"Everybody's bought in. That's one of the most important things," offensive lineman Todd Herremans said.
Getting college students to accept the practice pace is one thing. Getting veterans to willingly adjust to the tempo is quite another. Of the 90 players on the current roster, exactly half have three seasons or more of NFL experience. That's a group that has seen quite a bit, but it hasn't seen anything like this.
Kelly has their attention and he has their dedication because he also has their job security in his hands. He isn't running these practices in order to find out which players can handle the pace and the pressure and still make good decisions. He is doing so to find out which of them can't do that.
"I think everybody gets a chance to show what they can do on film, so we can make some real good evaluations . . . at some point in time, we're going to go from 90 to 75 and then eventually to 53. So we want to make sure that we use the full time we have," Kelly said. "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."
Everything, according to Kelly, is done for a reason. There are scientific studies regarding the presence of music in the workplace, benefits that go beyond simply functioning effectively in a noisy environment. Kelly employs those findings the same way companies paint the office walls yellow and orange to stimulate production.
There were 21 separate sessions during Monday's practice, all lasting approximately five minutes and counted down on a large digital time set between the fields. The subject of each new next session was announced by a disembodied voice over the loudspeaker system. "First-and-second-down offense," or "seven-man defense," the voice intoned flatly, and then AC/DC was back on the highway to hell as dogs barked all over South Philadelphia.
Every five sessions or so, the music went off and the voice said, "Teach," in sort of a Kung Fu kind of way, and all the grasshoppers gathered around the masters and, one supposes, some teaching took place. Hopefully, there was learning as well, but that won't become apparent for a few months.
"It's May 13th, so I would make that of it," Kelly said when someone asked what could be made of the snaps Dennis Kelly got at right tackle. He said the same thing when asked to comment on the plays that were divided between quarterbacks Michael Vick and Nick Foles and those that were given to Matt Barkley and Dennis Dixon.
"We've got a long way to go before we set a depth chart or do anything like that," Kelly said.
There are some things that can be reasonably assumed, however. The Eagles are going to have a no-huddle, uptempo offense. They are going to run the ball a lot more than you might think. Depending on field position and the distance required for a first down, they aren't going to punt in some standard punting situations. They are going to "formation the hell out of them," as Ray Rhodes liked to say, with multiple looks, a lot of motion and players lined up at some seemingly odd positions. The base defense is going to have three down linemen and four linebackers, and the focus will be on speed and keeping the opposing offense unsure of what's going on.
All of those things are works in progress. Kelly is implementing a system of signaling from the sideline so that the quarterback never has to actually call a play or set of options before the team gets set at the line of scrimmage. There was a lot of confusion about that system on Monday but, again, it is May.
"I don't think we play the Washington Redskins until sometime in September," Kelly said.
By that time, we'll know much more and, more important, so will Kelly. There are still lot of power chords to be played between now and then, and the new guy has charted out every one of them. He might not be entirely right about every note, but at least it's a new riff.
Turn it up.
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