Hallelujah. After month upon month upon month of nothing new to talk about in the world of football, the March-July lull for diehard football fans is over. Despite optimistic excitement over the arrival of Chip Kelly, it has been an especially hard time for Eagles fans because they do not know what awaits. Some fans, such as myself, had a hard time getting over 2012 and needed as much time as possible to clear their minds from the debacle of last season. Others were ready to begin 2013 nearly as soon as Kelly was hired and wanted to see what everything would look like.
As the Andy Reid era wore on, fans knew what to expect from him from the start of training camp through January and February. This sense of stability wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the Eagles enjoyed the arguably the best decade in franchise history under Reid. The Reid regime didn’t grow stale until the last two seasons. With Kelly, we are all embarking on an entirely new journey. Being 21 years old, Andy Reid is all I ever knew as an Eagles fan. This is new for me on a personal level. As different and unprecedented this is for myself, millions of fans, and of course the players, there are some things I think I know and will have my eye on starting tomorrow:
I will not revisit all the details of each candidate as I previously have. Rather, this is what I will be looking for this particular week. I will be looking for accuracy and body language. All five quarterbacks will be in camp on the very first day and will begin to set in to the routine of a Kelly camp. What that is, I don’t know. I do know it will be fast and there will be music, that is about it. However, because it is the first week, I do not expect much live hitting or full-speed offense vs. defense action. That means it is not fair to judge the quarterbacks’ decision-making at full game speed yet, although I’m sure many will try to do so. I want to see how accurate they are when delivering passes in drills and basic routes. If a quarterback is throwing behind receivers and missing them on uncontested routes, I will become slightly concerned.
I also want to see body language. Are the players bought into Chip Kelly thus far? Are the quarterbacks mentally into the competition, or are they doubting the program? This applies especially to Michael Vick, who has already shown a bit of frustration with having to compete for the job. Will Vick buckle down and do what he needs to do, or will he let his emotions get to him and display poor body language and poor play? Competing to EARN a starting job is something Vick has not had to do in a long time, if ever. I am intrigued to see how he handles competing in a Chip Kelly training camp.
It seems to me that each and every wide receiver has their case for improvement in 2013 based off of being a “good fit” in Kelly’s offense. Well, what is Kelly’s offense besides being fast and up-tempo? We don’t know. Certainly someone will fall to the wayside. Someone will realize they were a better fit with, say, Andy Reid or another previous coach. In this new offense, it has been said that DeSean Jackson, arguably the fastest receiver in the game, will have many opportunities to touch the ball whether receiving or rushing. Jeremy Maclin also expects an increased role with Kelly. However, Kelly is also stocking up on tight ends, signing James Casey from Houston and drafting Zach Ertz in the second round to compete with incumbent Brent Celek. This shows that Kelly also values size in his receivers. Will Kelly better utilize big receivers, such as his tight ends and 6’7″ Ifeanyi Momah? Or will he better utilize smaller, faster receivers such as Jackson or second-year man Damaris Johnson? In what is described as a run-first offense, it will be intriguing to see what type of receiver thrives in the early-going.
There won’t be much, if any, live hitting and tackling this week. Throughout the entire camp, there will be less hitting and tackling than there was under Andy Reid. Kelly has stressed injury prevention in recent interviews about how he will conduct his first NFL camp. I will be looking for communication among the players this week. Are the players buying into this “hybrid” scheme that Bill Davis is implementing? I will be looking to see all the new pieces in the secondary (Patrick Chung, Kenny Phillips, Cary Williams) communicate amongst one another and begin to become a unit unlike Asomugha, Rodgers-Cromartie and that abysmal secondary from 2012. I will be looking for linebacker DeMeco Ryans, now is his second season as an Eagle, to become even more of a leader. He stepped smoothly and effectively into the role of defensive leader in 2012, and I expect him to really become a rock in the middle of the defense. I won’t be looking for hitting and physicality this first week, I want to see effective communication and players buying into the program.
*Also, as a side note, I will be at the first open practice at Lincoln Financial Field this Sunday, the 28th. I will probably write before then, but if not, I will have a post about what I experienced firsthand.