Chip Kelly and the Eagles open the regular season on Sept. 9 against the Redskins. (USA Today Images)
The first thing you notice isn’t what’s been added to Eagles training camp practices.
It’s what’s been removed.
The standing around. The lag time between drills. The moments where something is about to happen but nothing is really happening.
Day 1 of Chip Kelly’s first training camp meant more snaps in less time than anything we’ve ever seen before.
Andy Reid’s training camp practices were fairly high tempo, with players usually jogging between drills and making fairly efficient use of their time. But Kelly’s practices are even more streamlined. Even more fast-paced. When one session ends, the other has already begun. It’s non-stop action, non-stop movement.
Each Kelly practice includes a pre-set number of drills, and each drill lasts a pre-set amount of time, with a clock ticking down the seconds. Huddling -- obviously -- has been eliminated, and a practice snap begins the moment the previous snap has ended.
It’s a super-charged atmosphere.
Kelly doesn’t even believe in correcting mistakes during practice. When somebody messes up, practice doesn’t stop. The mistake is corrected in meetings, so the 89 other guys on the field don’t have to stand around and wait while he’s coached up.
Kelly’s Eagles don’t practice until they get things right. They practice till the clock expires, and then they’re off to milkshakes, hydration testing, weight lifting or some other predetermined post-practice activity.
It’s all about tempo, and anybody who knows anything about Kelly’s history shouldn’t be surprised by any of this.
“It’s different, that’s for sure,” said veteran linebacker DeMeco Ryans, now playing for his third head coach in three years. “Our time is used effectively. Coach is very efficient with the way he runs practice. Every minute that we’re on the field out here we’re doing something constructive, something geared toward making us better.
“There’s no wasted time and everything is moving fast and it allows a lot of guys, especially a lot of younger guys, to take advantage of it, because they’re getting a lot more reps than they would have with other teams, because there are more reps.”
In the past, the first and second teams would get most of the practice reps, with the first offense facing the second defense and vice versa, and then the third team would get the odd rep here and there.
Now, the threes appear to be getting close to a third of the reps. The CBA limits how long teams can practice, but it doesn’t limit how many practice snaps a team can squeeze into that time period.
So with reps running much more frequently, there’s a lot more reps to go around. So everybody gets to practice more.
And -- in theory -- everybody improves at a faster clip.
“It’s a big advantage when you’re able to get the threes just as many reps as the ones,” Ryans said. “Because now the competition rises, because now we have a lot more film that we can go watch, make corrections and keep getting better.”
The Eagles had a series of spring practices -- minicamps and OTAs -- that gave everybody a glimpse of what training camp might look like.
But it wasn’t until Friday afternoon and the first padded session of the Chip Kelly era that players got their first real look at exactly what one of Kelly’s practices is like.
“It’s a fast-paced practice -- in and out, two-hour practice, get your work done, and you’re done, get out,” fourth-year safety Kurt Coleman said. “It’s not long, but it’s a lot of running, and I think we’re going to be in great condition and ready for the season.”
Coleman said one new facet of Kelly’s practice regimen that he welcomes is the constant emphasis on down-and-distance.
“I love how the practices are set up in a lot of situations,” he said. “It’s almost like game-like atmosphere. Four downs and you’re out or four downs and you keep going. I love how it’s set up.”
One of the first things Kelly said when he was hired six months ago was that the Eagles would practice the way they would play.
Now, we’re finally getting to see it.
“Real fast and that’s how we’re going to play,” safety Nate Allen said. “Practice fast, play fast, move around, out-run the other guys, and you’ve got to be in great shape to do that.
“We use our time effectively. Everybody’s always doing something, everybody’s always drilling and getting better in some way. Even if it’s a very minor thing, they’re out there working and getting better. We keep doing that, it’s going to add up.”
Doing things differently doesn’t necessarily mean doing things better.
Reid certainly had a lot of success coaching the Eagles and running training camp a certain way -- with long, grueling, physical practices that lasted forever and generally included numerous live periods.
With Kelly, the emphasis is on teaching, quickness and speed.
“It’s actually good for the older guys because it’s not wasted time, you’re not standing around doing nothing, you’re actually doing things that we -- as older guys -- can put more emphasis on, like taking care of our bodies,” Ryans said.
“We’ve always known we had to do those things, but now we put so much emphasis on it, it really means a lot to an older guy like me.”