PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles have been in training camp for almost two weeks. Now they will start to play football.
The preseason opener against the Chicago Bears Friday night will be the first live action for the Eagles since their playoff loss to New Orleans in January. For head coach Chip Kelly and his staff, that will mean a first real chance to evaluate all the new players acquired through the draft, trade and free agency.
“It’s really a chance to see guys in live action, with officials, in a different setting,” Kelly said Wednesday before a walk-through practice session. “We’ll see which guys can show up a little bit. That’s the interesting thing of this. There’s going to be some guys who maybe you didn’t have an idea where they’re going to be. There’s going to be some other guys who are maybe a disappointment. You don’t know until you put them into action.”
Kelly will also be watching to see how Nick Foles looks in his first game since the Pro Bowl, how tight end Zach Ertz has progressed during the offseason and how his reconfigured secondary handles Chicago’s powerful passing attack.
“You want to see everybody,” Kelly said. “You want to be able to evaluate them. We haven’t played a game since the beginning of January against the Saints. So we’re going to get out there against a different colored jersey and find out what we’ve got. There’s a certain amount of work I think everyone that’s healthy needs to get in.”
Kelly also sees value in exposing his players to the NFL’s new emphasis on enforcing certain rules, particularly ones that will have an impact on the passing game. Receivers have to be able to get separation without pushing off. Defensive backs can’t make too much contact, even within the 5-yard zone off the line of scrimmage.
“There’s a new emphasis in the league with some rule changes,” Kelly said. “You’ve got officials. Although we had a real good session with the officials here last week, we didn’t have all seven of them. There wasn’t a referee, there weren’t guys watching the interior of the line. How do we handle that?”
The officials who worked the Eagles’ camp last week promised flags would “rain down” during the preseason, according to defensive coordinator Bill Davis.
“It’s exciting to get back out and play football for real,” Kelly said.