Eagles' Reynolds tech savvy learning from afar

Posted: June 19, 2014

JUST A FEW years ago, an NFL rookie whose college worked on the quarter system might report to training camp far behind his peers. Ed Reynolds and the Eagles are hoping technology has at least partly bridged that gap.

Reynolds, the fifth-round safety from Stanford, was prohibited by NFL rule from taking part in the bulk of the Eagles' OTA work because, until last week, his school was still holding class - unlike schools on the semester setup, which emptied more than a month ago.

As recently as 2010, when then-Eagles rookie Kurt Coleman (now a Viking) was in the same spot, the team's answer was to have Coleman meet with then-safeties coach Mike Zordich for one-on-one sessions after spring work but before training camp, to study film and whiteboard tutorials on what Coleman had missed.

Reynolds (6-1, 207) was able to more or less keep up this spring, even as the team worked at NovaCare while he took classes toward a political science degree in Palo Alto, Calif. In between or after classes, anywhere he had wifi, Reynolds could watch film of practices, along with podcasts of meetings, and could Face Time or Skype with secondary coach John Lovett or special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp. Reynolds said he'd connect with Lovett on Mondays and Wednesday evenings, Fipp on Tuesdays.

"It was as close as I was going to get to being out here . . . With technology, you can pretty much do anything. I could be watching a play on my iPad, he could be watching the same thing, and then we can talk about it right there," Reynolds said yesterday, after rejoining the Eagles for minicamp, which runs through tomorrow. "He could draw stuff up on the board for me, and then if I had any questions [they'd be answered]."

Asked about watching the meetings podcasts, Reynolds said: "The biggest thing from that is taking questions other guys had and being able to listen in, have them answered right in front of me. If I had anything further, I could write it down, and then I could talk to the coaches afterward.

"It's great what you can do with Face Time and technology nowadays, where I'm 3,000 miles away and still able to communicate with them . . . but in the end, you can't really learn - one of the best ways to learn is under fire."

Eagles coach Chip Kelly cautioned yesterday that "there's no compensation" for the time Reynolds has missed; the team isn't going to take it slower while he learns, or give him extra reps. "It's not fair to the other guys" to do that, Kelly said. "The other guys have to get reps, too."

Reynolds got to Philadelphia as quickly as possible after finishing class last Tuesday, taking the field for Thursday's final OTA session. He still needs a few credits for his degree, he said, but he hopes to be able to either finish those off online, or by taking a few classes at Penn next offseason.

First major problem when he took his spot Thursday: none of Reynolds' remote work concerned the signals from the sideline the Eagles use to set up their defense. And the safeties are the quarterbacks of the secondary.

"I really didn't know any of the signals. The tempo our offense runs at, you really have to know the signals, look to the [sideline] and make your adjustment as quickly as possible . . . My head was spinning a little bit on Thursday, having to learn those, but today it felt a lot better," Reynolds said. "I'm meeting extra with the coaches, trying to get this down."

He said he ran the same coverages at Stanford, but not with the same signals.

"It's very similar, we run a lot of the same stuff, it's just all about the terminology," Reynolds said. "I was talking to coach Kelly about it - it's like going to a foreign country and going to a restaurant, where you see the food and you know the food is similar, but you don't know how to order it . . . being able to physically see it, and go out there and have to make the adjustments on the run, especially with our tempo, is a big challenge right now."

Reynolds said he's getting help from veterans, such as Malcolm Jenkins, the offseason free-agent signee Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis laud as the leader of the secondary. Reynolds also talked to former Stanford teammate Zach Ertz, a tight end who had to do the same thing a year ago, after the Eagles drafted him in the second round.

Reynolds said Ertz warned him to "stay in the best shape you can" because of the pace of practice, and told him not to worry so much about early mistakes. "They don't expect you to be perfect. You weren't here for the whole time. Just go out there . . . if you make a mistake, make it fast [instead of playing tentatively]. They can't teach effort . . . make the adjustments afterward."

Ertz became a strong contributor as a rookie, but 22 of his 36 catches, 268 of his 469 receiving yards, and all four of his touchdowns came in the second half of the season. Hard to say if he would have started faster, given full access to OTAs.

"It's tough," Jenkins said yesterday, when asked about Reynolds' task. "But he has time. Training camp, I think, is going to be a fast learning curve for him, but he's a smart guy and I think he'll catch on pretty quick."

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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