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NFL AM: Chip Kelly Seizes Control of Philadelphia Eagles

Chip Kelly attacks off the field; Matthew Stafford aims to snap a dubious streak; and Zack Martin wins one for the football guys.

Michael Lombardo

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Kelly Seizes Personnel Control

Chip Kelly’s up-tempo attacks are not limited to the gridiron, apparently. Following just his second season as the Eagles head coach — a 10-6 campaign that left Philadelphia outside of the playoffs — Kelly convinced team owner Jeff Lurie to strip general manager Howie Roseman of the power to oversee the player personnel department and give that privilege to Kelly himself.

The Eagles carefully packaged the change in power structure as a promotion for Roseman, who was given an extension and the title of executive vice president of football operations. His duties will include dealing with the salary cap and contract negotiations, but the actual roster will now be selected and coached by Kelly.

“Howie, Chip and Don [Smolenski] are all united in their desire to win,” Lurie said. “Together, we decided this approach was the best course of action for the Philadelphia Eagles.”

There was a sense changes were coming after the Eagles parted ways with VP of player personnel Tom Gamble on Wednesday. Gamble was Kelly’s closest confidant on the personnel side.

It is tough to grade Philadelphia’s previous offseason. The draft was pretty much a bust, with only second-round pick Jordan Matthews making a sizable impact. Roseman did better with his veteran acquisitions, landing safety Malcolm Jenkins as a free agent and RB/KR Darren Sproles via trade.

Kelly’s top priority from a personnel standpoint will be shoring up Philadelphia’s defensive back seven. He will also have to stabilize the quarterback position, as another of last season’s free-agent additions (Mark Sanchez) is scheduled for free agency.

Kelly will be charged with adding a personnel executive to assist him in the process.

“This is not a one-man operation,” Kelly said. “It will truly take a team effort to acquire and develop the best football players and then put the best team on the field each week. It will take all of us working together.”

The Eagles hold the No. 20 pick in this year’s draft, the lowest pick by a non-playoff team.

Stafford Looks to Break the Bagel

Much has been made of Andy Dalton’s 0-3 record in the postseason, but Lions QB Matthew Stafford has a dubious mark of his own: since entering the league in 2009, Stafford is 0-17 on the road against teams with winning records. He will have to break that streak on Sunday against Dallas (12-4) for the Lions to advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs for the first time since 1991.

“I don’t really care too much about [the streak], honestly,” Stafford said. “I don’t play the game by myself. I play with 10 other guys on offense, 11 guys [on] defense and special teams as well. We’re all fighting tooth and nail to win games. No question.”

Stafford should be able to make some plays against a Cowboys defense that ranks No. 7 overall but just No. 16 against the pass. He will be sure to take some shots downfield to Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, as only five teams allowed more passes of 40-plus yards than the Cowboys (12).

Johnson had an all-time epic game the last time these teams met in 2013, going off for 14 catches, 329 yards and a touchdown. Most of those yards came against CB Brandon Carr, who was often left to battle Johnson one-on-one by former defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The game plan will be different this time around, and Johnson appears to be different too, as injuries have zapped some of his explosiveness.

No matter how the Cowboys defend Johnson, Stafford will have to find a way to be efficient on offense. There was some thought that Detroit could win a low-scoring affair if its top-ranked run defense slowed DeMarco Murray, who is the engine that drives all the Cowboys do. But that will be tougher with Nick Fairley listed as doubtful with a knee injury. Fortunately, Ndamukong Suh won’t miss the game after an arbitrator lifted his one-game suspension for stomping on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (and fining him instead).

Jim Caldwell, who led the Lions to 11 wins in his first year at the helm, is confident his quarterback is up for the challenge.

“He’s got the work habits, he’s got the ability and not only that, he’s shown flashes of playing extremely well,” Caldwell said of Stafford.

Stafford’s success better come in more than flashes on Sunday or these Lions could be just another postseason flash in a pan.

Martin Only Rookie on All-Pro Team

J.J. Watt and Rob Gronkowski were the only unanimous selections to the 2014 Associated Press NFL All Pro team, but their selections were hardly shocking. Perhaps the most surprising pick — not in the sense that it wasn’t earned, but in that this player emerged as a force so quickly — was Dallas rookie guard Zack Martin. The Cowboys’ first-round pick was the only rookie to earn first-team honors.

Martin was one of four Cowboys to earn the distinction, including fellow offensive lineman Tyron Smith.

“I wasn’t really coming in this year expecting to do this,” Martin said. “But it’s been a fun season.”

The great part about Martin’s significant impact is that Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones preferred to use his first-round pick on Johnny Manziel instead of Martin. But Dallas’ scouts fought tooth and nail to prevent Jones’ marketing instincts from stunting the Cowboys’ on-the-field growth for the umpteenth time. The football guys won out, for the first time in a long time, and the result was a 12-4 season and a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

While Martin served as the final piece of an offensive line that has been the league’s best blocking unit since Week 1, Manziel looked absolutely abysmal in limited opportunities in Cleveland. He spent too much time partying and not enough time studying, a concession he was forced to admit publicly at season’s end.

While Manziel’s hype proved to be only that, Martin is the one racking in accolades when they matter most.

Three players from the AFC North — Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas, Baltimore guard Marshal Yanda and Pittsburgh center Maurkice Pouncey — filled out the rest of the first-team offensive line.

Want to talk more about these and other headlines? Join Michael Lombardo for his weekly NFL Chat on Friday at 2pm EST. But you don’t have to wait until then … ask your question now!  

Michael Lombardo has spent more than 10 years as a team expert at Scout.com, primarily covering the Chargers, Cardinals and Panthers. He has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and other venues.

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