Inside Voices: Kelly And the Balance Of Power

(Photo courtesy of USA Today)

(Photo courtesy of USA Today)

Jeffrey Lurie designed the power structure so that the proper checks and balances were built in.

When he hired Chip Kelly, he set it up so that both the head coach and general manager Howie Roseman would report directly to him. He decided to give Kelly final say on the 53-man roster to even the scales, he said, which would suggest Roseman had heavy influence over the draft and free agency.

“It made sense to balance the player personnel and head coaching, and empower them both, and force a complete collaboration,” Lurie told the Inquirer last September. “That was the strategy behind it. You didn’t have to force it. Happened naturally.”

Kelly seemed on board with that concept. At his introductory press conference, he said that he wasn’t looking for full control and had little interest in owning various titles.

“I just want to coach football,” he said.

His reach has extended well beyond the x’s and o’s, of course. Kelly watches college film on Saturdays during the season and hits the road (often with vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble) in the offseason. By all accounts, he attends more Pro Days than any other head coach in the league.

Roseman spearheads the draft process and there is a host of quality personnel men searching for talent year-round, but it’s impossible to ignore the Kelly influence over the past two drafts.

“We haven’t really gotten there,” Kelly said, when asked who has final say over draft choices. “I think everybody wants to know that, like really what happens in there. But it never gets to that point. I think we look at it, analyze it and kind of come to the same conclusion. But I haven’t yet sat there and I want him and he wants him and then, you know, are we going to box for it?”

Up until recently, the Eagles’ higher-ups had presented a unified front when it came to the personnel process. But when one of his players came under fire a couple weeks back, Kelly put on the gloves for the first time publicly. Read more »

Inside Voices: Training Versus Practice

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

There is a saying that floats around the NovaCare Complex, one that many of the players can recite on the spot:

You don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. 

“When the game is on the line, it’s the fourth quarter in a rivalry game in prime time, you’re not all of a sudden going to rise to the occasion,” Malcolm Jenkins explained, “you are going to sink to what you’ve trained and prepared for. Obviously we’ve done a good job of training in those situations because we’ve showed up pretty well.”

The term “training” has replaced “practice” in this team’s lexicon. It’s subtle, but significant. Read more »

Inside Voices: How the Eagles Tipped Their Hand

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at San Francisco 49ers
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that suggests the Niners’ defense was picking up on the Eagles’ tells Sunday, which helps explain why a normally potent attack was shut down and shut out.

Matt Tobin said after the game that there were times when the San Francisco defense seemed to know exactly what was coming. David Molk echoed that sentiment on Thursday.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say the Niners as a group, but certain players within that group. I don’t know how they knew but they just [did],” said Molk.

Safety Antoine Bethea was one such player. His secret? He decoded a Nick Foles signal. Read more »

Inside Voices: How The Training Is Different

Chip Kelly
Under Chip Kelly, the Eagles have quickly become known as an organization on the cutting edge when it comes to the training and maintenance of their athletes.

One veteran after the next last year said that their bodies had never felt better. Soft tissue injuries were down. Stamina was up.

What sets them apart?

To help get a better understanding, we called on some newcomers to explain what differentiates Kelly’s operation from others they have been a part of at their previous stops. Read more »

Inside Voices: Wolff Says He’s Ready

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Oakland Raiders
Earl Wolff
says he feels good enough to play on Saturday night. Now it’s just a matter of whether the training staff and coaches give him the green light.

The rookie safety sat out practice the past two days but tested the injured right knee on the side during the Eagles’ walkthrough on Thursday, and came away feeling confident that he is ready to re-enter the fray.

“I just know that it felt a lot better today than it did before. They kind of recorded me moving around a little bit, doing some functional stuff, and it didn’t bother me,” he said.

“It was football activitity, basically like what I would go through in a game, and it didn’t really bother me. Of course I felt it a little bit –I’m going to feel it a little bit — but it’s nothing that’s going to hold me back.” Read more »

Inside Voices: The Value Of Avant

Eagles WR Jason Avant dives for a pass against the Cowboys. 10/20/13
At first glance, it looked like DeSean Jackson was screaming at Jason Avant. The wide receiver was overheating on the sidelines after a Nick Foles interception in Minnesota Sunday. Jackson was being restrained as he barked in the direction of Avant just a few yards away. Turns out, his words were aimed at receivers coach Bob Bicknell; Avant was just moving in to gain control. And that’s exactly what he did. After a quiet moment of counsel with Avant away from the rest of the team, Jackson hopped to his feet and returned to the pack without further incident.

“He kind of understands, he’s like a big brother, a voice you can listen to,” said Jackson.

Later in the game, Cary Williams lost his cool and was benched following an unnecessary roughness call and an apparent misunderstanding on the sideline. There was Avant again, sitting next to Williams on the bench, diffusing the situation.

“When those situations come up, because I have a relationship with everyone, I talk to everyone constantly — when something goes on in their family I want to see about them – because we have a relationship usually I can go and talk to them, maybe not like the coach can or another player because they haven’t established their relationship,” said Avant. “It gives me a voice a lot of times that I can go over and they receive it even when they’re mad because they know who they are talking to.”

“Every NFL team,” said Williams, “should have a guy like that in their locker room.” Read more »

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.” Read more »

Inside Voices: Deeper Into the Sports Science

ryans_400_111113The sleep monitor attached to the player’s wrist begins to gently vibrate when it’s time to wake up.

Instead of a screeching alarm clock that startles you out of your sleep, the device the Eagles wear draws you to consciousness slowly as the vibrations gradually increase.

During the night, the device records when you fell asleep, how well you slept and how many times you woke up during the night. This draws the competitive side out of these athletes. They want to improve those numbers, so they work on it. Maybe they’ll go to bed a half-hour earlier, maybe they’ll alter their night-time routine.

When Najee Goode — the Eagles’ reserve linebacker and special teams player — first moved into his new place, his numbers were terrible. He lives by a train, so his sleep reports weren’t so great early on as he got accustomed to the frequent rattling outside. Now it’s better. He would wake up maybe 10, 12 times during the night. Got it down to eight. Now it’s steadily at five or so.

The players’ sleep reports go right into a computer system that can be accessed by sports science coordinator Shaun Huls. That’s just the beginning of the data that the former Navy Seal trainer collects on a regular basis. Read more »

Inside Voices: Brown Stuck In Neutral

Eagles RB Bryce Brown with NFL capAt the beginning of the year, Chip Kelly was feeling so good about his stable of running backs that he said he would put his group up against any in the National Football League. There was talk of creating a  nickname for the trio of LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Chris Polk. “Earth, Wind and Fire” was the apparent leader in the clubhouse.

It’s turned into more of a solo show. McCoy is the league’s leading rusher with 1,009 yards through 11 games. He is also second in carries (behind Adrian Peterson) with 213, and is on pace to comfortably set a personal high in that department.

Meanwhile, Brown has failed to get off the ground. He has carried the ball 53 times for 165 yards (3.1 avg.) and has just one run of 10-plus yards on the season — a 32-yarder against Oakland. After back-to-back scintillating performances last season against Carolina and Dallas, when he posted 347 yards and four touchdowns, expectations shot up for the seventh-round pick. This season, though, the images most closely associated with Brown are of him fruitlessly bouncing it to the outside or slipping to the turf before he hits the hole.

What gives? Read more »

Inside Voices: Graham’s Frustrations Building

Eagles LB Brandon Graham running out with teamBrandon Graham is in his fourth year now, believe it or not, yet in many respects is still waiting for his career to get going.

He has been largely stuck in neutral since being taken with the 13th overall pick back in 2010. The Michigan product has watched some of his peers from that draft class take off to reach All-Pro heights. It is his belief that he will still reach that level. But it hasn’t shaken out for Graham thus far. He had multiple injuries early; underwent microfracture surgery and had his ACL repaired. He has played under four different defensive coordinators (Sean McDermott, Juan Castillo, Todd Bowles, Billy Davis) in as many years, and has simply been unable to capture the form that made him one of the premiere college players in the country.

Where is his frustration level at the moment?

“It’s almost at a 10,” Graham admitted. Read more »

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