Chip Kelly, as usual, was standing with the punt returners during the special teams portion of practice Sunday. He has been working with them regularly, focusing on improving their tracking skills so that they are consistently under the ball when it comes down.
All of a sudden, Kelly darted towards the sideline and disappeared into the crowd. He had spotted the handful of Atlanta Braves that were in attendance, and made his way into their pack looking for pointers. After all, who knows more about tracking balls than baseball players?
Kelly wanted to know from assistant coach Alan Butts if there was any terminology used in baseball that could best describe what he was asking of his players. Butts responded that there was no such terminology, but there is a technique. He said the key is to take a step back first. If your first step is forward, you’ll get lost.
Kelly then pulled third baseman Chris Johnson onto the field briefly so he could pick his brain further. Johnson joked that Kelly shouldn’t listen to his advice, seeing as he is an infielder.
“I’ll take tips from anybody if they work,” said Kelly. “You’ve got pro baseball players that give you a better understanding of things. You get some experts here, you’re going to ask them.”
Why such an emphasis on catching the ball?
“There are so many hidden yards when the returner doesn’t catch the ball, and all of a sudden now the other team gets an extra 15 yards because of the roll, where if we had just kept the ball off the grounds, we’re going to be 15 yards better than we were,” said Kelly. “So a lot of being a great punt returner is being a great decision maker. Can you go get it? There are times in games where I believe at the college level we’ve won games because our returners just fair caught six punts, and didn’t let the ball roll.”
Waiting Game For Starting QB
So, who will start at quarterback in Friday’s first preseason game against the Patriots? Sounds like we won’t know that answer until Wednesday at the earliest.
“What we talked about is we want to get through Tuesday, Wednesday practice, and then we’ve really got to sit down,” said Kelly. “Because we’re going against the Patriots, so we believe the practices, we’re going to get some good, quality work against them. But we talked about for us to say, ‘this is what we’re going to do’ on Monday, and then all of a sudden, the lineup changes so you don’t know. But after Wednesday, we’ll probably have a final meeting and then have an idea going back through it.”
The quarterbacks say that they won’t read too much into Kelly’s decision, regardless of who gets the nod.
“I don’t think whoever starts on Friday is going [necessarily be the opening-day] starter,” said Michael Vick. “I don’t think Chip is that far ahead. We’re not that far ahead.”
How many days before a game does a QB need to know whether he’s the starter?
“You only need one,” said Vick.
Peters Can’t Finish Practice
Jason Peters returned to practice Sunday but exited early because of a nagging hamstring strain. He originally injured the right hamstring during practice on Wednesday.
Zach Ertz (shoulder) did not practice. The Eagles don’t seem to be particularly concerned about it. Dennis Kelly (back), Ed Wang (knee), Antonio Dixon (hamstring) and Dave Ball (quad) sat out as well.
Arrelious Benn (knee) practiced for the first time since July 26. Kelly was complimentary towards the receiver afterwards.
“You expect some rust to be honest with you and I didn’t [see that],” said Kelly. “A couple early drills, quarterback-receiver catch drills, running routes and things like that, he kind of flashed a little bit. I thought he was really good from a mental standpoint…we called things today that he had never run in practice before and really picked it up.”
We went through seven days of full-squad training camp practices without a single dust-up. That has to be some sort of record. Finally, on Day 8, we got a little action. Defensive lineman Clifton Geathers was in the center of it all. Matt Kopa, Dallas Reynolds and Vinny Curry seemed to be part of the pile.
Even if there is less hitting in Camp Kelly compared to Camp Reid, you would think there would be more extra-curriculars than we have seen to date. After listening to Kelly speak on the subject, it’s clear that he discourages that kind of behavior.
“We talk about being bigger than the situation. At times in this game people get probably hit. Sometimes you’re going to get hit in your opinion which is illegal. But the concept that we try to teach to these guys isn’t to retaliate because if this was a game, they’d be out, and they’ve got to learn to do it,” he said. “It’s not like well, it’s practice, so I can do it. Because we always believe you’re going to play in a game like you train.”
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