Eagles Wake-Up Call: Testing Chip’s Depth Theory

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Back in June, Chip Kelly sat at the head of a conference table at the NovaCare Complex and answered questions from a group of reporters about his coaching philosophy.

With Kelly, it seems nearly everything stems from the way practices are structured. So he went on for awhile about why the Eagles move at such a fast pace.

“The only reason we practice fast is because we want to get more plays in,” he said. “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.

“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.’ “

In addition to evaluation purposes, Kelly believes this is a great way to build depth. Theoretically, the backups should be better-equipped to perform when their numbers are called because they’ve had more training than backups on other teams.

Kelly’s theory is about to get tested. Evan Mathis is on IR (designated to return), Allen Barbre is out for the season, and Lane Johnson still has to sit out for three more games. The top reserve, Matt Tobin, has been sidelined with an ankle injury. On Wednesday, the first-team offensive line looked like this: Jason Peters, Dennis Kelly, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans and Andrew Gardner.

Dennis Kelly hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2012. Gardner saw action Sunday against the Jaguars.

The players, though, agree with Kelly and are expecting the reserves to fill in adequately.

“If you look at all the reps through the preseason, I think that if you look at those backup guys, they actually did much better than most of the other backup guys around the league did,” said Jason Kelce. “And I think a key part of that in the preseason is because of the way we practice. We get so many more reps with those guys. Most teams, the ones are getting three, four times as many reps, whereas here the twos still get a good amount of reps every single day.”

There’s at least a chance that veteran Wade Smith, signed earlier this week, will get the start at left guard. But either way, the Eagles will have two new starters.

“Going into the preseason, I think that everybody thought our O-Line depth was gonna be a big question mark,” said Todd Herremans. “Even with [Matt] Tobin hurt, the depth was a big question still. But I think that [Andrew] Gardner and [David] Molk filled in admirably. We’ve got a solid group of guys here.”

Last year, the Eagles had the same five starters for all 17 games (playoffs included). The road is a bit more bumpy this time around.

But Kelly is not one to make excuses. He believes his practice structure has trained the backups to perform. In the next couple weeks, we’ll find out if he’s right.


My All-22 look at Nick Foles and the offense, including self-analysis from the QB.

Jaws’ theory on why Foles struggled? The Jags forced him off his first read.

The Eagles rounded out their practice squad by signing WR Cobi Hamilton.

Here’s a national roundup of this week’s Eagles coverage.

After a slew of injuries, Tim fills you in on the new look offensive line.

Cary Williams says Ray Rice, his former teammate, deserves another chance.


Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz talks about the instability of the offensive line:

The best plan is to play Smith at LG. Have Molk and Kelly as the backups. If one of the OTs gets hurt, put Todd Herremans at that spot and insert Kelly at RG. Scratch that. The best plan is to tell the guys to quit getting hurt.

The stability on the OL was great last year. Right now Jeff Stoutland and Chip Kelly are playing a bizarro version of Tetris with the Eagles O-line. Which piece fits best where?

Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com has eight observations on the Colts:

LT Anthony Castonzo has developed into a quality left tackle in the NFL, and Gosder Cherilus is solid at RT. However, the interior of the Colts’ OL is very inexperienced. AQ Shipley had to start at center in place of Khaled Holmes Week 1. To be determined if Holmes will be ready to go Week 2. Meanwhile, guards Jack Mewhort (a rookie) and Hugh Thornton have 14 career starts between them. Like the Eagles, the Colts currently have OL issues.


We’ll hear from the head coach at 10:45 and then have updates from practice.

Matt Cassidy contributed to this post.