- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The team Chip Kelly coached was much better than the one he put together.

After going 20-13, including playoffs, in his first two seasons as coach-only of the Philadelphia Eagles, Kelly won a power struggle and took control of personnel decisions. He then overhauled a roster made up of players he inherited and guys selected by former general manager Howie Roseman.

With Kelly calling all the shots now, the Eagles are off to a 3-4 start going into their bye. They’re still in the mix in a mediocre NFC East, but hardly seem capable of winning if they even make the playoffs.

Of course, Kelly has an optimistic view.

“We are a good football team. We just need to clean things up,” he said.

Kelly firmly believes in his system and his decisions, especially the bold ones. If the Eagles lose, he blames it on poor execution. He says he picked the right players. They just have to do their job better.

His two biggest offseason acquisitions were Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray. Bradford is struggling and Murray has been a major disappointment after leading the NFL in rushing last season with Dallas.

Bradford’s passer rating (76.0) is fourth worst in the league, his average yards per completion (6.5) is third worst and he has 10 interceptions. But Kelly isn’t considering benching Bradford for Mark Sanchez, who had more success running the offense last season after Nick Foles got hurt.

“I think our quarterback is playing well,” Kelly said. “I have been very pleased with Sam.”

Benching Bradford means Kelly is acknowledging he made a bad move trading Foles and a 2016 second-round pick to St. Louis to get him, so it’s no surprise he’s sticking with his man.

As for Murray, he’s been Philadelphia’s third-best running back behind Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Mathews is averaging 6.1 yards per carry to Murray’s 3.5. Matthews has 342 yards rushing to Murray’s 307. Yet Murray has 32 more carries.

Kelly avoids direct questions about their playing time by insisting running backs coach Duce Staley is responsible for rotating the three backs. That would seem as if Kelly’s deflecting blame, but he’s not.

“Duce does a great job with those guys, and I have full trust in Duce doing that,” he said.

Murray got a bigger contract in free agency ($42 million to $11.5 million for Mathews) so he might be getting a bulk of the work to justify the signing.

“Not at all,” Kelly said, denying that theory.

Murray and Mathews were signed after Kelly traded two-time All-Pro LeSean McCoy to Buffalo for linebacker Kiko Alonso. While McCoy is having a so-so season for the Bills, Alonso has only played two games after re-injuring the surgically repaired knee that forced him to miss the 2014 season.

The questionable decisions don’t stop there.

Kelly let Pro Bowl wide receiver Jeremy Maclin walk away in free agency and replaced him with first-round pick Nelson Agholor. The rookie has eight catches and Philadelphia’s receivers lead the NFL in drops.

“I don’t think it’s talent,” Kelly said. “I just think it’s sometimes a concentration issue with some of those guys.”

And, Kelly released two-time Pro Bowl left guard Evan Mathis following a contract dispute. The offensive line was in disarray the first month of the season.

At least the defense is doing well.

Byron Maxwell hasn’t played up to the $63 million contract he got to be a shutdown cornerback, but he’s improving. Safety Walter Thurmond was a solid addition and rookie linebacker Jordan Hicks has been a valuable player at a position depleted by injuries.

The Eagles play at Dallas (2-4) after their week off and the Cowboys won’t have Tony Romo back for that game. They already dominated the Giants (4-3) and get a rematch against the Redskins (3-4) at home.

The division will come down to the team playing the best in December and the Eagles have three straight home games before finishing on the road against the Giants.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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