After unloading some older players and bigger contracts – and acquiring Kiko Alonso in the process – Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly made a few things abundantly clear this week. One, he wants his own guys. Two, he’s not afraid to make big moves. And three, he will very likely make a play for Marcus Mariota in this year’s draft.
“It’s interesting,” NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “The LeSean McCoy thing, that would have been expensive to keep, even though we think he’s a great player. This Kiko Alonso kid, he may be the best-kept secret in the National Football League. This kid is another Luke Kuechly kind of guy. I mean, he is a baller now.”
Alonso, 24, was the Pro Football Writers Association Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013, this after compiling 159 tackles, 2.0 sacks, four interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL.
“And the other thing is, when you talk salary cap, his salary is $780,000,” Mariucci said. “He’s not a $12 million cap hit. So he’s going to be around again. He should be recovered and healthy. I think people will be surprised. I think Chip wants to have his guys that are loyal to him, that know him. That’s why I’m thinking maybe this guy moves up and gets Marcus Mariota.”
You have to wonder, though, if Kelly’s decision to deal McCoy might turn off potential free agents from coming to Philly. We all know the NFL is a cutthroat business, but given who Kelly released and traded, is he more cutthroat than the average coach? Will that turn players off?
“Chip’s offensive scheme is different than everybody else’s,” Mariucci said. “Chip’s offensive scheme is college-like, and it’s exciting and it’s productive and it’s all those things. I was with Marcus Mariota yesterday. We were together for five hours and watching his film. That system is kind of fun to watch. Guys are wide open and there’s big gaps. It’s wide open spaces. It’s kind of fun and different. And I think if there’s any confidence in scheme with Chip Kelly, it’s his offensive scheme plugging in different players that can run and catch.
“And so, let’s face it,” Mariucci continued. “If the contract is comparable to somewhere else, the money is right, the contract is right and you feel the depth on that position is such that you can start and be a good players and win games, I think you go there. I don’t know if Chip’s at a point where people are going to avoid going to the Eagles because you never know what’s going to happen. I don’t know. Let’s wait and see. He’s been pretty good for two years. This is a surprising trade, yeah, but I think it’s going to work out for LeSean, and I think it’s going to work out certainly for Kiko Alonso.”
Looking at Jameis Winston, meanwhile, Mariucci said he would draft him without hesitation. Mariucci coached Winston three years ago in the Under Armour All-America game and recently got a chance to sit down with him.
Winston, as we all know, has made some questionable off-field decisions, but he was also a 4.0 student in high school who got accepted to Stanford.
“I know I can’t get accepted to Stanford,” Mariucci said. “This guy’s bright. Bright as heck. So when you sit him down, you try to stump him.”
Mariucci would draw plays on a board and then make Winston recall one specific one 20 minutes later.
“He was spot on,” Mariucci said. “He was bright and confident and funny. He had a sense of humor, and it was very impressive. He’s a very impressive kid.”
Mariucci doesn’t necessarily agree with Ron Jaworski, who this week said he has concerns about Winston’s mechanics.
“I think if you look at every quarterback in the National Football League, mechanically they’re all a bit different than each other,” Mariucci said. “I think if Jaws were to detail and really eventuate Philip Rivers’ mechanics, he would say, ‘This guy is a very awkward passer.’ So as long as the job gets done, I think (it’s okay). And I had a guy named Brett Favre and his mechanics were always off a little bit. It was more, ‘Get the ball there. I don’t care what it looks like.’
“So mechanically, is (Winston) perfect?” Mariucci continued. “No, he’s not. He’s not Tom Brady. He’s not pretty. He’s not going to have a clinic film on him with all of this stuff. But I think he’s good enough. I think he’s coachable enough. I think he’s a young kid. He’s only been there three years, so you’re going to have a guy that has a lot of practice and rep time in front of him, so he can smoothen out some of the things Jaws might be talking about. That doesn’t concern me. It wouldn’t be a reason not to draft him.”