chance at a general manager job. "He's a heck of a football guy," Kelly said . . . Kelly was asked how his relationship is with GM Howie Roseman. "Good," he said . . . Kelly left no doubt that middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans will return to his leadership role when Ryans recovers from Achilles' surgery. "We need DeMeco. I'm a big DeMeco fan," Kelly said. "He really sets the tone for everybody on the defensive side of the ball."