Philadelphia Eagles

Kelly: Jenkins' versatility stood out over rest

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Kelly: Jenkins' versatility stood out over rest

OK, so Malcolm Jenkins isn’t a playmaker like Jairus Byrd or imposing in the box like T.J. Ward. He doesn’t have a fancy nickname like “Donte Hitner” and probably isn’t as accomplished as Antoine Bethea.

Jenkins clearly wasn’t the sexy name at safety in free agency, but there’s a reason Eagles coach Chip Kelly prioritized the former Saints safety on his offseason wish list.

Jenkins might not be outstanding in any one aspect of his game, but his steadiness, durability and versatility is what caught the coach’s attention.

“When you look at some guys (on the market), they’re just free safeties and some guys they’re just strong safeties,” Kelly said Friday night to reporters in Atlantic City at the Maxwell Club Awards, where he was honored as pro football coach of the year. “We need some versatility.”

Byrd, who has an NFL-most 22 interceptions by a safety since his rookie year in 2009, isn’t a hard hitter and already has battled foot injuries. Ward and Whitner can bring the pain, but neither is considered an above-average cover guy.

Jenkins, who entered the league as a corner before moving to safety, has played all over the secondary and isn’t unfamiliar to playing in the box, patrolling deep or manning the slot.

For the scheme Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis run, which is designed to create guesswork for the quarterback by moving players around, Jenkins fits the bill.

Even if he’s just OK compared to his free-agent counterparts.

“I think when you know when you’re playing a team and that guy's always going to be the deep safety and that guy's going to be the down safety, when you play against guys like Peyton Manning, you better not always have the same guys doing the same thing,” Kelly said. “So the more versatile your guys are, I think he can cover, he can play man because he's got the corner skills, he can also play free safety because he's got range. But he can also play down in the box.

“So the one thing about Malcolm we thought all along for us that he was the right guy we were looking for because of his versatility, and there were some other guys out there that are tremendous football players. But for what Billy was looking for and we were looking for on the defensive side of the ball, Malcolm just seemed to be the guy that, as we kept going through and analyzing everybody and figuring out who was the right fit for us.”

Kelly caught a bird’s-eye view of Jenkins’ impact on a defense in January, when the Saints held the Eagles under their season average for points in a 26-23 win over the home Eagles in Kelly’s playoff debut at the Linc.

He observed Jenkins, a two-time captain, directing traffic in New Orleans’ secondary and lining up in different spots in different formations.

It’s exactly what he wants in his safeties.

“That’s huge,” Kelly said. “I mean, the guy that sets our front is DeMeco [Ryans] and then you really need a guy on the back end to set the back end, and that’s what part of the whole deal is. That’s where Malcolm’s versatility [helps], and to have a guy back there that is a student of the game, that studies it, that puts us in the right things.

“A lot of things we do are based on formations, so Billy may set a defensive call late but now it depends on what they come out in. So to have a guy back there that’s smart, that can recognize it, that if they came out in this you know they’re in empty, our automatic check is this. You got to have a guy back there that’s the quarterback of the back end and that can really make the decisions that have to be made, to put us in the right coverage, to put us in the right situations to make plays and at times, some of the communication points, to some of the breakdowns, to some of our bigger plays that occurred against us defensively last year.

“So to add a guy like Malcolm was a huge plus for us and that’s why when we really broke everything down he was the guy that we really targeted and were excited to gather.”

NFL Notes: Supporters hold rally for Colin Kaepernick at NFL headquarters

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NFL Notes: Supporters hold rally for Colin Kaepernick at NFL headquarters

NEW YORK -- Supporters of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem to protest police brutality against blacks, showed their solidarity with him and his cause at a rally outside the headquarters of the National Football League on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 people, many wearing jerseys bearing Kaepernick's name, crowded the steps outside the NFL's midtown Manhattan offices.

Kaepernick, who once took the 49ers to the Super Bowl, opted out of his contract with the team in March and remains unsigned. Supporters say he is being blackballed for his advocacy, but some critics say he should not have sat or kneeled during the anthem or contend his lack of a job is more about his on-field talent.

Chants at the demonstration included "Boycott! Boycott!" Women's March organizer Tamika Mallory, addressing football fans, said, "I don't care how long you've been watching football, if they don't stand up for your children, turn the damn TV off."

Political commentator Symone Sanders said, "We are all standing with Kaepernick. It is time for the NFL to put up or shut up" (see full story).

Browns: Kizer to start at QB in 3rd preseason game
BEREA, Ohio -- Rookie DeShone Kizer is Cleveland's new starting quarterback.

Coach Hue Jackson has elected to go with Kizer, a second-round pick from Notre Dame, over veterans Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Kizer has been the most consistent of the three during training camp and led the Browns to three touchdowns during his two exhibition appearances.

Jackson said Kizer will start Saturday's exhibition in Tamp Bay and "is certainly positioning himself well to earn the starting job heading into the regular season."

The Browns open the season on Sept. 10 against Pittsburgh.

Unless he stumbles against the Buccaneers, Kizer will be the 27th different quarterback to start for the Browns since 1999. The big-armed 21-year-old has shown no signs of being intimidated by the jump to the pros after making 23 starts in two seasons for the Fighting Irish (see full story).

Raiders: Pro Bowl LT Penn ends holdout
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Pro Bowl left tackle Donald Penn has ended his holdout with the Oakland Raiders.

Penn reported for practice on Wednesday, ending his 26-day holdout. Penn was looking for an improved contract but general manager Reggie McKenzie said earlier in training camp that he would not negotiate a new deal with Penn until he arrived at camp.

The Raiders could have fined Penn $40,000 for each day of camp he missed but the team is not expected to do that.

Penn is entering the final year of an $11.9 million, two-year contract. He is scheduled to earn $5.8 million in base salary this season with another $1.3 million in incentives and bonuses (see full recap).

Steelers: Star RB Bell hints at return date
PITTSBURGH -- Steelers star Le'Veon Bell has suggested on Twitter that he will return to the team on Sept. 1, the day after Pittsburgh's final preseason game.

Bell hasn't signed his franchise tender and has been holding out through training camp. Responding to a fan Tuesday night asking when he plans to end his holdout, Bell wrote: "9-1-17" and added a wink.

The franchise tender offered Bell will guarantee him $12.1 million for the upcoming season. The two-time Pro Bowl running back has been seeking a long-term deal.

Bell rushed for 1,268 yards and seven touchdowns last season and also caught 75 passes for 616 yards and two TDs.

Redskins: Reed makes on-field debut at practice
ASHBURN, Va. -- Jordan Reed is back at practice with the Washington Redskins.

The 27-year-old tight end made his on-field debut Wednesday after missing almost the first month of practices with a toe injury. Reed missed the team's first two preseason games and was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Sunday.

Reed was examined by a foot specialist Aug. 1 and recently started using wider shoes and orthotics to help alleviate the soreness in the big toe on his left foot. Last week he said it felt better when running routes and walking around and doesn't expect the injury to affect him during the season.

One of quarterback Kirk Cousins' most consistent and effective targets, Reed had 66 catches for 686 yards and six touchdowns last season despite missing four games with injury (see full story).

Giants: OL Bowie waived after domestic charges disclosed 
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Giants have waived Michael Bowie days after finding out that the offensive lineman had been charged with assault and battery in Oklahoma.

The Giants announced the decision Wednesday along with three moves.

The team learned of the charges on Saturday and did not allow the 25-year-old free agent to make the trip to Cleveland for a preseason game against the Browns on Monday night.

Bowie is accused of grabbing his girlfriend by the neck during a fight at her home in Bixby, Oklahoma, then broke two televisions and punched a hole in the wall.

Court records don't list an attorney for Bowie, a Tulsa resident. His agent says Bowie is working to prove his innocence, saying there was no physical contact with the girlfriend.

New York also waived offensive linemen Corin Brooks, and waived/injured wideouts Darius Powe and Andrew Turzilli (see full story).

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

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Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman heading to Saints

Former Eagles special teamer Bryan Braman has agreed to terms to join the New Orleans Saints on a one-year deal, according to his agent Sean Stellato. 

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport first reported the deal. 

Braman, 30, spent the last three seasons with the Eagles and played a major role on Dave Fipp's unit, which has been considered one of the top in the NFL during that span. He had been a free agent throughout the spring and summer after his contract ran out with the Eagles. 

Braman came to Philadelphia as a free agent from the Texans before the 2014 season on a two-year deal and later restructured his contract to take a pay cut and give him an extra year in Philly. 

While Braman rarely made it on the field for the defense in those next three seasons, he played a total of 1,214 special teams snaps, the most of any player on the team. He played in all 48 games over the last three seasons. 

Even without Braman, the Eagles still have plenty of key special teams players like Chris Maragos, Najee Goode and Kamu Grugier-Hill.