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PHILADELPHIA – Chip Kelly has enjoyed the transition to the NFL except for one thing: cutting players.
Telling a guy he didn't make the Philadelphia Eagles is the part of Kelly's job that he dislikes the most, even more than talking to reporters. Kelly has tough decisions to make before Saturday's roster deadline.
"It's difficult. You really don't have to do it in college," Kelly said. "You can carry 105 guys on your team. When people walk on, you don't have to make cuts. You make decisions of who is going to play in the game.
"But it's everybody's goal to play in this league. If you don't make our team, we hope you make another team. Sometimes you sit there and you see some guys and it's difficult."
Kelly makes it a point to speak to each player he releases. Guys handle the disappointment in different ways. A conversation with former Army ranger Alejandro Villanueva when he cut the defensive lineman last week had a lasting impression on Kelly.
"I wish I could buy stock in people," Kelly said. "Alejandro Villanueva, I'd buy stock in him as a human being. He's going to be successful. He told me when I talked about the reasons we were cutting him loose. He said, 'Coach, successful people have to make difficult decisions. You don't have to explain anything to me.'"
The toughest decision the Eagles have to make involves their kicker. Rookie Cody Parkey was impressive in a 37-7 win over the Jets on Thursday night, nailing kicks from 54, 53 and 25 yards.
Alex Henery, the incumbent since 2011, was 1 of 3 in the preseason after a poor performance in a 26-24 playoff loss to New Orleans. Henery had a costly miss from 48 yards against the Saints and his short, line-drive kickoff set up New Orleans' game-winning drive.
Kelly wouldn't even rule out signing a new kicker before the season opener against Jacksonville on Sept. 7.
"We'll see how it all plays out in the next day or so and what happens on other teams," he said. "You have to keep an eye on what's going on. We're going to analyze it and ultimately make the best decision for this team. We're going to gather all the information before we do it."
The Eagles have a crowded backfield behind All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy and veteran Darren Sproles. Chris Polk, expected to be the primary backup to McCoy, has been injured.
Matthew Tucker and rookie free agent Henry Josey had impressive preseasons. Former Oregon tailback Kenjon Barner also has a shot to make it. Tucker and Barner both left Thursday night's game with injuries, giving Josey a chance to run for 121 yards.
"I thought Henry made a good statement in the games he had a chance to get in there," Kelly said. "He made plays."
There's also strong competition for a spot at wide receiver, if the Eagles carry six. Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are locks. Kelly indicated Brad Smith will make it when he said the veteran will be ready to go Monday.
That leaves Damaris Johnson, Arrelious Benn, Ifeanyi Momah, Will Murphy, Quron Pratt and Jeff Maehl. Johnson had a 46-yard touchdown run against the Jets. Benn caught a 43-yard TD pass.
"The one thing with all those guys, there were a lot of guys that really made plays (against New York)," Kelly said. "They made some decisions that we're going to have to make (more) difficult."
The Eagles hope they can keep some of the guys they cut around on the practice squad, but they would have to clear waivers first. Several players showed enough in the preseason to get picked up by other teams, so it'll be a wait-and-see weekend for Kelly and the coaching staff.
"It's tough to make any decision when you're cutting anybody," Kelly said. "They're still human beings on that side of the ball. Saturday's not a good day. You have 22 guys that are not going to make the team."
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