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Day 1: Tempo Sets The Tone

Posted Jul 26, 2014

The fans arrived at the NovaCare Complex nearly an hour before the gates opened. Hadn't it seemed like forever since we could watch some Eagles football? ...

The fans arrived at the NovaCare Complex nearly an hour before the gates opened. Hadn't it seemed like forever since we could watch some Eagles football?

A long offseason that followed the team's playoff loss in January is over. Eagles football is back, and the several hundred fans who attended Saturday's first Training Camp practice held out in the rain and enjoyed the action.

What did they see? They saw quarterback Nick Foles looking sharp. They saw a group of cornerbacks that generated a lot of positive reaction from the coaches on the sidelines for their communication and breaks on the football. They saw Arrelious Benn haul in a deep Foles throw. They saw Darren Sproles on a wheel route race past linebackers like they weren't there to make a big play down the field. They saw Allen Barbre playing with the starting team at right tackle, with Lane Johnson playing with the backups.

More than anything, the fans saw what head coach Chip Kelly wanted to see: A faster Eagles team, with more tempo and one rep only a handful of seconds after the previous one was completed.

"It's fast, no doubt about that," said wide receiver Jordan Matthews. "We knew that coming out of the spring. You get into one practice and you see how fast it is, so everyone knew he had to come into Training Camp in the best shape of his life, ready to run, run and run some more."

Everyone felt it, even as the humidity eased after some off-and-on rain moved through the area. The players know that if they aren't up to the test from a conditioning standpoint, they aren't going to thrive in Camp Kelly.

"It's a tempo unlike anything I've experienced," said linebacker Najee Goode, who was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2012 and played with the Bucs for a season before the Eagles claimed him off of waivers just prior to the 2013 campaign. "A lot of guys hear about Chip Kelly and how he runs practice, but until you experience it, you can't appreciate the speed. It gasses you quickly if you aren't ready.

"I spent a lot of time running and working on my cardio before camp. I knew I needed to be ready to be up to speed right away."

The Eagles don't tackle to the ground in their Training Camp, but they put players in position to tackle and teach good form and positioning. The four preseason games are more than just run throughs, then. They are critical opportunities to play the game the right way at game speed.

What the coaches want to see now is players retaining the playbook information they are fed and then going out on the field and reaching the right spots. The coaches want to see the players take as many reps as they can and review the sessions on film and make corrections.

They want to see how the players respond to the challenge of playing fast on every snap of every practice every day.

"That's the thing," said defensive tackle Beau Allen. "You have to prepare yourself for everything they are throwing at you. It's fast out there. They want to exhaust us. You just get after it and keep going and you don't relax for a second on the field. It's pretty great competition out there."

Said wide receiver Josh Huff, who played for Kelly at Oregon: "It's the same tempo, designed to wear out the defense. I'm used to it. I expected it. Still, you have to be ready, because it's not going to change. It's designed to catch a defense off-guard and I'm used to it. I like it."

Fast and relentless is the only way Kelly does things. The national reporters who visit practice -- ESPN's Sal Paolantonio and's Peter King were two of the more prominent names on Saturday -- marvel at the efficiency at which the Eagles practice ("There is no wasted time," gushed Paolantonio).

It's part of the grand plan, along with the music and the mayhem of the substitutions and the move to push the envelope in any way he can.

Day 1 is in the books and the Eagles are just taking the day-to-day approach. There is no looking ahead here. Kelly wants to accomplish so much in the span of 24 hours. Playing fast football is the top of the lst. It's a Kelly trademark that's become an Eagles lifestyle.

It was a solid first day, although to make too much of it is a foolish thing to do.

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