The Eagles have wrapped up their final minicamp of the offseason and we now know as much about them as we did before their first minicamp, which is to say, not much at all.
We still don’t know who many of the starters on defense will be and we still don’t know what kind of defense they will play. We still don’t know if new coach Chip Kelly will run the hell-or-high water offense he ran at Oregon or if he will run an offense that pretty much looks like every other offense in the NFL. And the biggest question of all: We still don’t know who his starting quarterback will be.
What do we know? Well, the offensive line looks set, which is a very good thing, especially when you consider how unstable it was last season, when three projected starters missed much or all of the season – Jason Peters, Todd Herremans and Jason Kelce. Nowhere is stability and cohesiveness more important than along the o-line and the Eagles appear to be a solid there, which is a great building block for the rest of the offense. By drafting tackle Lane Johnson in the first round of April’s NFL draft the Eagles actually improved two positions, because now Herremans slides back to guard, replacing the disappointing (and maybe disappearing) Danny Watkins.
We also know the Eagles are loaded at running back, with LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown and Felix Jones, although we have no idea how Kelly will use them. Ditto at wide receiver.
We also know that Kelly likes to spice up his practices with loud music, mostly of the electro-pop variety, the kind that slowly penetrates your brain until you want to scream for mercy – it should be against the Geneva Convention, but Kelly believes it helps the tempo in practices and that will help the tempo in games. As to what they actually accomplish at those practices, well, right now we’ll have to take his word that there is a method to his madness.
Supposedly, the reason for the hurry-up offense that Kelly embraces is simple mathematics: The more plays you run, the more yards you’ll pick up and the more points you’ll score. But that means nothing if his players are dashing all over the field and lining up without a huddle and then the ball is snapped and they lose two yards — it doesn’t matter how fast you get the plays off if you’re only getting three of them on every possession. Being fast isn’t enough – you also have to be good.
And since the Eagles basically played a slowed-down version of two-hand touch during the minicamps, it’s impossible to tell how all that movement and motion and energy will stand up in the violent world of the NFL where the biggest, meanest kid usually rules the block. Even Kelly doesn’t know that yet.
“I think it’s difficult,’’ he said when asked about evaluating players during the minicamps. “We’re not going to make any rash decisions now, because we don’t have the pads on. So, it would be kind of silly to say ‘This guy is our starting this,’ because he did a great job in OTAs with no pads on.
“You put the big-boy pads on, some guys really step up,’’ Kelly added, “and other guys you thought were really good, and all of a sudden ‘Where has he been?’ So it’s tough to really evaluate.’’
That includes quarterback, where Kelly gave both Michael Vick and Nick Foles equal time with the No. 1 offense, something Vick publically griped about – he thinks the Eagles should go into camp with a No. 1 QB and, naturally, he thinks he should be the one. But Kelly has held these cards closer to his chest than any others and right now it’s anybody’s guess. Vick would appear to have a slight edge, but for all we know he could get cut in training camp. Kelly certainly didn’t reveal anything when asked if any of the QBs had an advantage.
“I don’t know,’’ he said. “We have to let it play itself out.’’
“Who can move us the best and who gets the football team up and down the field, you know that’s the most important thing. It doesn’t have to be that he throws a prettier ball or all of those things – there are a lot of different things. How do you manage a game? How do you secure the football? Are we not turning it over? Are we constantly moving in a positive direction? Are we getting into third and short and converting them?
“It’s things like that. It really is who moves the team the best is what we’re looking for at the quarterbacks.”
So, we’ve been around Chip Kelly for a few months now, including various OTAs and minicamps and other events. We’ve heard him speak a dozen times and asked a hundred questions, and we still don’t know what to expect from the man or his team.
But, eventually the answers will emerge and that will make this the most interesting Eagles training camp since Terrell Owens walked onto the field at Lehigh University in 2004 and electrified the thousands of fans that packed the place to watch their heroes practice. And it’s only a month and a half away.
Contact Kevin Noonan at email@example.com.