By John McMullen, NFL Editor
REPORT DATE: July 25
SITE: NovaCare Complex, Philadelphia, PA
CAMP CONFIDENTIAL: "In Chip we trust" might be the mantra surrounding Philadelphia football in 2014.
Eagles second-year coach Chip Kelly gave up on one of the game's best, pure home-run hitters who was coming off a career year in DeSean Jackson because "Jaccpot" didn't "buy in" to Kelly's way of doing things.
Hindsight will ultimately prove that to be incredible hubris on Kelly's part or provide further proof that the former Oregon mentor is indeed one of the great offensive minds of this generation.
Jeremy Maclin, who is returning from a torn ACL, and the lengthy Riley Cooper will start at receiver for the Birds with rookie second-round pick Jordan Matthews hoping to mix in frequently. None possesses the pure, gamebreaking ability of Jackson, though, so the spacing Kelly craves figures to be a bit more difficult to create this time around.
A second major issue propped up late in June when reports surfaced that second-year right tackle Lane Johnson tested positive for a performance- enhancing drug and is set to be suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the upcoming season.
Johnson will be able to practice during camp but the Eagles also have to get veteran Allen Barbre ready to fill-in.
KEY OFFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Matthews is a completely different receiver than Jackson, offering a big body in the slot for the bubble screen Kelly likes so much. The 6-foot-3 Matthews needs to be more consistent catching the ball but early returns have been favorable and the Eagles think they really have something with the second-round pick out of Vanderbilt.
KEY DEFENSIVE ACQUISITION: Philadelphia has struggled at safety since former six-time All-Pro Brian Dawkins walked in free agency after the 2008 season. The Eagles feel they finally have a solid presence on the back end after signing former Saints first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins in free agency.
"He had the specific skill set that we were looking for," Kelly said. "So he was the No. 1 guy we were looking for in free agency."
That skill set Kelly is speaking of is coverage skills, a necessity for a defense which ranked last in the NFL last season defending the pass, allowing an average of 289.8 yards per game.
"It's just about making the calls and eliminating the dumb mistakes to where you (limit) big plays or blown coverages," Jenkins said. "That's where I come in, as far as knowing the defense, making the right calls, and getting everybody lined up so then we can go play fast."
PRESEASON SCHEDULE (All Times Eastern):
Aug 8 - at Chicago, 8:00 PM Aug 15 - at New England, 7:30 PM Aug 21 - vs. Pittsburgh, 7:30 PM Aug 28 - vs. NY Jets, 7:00 PM
07/17 12:28:40 ET