More and more, this is becoming Chip Kelly’s team. And we’re not talking about scheme or play-calling or even Kelly’s beloved “culture.’’ We’re talking about the faces behind the facemasks (and, no, it’s not about skin color).
Kelly has been coach of the Eagles for 31 months now, and the turnover on his roster in that short amount of time has been prodigious. Most of the attention has gone to the quality of the turnover, as Kelly has gotten rid of Pro Bowl players like DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Nick Foles, Trent Cole, Jeremy Maclin and Evan Mathis. Lost in the shuffle has been the systematic elimination of Andy Reid’s players, the guys who were here before Kelly and, therefore, are not his guys.
On the current training camp roster of 90 players, there are only 13 who played for Reid, which means 77 were acquired by Kelly in a little over two years — including rookie wide receiver Mike Johnson from the University of Delaware, who signed a free-agent contract with the Eagles on Monday.
And that may be the real reason he traded cornerback Brandon Boykin to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. Boykin made headlines when he suggested that Kelly is uncomfortable around “grown men of our culture,’’ which everyone assumed meant he agreed with former Eagles like McCoy and Tra Thomas, who said that some of Kelly’s decisions were racially motivated.
Boykin later said that he didn’t mean to say that Kelly was biased against black players, and even though I don’t know Kelly at all, other than the glimpses you get of him at press conferences, I don’t think he’s a racist — I think he’s uncomfortable around a lot of people if the subject isn’t football. As much as he rambles on at times in press conferences – reporters can take one Kelly quote, cut it up into three pieces, and use it in different parts of their articles — Kelly isn’t much of one for small talk or even eye contact unless it’s in the context of football.
Anyhow, the real reason Boykin is a Steeler now is because he didn’t fit Kelly’s vision of what an NFL cornerback should be (tall) and Kelly’s vision is the only one that counts anymore. And that’s why there’s been such dramatic roster turnover in such a short amount of time.
In case you were wondering, the Reid-era Eagles still on the roster include (as of this writing, at least):
No quarterbacks or running backs.
One wide receiver (Riley Cooper) out of 12 wide receivers on the training camp roster.
One tight end (Brent Celek) out of six.
Four offensive linemen (Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly) out of 16.
Three defensive linemen (Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton, Vinny Curry) out of 12.
Three linebackers (DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brandon Graham) out of 13.
Zero defensive backs out of 15.
One long-snapper (Jon Dorenbos).
And that dwindling number of Reid players will continue to shrink as fringe players such as Cooper and Vandervelde are replaced and good players like Celek, Ryans and Peters ride off into retirement, and all three of them are a lot closer to the end than the beginning.
Kelly will hold onto good Reid players like Fletcher Cox and Vinny Curry, but pretty soon the roster will be almost entirely his. And we get the feeling Chip Kelly won’t be entirely happy until that day comes.