Eagles’ Kelly set for first draft
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly listens to a reporters question during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly speaks during a news conference at the team's NFL football training facility, Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
PHILADELPHIA – Chip Kelly already has changed the way the Philadelphia Eagles do almost everything.
From music blaring during practice to players wearing heart monitors on the field and drinking individualized protein shakes waiting for them afterward, Kelly has made his mark. He’s installed a new system and preached a new philosophy. He’s invigorated the franchise with fresh ideas that some players already had determined – after just a couple non-contact, no-pads practices – will revolutionize the NFL.
“It’s insane. From a communication standpoint, it’s going to change the game,” tight end Brent Celek said. “Just the way they can communicate plays and get us into stuff that’s pretty cool. It’s something I never even thought was possible in the NFL. He has a reason why each play is called what it is. And it all makes sense.”
Lured away from Oregon to replace Andy Reid, the former University of New Hampshire offensive coordinator who grew up in Manchester brought his high-octane, up-tempo offense to the pros. Everyone wants to know if his success at college will translate at the next level.
The Ducks averaged an astounding 44.7 points per game in Kelly’s four years, going 46-7. But the NFC East isn’t the Pac-12.
That doesn’t mean Kelly won’t try it his way.
Players saw firsthand how fast-paced Kelly’s offense will be in three practices last week. Kelly wants to run a play every 12 seconds, so he gets them ready for it in practice. They run a ton of plays, move around quickly and don’t spend much time waiting, doing nothing.
“What we want to do is get our work done,” Kelly said. “We’re not going to be out there for a long time, so I would argue that we don’t practice as long as other teams. It’s just we try to eliminate and be as efficient as possible. There are two speeds in football, there is game speed and teach speed. If you’re going to do something else at any other speed, why do it?”
Considering Kelly’s unique approach, many are wondering how he’ll handle this week’s draft. The Eagles hold the No. 4 overall pick and have several holes to fill after a 4-12 season.
A franchise quarterback is a priority, though Kelly insists Michael Vick and Nick Foles can do the job. Many draft analysts predict the Eagles will take West Virginia’s Geno Smith at No. 4. Florida State’s EJ Manuel and Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib are also possibilities later in the draft.
As expected, neither Kelly nor General Manager Howie Roseman gave any indication of the team’s thinking.
“I think there are some quality players in this draft, and that’s our job to kind of figure that out,” Kelly said. “I don’t think by any stretch of the imagination there is a slam dunk anywhere.”
If Kelly wants the Eagles to be the NFL version of the Ducks, he’ll need players similar to the guys he recruited at Oregon. That means athletic offensive linemen in excellent shape, and quick, speedy guys across the board on offense and defense.
Perhaps Kelly will start a new trend if he wins.
“I think we’ll be in the best shape in the league, for sure,” running back LeSean McCoy said. “Just the fast pace. There’s never a time when we’re breaking. We hustle to working out, lifting weights, everything. Even the meetings are fast. That high tempo, that high pace is a different presence to the defense because you get those 30 seconds of rest, you look to see what personnel they’re bringing in.
“In this offense, we’re shifting, we’re moving and as soon as you get tackled there’s no celebration after the play, it’s strictly get the next play and let’s go. I think I want to say by the second or third quarter, teams will be tired. As you’ve seen at Oregon, that’s really how they won a lot of their games, by scoring points so fast. As a defense, you don’t really get a chance to adjust because you’re moving so much.”
Kelly also likes versatile players, especially on defense. He still won’t commit to running a 3-4 front 100 percent of the time.
“No. 1, it hinges on the players that we have,” Kelly said. “Then No. 2, it hinges on the situation of the game. There are no purists. No one runs a 3-4 defense every single down. No one runs a 4-3 every single down. People have elements of both in there. It’s the same thing offensively. So our job is to identify what are the strengths of our players on our roster and play to those strengths. It’s still way too early to tell. But there are obviously advantages to both of those.”
For some, the bigger question isn’t who the Eagles will draft. Rather, who will make the picks. Andy Reid had final say when he was the coach, but owner Jeffrey Lurie gave Roseman more control in personnel decisions last year.
Lurie even went as far as absolving Roseman from blame for the poor draft choices the Eagles made in 2010-11, his first two seasons as GM.
“I’ve met extensively with Howie and his group and our coaches collaborated with the scouting department in terms of their opinions,” Kelly said. “I think it’s a collaborative effort. It’s not one side or another side. It’s all of us sitting down, putting our heads together and making the right decisions.”
And, if the coach and the GM are split on a player?
“I think for us it’s very easy because all the debate, all the drama, is done by that point,” Roseman said. “It’s really the board is what it is. We’re picking off as we go, as we’re picking, it’s the best available player. It’s no debate, no discussion.”