Philadelphia Eagles training camp diary: The extraordinary efficiency of Chip Kelly

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On Sunday afternoon, I drove down to the University of Penn’s campus in University City to witness in person the Philadelphia Eagles’ final public practice of their 2014 Training Camp at Franklin Field. Having only ever seen the Eagles in person once before (the 2012 opener in Cleveland), this was already going to be a unique experience for me. Add in the intrigue that comes with a Chip Kelly practice and there was a lot to be interested in. Here’s what I took away.

– Those who have witnessed a practice run by Chip Kelly, whether at Oregon or here in Philadelphia, have always maintained that it’s where his true innovation lies. It is hard to argue this point. It is immediately apparent that an incredible amount of thought was put into every aspect of practice. At Oregon, Kelly was restricted by NCAA rules limiting practice time, which led him to creating an extraordinarily efficient practice. He has continued that at the NFL level.

No one is standing still for more than a few moments at a time up until the scrimmages. Many drills are run all at once, involving seemingly everyone on the field. Coaches are integral parts of making the whole thing run; during one drill, Kelly himself was snapping the ball to the quarterbacks. The loud music not only simulates the effects of crowd noise, it keeps the pace moving. To keep everyone active and engaged, no drill is run for more than eight or nine minutes at a time before things are switched up.

I have seen football practiced at many levels, but this seems to be the ideal one. Nothing else I have seen comes close, really.

– Counting of course for all of the caveats of this being preseason and a practice and all, Mark Sanchez looked sharp. There was a noticeable difference between his execution and Matt Barkley’s. His throws were sharp, and he was particularly impressive throwing corner routes. He had one bad pass late in practice that was picked off by rookie corner Jaylen Watkins, but other than that he was clearly the team’s backup. I think it is obvious that he is in a better situation in this offense than he was in New York, and it is comforting to see that he has fully healed from shoulder surgery.

– Speaking of quarterbacks, Nick Foles looked okay. This is, of course, through a lens of raised expectations, but it has meshed with what the reports so far out of camp have been. Foles looks alright, but not spectacular. It’s clear that he’s working on things, but the process is slow. He still holds the ball too long at times, and he occasionally throws behind his intended receiver. There weren’t enough reps there to get a true read, but his progress seemed limited at best.