By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — There were nine camera crews aligned and waiting to catch every morsel when Chip Kelly spoke. The concrete stairs that Andy Reid once forbid the media to congregate at the Eagles’ NovaCare practice complex had reporters, TV broadcasters and media of all sorts from all over sitting and absorbing everything from the Eagles’ 3-4 defensive scheme, to the circling helicopter overhead. Someone even joked that it was Bill Belichick up there filming.
With Nicki Minaj blaring from huge speakers, surely enough to stir complaints from the neighbors of the surrounding South Philly neighborhood, new Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly unveiled his storied, and unique practice to the media for the first time Monday morning.
And while everyone wanted to talk about scheme (Brandon Graham and Trent Cole lined up as outside linebackers in a 3-4), and who will be the starting quarterback (the starting reps were shared between Nick Foles and Michael Vick), it was Kelly that kept reminding the jutting microphones and inquisitors that it’s May 13. Only May 13.
“We have a group of guys that want to learn and I give those guys a ton of credit about learning and wanting to figure everything out,” said Kelly, in reference to where the offense is after conducting the first open Organized Team Activity, or in NFL parlance, OTA. “I’m really happy where they are.”
Asked what to think about Dennis Kelly getting more reps at right offensive tackle than first-round draft pick Lane Johnson, Chip Kelly again reminded everyone that “It’s May 13th, that’s what I would make out of that, we don’t play the Washington Redskins until sometime in September,” Kelly said. “[Johnson] has been here three days, so for three days he’s been the best offensive tackle we’ve ever drafted.”
Chip Kelly also pointed out that Foles and Vick shared an equal amount of reps together.
“It could have been 48-52 [percent], and again, it’s May 13, we’re just trying to get reps off and look at film,” Kelly said. “It’s May 13th and we have a long way to go before we set a depth chart or anything. We just want to practice efficiently.”
It is May 13, but from all the attention being foisted at a team that went 4-12 and is in reconstruction mode, you would think that the Eagles were the defending Super Bowl champions coming off a 15-1 season.
The practice, however, was innovative. From the music, to the foghorn intervals, breaking up one session, and announcing over a computerized voice the beginning for another (think Matthew Broderick and “War Games”)—“Period 16, teach.”
Then the music was turned off and Kelly and his coaching staff worked separately with the offense and defense, before the foghorn sounded again, and “Period 17” began. The Eagles ran 20 periods in all, predicated by situation.
“We obviously can’t practice full speed for the entire time that we’re out there, but the game of football is short bursts, it really is an anaerobic sport, because you’re going hard for five or six seconds, then you’re taking a break,” Kelly said. “Everything we do is to reflect on what the mission is, and the mission is to be prepared to play a four-second play. We practice this way. It doesn’t mean we’re going to play this way. We think it’s the most efficient way to practice when you have 90 guys.
“We have a ways to go. The Phase II part of it is our defense was going against barrels and our offense was going against air. Our offense killed it against air. Hopefully if we could play air, we’d be pretty good. It’s so early to make evaluations as to who’s who. Again, we keep talking about who’s first team and who’s second team. Whatever group is out there, it doesn’t matter. By the time we get to June, we’ll have pretty good number of snaps where we can start to evaluate and start to slot some guys and see where we are.”
It’s May 13. In time, maybe the media horde will thin. Maybe the helicopters will stop circling above. And hopefully, the Eagles won’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.