NFL Nation: Chip Kelly

PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly has crossed paths with Pete Carroll more than once. When Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles meet Carroll's Seattle Seahawks Sunday, it will be their first time playing against each other in the NFL.

The first and only time they faced each other as head coaches was five years ago. It was Kelly's first season as head coach at Oregon and Carroll's final season at the University of Southern California. With Jeremiah Masioli at quarterback and LaMichael James at running back, Kelly's Ducks beat USC, 47-20. It was the most lopsided loss of Carroll's tenure.

A year earlier, when Kelly was the offensive coordinator at Oregon, the Ducks were held to 10 points in a 44-10 loss at USC.

In 2010, Carroll's first season as head coach at Seattle, Kelly visited the Seahawks' facility to talk football, watch practice and pick up ideas.

"I was just watching practice," Kelly said. "I've known Pete -- we were in the same league together. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. He did an unbelievable job when he was at USC. He's doing the same exact thing with the Seahawks."

Kelly said he would visit other coaches whenever he had an open date at Oregon. Because most of the colleges within a reasonable distance were Pac-12 rivals, that meant going to NFL facilities.

"I visited the 49ers," Kelly said. "I visited Air Force. There weren't a lot of options. It was watch an NFL team or a team from another conference."

Carroll helped pave the way for Kelly's jump to the NFL by dispelling the widely held belief that success at the college level didn't translate to the pro game. Of course, Carroll went 7-9 in each of his first two seasons in Seattle. Kelly went 10-6 last year in his first NFL season.

In 2012, Carroll's first season with Russell Wilson as his quarterback, the Seahawks went 11-5 and won a playoff game. Last year, of course, they won the Super Bowl after going 13-3 during the regular season.

Kelly also faced Wilson in college. Oregon beat Wilson's Wisconsin team in the 2012 Rose Bowl, but Wilson also put 38 points on the scoreboard.

"I got an opportunity to play against Russell when he was at Wisconsin," Kelly said. "He does the same thing. He always has his eyes downfield. He's not looking to run. But if you give him the opportunity to run, I think he makes some really, really good decisions when he's flushed from the pocket. I think he's got a real good feel for how to play quarterback on the move."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If Dom Capers' defensive system can be boiled down to a basic principal, it's this: Blitz as often as necessary to disrupt the rhythm and timing of an opponent's offense.

So it should come as no surprise that since he came to Green Bay as defensive coordinator in 2009, the Green Bay Packers have ranked as one of the NFL's most frequent blitz teams (see accompanying chart).

But there's much more that goes into it than just turning linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks loose.

Some of Capers' best defenses in Green Bay have been those that have blitzed the least (see 2009 and 2010).

"I'd say we're probably normally [blitzing at] around 38 to 40 percent of the time," Capers said.

But with worst defense he fielded, the 2011 unit that ranked last in the league, he blitzed the most.

"We couldn't get any pressure on the quarterback that year," Capers said.

That trend is hardly universal.

Take this season, for example. One of the best defensive performances came in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings. In the Packers' 42-10 victory, Capers blitzed on 47.2 percent of the Vikings’ dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information (which defines a blitz as sending five or more pass-rushers at the quarterback). Only three other times this season has Capers blitzed at a higher rate -- at Miami in Week 6 (53.1 percent), against Carolina in Week 7 (50 percent) and against the New York Jets in Week 2 (47.3 percent). All were victories

Then there was 19-7 loss against the Detroit Lions in Week 2, when the defense allowed just 10 points. Capers blitzed a season-low 12.8 percent of the time.

This season, the Packers' defense ranks just 25th in yards, but second in takeaways (22), tied for eighth in Total QBR (50.4) and 11th in sack percentage (7.0).

Here is a look at the Capers' philosophy through the eyes of some of his coaches and players:

Offensive coordinator Tom Clements

Before they were on the same side, Clements coached against Capers. One game stands out: Dec. 8, 2002 in Pittsburgh. Clements was the Steelers' quarterbacks coach, and Capers was the Houston Texans head coach.

"That was a weird game," Clements said. "Our defense held them to about a total of 60 yards. We had about 400 yards, and they beat us by three touchdowns."

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Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsDefensive coordinator Dom Capers has made his mark by adapting his calls to each opponent.
Actually, the numbers were these: The Steelers had 422 yards and the Texans had 47. Houston's defense scored three times, two interception returns and a recovered fumble return, in a 24-6 upset.

Which goes to show that when preparing for a Capers' defense, anything is possible.

"Multiple looks, multiple pressures," Clements said. "It requires a lot of film study by the coaches and the players, because you never know what you’re going to get."

Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac

Trgovac, the Panthers defensive coordinator from 2003-2008, knows what it's like to call plays.

He says it's an oversimplification to simply call Capers a blitzer.

"Just to call 100 blitzes, when you start getting in that rhythm of the game, that's actually the easiest part of the game to call," Trgovac said. "The hard part is trying to pick the blitzes based on what you're seeing in the game. You have something set in your mind early and have to adjust from there."

Trgovac says he often finds Capers alone in his office or a film room calling a mock game to try to anticipate those situations.

"He puts in the hours that's required to have knowledge to make a play call," Trgovac said.

Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt

Whitt, who like Trgovac has been with Capers since 2009 in Green Bay, also says it's unfair to label their defense as just a blitzing scheme.

"I wouldn't say that," Whitt said. "I would say it's a week-to-week deal, but we're going to try to do anything we can to win that week. If we have to bring five or six guys, we will."

But then Whitt pointed to one of the biggest defensive plays in last Sunday's win against the Eagles, Julius Peppers' 52-yard interception return for a touchdown. Capers rushed only three players -- defensive linemen Datone Jones, Josh Boyd and Mike Neal -- and dropped Peppers, Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk into coverage.

"It's whatever's needed," Whitt said.

Outside linebacker Peppers

The 13-year NFL veteran has never been used like this. In his eight seasons in Carolina and four in Chicago, he more or less had one job: put his hand on the ground and rush the quarterback as a defensive end.

"They wanted me to rush for the majority of the time," Pepper said. "Every now and then there was a fire-zone call where I was dropping, but primarily I was rushing."

Perhaps said that's why Eagles coach Chip Kelly said they weren't expecting Peppers to drop into coverage. He said it was "a great call" by Capers.

"I don't think it's anything new," said Peppers, who leads the Packers with 5.0 sacks and is tied for second on the team with two interceptions. "He's been doing that since he's been here as far as I'm concerned."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- You have seen this before from Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy.

It's nothing new -- these 341-yard, three-touchdown, no-interception games from the Green Bay Packers quarterback, and the 129-yard and 109-yard receiving games from Cobb and Nelson, respectively, and tackle-breaking touchdown runs by Lacy. Breaking records and reaching milestones has become the norm for Rodgers and his crew of playmakers.

But what you saw from the Packers' defense in Sunday's 53-20 dismantling of the Philadelphia Eagles at Lambeau Field might be the new normal. Since their meltdown in the 44-23 loss at New Orleans before the bye, defensive coordinator Dom Capers' unit has turned in a pair of dominant performances in blowout home victories over the Eagles and Chicago Bears.

It has coincided with the new, hybrid role for outside linebacker/inside linebacker Clay Matthews, an idea that was launched during the bye, but it's about much more than that.

"It just shows that we have a very talented defense," said Matthews, who registered a sack for the second straight game. "And it's all about deciding which defense wants to show up."

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AP Photo/Mike RoemerThe Packers' Julius Peppers gets away from Eagles receiver Jordan Matthews for a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown.
If it's the one that foiled Jay Cutler last week and Mark Sanchez on Sunday, then the Packers (7-3) might have the kind of complete team capable of a long playoff run.

Sacks by defensive tackle Letroy Guion on the Eagles' opening series and outside linebacker Mike Neal on the second series set a tone of aggressiveness from the start. Guion beat right guard Matt Tobin on a second-and-6 and dumped Sanchez for a 7-yard loss, which set up a much easier third-and-long situation for the defense and ultimately led to a punt. Neal then dumped Sanchez for a 9-yard loss on third-and-6 to force another punt.

By the time the Eagles got the ball back the next time, they were down 17-0.

"Defensively, you're just seeing a unit that's playing faster," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "The personnel groups that we're getting in and out of, I think it's happening seamlessly. You're getting used to playing together in combinations that we kind of set for the second half. With that, our playmakers are making plays, and we've got a lot of playmakers on defense."

Eagles coach Chip Kelly's fast-paced, high-powered offense looked no different than the Bears offense in their futile performance a week earlier. For the second straight week, the game was over by halftime. This time, the Packers led 30-6 at the break, and even though they gave up 429 yards, it was empty yardage in the end.

"Against an offense like that, to do what they did tonight, that was very impressive," Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "They're the reason ... yeah, we scored points in the first half, but they kept it to six points. That was huge."

What followed the early sacks was this: a pair of fumble recoveries, one by Nick Perry and another by Casey Hayward, who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown. Then two interceptions, one by Tramon Williams and another by Julius Peppers, who returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.

This against a team that, though it was missing starting quarterback Nick Foles, brought the NFL's fifth ranked offense to town.

The Packers' run defense that was so awful the first half of the season -- it ranked dead last and gave up 155 yards per game -- all of a sudden is more than respectable. They have nearly cut that number in half the past two games and allowed an average of just 82 yards rushing per game.

"We’ve been going out saying that we’re going to get off of the field," Williams said. "[The] offense has been moving the ball unbelievable, and if we can continue doing that throughout the year, then we're going to be where we want to be."

Aaron Rodgers matching his MVP pace

November, 13, 2014
Nov 13
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If you thought Aaron Rodgers' production from his MVP season of 2011 was a once-in-a-career happening, think again.

He's on a similar pace (see accompanying chart).

Rodgers played only 15 games in 2011, sitting out the meaningless Week 17 affair to rest for the playoffs, so it's possible he could end up with even better numbers this season than his 45 touchdowns (with just six interceptions) of that year.

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Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsAaron Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception at Lambeau Field since Week 12 of the 2012 season -- or 286 pass attempts.
And after Sunday's six-touchdown game against the Chicago Bears, Rodgers has thrown himself back into the MVP race.

According to the online oddsmaker, Peyton Manning remains the favorite to win the MVP with 2-1 odds. Rodgers and Andrew Luck are next at 3-1. Five weeks ago, Rodgers was sixth in the MVP race at 10-1.

Just two weeks ago, all 32 ESPN NFL Nation reporters cast their votes for the midseason MVP, and not one of them selected Rodgers.

Imagine how different the polling might be today.

"I think he's playing as good as any quarterback in the league right now and probably the best quarterback in the league right now," said Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, whose team is preparing to play the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. "He's on top of his game."

Kelly has the unenviable task of facing Rodgers at Lambeau, where the Packers have averaged 41.5 points per game. No one in the NFL has come close to scoring that many points at home. The New England Patriots rank second but have averaged 5.5 points fewer in their home games.

The Packers have outscored opponents by 101 points at home this season, the highest differential in the league.

In going 4-0 at home, Rodgers hasn't even had to finish the last three games. He has completed nearly 69 percent of his passes at home this season, and his average yards per passing attempt of 9.9 in those games indicates how explosive the Packers' offense has been at Lambeau this season.

Rodgers has 15 touchdowns and no interceptions at home this season. In fact, he hasn't thrown an interception at home since Week 13 of the 2012 season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his 10-game streak without an interception at home is the longest in NFL history by two games. He's thrown 286 passes at Lambeau since he was last picked off.

The Packers are 14-1 in Rodgers' last 15 starts, and the only loss was last season against the Bears when he broke his collarbone in the first quarter.

Statistics aside, Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes Rodgers is better today than he's ever been. Rodgers has more freedom in the no-huddle offense because McCarthy trusts Rodgers' brain, which the coach said is a quarterback's best weapon.

"You can't play quarterback without the ability to process, anticipate, recognize," McCarthy said. "Then, you have the mental toughness part of it. Clearly, I think the strength of any successful quarterback is his mental and emotional gifts, and Aaron is definitely at the highest level."

Said Kelly: "It doesn't seem like you can fool him. He's always kind of a play ahead, a step ahead of defenses and defensive coordinators. He always seems to find the open receiver, no matter how it unveils itself pre-snap. He's extremely accurate, as good a thrower as there is in this league. He can keep things alive because he's such a good athlete. It's an exciting challenge for us to go against the best."
HOUSTON -- There is no doubt the Houston Texans have elite weapons offensively, and Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly knows it.

“Obviously you’ve got a Hall of Fame receiver in (Andre) Johnson," Kelly said Wednesday morning on a conference call with Houston reporters. "DeAndre Hopkins in his second year is somebody that I think is really a star in the making, a guy that you have to be aware of every formation of what they do."

Kelly and Texans coach Bill O'Brien are very familiar with each other, both being New Englanders. They've known each other for years and talked a lot of football during that time.

"I think what Billy does offensively is never really revolved around one guy," Kelly said. "Obviously you’ve got somebody like Arian Foster to hand the ball to, and Alfred Blue is really contributed. We liked Alfred coming out of college also."

Kelly went on to praise every position on the field, which is fairly typical of a head coach talking about his next opponent. He lost me a little bit when he talked about what a big factor the Texans' tight ends have been, as the Texans have only targeted tight ends a league-low 25 times this season.

There are some obvious flaws with the Texans' offensive play right now, but Kelly is right on the matter of where to place one's attention. The Texans have the potential to make an opponent pay for too much focus in one place.

"There is just not one thing that we can gang up on and say, ‘Hey, if we stop this you’re going to win the football game,’ because I think they’ve got weapons," Kelly said. "Whether it be at receiver or at running back, they’ve got a solid offensive line, the quarterback’s a good decision-maker, so it’s going to present our defense a big challenge."
PHILADELPHIA -- The tree trimmer is in luck. He is working on this block of South Broad Street just as the Philadelphia Eagles are beginning one of Chip Kelly's hyperspeed practices. His spot in the cherry picker gives him a perfect vantage point on this sunny, early autumn afternoon.

The blaring speakers across the way drown out the tree trimmer's saw while the Eagles begin their session with what looks like a dance class. Players line up across one of the three practice fields. They march forward, knees high, for 20 yards. Then, they return, walking backward this time, without turning.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles, G.J. Kine, Matt Barkley
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesIt's important for the Eagles to get loose before practice because they'll be going full tilt once the first practice period starts.
There are two flat screens, roughly the size and shape of play clocks on game day, one on each side of the NovaCare Complex's fields. They have two pieces of information. In small, orange numerals at the top, the screen shows which period it is. In large, red numerals, a clock counts down the amount of time remaining in the current period.

Period 1

On one field, three groups gather at intervals of 20 yards. Each group is comprised of a quarterback, a center, a running back and some receivers. Each unit lines up in unison. Three balls are snapped, three quarterbacks drop back. Almost simultaneously, three balls are thrown to receivers, all open because, well, no one is covering them.

On the next field over, practice squad quarterback G.J. Kinne throws passes down the middle of the field. Cornerbacks and safeties take turns running under them, turning and leaping to catch them.

Nearby, the big guys are starting to line up across from one another. Offensive linemen square off with each other, some using large, foam pads to brace themselves, while others fire out as if the ball has just been snapped. Defensive linemen run similar drills with each other.

Period 4

In the early going, this is pretty much how it looks. Position groups are working together, focusing on specific skills. Only the quarterbacks get small complements of teammates, and their focus is on timing.

At one end of a field, the running backs gather. They are paired off, with each member of a pair stepping into the open end of what looks like a long rubber band. As one player stands his ground, the other clutches a football, lowers his shoulder and runs forward until the rubber band has reached its limits and starts pulling him back. The backs take turns, serving as anchor and then fighting the resistance.

Meanwhile, around the field, a large, rubber ball is being rolled at the outside linebackers. Each one reaches down, pushes the ball away and then sprints toward a blocking sled. After pounding the sled, the player rolls off and heads back to repeat the exercise.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
AP Photo/Matt RourkeThe frenetic chaos of practice, and the preparation for similar chaos on Sundays, is what Eagles coach Chip Kelly lives for.
Offensive and defensive linemen are grappling with each other. Wide receivers run routes while defensive backs shadow them. All the components of a football play are there, but none of them have been put together yet.

Meanwhile, the tree trimmer's ears are assaulted by what sounds like the iPod of a 15-year-old girl. There are pop hits, dance-club favorites and the occasional old-school rock song mixed in. It is all played very loudly to simulate the noise of a crowded stadium on game day.

"It's controlled chaos," linebacker Emmanuel Acho said. "We have the music blaring. Sometimes, you can hardly hear your teammates. But that means everything on Sunday is a lot slower. When you come out here and you can hardly hear the call, then on Sunday, when you're playing at home and it's quiet when you're out there, then it's very simple. I think we do a good job of stressing ourselves in practice so the game is easier."

That is precisely Kelly's intention, and it is precisely what set cornerback Cary Williams off after a Week 3 win over the Washington Redskins. Williams said it was difficult to play a game on Sunday after playing "three games" in practice sessions in the preceding week. The veteran, who previously played for John Harbaugh and the Baltimore Ravens, said he thought the toll levied by the practice pace was being paid by a lack of energy in the beginning of games.

Kelly met with Williams, who stood by his comments. But it's also true that many players credited the practice schedule with helping them stay fresher last season than they had in previous seasons.

Period 12

Now the practices begin to resemble real football. There is not live hitting, although the Eagles do practice in pads once a week. But the offense and defense line up against each other and run plays.

One of Kelly's principles is that everything is done at the hurry-up pace he wants to operate his offense at in games.

"It's fast-paced," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We're getting a bunch of reps in a short amount of time. And then we're getting a lot of different periods. We'll go full speed, then a walk-through period. It simulates how we play the game. We run a 10-play drive, full speed the entire time, and then we sit on the sideline while the offense is up. And we keep doing that rotation the whole practice, so you're getting gamelike repetitions during the week."

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Stew Milne/USA TODAY SportsDarren Sproles (43) & Co. get a water break and some teaching time before going back at it.
There is a consequence of that. To have the first-team offense run a drive against the first-team defense -- and then have both squads take to the sideline -- you have to give the second teams a lot of practice time. In the past, the Eagles' backup quarterbacks would get exactly zero practice reps while the starter was preparing for a game. Under Kelly, all the backup players get nearly equal practice time.

When a starter gets injured, that pays off. It's not a guy who is cold and unfamiliar with his teammates stepping into the vacancy; it is a guy who has practiced with and against them all week.

"We get tons of reps here, which is great," said backup center David Molk, who was pressed into action because of injuries in two of three games so far and will start Sunday in San Francisco. "I'm extremely comfortable with how [the other linemen] move and react and shift. It's easy for me."

Period 16: 'Teach'

The sudden silence is jarring. With the music silenced, a voice is audible over the speakers.

"Teach," it says. And for the period that follows, players gather in position groups, around their position coaches, and instructions are given. It's also time for a water break.

But the "Teach" periods underscore that very little communication goes on in the regular practice periods. This is very different from the typical NFL practice.

Reporters who have covered the Eagles for a long time all do a version of Rich Kotite's distinctive nasal honk cutting through a practice session: "Back in the huddle," Kotite would yell, and the players would abandon their misguided formation and trudge back into a circle to be corrected by the coach. Then, they would spread out again, line up correctly and run the play.

Kelly has no use for this. His team doesn't huddle, for one thing. For another, there has never been an occasion in a game in which the coach was allowed onto the middle of the field to make sure the players were lined up correctly. If it doesn’t happen in a game, it doesn't happen in a Kelly practice session. What's the point?

But the "Teach" periods allow everyone to catch his breath and focus on the coaches' instructions. There aren't many of them.

Period 22

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AP Photo/Elise AmendolaThere's no rest for the weary, as the all-important red zone drills are about to start.
By this point in a practice, everyone has been on the field for almost two hours and is getting tired. But this is the point at which Kelly conducts his red zone drills, the most intensely competitive aspect of any NFL practice.

The importance of these drills was brought into sharp relief by the Eagles' come-from-behind, Monday night victory over the Indianapolis Colts. During that comeback for the Eagles, Period 22 became a rallying cry.

"No one rises to the occasion," Kelly said after the game. "You always sink to your level of training. That's how we trained them. You heard our guys talk about it after the game. This is no different than Period 22 on a Wednesday or Thursday for us."

You heard versions of that in the locker room afterward.

"Some people were saying, 'This is just like Period 22 for us,'" Jenkins said that night. "We practice at such a pace that, when we get into the fourth quarter, guys are fresh. Guys are still at full speed. This is what we train for. It’s Period 22."

Period 26

The players are on the grass, forming a large circle. They are on their backs, legs up, stretching one last time. Each player has a long rubber band that allows him to stretch his tired leg muscles. They are already beginning the recovery period that will allow them to be strong the next day.

[+] EnlargeCary Williams
AP Photo/Matt RourkeCary Williams wasn't kidding when he spoke about the intensity of an Eagles practice: They aren't a joke.
Aides scurry around, collecting the tiny GPS devices players wear. These monitor movement and help the training staff keep track of how much each player is exerting. This information is used to help create the famous post-practice smoothies players consume and to tell coaches which players need a little time off.

"Not many teams have done that, as far as catering to the individual athlete," said Acho, who spent time with the Giants last year. "Whether it’s their own meal plan or their own workout regimen, their own recovery regimen, everybody has something individualized for them. It's very unique to this organization."

Bill Davis knows. Unlike Kelly, who arrived in the NFL last year after many years coaching at the college level, Davis is an NFL lifer. His father, also named Bill, was an assistant coach and executive with the Eagles and other NFL teams. Davis himself has been an NFL assistant for more than 20 years. This is his third time as a defensive coordinator. He has fully embraced Kelly's new world order.

"We train in a great way," Davis said. "The sports science we have, the way we handle it, there's no concern. I actually think we are the strongest team in the fourth quarter, and it shows. We keep finishing the games. Where others don't have it in the tank, we have it in the tank, and it shows. This is an elite program. I've been with 10 different organizations, and it's not even close."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Maybe you've seen the picture from Super Bowl I, when Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson was photographed in full uniform, sitting on a chair in the locker room and taking a drag off a cigarette during halftime of the game against the Green Bay Packers.

Or perhaps you've heard the story of Packers defensive end Ezra Johnson scarfing down a hot dog on the sideline during a preseason game in 1980.

That is not the NFL that Chip Kelly and Mike McCarthy believe in.

"Not to say that stuff didn’t work," Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews joked.

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Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports"There was a point where you'd smoke cigarettes and eat hot dogs at halftime," Clay Matthews said. "Now, we have specifically designed drinks for us and stuff that gets you up and going."
There has been much written of late about how Kelly, the Philadelphia Eagles' second-year coach, has brought an element of science to the NFL game. An ESPN the Magazine profile of Kelly by Seth Wickersham detailed how the Eagles players "wear mandated heart monitors and GPS devices. Trainers carry water bottles labeled with each player's name and after practice ask the players to pee into a cup, part of Kelly's plan to track hydration. A monitor on a wall in the facility ranks the most hydrated players. Drinking water is now a drinking game."

In a recent story, Chris B. Brown devoted a part of his Kelly profile to explaining how the Eagles take part in a full-speed practice the day before games "rather than the leisurely walk-throughs run by essentially every other team in the league."

If much of this sounds familiar, it's because in preparing for his ninth season as Packers coach, McCarthy has adopted some of the same practices in Green Bay.

This offseason, the Packers hired Catapult Sports, an Australian-based company that uses GPS technology to compile live data on athletic exertion and help determine how injuries can be prevented.

Nearly a month into training camp, and the Packers, who have been crushed by injuries in recent years, had just seven players who sat out of practice on Monday. Only one of them, defensive tackle Letroy Guion, had a muscle pull.

"I don't want to really talk about it, honestly," McCarthy said Monday of the relatively low injury totals. "We have a lot of football left."

McCarthy also altered his weekly routine that will put the players through a practice the day before a game. Previously, all of the Packers' on-field work was completed about 48 hours before kickoff.

"Here we are now getting it going on Saturday," Matthews said. "It's a fast, crisp practice. The next thing you know [the game is] the following day. So it doesn't feel like there's a lull. It doesn't feel like there's a wait until the game. You just kind of roll right into it."

And then this summer, the Packers hired nutritionist Adam Korzun, who previously worked at the University of Oregon, where it just so happens Kelly coached before jumping to the NFL in 2013. Korzun has been working closely with strength and conditioning coach Mark Lovat.

"These are … discussions that have been going on for some time," McCarthy said when asked about the comparisons to Kelly's program. "Mark Lovat does a great job staying on the front end of the research and the stuff that's out there. We've done a pretty good job around here training our players and winning games.

"We're about winning championships. Anything we feel we can do better, we're going to do our due diligence, go through it. Never want to just do something because someone else did it. But if they're doing something that's better than what we're doing, then we're going to do it. This is the Green Bay Packers. We have tremendous resources and our organization gives us that each and every year, and we feel the changes we made have been for the best."

Matthews' younger brother Casey is a linebacker for the Eagles, but he said the two have not spent much time discussing the similarities of their respective team’s use of sports science. Clay Matthews said he has done some reading about what the Eagles are doing, and it sounds a lot like what's going in Green Bay. Matthews said the Packers are monitoring players' hydration levels by checking urine samples on a regular basis just like the Eagles do.

"Seeing this change, I'm able to buy into it," Matthews said. "And I think the other players are too just because of the science behind it."

Receiver Randall Cobb, who said he has changed his eating habits and has not eaten red meat in three months, said the team has done sleep studies to give players more information about their health and conditioning.

"Now it's on us as pros to go out and do those things," Cobb said. "They're giving us the education and helping us understand that what we can be doing to help ourselves."

This is not the NFL of Dawson and Johnson, of halftime smoke breaks and sideline sausages.

"I just think it's the natural progression of the league," Matthews said. "There was a point where you'd smoke cigarettes and eat hot dogs at halftime. Now, we have specifically designed drinks for us and stuff that gets you up and going."

W2W4: Miami Dolphins

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
The Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons open the preseason Friday night at the Georgia Dome.

1. Lazor focus: Much has been made this offseason and in training camp about offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s new scheme. Dolphins players and coaches have praised Lazor for the job he’s done with Miami’s offense, and Friday is the first time everyone gets to see it in a game situation. Lazor arrived in Miami this season after a stint with Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dolphins are adding many of the concepts from Kelly’s high-powered offense. Does Miami have the personnel to pull it off? It’s been up and down early in training camp. But performing well against Atlanta will give Miami’s offense some confidence.

2. Tannehill kicks off Year 3: Just as Lazor’s offense will be in focus, a lot of eyes will be on Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, as well. The third-year quarterback is 15-17 as a starter and enters a make-or-break season. Tannehill is learning a new offense and could use some early momentum in the preseason opener. He was inconsistent this week in training camp. Tannehill threw seven interceptions in the past three practices. Tannehill is not expected to play much more than two or three series on Friday.

3. Familiar faces: It’s just a preseason game, so don’t expect regular-season intensity. However, it is worth noting Miami will face former longtime Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliai for the first time. Soliai spent seven years with the Dolphins from 2007-13 and wanted to stay in Miami this offseason as a free agent. However, the Dolphins disagreed on Soliai’s value and the Falcons signed him to a $33 million contract. Soliai could be motivated to perform well in his limited playing time. Friday also marks the return to Atlanta for Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes. He played against the Falcons last year in the regular season in Miami.
PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly expanded a bit on comments he made to Sports Illustrated's Peter King over the weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles' coach raised some eyebrows by saying the "hype" surrounding the NFL draft "is insane. Totally insane."

"(King) just asked me if there was one thing about the NFL that surprised me," Kelly said Monday, "and I just told him the hype, in general, with the draft. I think the draft is integral, obviously, in terms of putting together your team. But literally from the day the Super Bowl ends until the draft ... that's all everybody talks about.

"I felt the same way in college. You devote everything to the signing day. Well, how many guys from the signing day are actually going to contribute? You may have one or two rookies who have an impact on your team. The rest of them, it's just having them develop. The fact that people would watch the combine -- there's times at the combine where I fall asleep. They're running 40-yard dashes."

Kelly is more concerned with how all of this affects the players coming into the league.

"You guys are in the newspaper business," Kelly said. "If someone is a rookie coming into the newspaper thing, I don't think you're all applauding and saying, 'Oh, my God, the savior is here! Our paper is saved because we just signed a kid out of Northwestern that has really good prose.' In football, it seems to be the biggest thing in the world. And if a guy isn't an all-pro in his first year, but he was drafted in the first five picks, then he's a bust. And I don't think that's the case."

That perspective is interesting when you watch how Kelly approaches his rookies. Last year, first-round pick Lane Johnson was a starter from the very beginning. But defensive tackle Bennie Logan was eased into the starting lineup, eventually replacing veteran Isaac Sopoaga. Tight end Zach Ertz and safety Earl Wolff were brought along slowly.

This year? Same thing. First-round pick Marcus Smith opened camp as the third-team left outside linebacker. Smith runs with the second team at times, but there is clearly no pressure from Kelly's staff on the rookie. Second-round pick Jordan Matthews, who made two flashy catches Monday, is still behind veteran slot receiver Brad Smith on the depth chart.

It doesn't matter to Kelly what the expectations from the outside are. And once players are here, they are judged on merit, not on where they were drafted.
PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly might have earned a laurel, winning the NFC East title in his rookie season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. That doesn't mean Kelly will be resting on it.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles and Chip Kelly
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesChip Kelly's first NFL season took off with Nick Foles under center, but nevertheless the Eagles head coach is seeking ways to improve.
"We can impove," Kelly said. "We were 10-7. We were just OK."

Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles started off the 2013 season 1-4. They went through turmoil as the quarterback situation sorted itself out. Once Nick Foles was established as the starter, though, the Eagles went 7-1 in the second half. Their seventh loss was in the playoff game against New Orleans.

That's a pretty good first season for a head coach, but Kelly wasn't grading himself on a curve.

"I was 10-7, too," Kelly said. "I wasn't 12-6, or 12-4. I don't have a better record than the team, so we're all kind of judged on the same thing, but I think everybody can work on their individual aspect and how they contribute to the success or failure of what we're doing."

That seems to be the theme as the Eagles open camp this weekend. Players report Friday to the NovaCare Complex. The first practice is Saturday. The feeling you got from talking with coaches and players throughout June was that last season ended in disappointment, so it was disappointing.

"I think if you're content with 10 wins and winning the division, you're probably shortchanging yourself and the team," Kelly said. "We did that. What's the next step? How can we improve upon that? We're trying to get a bunch of guys that are never complacent in terms of, 'All right, we've arrived.' We haven't arrived. We're looking to work and strive to get better and better and better. That's part of the deal, so I think that's the thing we're always trying to emphasize with these guys."

The message seems to have gotten through. During minicamps, defensive players talked about being last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, not about how they held opponents to 22 or fewer points nine times in their last 10 regular-season games. Quarterback Nick Foles talked all spring about forgetting his breakout 2013 performance and focusing instead on the little things he must do to improve.

"How do you get to that next level?" Kelly said. "Some guys are content -- you've got to make sure that they're not content -- being where they are. Just like some guys' goal's just to play in the NFL. All right, you're playing. Now what? That's a legitimate question. 'My goal is just to be a starter in the NFL.' So you're starting. Now what? I think that's the one thing you're always trying to strive -- you look at it as an individual, how do you continue to improve?"

Packers want to speed up offense

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The faster the better.

That's what Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy has planned for his offense this season.

And why not, especially with Aaron Rodgers on board with the idea?

[+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
AP Photo/Mike RoemerAaron Rodgers and the Packers are determined to play faster and thus run more plays in 2014.
McCarthy and his quarterback have one primary goal in mind for 2014: Run 75 plays per game.

Do that, and everything else -- big numbers for Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and possibly one of the new rookie receivers; another 1,000-plus-yard season for Eddie Lacy; solid pass protection -- will fall into place.

"That seems to be the answer to some of the different things that defenses are doing," Rodgers said during an interview this offseason.

The first hint of McCarthy's plans came in February, when he stood at the lectern at the NFL scouting combine and declared that he wants Lacy -- and all of his running backs -- to turn into three-down players in order to limit the need for substitutions, which, of course, slows down the game.

"We play pretty fast, but you always want to play faster," McCarthy said during an interview near the end of the offseason program last month. "With a guy like Aaron, he plays faster than anybody I've ever been around."

McCarthy's offense isn't Chip Kelly's, which averaged 80-plus plays per game when he ran the fastest game in college football at Oregon. But Kelly's offense in the NFL -- despite 53 plays in the first half of his first game as the Philadelphia Eagles' coach last season -- wasn't Kelly's offense in college, either.

The Eagles finished last season 13th out of 32 teams in total offensive plays with 1,054, an average of 65.875 per game.

The Packers ranked 11th with 1,074 total plays (67.125 per game) -- their second-highest total in McCarthy's eight seasons as head coach -- but averaged nearly 69 plays in the games Rodgers finished last season.

"Aaron Rodgers is a beast the way he plays the game, the way he attacks the defense, whether it's his cadence, his ability to recognize defenses to take advantage of a certain pressure, and then on top of it he's so well-rehearsed in this offense," McCarthy said. "If anything, you worry about him just sometimes playing too fast. Not that he's playing too fast, he has the ability to play at such a fast level, it's keeping everyone coordinated to be able to play with him."

And that's where the running backs come into the picture.

As Lacy pounded his way to well-earned yards on first and second down last season, he usually came off the field on third down -- not because he needed a blow but because McCarthy and his offensive staff felt better about using another back (often fullback John Kuhn) in pass protection. That plan usually worked (remember Kuhn's game-saving block on Julius Peppers in the Week 17 division-clinching win over the Bears), but the Packers had to downshift in order to make the change.

This year, McCarthy sees no need to change speeds and no reason to give the defense time to adjust.

"We've always been a fast-tempo offense," he said. "To me, there are two approaches to playing the game of football. Historically, in my opinion because I don't want to offend anybody, defensive coaches want to slow the game down, run the ball, shorten the game. Your offensive coaches more want to pick it up.

"I've always been of the belief of getting as many shots as you can, so we've always emphasized playing as fast as you can. When you have as many three-down players as you can possibly have, obviously your substitution patterns are cleaner. You're not subbing because you have to, you're subbing just when you need to."

That could mean even more no-huddle series this season. Rodgers, who has excelled in the no-huddle offense, likes the plan.

"We always kind of struggle with that, trying to get guys to stay on the field and play all three downs," Rodgers said. "We've had so many injuries over the years, it's made John Kuhn such an irreplaceable guy because he can be the guy who can run and get you a few yards and also be a third-down protection back. He's been amazing at it in two-minute drills. I mean, last year, he made the block of the year. But it would be nice if we could have drives where Eddie can go three plays in a row or James [Starks] could go three plays in a row or DuJuan [Harris] could go three plays in a row and not have to take them out, so we could not have to bring in any subs and you could stay pressuring the defense.

"There’s a lot of substitution that goes on by both teams. The key substitution is usually for third down, because teams run so much on third down. After second down, if you're subbing four or five guys on and off, it's tough to run an offense where you're up-tempo, because everybody has to get the call, and it just takes a little longer. We'd like to play a little faster."

Jaworski on Chip Kelly: 'He won me over'

July, 11, 2014
Jul 11
Ron Jaworski is never afraid to express his opinion.

In a wide-ranging interview with 97.5 The Fanatic, Jaworski, an ESPN analyst and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, discussed a variety of topics surrounding his former team.

On how coach Chip Kelly surprised him: "I wasn't sure how this was going to work. I wasn't a big believer in guys coming from the college ranks, leaving that rah-rah college style and bringing a new style to the NFL. Kelly made it happen. He won me over."

On Kelly's offensive scheme: "Chip Kelly did a great job of getting people wide open. I went through all these quarterback throws (across the league), I don't think anybody did a better job at getting receivers open than Chip Kelly. When you look at 400-500 throws of each quarterback and I see guys that are making these stick throws into double coverage and all these things, and I plug in Eagles tape and I'm seeing guys running open."

On adjusting to defenses in Year 2: "I will guarantee you this: every pass that he threw last year was studied and watched by 30 personnel guys with the three teams in this division. They studied Nick Foles to every possible nuance: Where is his foot when he is coming out from under center? Does his heel come up a split second before the snap? Does he flick his hand to get into position before the ball is snapped? They will study every nuance of his game on coaches tape, on television to hear his voice inflection, to see where he turns. Is the ball snapped when his head is looking downfield rather than left to right? All these things, they will have broken his game down. Nick has to make that adjustment. Now that teams have adjusted to him, does he adjust to what they do? It's the same thing with the system: the familiarity with the system for the Eagles is great but now all the teams are studying that system. What does Chip do? Does he take this offense to the next level?"

On losing three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson: "I think it's a big loss. I'm not buying into the, 'Oh, don't worry about it.' I saw this offense. I studied this offense. I know what DeSean Jackson did for everybody else -- what he did to clear zones and open up Riley Cooper, Jason Avant and that plethora of tight ends that they have."
1. I've mentioned Washington Redskins outside linebackers coach Brian Baker a number of times and wanted to give you more of a feel for him as a coach, just by listening to him during practice with his players. A few things I noticed: He's constantly teaching and reminding players when what they've done is right or wrong. It's constant. He even chastised one player (wasn't quite sure who) for not having his eyes on him when he was speaking.

2. During pass-rush drills, he reminded the players, “don't let them control your body! Keep your elbows tight!” It's a point of emphasis. At one point, he told rookie Trent Murphy, “Give me one good one 93; I need one good one before we move on!” Murphy gave it to him. Baker worked with players on where their hands should be on the blocker at the snap (obviously not low, but he worked on getting the hands right before the snap, too). Baker: “You can't let him get into your chest. The closer you are the higher you put your hands.”

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Nick WassJay Gruden had his coaches concentrating on special teams during the Redskins' minicamp.
3. And, finally, I like that Baker does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to pass rushing. He worked with Brandon Jenkins on his footwork off the snap when positioned at right outside linebacker. It's a little different than on the right side and he wanted to make sure he stayed on the right path from the get-go. But he also told Jenkins, “You can't get it to look like everyone else. You've just got to get it right. Make it work for you.” He also worked with Jenkins on accelerating at the top of the rush -- it's where you win.

4. I don't know what sort of difference one outside linebackers coach can make, but I also know it can't be overlooked. He's a legit coach.

5. Redskins coach Jay Gruden incorporated more of his coaches in special teams drills. It's not as if other coaches in past years did nothing here, but it was noticeable this past week. Secondary coach Raheem Morris worked with the flyers in punt coverage while receivers coach Ike Hilliard showed them how to get off a jam. Baker helped with the tackling drills. Gruden said it enables special teams coach Ben Kotwica to get more out of his allotted 10-15 minutes. There is a definite increased emphasis on special teams, starting from early in the offseason.

6. The Redskins now know they'll face quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the season opener against Houston. Not sure it's a big surprise and not sure it really matters. Fitzpatrick was 9-5 as a starter from Nov. 14, 2010 to Oct. 30, 2011 -- that includes the 23-0 shutout of Washington. Since then, Fitzpatrick is 10-23 as a starter. Of course, his first NFL start came against Washington, a 24-9 loss while with Cincinnati in 2005. Fitzpatrick has thrown 106 touchdown passes to 93 interceptions in his career.

7. Three months later DeSean Jackson remains a big topic in Philadelphia. It started, again, with running back LeSean McCoy saying Jackson's release caught everyone's attention. It let them know if you don't buy in, you will be cut. Kelly refuted that notion. “I don't send messages to other players by how I deal with other players,” Kelly told Eagles reporters. “And how LeSean McCoy interprets things … LeSean has a beautiful mind. Sometimes trying to analyze that mind I don't wrap myself around that too much. Or bother myself too much with that. However LeSean interprets things is how LeSean interprets things.” The Eagles do think they have enough speedminus Jackson to still thrive.

8. There was a big to-do over the Patriots having a Jets playbook and that led to a discussion over whether it made a difference. Some who have covered the NFL a long time insist it means nothing; others who have covered it a long time insist it does. With players switching teams all the time, I doubt it's a big secret what's in various playbooks and coaches study so much tape that there shouldn't be many surprises. The bigger issue is when you know another coach's tendencies. I say that because some coaches here in the past felt that part of the success they had against Giants quarterback Eli Manning stemmed from having their playbook. But it also helped that they felt offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn't change a whole lot. Tendencies mattered more.

9. One player who must have a strong year for Dallas: cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys traded up to get him with the sixth overall pick in 2012, but his impact has been poor. Claiborne has picked off two passes, has battled nagging injuries and lost his starting job last year. This is the time of year for player optimism and Claiborne is no different. Everyone is saying the right things about Claiborne, as you would expect. But they like that he's competing. One nugget: Claiborne pulled a rookie corner off the field in order to face receiver Dez Bryant in practice. "Me and him talked about it before we even started up that we want to be the best and we want to go against each other," Claiborne said. "We feel like we both compete at a high level. I get good work when I go against him and it's vice versa. When I'm not up there, he's telling me to come. We're trying to help each other so we can be the best for our team."

10. The Redskins nearly had Antrel Rolle in the 2005 draft, but he went one pick ahead of them at No. 8 to Arizona, so they drafted Carlos Rogers instead. Rolle, a corner when he came out, continues to improve at safety. Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt said of Rolle, “Before, as far as formations, he didn't see formations. He didn't really see the route concepts. Now, the last two years, it's all coming together for him and he's feeling more comfortable. So with Antrel's ability to continue to learn and grow, he hasn't really scratched his ability as a safety yet. Last year was a glimpse of what Antrel could actually become."
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins ran a stale and predictable offense last season under former coordinator Mike Sherman. Miami finished 27th in total offense and was inconsistent running and passing the football.

But there is a significant amount of newfound excitement with Dolphins players under new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Miami’s offense has a completely different look. There are various formations, motions and quick-hitting plays that you didn’t see last year from Sherman. Lazor learned under Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly and is bringing some of those principles to Miami.

We are only in Phase 3 of the Dolphins’ offseason program, but Lazor is getting rave reviews from his players.

“It’s really interesting. I’ve never been in an offense like this, how it’s called, how it’s run, the combination routes,” Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline said. “There’s a lot of things going on that I haven’t done. It’s really exciting and actually, I’m really enjoying it. You can tell it puts a smile on my face. I can’t wait to learn more, do more and then put it into action.”

One of the major criticisms last year of Sherman was the fact he didn’t move No. 1 receiver Mike Wallace around to get favorable matchups. That’s one of the first changes we’ve seen from Lazor, using Wallace on both sides and the slot depending on the formation. Wallace has looked good in organized team activities. He had three touchdown receptions in Tuesday’s practice in Lazor’s new scheme.

“Nobody can ever key on me,” Wallace explained after Tuesday’s practice. “Last year, you kind of knew where I was every single play, what you had to do because I was there every game, same spot. Moving around, it’s harder for the defense to know where you’re at, harder for them to adjust.”

Lazor is still experimenting and learning his players. For example, one interesting wrinkle the Dolphins are toying with is how to use tailbacks Lamar Miller and Knowshon Moreno in the same backfield.

Not everything is going to stick come September. But Dolphins players seem to appreciate the creativity. That is a good sign at this early stage.
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' new offense under first-year coordinator Bill Lazor was all over the place during the team’s start of organized team activities Tuesday.

There were a few dropped passes, poor timing and some badly thrown balls by starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Dolphins veteran cornerback Cortland Finnegan took advantage on one play to pick off Tannehill towards the end of practice to cap off a shaky day for the offense.

The practice essentially looked like a defense that has been in the same system for three seasons facing an offense still learning the playbook for the first time.

[+] EnlargeRyan Tannehill
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesDolphins QB Ryan Tannehill is learning a new scheme as he enters a pivotal season in his development.
“Just walking off the field -- I haven’t had a chance to see a lot of the video yet -- but I think some of the basic things that need to get corrected,” a candid Lazor said. “Number one would be communication offensively. If we are not all on the same page, we’ve got a very low chance of being successful. Some of the times you saw some mistakes where we saw mistakes, we weren’t together.”

Similar to the offense, it also was a shaky start to OTAs for Tannehill. He enters a huge season -- the third-year quarterback must prove he is the long-term solution. Tannehill, a former first-round pick, is 15-17 in two non-playoff seasons.

But here is the wildcard: Tannehill is learning a new offense for the first time in his NFL career. Will it be a smooth transition or will Tannehill have a steep learning curve? No one knows for sure.

Tannehill had run the same offensive system under former Dolphins offensive coordinator and Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman since college. Sherman recruited Tannehill out of the high school and tailored the offense at the college and pro levels around Tannehill's abilities. That helped Tannehill become a starter right away during his rookie year in Miami. He has gone on to make 32 consecutive starts for the Dolphins.

But Lazor was hired to take Tannehill's game to the next level. Lazor comes to Miami with his own ideas of how to run an offense. Some early and noticeable differences are the multiple formations, up-tempo style and many quick-hitting plays.

Lazor coached with the Philadelphia Eagles last season under Chip Kelly and is bringing many of those principles to Miami. It will be up to Tannehill to make a quick adjustment for Miami’s offense to take flight.

“There’s still a learning curve. It’s not going to come overnight,” Tannehill said. “It’s going to take some time, not just for me but for all of our guys. The receivers are running routes that they haven’t run before doing adjustments that we haven’t done before, so there’s going to be a learning curve, but that’s what this time is for.”

It’s too early to be concerned about one questionable practice from Tannehill. There certainly will be some growing pains, especially in the spring. But Tannehill must start to show more consistency in Miami’s new offense.

The Dolphins cannot afford a slow start offensively in what is a very important year for many in the organization. Miami will have three tough tests right off the bat against the New England Patriots (Week 1), Buffalo Bills (Week 2) and Kansas City Chiefs (Week 3). The Patriots and Chiefs are playoff teams from last season, and Buffalo swept Miami last season.


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