Kelly: No Tackling To the Ground Until Preseason

Chip Kelly has watched film of the 2012 Eagles. He knows what pretty much everyone else knows: that this was the worst-tackling team in football.

And that’s no exaggeration. According to Football Outsiders, the defense missed a tackle on 8.5 percent of its plays, the highest mark in the league. It wasn’t just last year, either. In 2011, the Eagles missed a tackle on 8.1 percent of their plays, second-worst.

But so far, Kelly has chosen not to do any tackling to the ground during training camp. And that’s not going to change.

“We’ve got four preseason games for that,” he said after today’s practice. “But they’re hitting pretty good when they get an opportunity. And the big thing with tackling is you want to be on your feet anyway. We don’t want people diving. We want to be good form tacklers. If they get an opportunity in the hole to button them up, then that first team period we do every day… we’re going to be doing that.”

Eagles players had the pads on for a second straight day, and there are “thud” periods, where they basically begin the tackle, but don’t go to the ground.

It’s a change from the previous regime, where Andy Reid often included live tackling periods and ran one of the more physical camps in the league. Obviously, that didn’t carry over into the regular season.

Kelly instead is going to put a lot of stock in the preseason and try to keep his team healthy before the real games start.

“When you get guys on the ground, it’s not really the two guys that get tackled,” Kelly said. “It’s what’s chasing them. We’re trying to keep everybody and every situation up. Obviously if I’m blocking my guy and I’m trying to finish to the whistle, but then two guys in front of me fell, that’s the biggest thing [that] occurs. It’s the pile-ups.

“Most of the time, it’s not the tackle or the tackler. It’s the rest of the guys coming through. You get a lot of big bodies moving, there’s a fine line of what we have to get done from a work standpoint, but we also know that we’ve got to get our guys to the game too. So it’s a dance everybody’s gotta dance. You want to make sure you’ve got enough physicality in there in practice, and I think our guys are doing a good job right now. And they understand it. Our guys are being really competitive with each other, but they also know there’s got to be a little bit of cooperation.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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