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.”

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

Report: Eagles work weight incentive into LeGarrette Blount's contract

The Eagles' biggest back might be getting a bit smaller in the coming weeks.

According to a tweet from ESPN's Field Yates, LeGarrette Blount has an incentive in his contract with the Eagles that will net him $50,000 if he weighs in between 240 and 245 pounds when the team reports for training camp on July 24. Blount's one-year deal carries a $1.25 million cap, including a $900,000 base salary as well as a $200,000 signing bonus.

Currently, the Eagles' website lists the two-time Super Bowl champion running back at 6-foot, 250 pounds — at least 30 pounds heavier than any back currently on the roster. 

When asked how much he weighs at an introductory press conference last month, Blount responded, "The weight I need to be at."

Weight clauses have become more and more common, especially with running backs. Seattle's Eddie Lacy earned $55,000 in May when he tipped the scales at 255 pounds (or fewer) and the Seahawks' bruising back will have the chance to earn another $330,000 over the course of six more weigh-ins through the end of the regular season.

The same goes for Atlanta defensive lineman Dontari Poe, who could bank as much as $500,000 in bonuses if he slims down to 330 pounds from his listed 346 pounds.

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Eagles have NFL's best offensive line, according to Pro Football Focus

Thanks to Lane Johnson’s suspension and a few injuries, the Eagles' offensive line unit wasn’t what most expected it to be in 2016. Should things go according to plan on the O-line in 2017, expectations are high. For Pro Football Focus, they’re as high as it gets.

PFF ranked the Eagles’ O-line No. 1 in the entire league heading into this season, citing the fact that it has the “fewest holes.”

Center Jason Kelce is considered their biggest question mark, but even though his abilities have faded a bit with age, he hasn’t missed a snap in two seasons. That has to count for something.

Allen Barbre and second-year Eagle Brandon Brooks, who allowed just one sack last season, complete the line’s interior. Then, of course, the tackle tandem of Jason Peters and Lane Johnson is hard to beat. PFF says Johnson, when on the field, was the best right tackle last season. Johnson would agree.

Even beyond the first-team unit, the Eagles have experience. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Isaac Seumalo both saw unexpected snaps as rookies last season because of the reshuffling. That should help moving forward.

Rounding out PFF’s top three are the Browns and Steelers. Cleveland boosted its corps by signing J.C. Tretter and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. The Steelers had the best unit during the second half of last season.

More notably for Eagles fans, the Cowboys come in at No. 9 in PFF’s rankings after owning one of the league’s best O-lines in recent years. Ronald Leary and Doug Free are gone, and La’el Collins’ move to right tackle is not a sure bet for success.

Washington sits two slots below at No. 11. PFF considers continuity the 'Skins' greatest strength — they return all five O-line starters from last season and four of five from 2015.

And the Giants, well, it’ll take some scrolling to reach their spot on the list: No. 28. Left tackle Ereck Flowers was the worst among his position in pressures allowed as a rookie. Eli Manning could be in for a busy season.