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.”

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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USA Today Images

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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USA Today Images

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.