Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Kelly changes the Eagles

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - Jump in my hoopty hoopty hoop ... I own that.

"And I ain't paying my rent this month ... I owe that."

Nicki Minaj is probably on a lot of playlists around Philadelphia but you certainly would have never expected to hear the Trinidadian-born songstress belting out "Starships" in the background of an Andy Reid practice.

Things are far different in South Philadelphia these days as Chip Kelly has not only changed the stale culture around the Eagles, he has strapped a defibrillater on it and shocked it into a new era.

Minaj headlined an eclectic soundtrack as the Eagles practiced in front of the media for the first time under Kelly. Ozzy Osbourne, Duran Duran, Pitbull, Tupac and The Scorpions were some of Kelly's others choices as the he flew the Birds through a 20-period session that could only be described as frenetic.

In fact, it was like being at an Arena Football League game with constant noise bombarding the senses at every turn.

"There's a lot of science behind it," the Eagles' new coach said when asked about the music. "We've used it for a while."

A Siri-like male voice announced the various periods in the practice, which is heavy on tempo and repetitions before a few "teaching sessions" late in the process.

"We just want to practice efficiently, so it's the best way for us to practice," the former Oregon mentor said. "You've got 90 guys now. I don't think anybody on our team is going to complain about the amount of reps they got. I think everybody gets a chance to show what they can do on film, so therefore we can make some real good evaluations in terms of where we are because at some point in time we're going to have to go from 90 to 75 and then eventually to 53.

"So we want to make sure that we can use the full time we have. Obviously, this isn't how we're going to practice during the season, but in the offseason I think it's the best way to practice."

Kelly is big on the "science" of the game, so much so that it's become a talking point for him as he interacts with the notoriously tough Philly media.

"Obviously, we know we can't practice full speed for the entire time we're out there, so it's got to be short bursts, but the game of football is short bursts," Kelly explained. "It's really an anaerobic sport when you look at it, because you're going hard for five to six seconds and then you're taking a break, and that's what we're trying to get accomplished with these guys."

More that a few have questioned what Kelly is trying to do at the game's most important position. He brought back 33-year-old starting quarterback Michael Vick and signed his old acolyte from Oregon, Dennis Dixon, while also proclaiming second-year man Nick Foles will be given a chance to compete and then drafting former USC star Matt Barkley.

Of course, Vick and Dixon are movement-based signal-callers who project in the read-option while Foles and Barkley are traditional drop-back passers who rely on a quick release and getting the ball out of their hands.

It's a confusing situation.

Vick and Foles split the first-team reps on Monday while the rookie Barkley also got a lot of looks.

"I always feel like I'm a starter," Vick said. "I think the mind-set that you have to have is that you're going to be the number one guy."

All that said, Kelly's philosophy is slowly starting to come into focus and it's all about quick decision making, something which could foreshadow Vick's demise and the eventual winner of his QB derby.

"I think the game is about making quick decisions," Kelly said. "It's a game of 60 to 70 to 80 four-second plays. So once the ball is snapped, it happens at that tempo. We're just trying to force them to -- everything we do has to kind of be -- reflect what the mission is, and the mission is to be prepared to play a four-second play."

You can feel some of the old school guys rolling their eyes when Kelly talks, and that kind of second-guessing is going to follow the rookie coach until he prove his "college gimmicks" work with the big boys.

"We want to be efficient in our time, we don't want to be on the field for a long time, want to maximize the time we're on the field, and obviously you see us go from tempo periods to teach periods, there's a rhyme or reason to what we're doing, time on task versus time teaching, and I think there's a good balance of that," Kelly said.

For now, about the only thing we do know is things have changed with the Eagles.

Hit it, Nicki ...

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