Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Thoughts from Eagles' OTA practice
By Dan Graziano
PHILADELPHIA -- Yes, the music is as loud and varied as you've heard and the pace is snappy. Chip Kelly put his Philadelphia Eagles through practice in the rain Tuesday because, he said, they're going to have to play in it anyway and the indoor facility isn't large enough to do everything he wants to do in terms of special teams. Kelly called this "a big insertion day" that included a lot of brand-new offensive concepts his players hadn't practiced before, and it's obvious he's a guy who understands he's got to be patient because people are naturally going to make mistakes when you throw a bunch of new concepts at them and then tell them to go execute them rapid-fire.
Chip Kelly's offensive creativity helped him become the latest Pac-12 head coach to land an NFL head coaching gig.
So after watching the Eagles practice, my thought was that either the defensive backs are a lot better than last year's or the offense had a rough day. Listening to Kelly and the players after the practice, it seems fair to conclude the offense has some catching up to do.
"Our D-line and our O-line are cooperating very well together, because it's hard, and if not we'd have a skirmish every play, and our guys understand that," Kelly said. "The biggest burden right now is on our defensive linemen. I know they could shock the offensive linemen coming off the ball, but we don't have pads on, so there's a certain amount of cooperation going on."
Defensive back Cary Williams, a free-agent signee who played for the Ravens last year and missed a good portion of this offseason because he got married, said there's a lot to learn but that the defense is limited in what it's allowed to do. He said the Eagles have "30 or 40 different coverages," but they're playing mostly zone in practice because the offense is in learning mode.
"It's a little bit difficult for the defense to get our there and show what we have," Williams said. "I think it's just built for this offense we're going against in practice every day."
Somebody asked if one of the quarterbacks had begun to separate himself in this early work. Nick Foles is working primarily with the first-team offense and Michael Vick with the backups. But again, there's no reason at this point to think that means anything.
"When you have to make an important decision on who a starter is going to be at some position, why should we jump to conclusions?" Kelly said. "Why do we need to name a starting quarterback in May? We're going to take the full amount of time that we have to make a thorough evaluation. When you make big decisions like that, I don't think you want to make a rash decision."
So in other words, there's almost no reasonable conclusion to be drawn from anything we're seeing in these practices, because the Eagles are a long, long way from where they intend to be once Kelly's concepts, terminology and system are all installed.
Some other notes from Tuesday in Philly:
Left tackle Jason Peters was not at practice, and Kelly said he wasn't here last week either. He said he knew where Peters was, that the absence wasn't injury related and that he's not concerned. Kelly was short with his answers on Peters, but I think the reason is most likely an abundance of caution rather than an expression of annoyance at the player. These are voluntary workouts, and the new CBA speaks to the issue of coaches making players look or feel bad for skipping them. Kelly danced around the questions, likely in an effort to keep himself clean on that front.
Safety Kenny Phillips was in the building but stayed inside with the trainers and did not practice. Asked if Phillips had an injury, Kelly said, "Yeah. He's had an injury for a couple of years now." Phillips' knee problems were the main reason the Giants didn't push to bring him back, and it's possible they keep him from being a factor for the Eagles as well. They knew that when they made the low-risk signing. Phillips can be a big help if healthy, but it's entirely possible he just may not be healthy.
I didn't honestly think any of the quarterbacks looked very good, but again, they're all trying new things for the very first time, so it's impossible to judge. You do see Vick make throws that help you understand why he's still here and likely to beat out the youngsters for the starting job, but all of the quarterbacks in question have a ways to go if the goal is to get rid of the ball quickly in this offense.
Things are moving quickly enough in practice that the offensive players aren't able to handicap the quarterback race. "I don't even realize who's throwing the ball to me half the time," wide receiver Jason Avant said. "I just see red jerseys."
Brandon Boykin made one of the standout plays of the day -- a one-handed interception of Foles up the right sideline late in the practice.