The structure of Chip Kelly’s practices has not changed.
But when asked what’s different about Year 2 compared to Year 1, the Eagles’ head coach provided an interesting answer.
"Just that we're going faster," Kelly said. "We're getting more reps off, more plays off because the guys have a better understanding of the mechanics of it. But the basic structure of how we're doing things is the same. And our teaching in terms of how we want to train on the field, we have an understanding when it's a full-speed drill and when it's a teach period and all that.
"But I think we're getting more snaps off in teams on seven-on-sevens just because our guys are more comfortable with how we want to operate."
As we've learned since Kelly arrived, there will never be such a thing as fast enough. There's always another gear to strive for.
Kelly's practice philosophy has been dissected on several occasions. The basic premise is to go fast and maximize reps. If someone is confused or doesn't know what to do, boot him to the sideline and get someone in there who's ready. It's about getting a lot of plays on tape so that the coaches have something to teach off of.
Last year, the pace and structure were new not only to the players, but to most of the assistants. There is more of a sense of continuity this time around. The Eagles' offense returns 9 or 10 starters (depending on personnel grouping). The defense likely returns 10 starters - the only exception being Malcolm Jenkins. So it makes sense that the pace has kicked up a notch in Year 2.
"It's light years," Kelly explained. "I think for all of our guys they understand what we're doing. Every day last year was a new insertion and it was a new play and it was the first time in the red zone, first time coming out, first time in two minute. So all those things for the veterans have all already been in, they've understood them.
"For all those guys, there's a lot more, just a better understanding of what we're doing."
Of course, the reason Kelly likes to practice fast is not just to maximize reps. It's also because he wants to play fast when the games start. The Eagles successfully incorporated tempo last season, rarely huddling. The style forced teams to play them in a lot of man coverage, and while there were some stumbles along the way, the offense was a rousing success.
Kelly has said the core concepts on offense won't change. There will be new wrinkles (specifically to beat man coverage), and the gameplan will likely once again change from week to week. However, one thing to keep an eye on in 2014 is pace. When the Eagles want to use tempo in games, expect it to be faster. And expect them to dial it up more frequently.
"Last year at this time, we were trying to learn the offense," said Nick Foles. "It was very vanilla, every day was a learning curve and we had to re-do the plays. Right now we have a lot more stuff in, guys are very comfortable with running what we have, and we’re adding more. So I think it’s just a comfort zone with everybody and we can really go fast. It’s really helped the rookie learning curve because we have the vets who can teach them what to do and that helps a lot."
WHAT YOU MISSED
Thoughts on Marcus Smith, the Jack and the Predator. How will the OLB pieces fit in 2014?
Good perspective from T-Mac on how things have changed for Brandon Graham in the last four years and what's in store for him going forward.
What challenges are ahead for Foles in 2014? Our new intern Josh Paunil takes a look.
McManus shares his thoughts from OTAs.
Earl Wolff starts his days with 7:30 a.m. film sessions alongside Malcolm Jenkins.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Any time a player has a breakout season you have to wonder if he can repeat it. The case for Cooper is that he didn’t do anything amazing in 2013. He was a good fit for the role and he finally got regular playing time. That led to the production. The case against Cooper works on a couple of levels. First, complacency. Cooper just got a big contract. Will he let up at all? He’s not talented enough to succeed without maximum effort and focus. The other factor is that DeSean Jackson is gone. His presence helped Cooper. Jeremy Maclin is a gifted WR, but he doesn’t scare defenses the same way Jackson did. There could be some situations where Maclin gets single-covered and Cooper gets doubled. Cooper isn’t likely to fare well in those situations. Not many WRs do, but some top guys are still good enough to win even when doubled.
Bill Barnwell of Grantland notes how the Eagles' turnover differential changed in 2013:
How did it project 2013? Very well. The two teams that stood out like a sore thumb at the bottom of the turnover rankings were the Chiefs and Eagles; they were each at minus-24 in 2012, and nobody else was worse than minus-16. In 2013, much of their success was driven by a dramatic shift in this metric. The Chiefs had the second-best turnover margin in football at plus-18, while the Eagles were fourth with a plus-12 figure. Kansas City’s improvement of 42 turnovers is the most anybody’s improved in a single season since the strike year of 1987.
Thanks to T-Mac and Josh for holding it down while I was on vacation last week. It's good to be back, and we've got another practice to cover today. Check back for plenty of updates this afternoon.