FSU's Manuel: Kelly system 'would be easy transition'

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FSU's Manuel: Kelly system 'would be easy transition'

MOBILE, Ala. -- Five years ago, Chip Kelly tried to sell E.J. Manuel on the prospect of spearheading the explosive University of Oregon offense.

Tempting, but one problem. To run the Oregon offense, Manuel would have to attend school in Oregon.

I wanted to, man. But it was far, Manuel, the record-setting quarterback from Florida State, said Wednesday. Im from Virginia, so thats clear across the country and obviously Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher was the main person I wanted to play for. But I was really intrigued by coach Kelly. It was a great program, had great uniforms. That was something I liked as well. It was just too far.

Fast forward to 2013.

Kelly is the Eagles newest head coach, headquartered in South Philly and attempting to introduce his innovative college offense -- or some variation of it -- into the NFL. Manuel, one of the six quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl, is willing to relocate anywhere for the chance to be an NFL quarterback.

This time, Kelly needs no sales pitch. Just a draft pick.

When I first met him I was a high school guy, I didnt really know his offense, Manuel said. Obviously, watching him when I was in college ... very electric. Put a lot of points on the board. Thats the kind of offense people want to see on TV. I think if he brings that to the NFL hell bring life back to Philadelphia. Id love to be a part of it.

Manuel met with Kelly for 15 minutes Monday night as the 50 or so draft prospects involved in the Senior Bowl are funneled into meeting rooms and then ushered from one interview to another -- speed-dating style -- with the coaching staffs and personnel departments of almost every NFL team.

The Eagles have also met with two other quarterbacks -- West Chesters Ryan Nassib, a fast-rising prospect from Syracuse, and Arkansas Tyler Wilson -- and it can be safely assumed that each of the six will have sat down with Kelly and his staff before Saturdays game.

Manuel is perhaps the most intriguing prospect of the six because of his skill set and his potential in the offense Kelly plans to run. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound former Seminole passed for more than 3,000 yards this past season, rushed for more than 300 yards, totaled 27 touchdowns and left with Florida States career accuracy record.

Given the success this year of Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, three quarterbacks with great mobility and different draft pedigrees, it stands to reason that changes in the NFL game have helped boost Manuels stock.

Those guys are still throwing the ball vertically down the field at a high level, so you cant just say theyre runners, Manuel said. Theyre throwing the ball great and theyre still running great and thats whats breaking the defenses back out there.

Although the book on Manuel is that his accuracy dips in the face of heavy pressure and that his delivery isnt textbook, those flaws could potentially be masqueraded by an offense designed to capitalize on his ability to take off or just the threat of taking off, which is an advantage Kelly has discussed several times in the past week.

The Seminoles incorporated some of the same read-option concepts that have become trendy in the college ranks and are catching on for some NFL teams with mobile quarterbacks.

Just the fact that I can do the read option as far as reading the defensive end and doing the run off it or still throwing the bubble screen outside or doing the vertical game, Manuel said. I did a lot of that at Florida State. We didnt run the same exact offense as far as the option or the spread but I know I could do it. It would be an easy transition for me.

Manuel said the Noles went no-huddle about 70 percent of the time and preferred to line up without at least 13, 14 seconds left on the play clock, and then that way I could declare my middle linebacker, point out my sight adjustments, things like that.

Its unknown right now if Kelly is sold on the three quarterbacks the Eagles currently have under contract in Mike Vick, Nick Foles and Trent Edwards. Although the buzz around Mobile is that Kelly will lean toward a cleaner slate and seek someone from outside the roster to lead his offense, general manager Howie Roseman cautioned against jumping the gun.

He hasnt had the chance to watch tape, Roseman said. He does have a very good impression of the people on our roster. He has coached against Nick obviously. Everyone has watched Mike. He did coach against Trent, too, at one point when Trent was at Stanford. I think for him, he just wants to get behind closed doors, lock himself in, watch tape, come out and say, Lets have a discussion.

Until then, the Eagles are doing diligence here in Mobile with the crop of quarterbacks, a group of passers that noticeably lacks West Virginias Geno Smith and USCs Matt Barkley, two projected first-rounders who both decided to pass on invitations to play.

Manuel, currently projected as a mid-to-late round pick, seemed to think hes exactly the kind of guy for Kellys scheme and practically lobbied for the position.

I know I can do his offense, Manuel said. I hope he gives me the opportunity to play for him and kind of build the Eagle tradition back up. That would be nice.

Manuel didnt elaborate on what he and Kelly discussed Monday night but called the interview awesome and reflected on the time when Kelly once tried to lure him to across the country.

It was awesome just seeing him again, Manuel added. It wasnt like I had just met him for the first time. I had known him well for five years now. I was happy to see the success he had as a head coach at Oregon and Im sure hell do the same in the NFL.

Manuel also said he sensed that Kelly was fully committed to the Eagles and had put the college game behind.

Hes all ready to go, Manuel added I just hope he gives me an opportunity.

Email Geoff Mosher at gmosher@comcastsportsnet.com

Jordan Matthews eager to return after missing first-ever game

Jordan Matthews eager to return after missing first-ever game

Jordan Matthews experienced something new on Sunday. Something he hoped he’d never have to experience. 

He was relegated to spectator.  

After never missing a game dating back to little league – through high school, college, and into his third season in the NFL – a right ankle injury kept him out of Sunday’s 32-14 loss in Cincinnati. 

“It’s definitely not fun,” Matthews said. “But it’s one of those things where I try not to dwell on it or be like ‘woe is me.’ There’s people going through way worse things in America than me missing a football game.”

The Eagles certainly could have used Matthews on Sunday. But they should get him back this weekend when the Birds host Washington for a 1 p.m. kickoff at the Linc. Along with Ryan Mathews and Dorial Green-Beckham, Matthews is listed as questionable. 

But he seems confident he’ll be good to go. 

“I think one game is definitely going to be enough for me,” Matthews said. “I’m definitely going to try to get back out there Sunday.” 

On Friday, during his first media availability in two weeks, Matthews said he chose to find the positives in his absence from Sunday’s game. Namely that Paul Turner and Trey Burton got some extra reps. 

Burton had five catches for 53 yards and Turner, in just his second NFL game, had six catches for 80 yards. 

“I try to see the positives,” Matthews said. “I liked seeing what PT was able to go out there and do. I was happy for him and his first live-game action, being able to go out there and make plays. I was also proud of Trey. His role got to expand with me being out and I think he played extremely well. He got to show what he can do and show how he can help this team. We just have to continue to utilize him moving forward. There’s always a positive in it. 

“We might not see it now, in a loss, but just think, some of those guys are going to be weapons for us in the future. And we saw they can go out and perform well without me in there, so I think it’s going to end up being a positive. But I definitely can’t wait to get back out there.”

Earlier in the week, head coach Doug Pederson said that even with Matthews’ returning, the team would still try to get Turner involved. Since the team sees Turner primarily as a slot receiver, that means Matthews could see time outside this weekend. There’s an even better chance when taking Green-Beckham’s injury into account. 

Before the season, Pederson talked a lot about wanting to play Matthews both inside and outside, but this season, Matthews has been in the slot for 74 percent of his snaps. Forty-four of his 57 catches have come from the slot too. 

On the play where Matthews hurt his ankle against the Packers, he was actually lined up outside and caught a back-shoulder throw from Wentz. 

“I was actually joking with Carson,” Matthews said, “I was like ‘bro, the reason I got hurt was because our back shoulder was better than Jordy [Nelson] and Aaron [Rodgers’]. So it didn’t mesh well with the universe. It wasn’t supposed to happen that way on Monday night for everybody to see, so the football gods took my ankle. So it’s all good. … That’s a joke.”

Matthews, despite being in his third season, is clearly one of the Eagles’ leaders on offense, especially in a very young receivers room. He’s looking forward to playing Washington after he thinks they were the first team that “actually came out and beat” them earlier in the year. 

With four games left in the regular season, the Eagles’ playoff chances are extremely slim. But Matthews thinks it’s important for the team to finish strong, especially with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. 

With Wentz, Matthews thinks the Eagles have already taken the first step toward building something special. 

“He’s the guy,” Matthews said. “He looks like the guy, he walks like the guy, he talks like it. And he goes out there and plays like it. It’s more we have to continue to ride around him and coach Pederson and be positive and go out there and produce.”

Eagles-Redskins scouting report: Secondary must stand up vs. Kirk Cousins

Eagles-Redskins scouting report: Secondary must stand up vs. Kirk Cousins

Eagles (5-7) vs. Redskins (6-5-1)
Sunday, 1 p.m. on Fox
Redskins favored by 2; over/under 47

When the Eagles went into FedEx Field in Week 6, they had an opportunity to leave 4-1 and in great position in the NFC East. Instead, what ensued was a stretch of three divisional losses in four weeks by a combined 18 points.

Two months later, the Eagles are out of the race at 5-7 while the 6-5-1 Redskins are still battling for an NFC wild-card spot. The 'Skins would be out of the playoffs if the season ended today — they currently hold the seventh spot in the NFC, behind the Bucs (7-5) but ahead of the Vikings and Packers (6-6).

This is obviously a crucial game for Washington, but the Eagles are just as desperate after losing by 11, 14 and 18 points the last three weeks. Don't underestimate the role desperation and a few weeks of embarrassment can have on a team's ability to bounce back. It was partly why I cautioned in these scouting reports the last two weeks not to count out either Green Bay or Cincinnati, teams that had more talent and stability than a few weeks of midseason losses indicated.

Cousins and Reed
The next time the Eagles limit Kirk Cousins will be the first time. In four games against them, he's completed 63 percent of his passes, averaged 336 yards, thrown 10 TDs and two interceptions and rushed for another score. Washington has averaged 31 points and won three of the four contests.

The Eagles' margin of error on defense is extremely small in this game. To win, they'll need a better effort against a Redskins' ground game that gashed them for 230 yards last time, they'll need to generate consistent pressure on Cousins and they'll need Jordan Reed to not be himself.

Reed, the NFC's most dangerous tight end, is questionable with a Grade 3 AC joint separation suffered on Thanksgiving. Reed was a warrior on Turkey Day, leaving the game in the second quarter, standing on the sideline in a sling, probably receiving a little (ahem) help at halftime, and then dominating in the second half in Dallas. Reed finished that game with 12 catches for 95 yards and two TDs, but was hurt badly enough to miss last week's game.

The Eagles were fortunate to avoid Reed in the season's earlier matchup. Fortunate because he destroyed them last December, catching nine passes for 129 yards and two TDs in a 14-point win. Washington uses its tight ends more than any offense in the league, and Reed is a mismatch even for an Eagles team that has allowed the fewest catches (31) and receiving yards (327) to tight ends. 

With Reed out in October, backup Vernon Davis burned the Eagles for two catches, 50 yards and a TD. But it sounds like Reed will play Sunday after telling reporters that his range of motion is back.

The issue in stopping Washington is the Eagles just don't have enough defensive backs to defend everything. It's why they need Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham to get consistent pressure and keep Cousins out of a rhythm. They haven't been able to do that. They had no sacks in Washington in Week 6 and have failed to sack Cousins in two of the last three meetings.

Without forcing Cousins to get off his spot and get the ball out quickly, the Eagles' secondary hasn't shown anything to inspire confidence they can stop DeSean Jackson, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, Reed and Davis at the same time.

To make matters worse, this is the first week Washington's All-Pro left tackle, Trent Williams, is back from a four-game substance abuse suspension. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams has allowed just three sacks in his last eight games against the Eagles.

Which Wentz will show?
Last week was Carson Wentz's worst game as an NFL quarterback. He missed wide-open throws, threw three interceptions and could have thrown more and barely exceeded 300 yards despite throwing the ball 60 times. 

He didn't look like the guy we saw the first four games of the season, and quite frankly he hasn't looked like a top-20 QB since October. 

The lack of weapons and occasionally poor protection are major reasons why, but Wentz isn't void of blame — he's simply missed some makeable throws.

Against Washington back on Oct. 16, Wentz was just 11 of 22 for 179 yards as the Eagles lost the time of possession battle. The best days belonged to Ryan Mathews (9 carries, 60 yards) and Jordan Matthews (three catches, 75 yards). Both are questionable heading into this one. 

Wentz didn't throw a single pass at Josh Norman in the first meeting. At times, Norman has followed the opposing team's top receiver, but don't expect him to do so this Sunday. Norman has lined up on the left side 64 percent of the time this season and in the slot just nine percent. 

Slot matchup
Matthews has run 73 percent of his routes from the slot and should draw third-round pick Kendall Fuller. As long as Matthews is sufficiently recovered from his ankle injury, this should be a good matchup for the Eagles. 

Fuller has been beaten repeatedly this season, allowing 42 catches (on 53 targets) for 542 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterbacks have a 123.9 rating against him, third-worst among all slot corners. (Malcolm Jenkins is actually worst in this category with a 137.9 QB rating allowed in the slot.)

Fuller has also struggled to wrap receivers up after the catch, allowing an NFL-high 213 yards after the catch. Picking up yards after a reception is something the Eagles have struggled to do all year.

Run game
The Eagles were shutting running backs down until they played the Redskins in October. Since-demoted RB Matt Jones rushed for 135 yards, current starter Rob Kelley rushed for 59, and both had a run of 45-plus yards.

Cox, Barwin and LB Nigel Bradham had awful games that afternoon against the run. It also didn't help that the Eagles were credited with 12 missed tackles. 

Run-stuffer Bennie Logan left that game early with a groin injury and missed the next three weeks. Since returning, however, Logan hasn't been himself, struggling to rush the passer and stop the run.

The Kerrigan factor
The Eagles always have trouble containing Redskins pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan, who had three sacks in the first meeting. 

Kerrigan has been a force in 2016 with 44 QB hurries, which is three more than Kahlil Mack and second-most among outside linebackers to Von Miller.

Kerrigan has nine sacks in 11 career games against the Eagles, and Washington is 5-1 when he has at least one against them.

Prediction
Close game, better performance from Wentz and an awakening in the run game, but not enough defensive talent to shut down what Washington will try to do deep with Jackson and Crowder, over the middle with Reed and short with Garcon.

Redskins 31, Eagles 27