Azzinaro a smart additon to Eagles coaching staff

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jerry Azzinaro, the Eagles' defensive-line coach, gets his point across.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Jerry Azzinaro, the Eagles' defensive-line coach, gets his point across.
Posted: November 15, 2013

THERE ARE still about 40 people Chip Kelly brought to NovaCare whose names or duties most of us have no clue about. As far as we know, they could all be busily reanimating zombies in the auditorium where the team used to hold news conferences, before Kelly decided reporters should be penned outside in a tent.

But Jerry Azzinaro, with the mop of gray curls and the big mustache, is one of the more prominent new faces. He's the defensive-line coach, who also carries the title of assistant head coach. Kelly, who often resists attempts to get him to talk about things that are important to him or helped mold him, was asked about Azzinaro's role yesterday, and he spoke at length about the 55-year-old career college coach from Brooklyn who, like Kelly, has spent much of his career at Northeastern schools, out of the football spotlight.

"First and foremost, he's really, really smart," Kelly said. "He comes off as a gruff, get-after-you guy, but he's extremely intelligent. He's a great communicator. He can get his message across in terms of how he wants it done. He's very detailed in his work, extremely meticulous in how he wants it done. But I think the guys gravitate to him.

"I was with him at Oregon, and it was really important for me to be with him here just because I think he's a great teacher and great communicator."

Kelly was asked what it means, that Azzinaro is the assistant head coach.

"[He] coaches me a lot. I mean, he's a really special guy to be around," Kelly said. "I think, again, he's extremely intelligent. He's got a great view and great mindset in terms of how he looks at not only the game, but looks at life. We all seek professor Azzinaro's counsel a lot of times, to be honest with you."

Defensive lineman Clifton Geathers has played for d-line coaches in Indianapolis, Dallas, Cleveland, Miami and Seattle, Asked about Azzinaro yesterday, Geather said: "I think he's like a Jimmy Neutron of football. He's very smart. He might be [new to] the NFL, but very, very, very intelligent man. He's hard on you. That's usually how great coaches are; when they're hard on you, they know they can get more out of you . . . He never changes, he's always the same person.

"He teaches the d-linemen and linebackers, basically, each of our responsibilities and just drills it in us. Like, sometimes he'll put the linebackers, in practice, as defensive linemen, we go to linebackers. So we know calls to make, we know where we have to fit at . . . he does everything for a reason."

Rookie nose tackle Damion Square came out of an Alabama program where physicality was emphasized, Square said, and he sees the same emphasis from Azzinaro.

"I've been coached by guys like that all the time," Square said. "I've tried to put myself in situations to be coached by guys like that; I don't really want to be coached by anybody else . . . Physical, physicality, put your hands on guys. There's not really any scheming, trying to outsmart a guy. You're gonna put your hand in the dirt, you've got a guy in front of you, you're going to react to what he gives you. Put your hands on the guy, defeat the block, get to the ball. One, two, three, just like that. He teaches it every day, every day, every day."

Corner Bradley Fletcher remained limited in practice yesterday with a pectoral muscle injury. It's unclear whether he will face the Redskins. Missing practice yesterday, and very likely out this week, were linebacker Mychal Kendricks (knee), linebacker Jake Knott (hamstring), tackle Jason Peters (quadricep, pectoral), safety Earl Wolff (knee) . . . Nick Foles and Robert Griffin III are from the same region of Texas, but Foles said he didn't really know RG3 or hear much about him in high school. "There are a lot of people in Texas," Foles noted.


On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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