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Michael Vick and Trent Cole try to adapt to new Eagles era

After closing time at Club Chipper, the hot new dance spot in South Philadelphia, the patrons clear out pretty fast.

Michael Vick and Trent Cole have little choice but to try to learn Chip Kelly's new tricks. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Michael Vick and Trent Cole have little choice but to try to learn Chip Kelly's new tricks. (Matt Rourke/AP)Read more

After closing time at Club Chipper, the hot new dance spot in South Philadelphia, the patrons clear out pretty fast.

They have to exit via a hallway lined with blowups of newspaper pages celebrating great moments in Eagles history - if you define Eagles history as things that happened since the NovaCare Complex opened in 2001.

What is striking is how ancient that history is beginning to feel. To many of the players leaving Chip Kelly's aerobics/football class Monday, the names and faces on the walls are those of strangers. They know of Brian Dawkins and Donovan McNabb - and is that skinny guy really Coach Staley? - but they may as well be Tommy McDonald and Chuck Bednarik and Reggie White, who stare down from the walls of the facility's main auditorium.

There are a few exceptions, players who have been around long enough to become endangered species themselves.

Michael Vick is reminded daily of the biggest game of his career. That is a mixed blessing, since he was on the Atlanta team the Eagles beat in 2005 to advance to their lone Super Bowl of this era. Vick was 24 that season. He has not won a playoff game since.

Trent Cole was around for some of this history, too. Of course, that makes him just that much closer to being history himself. The veteran defensive end was still panting as he talked to reporters about adapting to the new 3-4 base defense.

"You drop into coverage and do whatever you have to do to be successful," Cole said. "It's a new challenge. I'm a very competitive person. I'm a very stubborn person. I don't want to fail at anything. I've been in the league for nine years now; I've got to get my mind mentally ready to start over again."

Vick also talked about trying to clear Andy Reid's offense from his mental hard drive to create storage space for Kelly's very different system.

"I can go out there and run the system," Vick said, "whether it's with the ones or with the twos. I can get guys lined up. It's learning how to play football a different way. It's different schemes. It's different concepts. The routes are run at different depths. You've got to make the adjustment."

Kelly has announced an open competition at the game's most important position. The perception that Vick would have an edge because of his experience and mobility has wilted a bit in the face of reality. Nick Foles took slightly more reps with the first-team offense. It is too early to make pronouncements about that, but it isn't a great sign for Vick. He will be 33 next month. If the 24-year-old Foles has the edge already, that probably tells us more about Kelly's thinking than Kelly is willing to say out loud.

Cole was running with the first group on defense. Literally running. After six years as an end in a Jim Johnson-style 4-3 defense, and two more under Jim Washburn's gimmicky wide-nine scheme, Cole was lining up more like an outside linebacker on Monday.

He will be asked to cover backs and tight ends and even slot receivers. At times, he will be lined up directly over a tight end or left tackle. That means taking blockers on directly rather than just trying to sprint past them.

"We're just doing what they're telling us to do," Cole said. "It's a different speed. That's the biggest thing. As a D end, you're running 10 yards and fighting. That's a different endurance. But when you're out there running [in coverage], that's the biggest challenge - getting your legs under you. At first, it was like: whoa. You're gassed a little bit."

Vick and Cole have little choice but to try to learn Kelly's new tricks. They are embracing the new order as best they can.

"After the season we had last year, there's nothing wrong with new," Cole said. "There's nothing wrong with change."

It is the one constant in the NFL. If Vick and Cole can adapt, they'll play. If not, they'll move on. They are long shots to be Eagles when and if Kelly's teams create history worthy of new wall hangings.

The men on the walls now can tell them how it ends. Eventually, the music stops for everyone.