After Tuesday, the Eagles have just two Organized Team Activities left at the NovaCare Complex before the full-team minicamp begins on June 17. During this early stage of preparation for the upcoming season, fans and media members alike often develop a fascination with the team’s depth chart. Who is lining up where? How many snaps did player X take with the first team today? The list of questions can go on and on.
Head coach Chip Kelly explained prior to Tuesday's OTA session that the answers to these types of questions mean very little at this point. According to Kelly, the first, second and third teams are all seeing the same amount of snaps as the coaches focus on pushing the practice tempo.
“We’re just getting reps,” Kelly explained. “Our ones, twos and threes take the same amount of reps ... If anyone is trying to make something out of how many reps, all we’re trying to do is see if we can get three reps a minute, as fast as we can go, get it on tape and coach off of that. There is nothing to read into who’s what or where or whatever, because we’re not playing a game until September. We’re just trying to get as many plays as we can possibly get, so I really wouldn’t read anything into who’s where or who’s with what.”
Along the same lines, Kelly also explained why certain versatile rookies, such as linebacker
“We’re trying to figure out what those guys can do and what their skill sets are and what their strengths and weaknesses are, then we’ll go from there, but you have to start them somewhere,” Kelly said. “You can’t just say ‘Hey, learn every single position.’ You want to put them at one spot and figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are. As we evaluate them, we’re in the eighth OTA today and we’ll see how they go. We have two more OTAs Wednesday and Thursday and then we have three days next week, then we’ll sit down as a staff and (determine) what’s our plan as we approach preseason camp.
“They’re just learning the (scheme) and trying to get a feel for what they can do. Part of this process for us is not only are they learning it, but we’re learning them. What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? We’ve got a long way before we have to play a game, so it’s just a matter of getting guys out there and trying to get as many reps as we can with them.”
Kelly also offered his early impressions on a number of Eagles players, both new and returning, through two-plus weeks of OTAs ...
WR Jordan Matthews
“Jordan’s done a nice job since he’s gotten here. Obviously for all the rookies, it’s getting acclimated to what we do in terms of schemes and learning new terminology, but you get great effort and a consistent approach to it on a daily basis in terms of what he gives you. I’m really excited about him, but right now he’s still acting like a rookie.”
“I think he’s done a really nice job. The unique situation for Mark is that he’s probably ahead of where Nick (Foles) and Michael (Vick) were last year because he has Nick to rely on. Everything was new for everybody in the quarterback room last year. Now when you add Mark to the room, he’s learning from Nick, he’s learning from Matt (Barkley) and he’s got guys that have been through it before.
“He’s really sharp, he works extremely hard, he’s got a great work ethic. He really, really wants to perform. He spends a lot of time, asks a lot of really good questions, and he also has probably a lot more experience than a lot of guys. He’s played in this league for a long time. He’s got 60-plus starts, so I’ve been really impressed with how fast he’s picked it up, and for him, really it’s just learning new terminology. A lot of the route combinations and things that we’re doing are things that he’s run when he was with the Jets. It’s just saying ‘Hey, it was called this there, it’s called this now that I’m with Philadelphia,’ but I’ve been really impressed with his football background.”
“He’s been outstanding. Because he’s played multiple positions in this league - he’s been a corner, he’s been a safety. Rob Ryan, who I have a ton of respect for, runs a pretty complicated defense in (New Orleans) and I think his ability to transition from that to ours, I think there are some similarities in terms of what we’re doing, but he’s been really, really good. He’s become the vocal leader on the backend for us. We’re excited to see where he’s going.
“That’s one of the reasons we targeted him. He had the specific skill set that we were looking for. He was the number one guy we were looking for in free agency.”
“I just think Nick is more comfortable in this situation. Obviously, being in his second year, you anticipate that, but I think now he’s not wondering what’s next. He knows what’s next. He knows what’s expected during the offseason program, during Phase One and Phase Two and when you get into OTAs and minicamps, so he can help the younger players. That’s one thing that Nick is really good at - helping the young guys. Right now, he’s been taking the young guys under his wing and showing them, ‘This is how we do this, this is how we approach this.’ He’s done the same thing with Mark in terms of how we want it to look and the vision we have of what this thing is supposed to look like. I think he can articulate that really well, and particularly because of how he performed last year, I think people will listen to him.”
“We knew he was a talented player when he got here, and he’s shown that right from the jump. I’ve heard from the coaches who’ve coached him what an intelligent football player he is, and we learned that from the first day he was in this building, (along with) how sharp he is, how dedicated he is ... Darren practices and trains at one speed, and it’s awesome. He fits in with the culture that we want in terms of preparation, but it’s everything we wanted since we got him here.”