Eagles Assistants Anticipate Up-Tempo Practices

During last week’s press conference, Chip Kelly was asked which quarterback – Michael Vick or Nick Foles - would get first-team reps in the spring.

“First name, last name or flip a coin,” Kelly said, jokingly. “We did enough reps in practice where no one’s ever going to say we didn’t get enough reps. That’s another thing that we do from a practice standpoint is we’ll be able to share that load.”

The response was telling. Not because Kelly revealed anything significant about the quarterback situation, but because he shed some light on how he plans to run practices in the NFL.

When we last asked Kelly about this topic at the Senior Bowl,  he was still in the process of formulating a plan. He mentioned roster limitations, injuries and the need to tweak what he did at Oregon. But after talking to the other coaches on Kelly’s staff, it’s clear that some version of those up-tempo practices are coming to the Novacare Complex.

“Chip’s about playing fast, it’s about practicing fast, training fast,” said defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, the one full-time staffer Kelly brought with him from Oregon. “That’s just in our DNA. That’s what we do. I don’t even think about it. I don’t think the guys here will even think about it. It’s just what we do.”

Back in November, Chris Brown of Grantland explained that Oregon didn’t just run a no-huddle offense, but a no-huddle program. Everything Kelly did focused on speed and efficiency. Practices were fast-paced because games would be fast-paced. Plus, they had a limited amount of time to work with because of NCAA rules.

The purpose was to maximize reps. If a player needed one-on-one instruction, he would get that in the film room. Kelly didn’t see the point of making everyone else stand around and watch while a coach addressed a single player.

“I can’t wait to experience it and see where it’s at,” said defensive coordinator Billy Davis. “It’s going to take me out of my 20-year box that I’ve been in and see what the advantages and disadvantages are. I know one thing. He’s had a lot of success with the things he’s done and the ideas he has. He’s always evolving.”

Roster limits will be a factor during the season, but remember, from April until late August (the third week of preseason games), NFL teams are allowed 90 spots. That should give Kelly plenty of time (OTAs, mini-camps and most of training camp) to incorporate his tempo before potentially making tweaks prior to the regular season.

In all, Kelly’s staff includes 21 assistants. Inside linebackers coach Rick Minter said one of the reasons for the large group is so they can maximize efficiency during practices.

“Everything around here is going to be fast,” Minter said. “Everything’s done around here with a purpose. So we’ve got a larger staff to be more efficient teachers and get messages done perhaps in a shorter period of time.”

Minter, who has coached at 12 different college programs, but never in the NFL, sees a real advantage to running practices the way Kelly has in the past.”

“We’ll get more reps than the average team gets if we’re out there an equal amount of time,” he said. “So if we get more reps, then our ones and twos get good reps. We’re building depth, developing players, not just working your ones to death, letting your twos watch, learn by listening, throw them in for a couple crumbs and hope nobody gets hurt. We can play our depth. We can develop our depth.

“If we happen to lose players for whatever reason down the road – injuries, negotiations, whatever – it’ll be the next man in. We think over the long haul, the more practice time we can get working within Coach Kelly’s system, the more players we can develop into playing in the real game. We’d like to play as many players as we can to stay fresh, to stay sustainable for the long haul. How we use our time will be what separates us from our opponents.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
Become a fan of Birds 24/7 on Facebook.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • Max Lightfoot

    Wow, Sheil – you are a writing machine today! Keep up the good work!

  • Nailed it!

    Anyone who isn’t excited to watch the Chip Ship get going, isn’t a football fan. Period.

    • Bob A

      I can’t wait for the first out of shape 30 something who can’t finish his practices to get told” Coach wants to see you… bring your playbook”

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10505854 Corey Dawson

        They know what’s coming. They should be at home right now running wind sprints.

        • Bob A

          Casey Matthews and Dennis Dixon are probably ready. I’ll bet the others find out the hard way.

          • GoBirds1

            Hopefully Matthews and all the other dead weight will be elsewhere come camp time. Which made me look up the draft history. It is amazing how BAD our drafts have been. As bad as ’10 was, could ’11 be worse?

            Here it is, the 2011 draft: Watkins, Jarrett, Marsh, Matthews – bust for the first 4 picks, that is hard to do. Henery, a K in the 4th, then Lewis, Vanderveld, Kelce, Rolle, Lloyd, Havili. The 6th and 7th round picks to salvage the draft, luckily they had 2 picks in the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th otherwise it would have been a completely busted draft.

            Now for the 2010 draft: With mind a boggling 13 picks, look at the pile of crap we have accumulated. Graham, Allen, Te’o, Lindley, Clayton, Kafka, Harbor, Sapp, Cooper, Scott, Chaney, Owens, Coleman.

            If you are still wondering why we were 4-12 and picking 4th this year, review all the previous drafts and it is amazing that this team isn’t one of the worst teams in the league, oh yeah, they are. I think a monkey picking or throwing darts at the board blind-folded would have yielded better results.

          • aub32

            Casey was actually the 5th pick (Henery was picked ahead of him.), and I don’t think you can call a LB picked late in the 4th a bust just because they’re a backup going into year 3. Watkins may still pan out now that we are moving to a more balanced system, and we still don’t know what Marsh is at this point. I am not calling these drafts great, but I do think it’s unfair to call players busts in just 2 years when they came into a lockout shortened season and a dysfunctional mess in regards to coaching.

          • GoBirds1

            You have zero credibility when you correct a post and you are dead wrong. Casey was picked 4th round 116 overall and Henery 4th round 120th. Stop making a fool of yourself and check your facts before you claim to be a know it all. I don’t care what round Casey was picked, he can not play. Not LB, not ST, not at all. He is slow, undersized, can’t play and is stealing money regardless of what his rookie contact pays him. When he gets cut, the only team picking him up will be in the arena league. Remember him trying to cover Jacobs on the wheel route, he looked like Curly from the Three Stooges with the speed of Foles running for the TD in the Tampa game.

            As for Watkins, I hope Stoutland can rehab him, but reaching for a G project in the 1st round is a bad bad pick, no matter how you look at it. Marsh, another reach project pick in the 3rd round, that is silly. He played two seasons his entire life as a DB, for Utah no less – garbage. Howie must have been feeling it that day after scoring Jarrett in the 2nd. Enough with the excuses, either you can play in this league or you can’t, most of these guys can’t. And apply the dysfunctional mess phrase to yourself.

          • Bob A

            Let’s face it…you know your draft wasn’t good when the most productive player is the kicker

          • JofreyRice

            haha, you’re about as pissed off with the drafting as I am. I don’t have a lot of hope for Watkins. What’s worse about the Casey Matthews pick is that they tried to actually start him, week 1, in the middle of the defense! That was almost as asinine as making Castillo the DC–which some people still try to argue wasn’t as idiotic a move as it appeared.

            I will say that I am holding out a little hope for Marsh. He actually played at Boise State, and played pretty well. He was a bit of a project, converting from RB, but I’m not ready to call him a total failure. Don’t forget, he was playing behind disgraced CB Nnamdi Asomugha, who they were paying 80 bajillion dollars to get burned when he wasn’t interfering, & super-athletic pantywaist DRC, who they wanted to see was worth extending long term.

          • southy

            I think the correct way to put it is most people think it was an idiotic move to hire Castillo as DC, and then an idiotic move to fire him when Andy did, as well.

          • JofreyRice

            I’ll sign off on that. He should have never been retained after they reeled off a bunch of meaningless wins against backups down the stretch in 2011. It would have been a cleaner transition to Bowles.

          • aub32

            I agre these picks were need picks, but you can’t ignore that they also occurred during the lockout season. There was no guarantee that FA would occur, so needs had to be addressed in the draft. Also, Marsh would’ve been grabbed by the Steelers in a few more picks had we not grabbed him when we did. So we aren’t the only team that had him where we got him.

          • GoBirds1

            Stop it with the lockout non-sense. In the lockout year, How did a new coach from the college ranks install an entirely new offense, defense, and staff and turn around a 3-13 team and take them to a conference championship game. Stop drinking the green kool-aid pull your head out of your…and open your eyes. Boy I am so glad we have Marsh now. Could of had him the 6th round. Yeah Pitt was going to sign him as an undrafted FA.

          • aub32

            I was using the lockout to explain why they drafted more for need. The picks were definitely reaches and as they saw was the wrong way to go. The team is far from blameless, but last year’s draft was the best in a while, and I am interested in seeing if they can pull off something similar this April. A good draft plus the right moves in FA can make this team competitive. This team isn’t void of talent, and at some point you have to blame the coaching as well as the player. You asked about SF going from 3-13 to the NFC championship game. The biggest part of that was coaching. I’m not saying we have untapped perrinial pro bowlers, but there’s definitely hope that players like Marsh, Watkins, and Allen can still become decent to good players.

          • chip’s intern @eaglesnation

            First and foremost, every player drafted has to fit the scheme….and Peyton manning can’t run a pistol offense….blame the coach for nit using him right and I hope chip Kelly makes u put ur foot in ur mouth for that bust comment…obviously, u think all good players will fit all systems…..what an idiot, but ur not alone, my unintelligent brotha! its plenty of u guys that don’t consider all the factors of the game of football.take a page out of chip’s book and become more innovate with those lame comments because they are too predictable….LOL

          • GoBirds1

            Excuse me, what the F are you talking about????? I was talking about Reid and Howie’s picks on the Reid and Howie team. What specific players are you talking about. For the most part those two drafts were god awful, and most of the drafts before were too. I am so sick and tired of the fans and media talking about all the talent on this roster, that is a joke and smoke and mirrors based on perception, not reality.

          • JofreyRice

            booooo! stop pointing out facts, they hurt my feelings! GO EAGLSE!

      • zbone95

        Andy Reid did run an intense camp last year. Maybe they will be better conditioned than we think

        • http://twitter.com/ChurroTom Churro Tom

          Reid ran an “intense” camp in terms of hitting, not running.

  • Demetress Bell

    I’m sure Andy’s overpaid holdovers are gonna love uptempo practices.. Clean house Chip!

    • Bob A

      Backing up that truck can only help, I was happy to see they started with the guy that inspired your user name, now they can keep cleaning house.

  • knighn

    All of this stuff gets me fired up for the regular season.

    Due to the NFL CBA, there are time limitations for both practice and contact practice, just like there are in the NCAA. These limit how long a team may practice. It doesn’t limit how fast a team may practice!

  • Damien

    I love this! The only thing that worries me is how the offensive lineman will handle this. Luckily we have a very athletic line, but some of the veterans like Herremans might have trouble. Either way, I love this system! This makes me so excited for training camp and OTAs. For the first time ever I might actually watch an OTA practice full way through without yawning lol.

  • Damien

    What I really love about this though is the depth situation. We saw last year, with tons of injuries, very few backups stepped up and played up to par. With this system the backups should be game ready every week incase of an injury. All of these innovations mean so much to the Eagles, but also the football world in general. If Chip is successful, this will set the new mold for the NFL.

  • MAC

    This is exactly one of my fears. I understand a no huddle and the advantage of it at times during games. It is used by teams like patriots for portions of game and is effective. However the thing that concerns me is that if we are going to run up tempo practices hence up tempo game day strategies; then that means our defense will most likely be playing more often or at least get less rest between series. This also means you need smaller more athletic defensive players for endurance purposes. It really shapes the kind of roster you need to be successful in that kind of system.

    While smaller defensive players for endurance means more injuries, means can be pushed around easier bc of there size. It also means that Kelly’s philosophy or strategy is more offensive oriented than defensive. In the NFL smaller rosters can be a huge issue in playoffs when it’s in most cases a grind, especially in Philly or any other place where the weather is a factor. If a coach game plan is to be up tempo and put his defensive players in a situation throughout game where they are on field more and with less breaks between series it wears them down no matter how in shape they are. In college where there is a talent disparity you can have a lead late in the game many weeks so them wearing down means little in many cases. Also have a larger roster in college so more fresh bodies.
    In NFL most important games come down to last half of 4th quarter. When your defense is tired bc of the style played all game and they are small it’s not a good situation. The NFL is changing rules to favor offense, but winning super bowl’s usually comes down to same principles of discipline, physically dominating, and mental toughness. Defense wins championships and offense sells tickets.
    Take a look at 2 super bowl teams this year in the “changing NFL” both had good defenses (Ravens was good in playoffs) and could win ugly games with grind it out big defensive and offensive players. We are building a fast small team and that is not a formula for success in most cases. Also we don’t have the QB to be an offense first team. Can we really compete with the Packers, Saints, Giants, 49ers, etc by trying to outscore them? Look at QB skilll level and that seems counter intuitive to try to win by outscoring those teams with those QB’s.
    Oh well I am an Eagles fan and will always root for my team, but this kind of strategy is not one teams like Steelers, Giants, or 49ers (storied franchises) have used to win the Lombardi. I am sorry and people can call me negative, but this is not college and trying to score 50 pts to win games, is not a formula for success. Yes I am assuming a lot, but everything has pointed to an up tempo attack that is similar to what they did at Oregon. I am trying to give benefit of the doubt to Kelly. The news of Vick and this news tells me that my original worries about type of team and strategy Kelly would bring is something I am concerned about to be honest. Hope I am wrong bc no fan wants a Lombardi more than me.

    • aub32

      The NFL is more of an offensive league, so why wouldn’t you want a coach who’s geared more toward the offense. The Packers went 15-1 with the worst D in the league in 2011. The 49ers gave up 34 points to the Ravens. Having a stout D is nice, but clearly you need to be able to put up points.

      I get your point about Vick, but we just saw a super bowl played by Flacco and Kaepernick. I highly doubt you put either as a top ten guy prior to the start of the season. Hell, you probably didn’t have either as a top 10 guy before the start of the playoffs. However, Flacco beat Luck, Manning, and Brady. Too much is made about having “elite” QB play. You need playmakers, and a good coach that puts players in the right position. Look at Kaep and Wilson. They don’t throw a million passes. They throw when called upon, and have play making ability. Vick can make any throw, and despite his age, he can still make plays with his legs. If Kelly recognizes what we all know at this point and doesn’t ask him to do too much, I think he will succeed.

      I get you want a grind it out football team, but that’s just not today’s NFL. The 49ers didn’t get their rings from being a defensive led team. They were some of the first to employ pass happy offenses. Last years Giants weren’t some knock you down, hit you in the mouth team. They faked injuries in the middle of a game to slow down the Rams. They were the worst rushing team in the league, but they were well coached and their playmakers gave up big in big games.

      The NFL has changed MAC. These aren’t the days of the steel curtain. I want a coach who’s biggest concern is putting up points. Because at the end of the day, the tam with the most points always wins.

      • theycallmerob

        Amen, good sir(lady?). The game is simply evolving. Yet I still think it’s naive to paint Kelly with such a broad brush. It’s February, and some of his assistants are stoking the fire with a media that is new to them.
        But, MAC, some of your concerns were also addressed in the article itself. First, rosters are 90 players until almost the end of camp. That’s a lot of time, a lot of guys, and therefore a lot of reps. No where does it say such a defense requires smaller players, just better conditioned player;, look at Oregon this year (OLB Dion Jordan is 6`7″) and past years. Also, this goes for offense AND defense, as in they are all conditioning just as hard. Sure the defense comes on the field more/quicker in college, but Kelly favors the run (burns clock) and the NFL has something called TV timeouts. Also, I’d be happy to come play defense if we’re usually protecting a lead. They’re in great shape themselves, and there is also depth on both sides of the ball. And of course this would be altered for the NFL, especially during the regular season.
        Disagree with Kelly all you want, but it is very shortsighted to assume this man will not evolve to meet concerns with his style that are obvious to all the rest of us.

        • JofreyRice

          I wonder if being in Kelly’s system caused Jordan’s weight to dip so much in season? I think he was in the low 220’s for parts of it. You can’t hold onto much bodyfat if you’re in that kind of shape. He’s up to 240 now. I think Matthews put on a bunch of weight after he left Oregon, too–about 20 pounds between his playing shape and the combine.

          • theycallmerob

            I’m curious if that may just be the result of being in the NFL and having nutritionists, better strength coaches, etc. The weight Matthews and other rookies put on may just be muscle (hold the laughter). Also makes me wonder what Kelly has in mind for the lineman on both sides and where they will fall in the weight spectrum.

      • MAC

        I do not agree the game is changing. I believe the rules favor offense
        and that there is more scoring, but the teams that play defense and make
        less mistakes with a solid offense are ones who win. Unless you have a
        Brady, Rodgers, Brees, etc trying to outscore people is not the answer.
        Yea the Super Bowl had a ton of points, but in order to get there the
        Ravens had to hold Payton to 21 points (14 pts special teams) and hold
        Brady to like 1 of 5 or something in the red zone. It is more offensive
        than before, but to win a super bowl you better pack a defense. Go ask
        the Patriots what works better for Super Bowl’s having a good defense or
        having a good offense. They have not won since they emphasized offense.

        Also Flacco before this had a history of being very good in the
        playoffs. Vick actually has the opposite history. You are tight before
        season I would not have thought that way about Kaepernick (never started
        before) or Flacco (but has history in playoffs). However they are young
        and improving QB’s and Flacco had already won several playoff games.
        Vick is not young and has only won 2 playoff games in career. Vick is
        not capable of keeping up. i was thinking about this last night during a
        conversation with a non Eagles fan. One of big problems with Vick is
        you can apply the 2004 championship game strategy the Eagles applied and
        slow him down. Just have your d line be disciplined and not let him out
        of pocket. he can’t win from pocket most of time. If you leave
        defenders in box and put WR in tight man to man Vick struggles. That and
        disguise some pressure packages and it’s not a tough game plan to beat
        him.

        • PhillyPhan

          Should we also ask the Patriots if they have won since spygate?

      • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

        That said, the Ravens Defense still won the Super Bowl this year, there’s no doubt about the importance of their last defensive stance. And may I add it was the Ravens defense that shut out the Patriots in the second half of the AFC Championship game which vaulted them into the Super Bowl.

    • GoBirds1

      Mac my friend learn to embrace change. Read about Kelly’s prototypical players on both sides of the ball. Nothing small about them, long, strong, athletic and fast very different from Reid’s quick, fast with a good motor mentality. You need to look at Kelly’s philosophy with a fresh perspective. It is not based on on controlling the ball and time of possession, it is about maximizing the number of plays, controlling the tempo, dictating to the other team and utilizing your complete roster. If this how CK and his staff and his players are going to approach and prepare for the games, who is going to be more tired in the 4thQ, us or them. Its called changing the rules of the game to gain a competitive advantage in a hyper-competitive environment.

    • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

      NFL Teams average 65 to 70 Offensive plays per game, the Patriots average 78.2 plays a game, limiting the opportunities for their opponents to score on Offense. The Patriot follow Kelly’s philosophy to get an advantage in the numbers game.

      Also, the 49ers after Montana with Young, Craig and James were pretty much suited to be an option run team. the 49ers just happen to also have Rice and Taylor on the outside to go with the powerful and skillful backs and Quarterbacks. And a tight end who loved the traffic in the middle of the field.

  • ACViking

    21 assistants?

    Several are strictly Oxygen Carriers.

    • JofreyRice

      According to fishduck.com Kelly’s philosophy is to actually have 2 “hidden” assistants for every 1, so actually, there are 64 assistants. He does this to surprise people who think they know how many assistants he’s got. He also believes in carrying a number of imaginary assistants, which are negative square roots of the full integer assistants. Basically Novacare is at maximum occupancy with assistants.

      • theycallmerob

        I’ll never understand why he publicized the imaginary assistant piece, now it’s only a matter of time before Belichick and other teams follow along. Though I imagine he’ll have trouble stealing our play signs from game tape…..

  • PaoliBulldog

    People have been talking about Kelly’s practice regimen as thought he’s Pat Riley or Tom Coughlin, which he isn’t. If you’re in shape, you’ll be fine. If your first name rhymes with Ring Ding and your last name sounds like “run laps,” then you’d better schedule a garage sale.

    • limodriver27

      One key sentence: “If you’re in shape, you’ll be fine”. That alone should be the wake-up call this team needs. Yes, Red ran an intense camp, but I can bet that the squad has never experienced anything like this. Hands-on-hips, moving too slow, sideways glances (“are you sh*tting me” looks) and you’ll be filling out change of address cards for your mail.

      • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

        Any Professional athlete that comes into training camp or OTA sessions out of shape should be released and given a box of stale jelly donuts.

  • laeagle

    It would be interesting to find out how much conditioning and the way practices are run has affected NFL programs in the past. I’m speaking particularly about teams who were able to overcome injuries and get maximum protection from their backups, like the 2007 Giants and 2008 Packers. Is there a correlation? An interesting point to research.

    It will also be interesting to see how 10 year veterans handle this. At some point, it’s not a matter of lazy, it’s a matter of grown men battering each other for 16+ weeks, and once you’re over 30, things change (especially, say, on the line). I’d imagine there will have to be some evolution here.

    Still, love the idea of squeezing everything for whatever competitive advantage can be found.