For an aspiring offensive line coach like Eugene Chung, who better to learn from than the universally revered Howard Mudd? Chung, the assistant to the strength and conditioning coach, has had an opportunity to walk in the offensive line coach's shoes through the rookie minicamps and last week's first round of Organized Team Activities with Mudd resting for the long season ahead. It has been an opportunity Chung has relished.
"It was very exciting for me," said Chung of the rookie minicamp, "because it was just basically me, so if the young guys had questions, they would just turn to ask me. It was really invigorating. It was very enlightening at the same time. It's one of those opportunities that you get and you make the most of it. The rookies here are great and the guys, the selected veterans that were here, they do a great job, so the culture of our room makes it a lot of fun, makes it very special."
With Mudd absent, Chung has been charged with passing along the specific techniques Mudd has honed over his 38 years coaching in the NFL. Counter to the way many offensive linemen are coached, Mudd's offensive linemen are taught to be proactive in pass protection. Rather than backing up at the snap and losing ground, Mudd wants his players to engage the defensive linemen at the line of scrimmage. That's an oversimplification of the nuances and specific technique involved, but, then again, that's what Chung is for.
"He's very particular about technique," said Chung of Mudd. "He's very meticulous about what he wants done, which is a great thing that you have to be on the offensive line because you have five moving parts at all times. So that repetition, that concise implementation of his techniques, it's proven successful. I mean the guy's been in the league for 30-something years. He brings a lot of merit to what he does."
A first-round draft pick of the New England Patriots, 13th overall, in 1992, Chung had been familiar with the tenets of Mudd's philosophy thanks to a helping word from veterans along the way. But now, he gets to learn from the man who got it all started.
"I got kind of the tip of the iceberg before he got here on those techniques that he does," said Chung. "Now I have the dictionary of why you do it. When you get that plethora of information from someone like that, an incredible resource, you take it, you embrace it, you run with it. It's amazing to actually know this is why you do those things, or why this was taught, or why this was actually conceived as a technique. It's an incredible thing to see the origin of where it came from and understand why or how it came to fruition. To hear these things and be a part of it, it's amazing ... I'm a firm believer that you can always learn. Just learning from him right now has just been an invaluable asset for me."
While the Eagles certainly hope that Mudd will continue coaching the offensive line for years to come, the reality is Mudd, 70, has retired once before. So having Chung around to learn underneath the O-line guru may serve the Eagles well in the future, though Chung stops short of calling it "an apprenticeship."
"I'm not really sure what you'd call it, but all I know is I'm here right now and all I really can control is how hard I work and how detailed I can be," Chung said. "That's the only thing I have control over.
"I'm teaching the exact same techniques that Howard has taught the guys for the last year, so that's an easy job because we ingrained that in them so hard last year, practicing really well with it. And the guys have really embraced it, so it's easy for me to teach the techniques that Howard wants to use."
So what does the future hold for Chung? According to one of his current pupils, this may just be the beginning.
"Eugene knows this game," said Evan Mathis. "He is a very smart guy and he really pays attention to what Howard has said. Just like us, except he's been in more meetings, he's been in coach's meetings as well. He's been a sponge in taking all of Howard's techniques, taking all the plays. Out there, without Howard, we have Eugene right now while Howard's out of town and it's like we're not missing a beat at all. Eugene's taking us right through everything and I think he's got a long career ahead of him as a coach in the NFL."
For his part, Chung says it's a two-way street. He's been able to emerge as a coach because of how willing the Eagles offensive linemen are to learn.
"Respect is earned," he said. "How do you earn respect? Through hard work and dedication and you lead by example. So the guys will follow you if they feel that you can do it and you're a strong leader. The culture in our room, they're very accepting, so when I say something, they listen. That's the great thing about this team, the culture on this team, whoever is in the room talking, they listen."
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