The first week of the Eagles' OTA ended, and while the media was only allowed to observe Monday's practice with the loud music and the hand signals (see below), news has trickled out that new coach Chip Kelly is doing a lot of experiment...
The first week of the Eagles' OTA ended, and while the media was only allowed to observe Monday's practice with the loud music and the hand signals (see below), news has trickled out that new coach Chip Kelly is doing a lot of experimenting.
That includes trying tight end Clay Harbor at outside linebacker and wide receiver Jason Avant at defensive back.
Both players told reporters that they are not switching positions. Rather, they're being told to get some reps on defense just in case they're needed there at some point.
Kelly has always been interested in versatile players. And in a way, this could be a chance for Harbor and Avant to keep a spot on the roster. Avant, 30, is entering his eighth season. While he's sure-handed, he's not the most fleet-footed, and he's pretty much limited to the slot receiver spot.
Harbor is entering his fourth season. But the Eagles signed James Casey as a free agent, then drafted Zach Ertz in the second round. So Harbor's spot could be in jeopardy as well.
That kind of thing has been done before. The New England Patriots, for example, used to play wide receiver Deion Branch at defensive back every now and then.
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The scene played over and over at Eagles practice last Monday.
The play would end and the Eagles’ offensive players would sprint back to the line of scrimmage and immediately look toward the sideline.
They would see two assistants and wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah, who wasn’t practicing that day, waving their arms, gyrating and running through a series of signs as if they were coaching third base in baseball.
The players never huddled, and quickly got the next play off.
All of it is done to maximize the speed and the amount of plays.
“It’s the best thing to keep a defense off guard as far as substitution, packaging up on offense,” wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. “We have a tempo package that’s coming at you so fast that it’s really hard to stop.
“As long as we can keep the defense off guard, that’s the biggest thing.”
Eagles coach Chip Kelly said the hand signals are just one way to communicate without huddling. Kelly, for example, used placards at the University of Oregon to signal the play. The placards would have different pictures in each quadrant, each picture signifying something about the play.
Those placards were not seen during practice last Monday.
Kelly said the Eagles might not necessarily use hand signals when the regular season starts Sept. 10. But whatever system he uses will emphasize speed.
“I think the game is about making quick decisions,” Kelly said. “It’s a game of 60 to 70 to 80 four-second plays. So once the ball is snapped, it happens at that tempo. We’re just trying to force them to … reflect what the mission is, and the mission is to be prepared to play a four-second play. You need to have that kind of (he snaps his fingers, signifying speed) to get that done.”
The Eagles’ offensive players admit that the new system takes some getting used to. The Eagles have only had a three-day veterans minicamp in April, a three-day rookie minicamp earlier this month, and the first of four organized team activities last week.
The second OTA begins Monday. In between the minicamps and OTAs, the Eagles have spent time in meetings learning the system.
For Jackson, the signals tell him much more than just what route he’s running. The play he gets not only describes his responsibility, but that of the other receivers and everyone else on the offense.
“It was definitely tough because me, myself, I never had to learn everyone’s position,” Jackson said. “I only had to know one position, which was the ‘Z’ wide receiver. Now I’m learning the ‘A’, the ‘X’, the ‘Y’, and really knowing the concepts of it all.”
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