Chip Kelly has high praise for Nick Foles at Combine

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Chip Kelly has high praise for Nick Foles at Combine

INDIANAPOLIS -- If the door seemed to be slammed on Nick Foles when Michael Vick restructured his contract, it swung wide open Thursday after coach Chip Kelly insisted the competition at the team’s most important spot is far from decided.

In the first Scouting Combine podium interview of his NFL coaching career, Kelly not only reaffirmed that his impending quarterback jostle wouldn’t feature an early front-runner but also that Foles would be sticking around for the fight.

“I want to coach Nick and I want to get the chance to spend some time with him and see him,” Kelly said. “I’ve said it before. I was a big fan of his [at Arizona] -- the way he plays the game, his toughness, his ability to throw the ball very accurate. I want to hopefully get a chance to get him out on the practice field and see what he does.”

Foles, drafted last year in the third round, started six games after taking over for a concussed Michael Vick and won just one of of his six starts. But he also completed 61 percent of his passes and averaged 240 passing yards per game, which had never been done before by an NFL rookie quarterback.

But when Vick preserved his roster spot Feb. 11 by agreeing to a hefty pay cut, the general assumption was that Kelly preferred Vick’s athleticism and mobility for the offense he intends to run.

At the least, it seemed to indicate Kelly’s willingness to wipe Vick’s slate clean after two nightmarish seasons.

A report from USA Today then surfaced that former Eagles coach Andy Reid, who drafted Foles last year in the third round, would be interested in reuniting with his former quarterback in Kansas City.

That same day, CSNPhilly.com’s Reuben Frank reported that the Eagles weren’t shopping Foles and had no intention of trading him unless they were offered a deal too sweet to pass up.

"He's not available,” said Reid, who spoke at the Combine podium for the first time in his 15 seasons as an NFL head coach. “You just had Howie up here, so I think you know that. Listen, Nick is the property of the Philadelphia Eagles, so I think they like him. I drafted him along with Howie. Howie's still there, and I know Howie likes him."

Kelly, who said he was unaware of the USA Today report, didn’t rule out any transaction that would upgrade his roster but added this of Foles: “I want to coach him.”

Kelly and the rest of the staff are here this week to scout more than 300 college prospects and interview select prospects that they’re potentially targeting. The Eagles have the No. 4 overall pick in April’s draft but the quarterback crop is weaker than past years and there aren’t indications that Kelly and Roseman would use a first- or second-round pick to upgrade the position.

Roseman backed up Kelly’s endorsement of Foles and the concept of an equal competition.

“[Kelly] told you the same thing he's told us. He wants to coach him, not just see him,” Roseman said. “This is a young, talented player who didn't even have a chance to play with all our frontline guys on the offensive line or skill-position players. He's a talented guy. We just drafted him last year.

“I think this is a different situation than we've had the past couple years where we had quarterbacks. We like the player, we like a lot of things about the player, he's a young player in the league and we're trying to accumulate good players. We're not in the business of trying to get rid of our good young players."

Kelly has watched every cut-up of Foles’ rookie season and observed some of the same strengths that he remembered from their Pacific 12 Conference clashes, when Foles led the Arizona offense against the Kelly-coached Oregon Ducks.

Foles never beat Oregon but passed for 398 yards, threw three touchdowns and completed 60 percent of his throws -- including a third-down conversion on a left-handed flip -- in his senior season.

“Nick’s tough, Nick’s very accurate. Really, [he] can get the ball to different places,” Kelly said. “I know we tried to present him with some different looks when I was at Oregon and trying to defend him and he always seemed to have an answer. He did a great job of putting the ball where I think it was supposed to be.

“When you watch the film, if we were going to be light somewhere in coverage, he seemed to find the spot where we were light in coverage. Just a guy that I’ve been impressed with. We -- and he’ll tell ya -- we hit the heck out of him, and he just kept coming.”

Once again, Kelly faced questions about whether Foles’ minimal foot speed and mobility would clash with the identity of the offense he intends to implement compared to the athletically superior Vick.

Once again, Kelly shot down theories that his Eagles offense would completely mirror the schemes he designed at Oregon or that he would force feed his playbook to a quarterback whose best assets weren’t suited for the blueprint.

“I’ve said that 1,000 times,” Kelly said. “When I was at the University of New Hampshire we threw it on every down because that kid (Ricky Santos) was really good. He threw 123 touchdowns and like 22 interceptions in a four-year span and he probably ran a 5.0 in the 40. So we catered to his strengths and I threw the ball more there than I did at Oregon.

“When I got to Oregon, when I got there I was fortunate that I had Dennis Dixon on our roster. That’s what I think any coach does. You go figure out what your personnel can do and you play to your strengths.”

Rules of the CBA have prevented Kelly from working on the practice field with any of his quarterbacks or sitting down with them in a film room to pore through tape or discuss future schemes.

The trick will be designing his offense around the quarterback who emerges as the best option, which sounds like the cart goes before the horse given the total contrast of skill sets among Foles, Vick, Dixon and Trent Edwards.

Only after he sees them compete on the field this spring will Kelly start to whittle down the playbook and begin to settle on one quarterback to lead his offense, which adds some extra flavor to this year’s minicamps and OTAs.

At training camp, there won’t be enough reps for all four to share the ball equally.

“But in April there is,” he said. “In May and June there is. And when you get through the preseason camp, it’s like anything else. As you start to get close to the season you cut those down and you start to make a decision on who your guys are going to be. But I think in April you’re silly not to look at everybody.”

Buccaneers promote former Eagles WR Josh Huff to active roster

Buccaneers promote former Eagles WR Josh Huff to active roster

Josh Huff is back on an NFL active roster.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are calling the wide receiver up from their practice squad to their 53-man roster. The Eagles released Huff just over a month ago following his arrest for unlawful possession of a firearm. 

The 25-year-old Huff was originally a third round pick by the Eagles in 2014. He made 48 receptions for 482 yards and four touchdowns over three seasons. He excelled on special teams, returning two kicks for touchdowns. One of those kick returns came in his penultimate game with the Eagles, a 21-10 win over the Vikings on Oct. 23. 

Huff replaces Cecil Shorts III for the Buccaneers after Shorts suffered a season-ending knee injury on Sunday in San Diego.

Meanwhile, the Eagles have filled Huff's role in the offense with rookie receivers Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner. 

MLB Notes: Red Sox acquire ace LHP Chris Sale from White Sox

MLB Notes: Red Sox acquire ace LHP Chris Sale from White Sox

OXON HILL, Md. -- All-Star ace Chris Sale is joining the reloading Boston Red Sox, leaving behind his shredded reputation with the Chicago White Sox.

Boston acquired Sale on Tuesday for a package of four prospects, including high-priced Yoan Moncada.

Sale was a top trade target at the winter meetings and the AL East champion Red Sox were getting him instead of Washington, which also pursued.

A few hours earlier, Boston got prime setup man Tyler Thornburg from Milwaukee. After that deal was announced, without tipping his hand, Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said: "We're trying to win now, as you can see."

Boston acquired Sale for minor league pitchers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz, outfielder Luis Basabe and Moncada, a third baseman (see full story).

Red Sox get setup man Thornburg from Brewers for INF Shaw
OXON HILL, Md. -- The Boston Red Sox have gotten the setup man they wanted, acquiring right-hander Tyler Thornburg from the Milwaukee Brewers in a package that included infielder Travis Shaw.

The deal was announced Tuesday and was the first trade at baseball's winter meetings.

Milwaukee also got minor league infielder Mauricio Dubon, minor league right-hander Josh Pennington and a player to be named or $100.

The 28-year-old Thornburg will become Boston's eighth-inning guy, setting up closer Craig Kimbrel for the AL East champions. Thornburg was 8-5 with 13 saves and a 2.15 ERA in 67 games for the Brewers, striking out 90 in 67 innings.

The 26-year-old Shaw hit .242 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs last season. He mostly played third base, and also saw time at first.

The 22-year-old Dubon hit a combined .323 and scored 101 runs between the Single-A and Double-A levels. The 21-year-old Pennington was 5-3 with a 2.86 ERA in Class A (see full story).

Yankees to retire Jeter's No 2 on May 14, last single digit
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's No. 2 is being retired, the last of the New York Yankees' single digits.

The Yankees said Tuesday the number will be retired on May 14 before a Mother's Day game against Houston, and a plaque in his honor will be unveiled in Monument Park during the ceremony.

Jeter's number is the 21st retired by the team. He won five World Series titles and was a 14-time All-Star during a 20-season career that ended in 2014 and he is sixth in career hits with 3,465.

Jeter set Yankees records for hits, games (2,747), at-bats (11,195), doubles (544) and stolen bases (358) (see full story).