Camping out: Eagles key issues at Camp Kelly
The first training camp under new coach Chip Kelly begins this week at the NovaCare Complex. Rookies report Monday, followed by veterans on Thursday. The first full-team practice open to the public is scheduled for Friday. Here are some things to keep an eye on:
Running the show » Mike Vick or Nick Foles? It’s the most asked question in Philadelphia since Pat’s or Geno’s? Hopefully, we’ll have an answer in the next few weeks. Foles appeared to have the edge in spring practices, getting a few more reps while receiving higher praise from the coaching staff. He’s more accurate. He gets the ball out quicker. However, Vick still has a certain wow factor attached to his 33-year-old legs. If Vick can improve his accuracy and stop throwing interceptions — two very big ifs — he’ll emerge as the starting quarterback.
Amazing new offense » Chip Kelly’s up-tempo, no-huddle offense has become the stuff of legends. Skill players, namely LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, have to be salivating at the possibilities. McCoy was downright giddy when he was asked about in April, saying the offense “looks amazing.” Kelly has installed a new signaling system so coaches can get plays in faster — remember, his Oregon teams averaged 20.9 seconds per play. Look for tight ends running receiver routes, running backs catching bubble screens and quarterbacks picking up blockers. We know it worked in college, but can it work in the NFL?
Secondary concerns » Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams are the favorites to win the starting cornerback slots after the Eagles lost last year’s starters in free agency. The safety position is where things get interesting. Incumbent starters Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen were drafted by Andy Reid, so they’ll have to fight for respect. It won’t be easy, either. Kelly brought in well-established veterans Kenny Phillips and Patrick Chung, then drafted rookie Earl Wolff. This should be the biggest battle outside of quarterback.
Flipping the switch » The defensive line is loaded with question marks. As the team transitions to a 3-4 defense — or at least some hybrid form of it — they’ll have to work with the chess pieces on the board. The Eagles’ defense is currently constructed as a 4-3, so to make this experiment work guys like Trent Cole and Brandon Graham will have to drop back in coverage, as outside linebackers. Can they do it? Jury is out. It will probably be harder for bigger bodies, like Antonio Dixon and Cedric Thornton, to make the final cuts.
Culture club » Chip Kelly isn’t just installing a brand new offense, he’s created a whole new culture. Players are required to get 10 hours of sleep each night — lights out at 11 p.m., although Kelly admits he’s not tucking anyone in — and feed their bodies the proper nutrients. (Kelly’s assistants provide personal smoothies for each player based on their varying needs). The coach even appointed a former Navy SEAL trainer as Sports Science Coordinator to help with strength and conditioning.
Welcome to the new nest » The city of Bethlehem might not like it, but Eagles fans have to love having the hometown team back in South Philly for training camp. Most practices remain open to fans, including five specialized sessions at Lincoln Financial Field. Kelly knows how important it is to connect with the fans. He’s also scheduled a joint practice with the New England Patriots, while choosing to start at 12:30 every day. If this heat wave keeps up, players might be searching for Andy Reid’s pickle juice jar.