A Unique Opportunity

Brent Celek scores in the first quarter.
Wale’s “Ambition” featuring Meek Mill and Rick Ross was booming out of the speakers inside the practice bubble as the Eagles entered the “stretch” portion of practice Tuesday.

Brent Celek had the head bobbing and the hands waving and when it was his turn to do knee lifts, his knees soared all the way up to his chest. This is Week 17, two days removed from a Sunday Night game against the Bears.

To get a gauge for how his players are feeling and the strength and conditioning program is working, Pat Shurmur looks to Celek. The seven-year vet pushes his body hard and plays through injuries others might not. That can wear you down over time. So Shurmur checks in with Celek and if he’s feeling good, chances are the majority of the guys are feeling good, too.


The guys are feeling good.

“I think that no matter who you go around and ask, especially the older guys -- I know the older guys come the end of the year are hobbling around, a little stiff,” said Todd Herremans. “If you ask me, [Evan] Mathis, Celek, [Jason] Peters… I think you ask anybody, it’s phenomenal how much better we feel.”

“Plus,” said Celek of the energy at practice this week, “I like to bounce around and get my spirits up. Ninety percent of this game is mental, man. If you can get yourself going, you’ll be all right.”

It’s hard to tell exactly how much of this whole sports science thing is psychological and how much is real. What we do know is that the team enters the the regular season finale against Dallas generally healthy and believing that they stronger than they have ever been at this point in the season.

Meanwhile, Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense continues to give the opposition problems. Entering Week 17, the Eagles are tops in rushing yards/attempt and passing yards/play, and second in points per game (27.9) behind only Denver. That's not all because of the tempo, of course, but it is a major part of the group's identity. Defenses aren’t accustomed to facing that type of speed for 60 minutes. At least not yet. This is a copycat league, and if high-speed is working for one, chances are more and more teams will begin running their offenses in that fashion. And defenses will adapt. They’ll improve their communication and come up with better counterattacks for tempo.

Similarly, the secrets of the Eagles’ strength and conditioning will get out. Players and coaches and trainers will leave, and the methods currently contained within the NovaCare walls will spread throughout the league.

That leads to this question: Is the window of opportunity now, before the league adjusts to what Kelly has brought to the NFL?

This season was generally viewed as a program-building year. Kelly’s a rookie head coach, the team is filled with a bunch of young players (including the quarterback) and the transition was going to take some time. But the Eagles have won six of seven, they are in as good of shape as anybody in the NFL, boast one of the top offenses in the league and have a defense that has held 10 of its last 11 opponents to 21 points or less. With a win Sunday night, they’ll be NFC East champs.

“From the beginning we all thought this was the plan, this is what we wanted to do. In the building we all had the same feeling,” said Herremans. “We knew that outside the building everyone was kind of looking at it like a rebuilding year, but I think that goes to show that everybody in the building is on the same page and it doesn’t really matter what everybody else is saying.”

The Eagles are ahead of the curve in some respects and in theory have a unique chance to pounce before the rest of the league catches up. The question is whether those advantages are enough to overcome their relative inexperience.

We will find out shortly.

Whatever the answer is, Jason Kelce says the plan is to keep that window open by continuing to up the standard.

“This is one of the reasons that I think our culture is really the one thing that is so important because yeah, you’re right, we do have a lot of new things that teams are going to start stealing,” he said. “But the thing that’s going to continue to put us in the front is our culture is built around that we’re always going to be changing. Stuff that we’re doing now is not stuff that we’re going to be doing in two years. We’re going to be evolving into whatever is new then. If those other teams are just taking what we’re doing right now, they’re not going to continue to evolve.”

  • Will

    “Winning is Everything!”- Vince Lombardi…

    • BlindChow

      “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing”- Vince Lombardi

      • jshort

        “Just win baby” . Someone who’s torch burns about 40 hours a year.

        • morgan c

          Ha. Nice.
          +1

      • Will

        Thank you…I stand corrected…Go Eagles..

  • Johnny Domino

    “…… come up with better counterattacks for tempo.”

    You mean other than feigning injury? As long as the refs are complicit that one never gets old. That being said, as long as there aren’t any pooch kick short fields and the Boys don’t get to play 13-14 on 11 my guess is we see Kitna in the second half.

    • DirtyWaters

      Did you see the pics of Kitna? He looks like my old shop teacher.

      • Johnny Domino

        The one with the missing finger?

        • DirtyWaters

          From the Dallas Moron News:

          “This is a really weird deal, obviously, to get a guy that’s been teaching. He’s been out of football for two years. David Carr, for instance, went to camp with the Giants so it’s not that far away that he was sitting there playing NFL football. Kitna, two years, 41 years old. If you would have asked me what he’s been doing, I would have said he was the mall Santa in Tacoma, Washington because he’s got a little girth around him. I said, ‘wow, he’s wearing a big flak jacket for non-contact practice,’ then I realized he’s not wearing a flak jacket that’s his stomach.”

    • DirtyWaters

      Begin comments….now.

  • Will

    This is gonna be a game of nasty intensity…

  • EaglefaninAZ

    Hey Tim! I think it would be great to have you guys post a ranking of games lost to injury on a team by team basis. I have to think the Birds would rule that particular list.
    I just can’t recall a Birds team being this healthy throughout an entire season.
    (Plus I just like seeing the Eagles ranked #1 on all the good lists).

    • theycallmerob

      Well here’s one for you!

      To me, truly astounding- the Eagles haven’t made a single transaction since 9/23 (and only that one during the entire regular season, one before that was August).
      That means no player releases or signings, and no one placed on injured reserve (!!!!). Even that move in September was only a PS switch.
      http://espn.go.com/nfl/team/transactions/_/name/phi/philadelphia-eagles

      Attribute that to luck or sports science or something else, but no less incredible.

      p.s.- compare that to this crybaby! http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/belichick-blames-injuries-offseason-workout-limits-article-1.1558317

      • nicksaenz1

        Doesn’t seem right, Rob. Brad Smith? What about Roc Carmichael? Thought there was another guy picked up off the Seahawks squad, unless that was Carmichael.

        • theycallmerob

          hmmm, good point. I didn’t think of him. Also, I guess Soap counts too. Figures I should not trust ESPN stats

  • mtn_green

    Awesome article, as always. Redefining sports journalism on this site.

    Honestly you can usually put all articles into boxes:
    1. Based upon a interview quote, press release, fact etc. all media picks up on same quote generally.
    2. Based upon a stat. all media picks up on same stat generally. Sheil, Tim, Tommy, Reuben, Jimmy usually find the not normal ones which I appreciate.
    3. Hope or conjecture. Some some are wonky some are good.

    I appreciate birds24/7 because there is a great fusion of the three which makes for very unique and interesting content, and actual investigative journalism. Not just repeating and rehashing the press releases and quotes anyone can see on PE.com.

    The all 22s are really unique too, sheil, Tim, chip wagon, Derek Sarley are really good at those and that is content that is brand new and can only be done on a blog, newspaper can’t compete.

    Thanks guys! Just keeps getting better.

    • Soybot

      Put my thoughts in a nutshell. But I would only add that Sheil is the granddaddy of this new regime. He has been at the forefront of this new wave of awesome birds coverage. My hat is off to him.

    • G_WallyHunter

      couldn’t have been said any better.
      My first and only stop for Birds coverage, it’s great because whenever you see something on rotoworld or another sports site, within an hour they’re covering it here. No need to go anywhere else

  • Andy

    I really hope this isn’t the last day of the year. This season has been way too much fun for it to end already.

  • Beastmode

    Great article Tim.
    Good eagles article from deadspin of all places:
    http://regressing.deadspin.com/how-the-eagles-predator-defense-saved-philadelphias-1486751690

    • theycallmerob

      thanks, great read

    • theycallmerob

      best line from that article:

      Peace out, Cullen Jenkins. Safe travels, Mike Patterson. Get the fuck out, Jason Babin.

      • Beastmode

        Amen.

    • mtn_green

      The article is fun but a little wonky. I’m not sure eagles run predator. Looks to be more of a strsight 3-4 on run downs and 4-3 ish on passing downs. With plenty of deceptions, unpredictability and blitzes.

  • theycallmerob

    so…is carolina scaring anyone right now?

    • Richard Colton

      Cam Newton over Foles in the probowl too. Who on Earth would argue that?

      • cliff henny

        not nfl/espn hype machine guys.

      • theycallmerob

        Prisco

        • nicksaenz1

          Ha, your boy.

    • GEAGLE

      Once we are officially in the playoffs, I don’t care who we play…line em Up!!! This is a special team

    • cliff henny

      atlanta looks just terrible. know Carolina has nice front 4, but atl making them look like reggie clyde and the boys. panthers have really struggled to score all year. not sure they faced a team willing to spread them out sideline to sideline either. if you told me in the spring eagles could goto charlotte (been to stadium, it’s not a tough home crowd-probably be 30+% eagles fans) for chance at nfccg, i’d of sold you a very valuable body part

      • nicksaenz1

        The left or the right?

        • cliff henny

          eunuch

          • nicksaenz1

            Ouch. Bold strategy, Cotton.

      • GEAGLE

        Atlantans Trufant looks to be the future stud I thought he would be….can’t believe Millner was drafted before him

    • addicted2mula

      Front 4 is good. But they beat ATL by 1. And I think they should’ve won by more

    • Tom w

      Not a bit. Offense is average and they can be thrown on.

  • Soybot

    Why can’t us?

  • BrickSquadMonopoly

    This has always been a very athletic fast offense (especially with MV at QB) I always wondered how long it was going to be before their speed was utilized, chip was the right man for the job. He puts his players in positions to succeed something reid never did in philly

  • theycallmerob

    Anyone watching NYG-WAS? I’m kind of rooting for NYG, if only to see the ShanaKlan season end in the biggest flaming-turd-fashion possible

    • Beastmode

      PFT says Eli’s first and last passes this season were INT’s lol. #clutch

    • nicksaenz1

      Took Peyton’s former backup to teach Eli how to cost his team the game.

  • Justin

    I have no doubt that we’ll win tonight, but I still can’t help but feel nervous. It’s do or die time.

  • GEAGLE

    Going crazy trying to he thru this day

    • cliff henny

      3 words…al-co-hol!

      • theycallmerob

        these porters are knockin me down

        • nicksaenz1

          Refused to start early. Will likely start soon. But I wasn’t making it to 830 while crushing Bells Two-Hearteds.

          • Johnny Domino

            Cleaning up the odd bits left over from the Leinenkugel winter sampler as a appetizer, fortified with enough pretzels to stabilize until kickoff.

            I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite a while.

        • Joe from Easton

          I’m on an IPA kick today. It’s getting me through the wait well.

      • GEAGLE

        Waiting for the game to start throwing them back…puffing the day away tho lol

      • NineseveN

        I’m waiting for the Alamo Bowl to start drinking, I want to be sober enough to savor the epic win tonight. I’ll get stupid watching the Ducks drop 40+ on the Lamehorns tomorrow. =)

  • Media Mike

    Sort of like having the opportunity to clinch a playoff berth, but being a street clown who reads one and runs and only throwing for 150 yards. Nice stat line from that “pro bowl” player Scam Newton, king of schoolyard ball.

  • nicksaenz1

    Just listened to the CBS crew discuss Coach of the Year and nowhere was Chip mentioned. I don’t need him to win it, I know he is the COTY, but damn, not ONE mentioning of what he’s done here but they want to praise Rex Ryan for 8-8!?!? Come on, man!!

    • ICDogg

      Show me a coach who really cares about winning Coach of the Year and I’ll show you a coach not worth having.

      • nicksaenz1

        Never said Chip cared, in fact, I said that I don’t need him to win it, implying that I don’t really care.

  • ICDogg

    It’s not just the sports science but the entire idea of practicing and playing at high speed that gets them in this shape.

  • Andy124

    Stupid Kirk Cousins spoiling my hopes for extra QB drama in DC next year.

  • theycallmerob

    Hey Andy124, if you’re out there:

    Looks like Angry Peyton isn’t satisfied with the TD and Yards records, seems to be going for the QBR as well (I imagine when stories of his greatness are told years from now, he doesn’t want Nick Foles in the conversation).
    Any idea if he can do it? Went 25-28-266-4tds in the 1st half

    • Richard Colton

      Really hope Nick holds on. I’d like an entire offseason listening to Siri tell me who the best QB in the league is.

    • Andy124

      Looks like he bumped his rating up to 115.1. I don’t want to run numbers to see what it would take for Nick to drop below that. Just feels wrong lol.

  • G_WallyHunter

    Grammar nazi here to fix a teeny tiny half-scratch in an otherwise flawless article, unreal journalism, I almost feel bad for pointing it out.
    7th paragraph, they should be they’re

    Thanks for making all of our lives better