— Legitimate Super Bowl contention is probably at least a year away.
Still, the Philadelphia Eagles have made great strides since Chip Kelly took over as coach in January 2013 in re-shaping the team as he sees fit.
In a general sense, they've become bigger, better-conditioned and smarter. And, oh yeah, they're a team again, the antithesis of the fractured 2012 group that led to head coach Andy Reid and all but two of his assistants leaving town, not to mention dozens of players over the last year-and-a-half, including the enigmatic DeSean Jackson.
Kelly and his staff have done a remarkable job coaching players up. That 2013 saw Jackson and running back LeSean McCoy have career years and second-year quarterback Nick Foles play at a level befitting Tom Brady and Peyton Manning is no coincidence.
Even the defense, overmatched at times, put together a stretch of nine games in which it allowed 21 points or less. Not even the 1991 Eagles were able to do that.
But more important than the job the staff does after getting players into the system has been the job of screening them in the first place.
That's where these last two drafts Kelly has been in on have come into play as being the clearest indicators of what direction he's trying to move in and how fast he's going.
There will be no more skiers (Jeremy Bloom), firemen (Danny Watkins) or players with hobbies or pursuits equal to or greater than playing football (Jackson, Shawn Andrews, Nnamdi Asomugha, to name a fraction) in the organization. Period.
Furthermore, there will be no more radical position conversion attempts, except in the case of the veterans he inherited (Trent Cole and Brandon Graham), who have way more NFL experience than him.
Draft piece by draft piece and free agent by free agent, the Eagles have grown.
In every sense.
In this year's draft, they selected 6-foot-3 receiver Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt, 6-6, 280-pound Taylor Hart of Oregon, 6-1 safety Ed Reynolds of Stanford and 335-pound nose tackle Beau Allen of Wisconsin, among others.
The players don't always have to be big to fit Kelly, but if they're not, they better damn-well have something else going for them, such as ridiculous speed, perfect technique, uncanny smarts or all of the above.
Character goes without saying.
"There's certain kind of height, weight, speed requirements we have for each individual position," Kelly said. "We really don't want to go below that, but we always will make an exception. It's kind of like a guideline more than a rule. It's not a hard and fast [rule].
"We want to be bigger at the receiver position, but you would be crazy if you looked at [Oregon State's] Brandin Cooks and said we're not going to take him because he's 5-9. You know what I mean? He's also a rocked up 190-some odd pounds and a physical player."
Kelly never had a realistic chance at Cooks, who was drafted at No. 20 overall.
But that's beside the point. Kelly also wants smart, accomplished, goal-oriented players who they know can fit their schemes, and is willing to make exceptions to his measurables for them, like he did when they drafted 5-11 Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff, who persevered despite his mother's drug addiction, and 5-11 Florida cornerback Jaylen Watkins, whose ability to also play safety was a dealbreaker.
Success in the classroom or in adversarial personal situations might be a better indication of how players will perform in the NFL than their size, speed and athletic ability, which is why Kelly is going after those men more than just size or body types.
"I think it's important from the standpoint of No. 1, intelligence is a huge part of what we're looking for in every aspect that we do, whether it's offense, defense or special teams," Kelly said. "So the fact that they have a degree is proven where they are from an intelligence factor.
"The other thing, it's also what is their commitment? They set goals out for themselves and can they follow through on it? A lot of people can tell you they want to do this, this and this. But look at their accomplishments. Sometimes when you look at those things, it's always a plus when you have that."
Matthews already has graduated, and all of their other draft picks this year also have or are still on track to with their class.
Watkins, lauded for his extremely high football IQ, was elevated to team captain midway through his senior season because of his exemplary behavior when the Gators hit a difficult stretch.
Hart not only developed a great relationship with Kelly and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro at Oregon, but he knows exactly what they're looking for scheme-wise from their defensive ends and has already proved he can deliver it.
General manager Howie Roseman believes it's simply a common-sense, play-by-percentages approach to try eliminating as many variables as possible before making someone part of the team.
"You're trying to hit on as many guys as you can, and so the more times you roll the dice because of some level of competition, character, mental, any of those things that factor in, you're decreasing your chances of hitting on a guy," he said. "I'm not telling you that we have a secret formula, certainly not, but I think that that's what we feel most comfortable with."
In fact, drafting Matthews after releasing Jackson was the most symbolic statement of Kelly's tenure.
Roseman was so impressed with Matthews just from his initial meeting — Matthews already knew everything about Roseman's background — that everything else Matthews displayed continued to blow him away.
"At the Senior Bowl, he's getting tape on guys, we're watching tape on guys at 5:30 in the morning," Roseman said. "This guy, the level of determination he has, his work ethic, it's going to rub off on everyone. He can do anything he wants as a person. You leave meeting him and he's as impressive a guy as I've ever met, really."
The antithesis of DeSean Jackson, to be sure, and as one of the team's newest building blocks, a clear indicator of how much things have changed in the last 17 months.
"I know we're a more talented football team than we were when we started this offseason and, quite frankly than we were last year when the coaches got here," Roseman said. "I think part of that is because we had depth and competition at a lot of positions, and I think if we have some injuries, we have guys who are going to be ready to play, and we have some young players who are going to be developed and in a couple of years going to be really good players."
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