Observations from Chip Kelly's first open practice
Chip Kelly opened one of his practices to the media for the first time on Monday and here are some observations:
-- Kelly said that Michael Vick did not get the majority of first team repetitions at quarterback – he said it was around 50-50 Vick-Nick Foles -- but it sure seemed that way. Vick was generally the first up on certain drills and ran with the starters on the first set of 7 on 7s and 11 on 11s. Foles did get a fair share of work with the first team, though. The order on the depth chart – and, yes, I understand that it is May 13 and Kelly's "depth chart is more of a seating chart" at this point – seemed to be Vick, Foles, Dennis Dixon, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne.
-- The Eagles ran some read option plays (Foles, too!). A number of plays involved the quarterback taking the snap in the shotgun and either handing off to the running back or rolling out to make a short throw. The playbook will be vast. We saw just a snippet today.
-- Barkley looked competent in his first full squad practice. He's doesn't have as much zip on his throws as Vick and Foles – as expected – but most were on target. There was one play in which he completed a wobbler for about 15 yards, but it hit the receiver in between the numbers. The session ended after the play and Kelly, as he walked by Barkley, smiled and gave him a low "five."
-- With Jason Kelce (knee) still not 100 percent and Evan Mathis (ankle) out the starting offensive line looked to be left tackle Jason Peters, left guard Danny Watkins, center Dallas Reynolds, right guard Todd Herremans and right tackle Dennis Kelly, who is obviously holding down the spot until Lane Johnson gets his feet under him. Kelce was with the first team during install periods. He ran well during a warm-up period, as did Peters (Achilles tendon) and Herremans (foot).
-- DeSean Jackson was back fielding punts along with Damaris Johnson, Jeremy Maclin and undrafted rookie Nick Miller. This is good news for fans that felt Jackson should have been handling more punt returns over the last two years. He seemed happy about it after practice and suggested that he would do more of it this season.
-- Cornerback Cary Williams was excused from practice because he got married this weekend. Kelly said he should be back sometime next week. With Williams presumably a starter, Curtis Marsh started along with Bradley Fletcher. I asked Kelly about Marsh' progress, and he said a few nice things about the third-year corner, but he didn't make too much of his starting. I wouldn't either. Marsh still has a lot to prove.
-- Here's the rest of the "starting" defense: NT: Isaac Sopoaga, DTs: Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton, OLBs: Connor Barwin and Trent Cole, ILBs: DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kedricks, Safeties: Patrick Chung and Nate Allen. Sopoaga came off the field when the Eagles went with their nickel defense and cornerback Brandon Boykin ran into the slot.
-- The Eagles employed three down linemen for most of the time they spent in 11 on 11s. Kelly later said that that was mostly because of the plays they were working on. Still, it looks as if the Eagles will have an odd-man front on most base downs. Vinny Curry played exclusively at defensive end. Cole played a little defensive end, as well.
-- It certainly took some adjusting watching Cole and Brandon Graham not play with their hands in the ground. They were asked to stand in a two-point stance for the most part. They did a significant amount of dropping, especially Graham and Barwin, who were playing on the left side.
-- You may have heard that Kelly likes to blast music during his practices. The playlist on Monday included mostly rock, rap and techno. Featured artists: Kanye West, Van Halen, Foo Fighters, 50 cent, Nas, Duran Duran, Queen.
-- The music stops for the occasional "teaching" period. Unlike practices under Andy Reid and other NFL coaches, Kelly rarely stops to correct a mistake. Kelly prefers to use the classroom for teaching. He wants practice to mostly be emblematic of game conditions.
-- The pace of practice was frenetic, much faster than any practice I ever saw Reid run. The five quarterbacks, at one point, all threw at the same time from the same line of scrimmage to the same end of the field. I never saw that before. That being said, the overall practice still felt very much like a typical NFL session with typical NFL drills.