ABOVE PHOTO: Eagles teammates (From left to right): Michael Vick, Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinne take turns throwing the ball during the first day of OTAs.
(Photo courtesy of PhiladelphiaEagles.com.)
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
If you drive by the Eagles NovaCare practice facility in South Philly and you’re hearing Nicki Manaj or “What is Love,” a song made popular by a Saturday Night Live skit, you’re not driving by a nightclub, nor is there a special on Margaritas.
It’s the 2013 version of Eagles organized team activities for new head coach Chip Kelly who has definitely put his own unique stamp on the team’s culture. As the team goes through its various drills, mostly dance music with a few rock songs thrown in for good measure is being pumped in through loud speakers.
Some players see the music as a way of getting used to cheering crowds on the road while others are experiencing it the way they experience on their I-Pods or in the weight room when they’re working out. Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson said the music is forcing him to concentrate even more on what he’s doing on the field.
“It’s almost like a football game where you have the crowd, everybody screaming and all that other stuff,” Jackson said. “You just have to go in there and focus in, you can’t worry about the music.”
In between the different drills, a computerized voice blares over the loudspeakers and simply says: “Period 20 Teach.” That’s when the coaches walk through the various schemes that they just ran on the field.
Meanwhile, if you’re trying to get a reading on who’s ahead in the race to be the Eagles starting quarterback, Kelly’s not going to tell you anything just yet. At Monday’s practice, the quarterbacks were working with a mixture of starting and backup running backs and receivers.
“It’s May 13th and we’ve got a long ways to go before we set a depth chart or do anything like that,” Kelly said during his post-practice press conference.
Last week at a team charity event, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said Michael Vick got most of the reps during the pre-draft minicamp last month and appeared to more than few people that he was getting most of the work at Monday’s practice.
“He hasn’t,” Kelly said. “Count them up. Someone charted them, I would imagine. (Vick) and Nick switched to different groups. We’re just trying to get the reps off and trying to get film and look at it.”
Relying on the eyeball test based on the idea that Kelly wants his quarterbacks to make quick decisions with the football. Vick seemed slow in going through his progressions, but was accurate with his passes.
Dennis Dixon, who worked with Kelly at Oregon, seemed to be the most comfortable with the offense in both the seven-on-seven drills and the 11-on-11drills.
Former USC star and seventh-round draft pick Matt Barkley did a good job of getting the ball out and quickly finding the open receiver. He doesn’t necessarily have the strongest arm in the world. According to Kelly, Barkley has done a good job of learning in the offense in the four days he has been with the team.
“Matt has been really good. Really thought he picked up things quickly,” Kelly said. “He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s every morning at six a.m. working at whatever it is to work on.”
Nick Foles looked comfortable in the offense and made some decent throws, but made some bad throws, too. He also made some good reads when he handed the ball off in the running game. G.J. Kinne was about average, nothing to write home about.
Speaking of the running game, LeSean McCoy said the tempo of the offensive is a good thing for the running game and that there will be more touches for the Eagles running backs in this offense.
“There’s definitely a difference,” McCoy said. “Being able to run the ball a lot more because if you look at (Kelly’s) track record, a lot of his backs touched the ball quite a bit. Sometimes, a big hole may be happening when a guy (on defense) might be out of place. With the backs we have here you don’t need that much room to get going.”
One of the features of Kelly’s up-tempo offense is that the players, as they are going up to the line of scrimmage will be getting the plays signaled in from the sidelines similar to the way it was done at Oregon.
“I think the game is about making quick decisions,” Kelly said. “The difference here that we didn’t have in college is we can communicate to the quarterback and there’s a lot to put on him, so there’s a whole system involved in that. We can talk to him.”