Roughly a year ago, the Wall Street Journal published an article that appeared by all accounts to be a preemptive smack-down from the officials to Chip Kelly.
“We have to make sure teams understand that they don’t control the tempo, our officials do,” said NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino at the time. “We’re going through our normal ball mechanics, we aren’t going to rush [unless] it’s in the two-minute drill.”
The article created a bit of a stir, and Kelly was asked about it. He made clear that the Eagles intended on playing by the rules and said he didn't anticipate any issues.
Now, as Kelly prepares for Year 2, it appears that the officials are the ones doing the adjusting.
"The league also added a new wrinkle," said NFL Network's Jeff Darlington from the league's clinic for officials. "On Friday, referees underwent a more physical assessment than they ever had before. That’s because the league wants to make sure that their referees can keep up with these faster-paced games."
Added Troy Vincent, the league's executive vice president of football operations: "As the game evolves, we also must make sure… that they’re evolving as well. You see the likes of Coach Kelly and that high-tempo offense. They’re running rapid plays. The ball needs to be spotted rapidly. And we want to make sure that our officials are now also evolving to that pace of our game."
The Eagles obviously are not the only team in the NFL that plays with tempo. But the change in tone from the league is certainly noteworthy.
Overall, it's difficult to quantify pace because of the way games are structured. When teams are leading, they tend to slow things down and run the ball. When they're trailing (especially in the second half), they generally speed up. Anyone watching last year knows that the Eagles didn't care to huddle, and at times, they definitely pushed tempo. But Kelly seems to take issue with the idea that the offense is designed to always go fast.
"The perception that we’re going to run 90 snaps a game and that we want to run a million plays has never been any part of our philosophical discussion," Kelly said last month. "I still hear people say it now, because we’re practicing fast in the offseason, we’re going to play even faster next season. What we do in the offseason has nothing to do with... the only reason we practice fast is because we want to get more plays in. And if we get more plays in, guys will get more reps. The more times they get reps, the better they get as a player. But that doesn’t correlate to anything that we’re doing... OTAs or minicamp has nothing to do with what style of football we’re going to play. I think sometimes that gets kind of lost in the message."
The Eagles finished 12th in plays per game last year (65.4). But again, that doesn't necessarily translate to pace.
"I don’t care if we ran the slowest offense in the NFL and only tried to get 20 snaps a game," Kelly continued. "I’d still try to practice as fast as we can because that gets more reps for more people, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We have 90 guys on our team that we’re trying to improve on a constant basis. So how do we improve them or make decisions or evaluate them if we never get a chance to have them on film? I’ve never understood that – in the offseason especially. I hear stories of other teams where the threes don’t get any reps. Well, how do you know if the threes are any good or not? And how do you know why they’re threes? They could be twos if you ever put them on the field and give them the opportunity and put them on film and say, ‘Hey, this guy’s pretty good.’ "
So for now, the Eagles will continue to practice fast. In a couple months, we'll find out how quickly they go during games. And if they want to push tempo, it sounds like the officials will be ready.
WHAT YOU MISSED
See where Peter King ranked the Eagles and where Ron Jaworski slotted Nick Foles.
We continued our training camp preview series focusing on Nolan Carroll II and the cornerbacks.
What's it like playing quarterback for Kelly? Foles provides some insight.
T-Mac wrote about all of the different places Kelly gets ideas from.
Safety Keelan Johnson was reportedly arrested for an alleged altercation with a police officer.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
Nick Foles' success comes from his parents, writes Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com:
So when you hear Foles’ teammates talk about his work ethic, when you hear Foles talk about how determined he is to constantly improve, when you hear his coaches talk about how he’s never content to rest on his laurels, you’ll know why.
It all started with family.
It all started with dad.
“When I was out there playing, I’d run extra sprints because I knew what my parents had done for me to get there,” he said. “I’m very thankful that the Lord instilled that in me at a young age, to where I could recognize that my parents had done this, to where, hey, I don’t need to, you know, do something crazy, [like think] I can be lazy, I need to go out there and work hard.
Marcus Hayes of the Daily News discusses whether the Eagles are better than last year:
But is the team better?
Can it be better without its most dangerous weapon?
The Eagles in March decided to release explosive receiver DeSean Jackson and besmirch him on the way out, allowing pernicious rumors to circulate for weeks. Jackson was a highly paid, petulant, disrespectful and selfish player; less so at the end, but still.
Jackson also defined the Big-Play aspect of Kelly's offense.
Because of Jackson, safeties seldom lined up inside of 15 yards from the line of scrimmage. And then, their first step seldom was forward.
We'll hone in on the Eagles' wide receivers and take a look at what the national media are saying.
Josh Paunil contributed to this post.