3rd-rounder Josh Huff reunites with Chip Kelly

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3rd-rounder Josh Huff reunites with Chip Kelly

For the first time in nearly a quarter of a century, the Eagles have drafted two wide receivers in the first three rounds of the draft.

After releasing DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant, who had the top two reception totals of any Eagles receivers over the past two decades, the Eagles moved to replace them on Friday.

They began the day by selecting Vanderbilt receiver Jordan Matthews in the second round (see story) and finished it by adding Oregon receiver Josh Huff in the third.

“It’s lovely to be reunited with him,” Huff said. “When I saw that 215 come up on my phone, I started to cry. It’s a dream come true for me. Can’t wait to get out there and come to work.”

‪Huff (see bio), the 86th player taken in this year’s draft, is the first Oregon player Chip Kelly has drafted since he left the Ducks to become the Eagles’ head coach last year.

Huff said Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost told him recently the Eagles would draft him in the third round.

“Obviously, I know him extremely well,” Kelly said. “Outstanding young man, great position versatility. Josh played every wide receiver position at Oregon, played a little running back early in his career, he’s returned kicks, he’s an outstanding special teams player.

“He’s a physical football player, a shade under six feet, he can run, he’s got a nasty presence about him. Really excited to see if we can add him to the group.”

Huff said the fact that he was drafted by his college coach means he’ll have to work that much harder to show he’s not just here because of who he played for in college.

“Go in and prove myself and prove that the reason he drafted me isn’t just because I played for him,” he said.

This is the first time since 1990 the Eagles have taken two wide receivers within the first three rounds. That year, they drafted Mike Bellamy in the second round and Freddie Barnett in the third -- then added Calvin Williams in the fifth.

And there could be a third on Saturday, when the Eagles have picks 101, 141, 162 and 237.

"We're not averse to taking another one tomorrow, either,” Kelly said.

But even though the Eagles went into the draft with only Jeremy Maclin and Riley Cooper on the roster as experienced wide receivers and this was considered the strongest wide receiver draft ever, Kelly said the Eagles weren’t necessarily focused on taking wideouts with two of their first three picks.

It just worked out that way.

“We’re following exactly the way [the board] was,” Kelly said. “It’s staring you in the face. He was the highest-ranked guy we had. … You just keep picking the names off the board and look up, who’s the highest-ranked guy?”

‪Huff caught 144 passes for 2,366 yards at Oregon and had a breakthrough season last year with 62 receptions for 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 18.4 yards per catch last year -- one of the top-20 figures in Division I -- and 16.4 in his career.

‪Huff also returned kickoffs as a freshman, averaging 24.7 yards on 23 returns.

It wasn’t until his senior year that Huff even had 500 receiving yards in a season. But he made a huge jump this past year.

“Just hard work, dedication and just staying patient and waiting my turn,” he said. “I had a great offensive team at Oregon, a lot of off weapons and I had a great quarterback in Marcus Mariota.”

‪The Eagles went into the third round with picks 83 and 86 but traded No. 83 -- acquired Thursday from the Browns -- to the Texans in exchange for two Saturday picks -- No. 101 overall in the fourth round and No. 141 overall in the fifth round.

Kelly said he considers Huff a potentially outstanding special teams player as well as receiving depth.

“He’s got an opportunity to play in the National Football League and he’s graduated from college,” Kelly said. “He’s a great young man.”

Kelly said he removed himself from early talks about Huff, since he coached him in college, and he didn’t want his relationship with his former recruit to shade his opinions.

“I try to divorce myself from that situation,” he said.

Eagles propose four rules to be considered by NFL next week

Eagles propose four rules to be considered by NFL next week

Next week, when the NFL convenes for its owners meetings in Phoenix, there will be 15 proposed rule changes under consideration by the competition committee. 

While the one proposed rule change would cut regular-season overtime from 15 to 10 minutes (see story), there are 14 others up for discussion. 

Of those 15, seven were submitted by NFL teams. And of those seven, four were submitted by the Eagles

Three of the four rule proposals from the Eagles are safety related. 

Here are the four from the Eagles, per the NFL: 

1. Gives additional protections for long snappers on kick plays. 

2. Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. 

3. Expands the “crown of helmet” foul to include “hairline” part of helmet. 

4. Amends the challenge system by granting a third challenge if a club is successful on at least one of its initial two challenges, and expands reviewable plays outside of two minutes of each half.

The first proposed rule would offer long snappers -- Jon Dorenbos included -- some extra protection. It would add this language to Article 6, Unnecessary Roughness: "When a team is in scrimmage kick formation, a defensive player may not initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed after the snap." 

The second proposed rule change is one of the proposals that has garnered the most attention. Basically, the league now allows players to leap over the line of scrimmage on kicks as long as they don't touch anyone. This new rule would completely outlaw the process of leaping over the line. 

It seems like this rule change is likely to happen. The NFLPA has previously asked for this rule to be changed. 

"So the inevitable is going to happen, and just hearing from the players association, Philly now proposing it is really in the best interest of the game," former Eagle and league football operations director Troy Vincent said on a conference call Thursday. 

The next rule does pretty much exactly what it says: it expands the area that is considered to be the "crown of the helmet." 

Here's the new language that would be added to Article 8, Initiating Contact with the Crown of the Helmet: "Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the crown or 'hairline' parts of the helmet against any part of an opponent shall be considered a foul even if the initiating player's head moves after initial contact and the majority of contact occurs with the side or front of the helmet."

Finally, the last proposal isn't a safety one. It's about replay and is pretty self-explanatory for the most part. 

The reasoning given for this rule change on the proposal: "Provides coaches with a greater opportunity to correct subjective officiating errors, but excludes those fouls that have a minimal opportunity for reversal."

NFL owners mull cut of regular-season overtime to 10 minutes

NFL owners mull cut of regular-season overtime to 10 minutes

NEW YORK -- NFL owners will consider proposals next week to cut regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10; eliminate players leaping over the line on kick plays; and expansion of coaches' challenges and what can be reviewed by officials.

In what promises to be a busy annual meeting next week in Phoenix that will include discussing the Raiders' potential relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, the 32 owners also will vote on changing the mechanics on replay reviews and other items intended to reduce downtime during games.

The Eagles proposed four rules changes, including abolishing the leaping techniques that league football operations director Troy Vincent said Thursday "don't belong in the game."

Seattle and Buffalo co-authored a proposal allowing a coach to challenge any officiating decision, whether a foul is called or not.

"That is a significant change to our current replay rule and it is something that will be on the floor and will be debated next week," NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said.

Another major change would be the reduction of overtime in-season; the extra period in the playoffs would remain at 15 minutes. The powerful competition committee, of which Vincent and Blandino are members, believed it's a player safety issue, noting that number of snaps for games going to OT -- especially deep into the overtime -- is excessive. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround.

"We don't know where a team is going to be playing the next week, it could be four days later," said committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We felt we should put an end to it. We don't think it will lead to more ties. Could it? It could, but we are not concerned with that."

As for changing the format of overtime to ensure both teams always get a possession -- a popular topic after how the Super Bowl ended -- Blandino said the league's wants to keep the element of sudden death in the extra period.

The "leaper rule" has taken some priority among competition committee members, the players' union and coaches. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue."

"It is really in the best interest of the game" to outlaw leaping on kicks," Vincent added.

McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique.

During the meetings that run from Sunday to Wednesday, the teams will be shown plays the competition committee believes should result in suspensions or ejections. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016.

"They don't happen very often, let's give the players credit," McKay said. "We have 40,000 plays in a year. We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension. This is not a widespread situation."

Added Vincent, a former NFL defensive back: "When you see the plays, they are catastrophic. We had two players who did not return for the season. They are high-impact plays that belong out of the game. It will be a real point of emphasis this season."