Inside Voices: Eagles Getting Stronger

Philadelphia Eagles left guard Evan Mathis.The idea that a football team would be getting physically stronger as the season goes along seems counter-intuitive. The Eagles are 13 games into their campaign. Add training camp into the equation, and the grind has been going on for more than four months now. You would think the body would start wearing down right about now. Yet some players believe the opposite is happening in Year One under Chip Kelly.

“You can tell just from the reps that we do. I’m not saying that I’m just jumping up crazy, but what used to be hard to me is starting to become a lot easier towards the end,” said Brandon Graham. “Like the other day I put 405 on the bench [and did three sets of three] and it was pretty easy, and I feel like next week I want to go up a little more because that’s how good I feel right now.”

The commitment to sports science and speeding up recovery time has been well-covered in this space and elsewhere. One byproduct of the players’ bodies feeling fresher is that they can be more active in the weight room in-season. The 31-year-old Jason Peters, as an example, is lifting four times a week.


“Usually I’d be so tired, but now I get it in whether I’m tired or not,” he said. “Just make it happen.”

It is part of a training regiment that players say is paying off in a big way.

"I feel way better than I did last year. Around this time, I was hurting. boy," said Mychal Kendricks, who was also smack against the rookie wall by this point last season. "They have all the measurables recorded and that's how we know that information: the amount we can lift, the speed we can lift it at, the amount of reps, the amount of recovery, all that. I'm getting stronger. By this time last year I was tired, I was hurting. You couldn't tell me to squat 475 five times without me looking at you like you're crazy. But that was asked of me on Tuesday and I did it with ease. I'm not hurting, feel good, and I know a lot of the other guys feel the same way."

So everyone is feeling stronger. But who's the strongest?

"Evan [Mathis] is the one I'm trying to catch up to," said Graham. "He's just crazy, man. I don't what he can do. He can probably lift 600. I'm trying to tell you that boy is crazy strong."

Six-hundred pounds?

"It might equate to something like that, close to that," said Mathis, who claims he's routinely been the top man in the weight room dating back to the 11th grade. "I don't max out any more. I'll put on 455 and throw it up eight times. I usually peak around there."

Mathis explained that going heavy in the weight room is something he's always done. It's psychological for him; if he doesn't hit his numbers, he doesn't feel right on the field, so he pushes himself and regularly feels like he is getting stronger as the season wears on. Most of his teammates seem to be feeling the exact same way.

"I would have to guess that everyone on the team at this point is feeling better than any other year," he said.

Reese on Fog Bowl vs. Snow Bowl

The scene at the Linc Sunday conjured up memories of the Fog Bowl played between the Eagles and Bears at Soldier Field in 1988. Merrill Reese, now in his 37th year as play-by-play voice of the Eagles, was on the call for both games.

Similar experience?

"It's not even close," Reese said, "because the Fog Bowl you saw nothing. I mean it was like putting a tablecloth or a sheet in front of you, you saw nothing. Here you could see figures, so I was just looking at the players coming out, where they were lining up and what position they were in, what slot, the receivers and ball carriers. Once we did that, we just had fun. It was just so much fun to be a part of this."

Reese started the broadcast by telling the listeners: "This is the kind of game you may remember for the rest of your lives." Looks like he was right. For broadcasters, it was the kind of game that required total concentration. The snow was so heavy in the first half that Reese couldn't even see the scoreboard on the other side of the stadium that indicated down and distance. So he had to count the plowed line-markers (five, ten, fifteen, twenty) to gauge where the line of scrimmage was. He knew who the players were based on where they lined up on the field, and estimated the best he could on yards gained.

"When you look from the press box down, you couldn't tell if they were wearing black jerseys or green jerseys becasuse there was no light reflecting off the jerseys. That's how bleak the whole thing looked. It looked like a black and white film, even to the way the players were kind of slowed down. It was amazing," he said.

As for the Fog Bowl...

"I saw nothing. I started to say things like, 'I can tell the Eagles are having trouble because Randall Cunningham is coming out the huddle led by a German Shepard," Reese cracked.

During the second half, a public address announcer was sent down to field level with a wireless mic. He would relay the play through the stadium. Pass to Quick, 14 yards to the 32. Reese had to rely on that information, then added color the best he could "to make it sound like a game."

"I'm thinking during the whole thing, 'We're never going to get home tonight.' It was New Year's Eve day, and my wife and I always have a big party on New Year's Eve at the house. I'm thinking, we're not getting home, we're not going to have our party. And the amazing thing was, when we walked out of the locker room after the game to the buses parked outside of Soldier Field, there was no fog. It was totally clear, we took off on time. It was just late in the second quarter until the end of the game. Once the game ended, the fog completely dissipated."

He remembers that broadcast as a frustrating experience, whereas Sunday he just had a ball.

"You're really just working every second, concentrating every second," he said, "but it was so much fun."

For my next trick, I'll pretend I'm someone else

The best magic trick Jon Dorenbos ever pulled off was the one that got him a full ride to UTEP, and ultimately, a job in the NFL.

Dorenbos had done some long-snapping in high school but very little as a freshman at Golden West Junior College, where he played linebacker. He wasn't drawing any interest from college teams, so he decided to get creative. He took tape of a more accomplished long-snapper, mixed it in with some of his own linebacker highlights (as well as highlights from another 'backer on the team) and sent it out to different teams, claiming it was all him. The film was so grainy, you couldn't tell the difference in jersey numbers -- or height, apparently.

"His name was Tim Thurman, he was a 6-6 longsnapper, so I took his film," said the 6-foot Dorenbos. "Put my linebacker stuff in there, then there was a guy by the name of Nick Heinle and I took some of his highlights -- he was a guy I rotated with -- and I made like an ultra highlight film and I sent it out. I told UTEP I was a really good long-snapper and at the time I don't think I was really good. Tim was way better. I hadn't done it in about a year-and-a-half. They needed a snapper, so I got a full ride being a long-snapper. Awesome."

The pressure was on now, especially since Dorenbos knew he would be playing right away. So he got busy working on fine-tuning his snapping skills. His first action came against Oklahoma, with his team backed up near their own goal line. He was able to get off a good one. He went on to long-snap for three seasons at UTEP, and is now in his 11th season in the NFL.

He said he came clean with UTEP his junior year about the tape. By that time it didn't matter.

Where did Thurman end up?

"Nowhere. I think he had a ride to Cal-Berkley, he was talking to Cal I think, and I think he stayed to play baseball and I don't know what happened after that."

Heinle is now coaching high school ball in California.

Where would you be without Tim Thurman?

"Who knows," said Dorenbos. "Probably doing magic in Southern California."

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  • Frank

    “250 pieces?”
    “Pounds. Pounds, baby, pounds.”

    • erdessy

      ah, the good old jerky boys….

    • JofreyRice

      “AND I TOLD YOU TEN, LIVERLIPS, TALK TO ME!”

  • G_WallyHunter

    Sometimes I wake up as an Eagles Fan and read these articles and wonder if I’m dreaming or not, splash some water on the face, make sure.
    Anyone else?

    • GEAGLE

      Incredible isn’t it? It’s getting really difficult to say the SS is bogus and that this is all a big coincidence..Trent friggin Coles has sucked this time of year since he was about 26years old lol, that dude WORKED HIS ASS OFF, you can’t sit here and tell me that a) this year is the first year he decided to work hard OR B) This is all just a coincidence…

      Trent has been a BEAST these past two weeks, and this is not something we are accustomed to seeing so late in the year, and we damn sure aren’t used to a team who has every single player on the roster practicing on December 12th!!!! Goode And Wolff aka “dark man X” “woof woof, where my dawgs at grrrrrrrr” are both back practicing..

      People down played some of our wins saying well so and so was injured on the opposing team…THATS LIFE in the NFL. Injuries are a major major part of how each season unfolds..if we are going to be one of the healthiest teams every year, that alone keeps us at the top of the NFL. We have an entire roster practicing and we are playing against teams every week who are completely decimated by injuries…and we aren’t even talking about the in game conditioning advantages….when you commit to running the ball, and pound it all game, things tend to open up for backs towards the middle of the 3rd quarter, and it’s been that way forever….now when you add an energy advantage over your opponent, It’s going to take a special defense to keep shady from getting off to the races with this Oline who we haven’t even seen the best of yet…If those 5 stay healthy, they will 100% be the NUMBER 1 line in the NFL next year after more time in this system and the drastic improvements we will see from Lane for month to month!…top back, behind a top line, top conditioning, top health can’t be kept from being towards the Top of the Standings!

      • Chris

        Other thing that may be keeping Cole fresh – he seems to be playing less snaps than other years. Don’t have snap count charts in front of me, but i’d imagine this rotational stuff is a significant drop for him as far as PT goes.

        • DEBO 215

          absolutely, which is crazy considering Reid’s philosophy of rotating fresh “fastballs” in on the d-line…I think they’re keeping him fresh and getting guys like Vinny Curry and Graham looks when they go to 4 man fronts.

        • cliff henny

          coles might be playing less snaps as a percentage of Eagles snaps, but the defense has been on the field a ton. think last i saw, they’ve played the equivalent of 2 extra games at this point compared to other teams. i’d be surprised if every eagle hasnt seen major increases in number of snaps reguardless of where they played, philly, another nfl team or college.

          • Andy124

            I read somewhere that Cole is already close to his career high, and several other players on D have surpassed their career high already.

          • Chris

            ah good point about the total number of snaps. would love to see the actual numbers here

          • Andy124
          • Chris

            Thank you! I stand corrected –

            for reference, Cole is at 736 total snaps through 13 games in 2013. He played 735 snaps all of 2012.

            Those numbers make this SS stuff so much more impressive! He is averaging about 56 snaps/game in 2013, so extrapolated out to 16 that puts him at 896 snaps this year, 161 more than in 2012

      • Andy124

        A fitting quote that got repeated a lot in the preseason that I haven’t seen in a while:

        Fatigue makes cowards of us all.

    • Eagle in VT

      I gotta be honest, at the risk of sounding like a super-homer, this season has me feeling like we are in the middle of something amazing…with the right ending, it sounds like a 30 for 30, or Football Life story in the making.

      • qazer

        What if I told you the coach that insisted he wasn’t a genius, really was?

      • G_WallyHunter

        Agreed, completely, I’m lovin this, CK has exceeded expectations by at least 1000% when you consider the future potential.

  • Scott J

    The Eagles aren’t getting stronger or faster, other teams are getting slower. It’s just like a horse race where you see a horse pull away at the end. It’s not accelerating, the other horses are slowing up.

    • DirtyWaters

      I don’t think the weights are getting lighter.

      “They have all the measurables recorded and that’s how we know that information: the amount we can lift, the speed we can lift it at, the amount of reps, the amount of recovery, all that. I’m getting stronger.

    • Maggie

      Except for Secretariat.

  • Adam

    I think the best magic trick Jon Dorenbos ever pulled was tricking that wife of his into marry him.

    • DEBO 215

      heyoooooo

    • Richard Colton

      tried to drag and drop an image for the folks who don’t live in the area and don’t get to see her on TV, but they were all NSFW. He’s a magic man.

  • macadood

    Neat story about Dorenbos! One of the most underrated guys on the team, he’s been stellar his whole time here. And seems like he’d be a riot to hang out with in person.

  • DirtyWaters

    I could put 3 pounds on the bar and do 3 sets of 405. Is that the same?

    • cliff henny

      if you can do it in the same amount of time he does he 3 reps, then yes. be like the flash lifting.

      • DirtyWaters

        Yeah right, I got winded typing this reply.

  • GEAGLE

    Another example of great coaching…Celek…people Like myself thought he was done in this city. His hands had become so horrible these past few years, and early this season he was still constantly dropping balls, yet even that problem seems to have gone away..This coaching has done SO MUCH for so many of our returning players that it’s really makes me wonder WTF Andy was doing these past few years?

    • OregonDucker

      Andy was doing what most coaches were doing – my way is the right way. Chip approaches the game differently.

      • Maggie

        Well, Chip does think his way is the right way, but, he has spent years LOOKING for the right way. How else did he know about the Aussie? And he has no problem taking advice to tweak his “way” to make it even better.

  • DEBO 215

    I’ve been saying this for a while now, but the health of this team and their current condition is a credit to Chip Kelly and his emphasis on conditioning, diet and sports science.
    Coach of the year.

  • EaglePete

    “How much do you bench?” – Reed
    “You tell first” Dirk
    “Let’s do it at the same time” Reed
    “1..2..3″ Dirk & Reed
    “You didn’t say anything” Dirk
    “Neither did you” Reed

  • cliff henny

    i was impressed with graham doing 3/3 @405…man, Mathis has some chimpanzee blood in him or something, reppin’ 8 out 455 is no joke. doubt these guys are using lifting shirts and bouncing/arching like the clowns you see in Golds Gym either, these are true weights.

  • knighn

    Getting strong now…

    • Andy124

      Won’t be long now…

      • smallestsmurf

        Gonna fly now…

  • furiousxgeorge

    Are we sure Dorenbos is even his real name? And is this the original Dorenbos, or did a body double take over at some point?

    • DEBO 215

      He’s really David Blaine in disguise.

  • cliff henny

    i do love these articles. where are all the talking heads now that were writing 6 months ago kelly’s fast paced system would run his team, defense in particular, into the ground. give him credit, he just smiled and told us all he had a plan.

  • Eagle in VT

    I wonder how many of the guys will commit to training like this in the off-season in the name of next year…and can you imagine the advantage we will have then?!

  • JofreyRice

    Mathis has been a beast with training for awhile now, but I’m glad to see the younger guys look to him as an example. I’ve said it before, but when the Eagles signed Mathis as a “journeyman”, he had the athletic profile of a guy that would go in the first round. Just ridiculous power/weight ratio.

    It sounds like the holistic aspect of the Sports Science really is the discriminator for the Eagles strength program. I’m quite sure all the other franchises have highly qualified and skilled nutritionists, strength coaches, etc, and are trying to do similar things. Kelly’s desire for 24/7 observation of the players, along with their willingness to be monitored for the good of the team seems to be what really sets this program apart.

    • cheapmeat

      Remember that Chip got this guy from Australia, not the US. You’d be shocked at the varying quality of strength programs from team to team, and sport to sport…

      Some of these guys are long time pros, or players with elite college pedigree, and they still have never experienced what Chip is delivering through the Aussie.

      • Chip’s adVisor

        Are you talking about Huls being Aussie? I don’t think he is. Chip’s SS guy at Oregon was Aussie.

  • cheapmeat

    If anyone is curious, Mathis’s 1 rep max bench press equates to ~568.75lbs (455 for 8 = 80%). Shy of 600, but still monster numbers…

    Reference: NSCA’s Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning, adjusted 1RM table

    • Tom W

      Nice … they need to bring back NFL superstar show they had in the 80s … w reggie and seth and herschel benching and doing miliatrys and obstacle course and 40 races … just great. get rid of probowl …

      • cheapmeat

        I would actually watch that

  • Corey Dawson

    I’ve always wondered what the meaureables are of NFL players when it comes to bench, squat, deadlift, etc. I’ve always wanted to use them to shoot for goals, but I have never been able to find a good, near complete list. Sure I find some stats here and there for their working weights, and there are always the combine stats to shoot for as far as bench goes, but never something really complete. Any chance of the Eagles releasing that info to you Tim or if you know where to find it?

  • Tom W.

    Love the weightlifting and training piece… really got my interest after I read an article about sean peyton going into niners complex two years ago and seeing Justin Smith squatting 800 lbs midseason and saying we need to get stronger.
    Eagles haven’t been dominating on the line of scrimmage for a few years and you can start seeing that change every week w beasts like mathis and graham and peters and cox excerting themselves.
    I don’t think everyone realized how amazing it is these guys are lighting 3-4 days a week INSEASON ….. offseason it totally different bc the bodies aren’t sure. But these guys are practicing a couple days a week and then wrecking their bodies on Sunday. And then they are coming in on Tuesday after lifiting first thing … that’s crazy they are recovered from the physical damage the game puts on the muscles.
    Don’t laugh but the smoothies and diet monitoring has a lot to do w this along w the sleep and post workout massages … all are geared toward refueling and healing the body to bounce back quicker and be able to workout sooner …. really sounds like what is going on here … the guys aren’t learning new lifiting techniques … no they are learning better ways to recover faster and more effectively … thats how you get stronger …proper fueled rest and recovery after a workout and getting that lactic acid out of the muscles as quickly as possible … especially for the guys in their 30s like celek cole mathis peters herramins avant … they shouldn’t be this healthy/strong at this point in the season … but they are …cole is peaking and celek is beasting d ends … mathis and peters are happy and healthy and herramins is turning things around ….I’m just amazed.
    Alot of this stuff is what Zach Thomas and Tony Gonzo did to stay in the league so long … even shannon sharpe as well. very impressed bc the young guys are gonna get so much stronger so much quicker … freaking krueger and bamiro and long are gonna be monsters next spring for OTAs nothing to do but lift and eat and recover…..

  • poetx99

    i love jon dorenbos. n/h. but he is an amazing dude. LS is a really critical and very underrated position, too, so i hope the eagles keep him around for a long time.