<
>

With Dez Bryant out, Eagles' coverage plans might change

PHILADELPHIA – When Chip Kelly took a machete to his depth chart, disposing of three starting defensive backs and bringing half a dozen new DBs in through free agency and the draft, it’s hard to imagine this was his plan.

One of his starting cornerbacks is Nolan Carroll, who was on the roster last season.

His safety in nickel situations is Chris Maragos, a special teams player who seldom played on defense last season.

His top cornerback, Byron Maxwell, was acquired at a cost of $63 million over six years. Maxwell was beaten badly in Atlanta on Monday night, allowing nine receptions for 179 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, second-round draft pick Eric Rowe played only on special teams in Atlanta. One sixth-round pick, JaCorey Shepherd, is on injured reserve. The other, Randall Evans, is on the practice squad.

It won’t necessarily remain this way, Kelly said Wednesday.

“A lot of it was because of what Atlanta did,” Kelly said. “A lot of times, Julio [Jones] ended up in the slot. We wanted a bigger, more physical guy in there.”

That meant safety Malcolm Jenkins moved into the slot when Jones was there. Maragos came in as a deep safety.

Against Dallas, things are likely to be different. The injury to wide receiver Dez Bryant all but assures that.

“It will change this week,” Kelly said. “Is Dallas going to change with Dez being out? Are they going to bring other guys in?”

If the Cowboys put the 5-foot-8 Cole Beasley into the slot, the Eagles would likely counter with Rowe or E.J. Biggers rather than Jenkins. That would allow Jenkins to remain at safety, which would eliminate the need to play Maragos there.

“It’s not just, 'Dez is out, the other receiver comes in the game,'" Kelly said. “They don’t have to do that. They can move Beasley outside or Terrance Williams, and play with two tight ends. That becomes different for us.

“What are they doing? Who is that guy? Is it [tight end Gavin] Escobar? Is it Beasley? Depending how they deploy their guys, that will dictate how we deploy our guys.”

The Eagles will happily take the uncertainty if the alternative is trying to stop Bryant, who has a broken bone in his foot.

“He’s really good,” Kelly said.