Training camp has begun with rookies and some vets reporting to the NovaCare complex today, marking the first point in the year where things actually matter. Gone are the complaints about Cary Williams opting to miss minicamp. Gone are the obsessive tweets of Chip Kelly’s playlists.
Things get real today.
Now, normally, the focus at this point is on position battles, and I will certainly cover that over the next few weeks. However, that stuff isn’t as important to me because THE EAGLES ARE NOT WINNING THE SUPER BOWL THIS YEAR.
What I’m more interested in has everything to do with Kelly himself and his impact on training camp and the preseason.
He’s already made a number of serious changes in regards to training camp. The elimination of two-a-days and switching the setting to Pattison Avenue over Lehigh Valley are some sizable shifts from the sizable Andy Reid.
Over the next month or two, I expect to see more changes, starting with conditioning.
During the Reid era, it was common to have a couple of players injure their hamstrings during the course of training camp. Now, with a whole new system in place, this year will be more important for allowing staple players of the Kelly era to get on his level.
In a way veterans are like sheep dogs (or…sheep pigs). They guide the rookies through the process and make sure they’re not eaten (impossible when Reid was in town). That’s why Dennis Dixon, a former Oregon QB is on the roster this year. His entire mission is to help the other quarterbacks adapt to Kelly’s style before getting dumped onto the practice squad as insurance.
So, with the increased value of fitness and nutrition, will he be better able to prevent those types of injuries so that fewer players miss valuable reps? I hope so.
Another interest I have has to do with padding. The NFL has instated a new policy that requires players to wear knee and thigh pads. I’d typically rather have a nice anti-freeze cocktail than say this, but Dallas is implementing a smart plan of forcing the players to practice with those pads on throughout training camp. This idea has two valuable effects.
1. Players have not been receptive to this idea—primarily receivers and corner backs. Some have gone as far as publicly declaring they will pay whatever the fines are for not wearing the pads and pay it on a regular basis. The issue is that they would essentially be paying entire game checks. The NFL has ruled that if any players violate this change, they will be unable to play.
So, by forcing the players to adapt to the pads now, you save your team from the whining and complaining that will likely lead to decreased focus during the regular season.
2. By having the players wear those pads consistently, you’ll get a better understanding of how they’ll perform on game day.
I haven’t read anything official on this issue yet for the Eagles, but hopefully they hop on board with the idea. It will certainly make a difference in the preseason, which has its own set of questions.
First, how much time will the starters get?
Under the Reid era it was something along the lines of a drive to start, then maybe a quarter the second game, a half in the third and sitting out the fourth. Obviously preseason matters for developing a flow as a cohesive unit, but my interest is tied to the post season.
We’ve seen this a million times. A team performs well, locks up the top playoff seed and faces one or two meaningless games before the playoffs. Do you sit your starters, knowing that they won't have played in three or four weeks at the time it matters most?
Based on how Kelly handles the preseason, we’ll have a better understanding on his thought process there.
Finally, I want to know just how bland this team will be before September.
Kelly has an interesting advantage in the way that no one is certain of the type of system he’ll run. He’s a wild card. It makes me wonder whether he’ll show anything remotely relevant in August. When you have a below average team, why waste your best advantage in the element of surprise? All we know at this point is that "hybrid" seems to come up a lot.
Just remember, while most of the attention will be paid to the players winning and losing battles, you need to focus your eyes the right way. If you do, you'll see the hidden sailboat.
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