It's almost 3,000 miles from Eugene, Ore., to Philadelphia, and third-year Eagles coach Chip Kelly seems to be doing his best to make Philly seem as much like Eugene as he can.
While Kelly is known for his offensive acumen, five of the former Ducks on his roster are defenders: Alonso, fellow linebacker Casey Matthews and linemen Brandon Bair, Taylor Hart and Wade Keliikipi. All but Matthews have been acquired since Kelly became coach. The four former Ducks who play offense are running back Kenjon Barner and wide receivers Josh Huff, Jeff Maehl and Will Murphy. All became Eagles after Kelly became coach. Hart and Huff were drafted last year.
Kelly might not be done adding former Ducks: There has been a lot of talk that he covets Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. But the other Oregon players in this draft who could be appealing to Kelly and the Eagles are defenders: cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Troy Hill, strong safety Erick Dargan and outside linebackers Derrick Malone and Tony Washington. Offensive tackle Jake Fisher and defensive lineman Arik Armstead are the Ducks' top-rated players after Mariota, but neither plays a "need" position for the Eagles.
Adding Mariota certainly makes sense -- though the cost of trading up to get him probably doesn't. The Eagles' offense has performed admirably under Kelly despite not having a quarterback that fits what he truly wants. Mariota would be that guy, and his background with Kelly at Oregon would be a huge bonus.
That Kelly would be enamored with former Oregon players makes sense on a couple of levels. First, any coach wants a level of familiarity with his players, and Kelly obviously knows all about the ex-Ducks. Look at it this way: If you're trying to win games, it makes sense to try to do so with guys you're comfortable with (assuming those guys have the necessary talent). Second, that Kelly likes the idea of having players intimately familiar with his offense also makes sense, as there shouldn't be a tough learning curve for those guys. As for the majority of the ex-Ducks being defenders? It certainly shouldn't be a surprise that there are three former Ducks defensive linemen on the Eagles' roster: Philadelphia's D-line coach is Jerry Azzinaro, who came with Kelly from Oregon; thus, there should be a level of familiarity from the players with what Azzinaro wants -- and there should be a comfort level for Azzinaro with the former Oregon players.
There's also this: Oregon is one of the best college programs in the nation and the Ducks' roster is filled with top-flight talent. In addition, Kelly is 20-12 in two seasons as an NFL coach and certainly looks to know what he is doing.
And while there are nine ex-Ducks on the roster right now, it wouldn't be a surprise if some of those nine aren't there when the season starts. Alonso is going to start, but that's not the case for any of the others currently there.
Kelly isn't the first NFL coach to have a roster heavily populated by alums of one school. In 1987, the Los Angeles Rams were coached by former USC head man John Robinson and had 12 former Trojans on their roster; in addition, the '87 Los Angeles Raiders had nine former Trojans (though coach Tom Flores had no connection with USC). And the expansion 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers were coached by former USC coach John McKay and had seven former USC players on the roster.