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Stretch Run In '13 Pays Off Now

Posted Feb 16, 2014

It's one of the defining impacts a new head coach has, and very quickly Chip Kelly made his mark: A locker room mired in losing for two seasons turned it all around in 2013, a culture that permeates the team now ...

Among the various questions about how Chip Kelly's coaching staff would manage the locker room personnel came this biggie: How would Kelly go about changing the culture inside the locker room? How would he take a group that became far too ingrained in losing in 2011 (8-8) and in 2012 (4-12) and make the men believe?

Some of it happened through the course of attrition: The locker room changed its personality as the Eagles made personnel changes, significant ones. Still, a young roster entered 2013 needing to understand how to win in the NFL. It's hard to win at this level. It's hard to make those two or three plays that win a football game.

One of the important accomplishments for the 2013 Eagles is just that: The team learned to win games. It learned to win in just about every way imaginable. In a 7-1 second half of the season that propelled the Eagles into the postseason, the Eagles won games coming from behind (think Detroit), won games with a big stops at the end (Washington, Arizona and Dallas), won games by grinding out more points (Green Bay) and won games with explosive offensive performances (Oakland, Chicago).

The Eagles learned to win in 2013 and more than anything that is something that carries over into 2014. The roster is going to change for the season ahead and the dynamics on the team will be altered. That's the natural way of life in the NFL.

But when quarterback Nick Foles, for example, lines up for a critical series in the fourth quarter of a game early in 2014, knowing he needs to put points on the board to take a lead late in the contest, he will have the experience of having done so in his NFL career. When the defense is on the field needing a final stop, it will know it has been there, and done that, before.

It happened quickly for Kelly and the Eagles, and the head coach deserves a lot of credit for the energetic and confident approach he brought to Philadelphia. The players who were here last April were swept up in Kelly's' energy and enthusiasm. His program was comprehensive and different from anything most of the players had previously experienced, and the new ways helped erase away the disappointment of 2013.

"It was something we could feel right away," said linebacker DeMeco Ryans. "There was no looking back. That made a difference."

It's going to make a difference for the upcoming season as well. The Eagles believe. The culture is where it needs to be. The Eagles work as a team and they put the team first. The Eagles have the right kind of leadership to carry forth the success of 2013 into the challenge of 2014.

NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT

  • In case you missed it, pending unrestricted free agent Jeremy Maclin spoke to The Philadelphia Inquirer on Saturday and said the following: "I've always stated this is where I want to be. The Eagles have stated the same thing. We'll continue to get on the same page with all that and just get something done."

  • The NFL Scouting Combine happens later this week in Indianapolis and we'll have a chance to really dig into the mock drafts. Most of those drafts, which mean absolutely nothing but sure are fun, have the Eagles taking a defensive back with the 22nd pick in the first round. Fair enough. The Eagles have questions at both safety spots and they could certainly upgrade their depth at the cornerback positions. So, yeah, maybe. Nobody knows. The draft takes place on May 8-10.

  • How much stock do the Eagles put in the Scouting Combine? It's part of the evaluation process, for sure, but the idea of taking the "workout warrior" doesn't seem to fit the approach for Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman. The Eagles are intent on evaluating their players based on performance, athletic ability, the fit into the schemes and the character evaluation. Many things go into grading players, and the performance at the Scouting Combine is part of the data to consider.

  • How much chatter will we hear about the Eagles moving up in the first round of the draft? They were able to maneuver in the fourth round last season, jumping up to take quarterback Matt Barkley at the top of the round, but would they be able to do so in May if they are interested? There are so many strategies to consider, so many scenarios that must play out. The days are passing ... too ... slowly.

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