Nothing too groundbreaking today since there are so few players in camp and there is no hitting.
One thing we have seen is that Chip Kelly is a creative coach. Eagles WRs have not been noted for their great hands in recent years. Jason Avant has very good hands. The other guys made some impressive grabs, but also dropped some passes as well. The receivers practiced catching the ball every day in camp, but I don’t recall them doing anything unusual.
Kelly is doing several things. He has one drill where the receivers are thrown short passes with Nerf balls. For anyone who doesn’t know, Nerf footballs are smaller, spongy footballs. Why work with them? They’re harder to catch. A football can stick in your hands. A Nerf ball is more likely to bounce. The receiver must really absorb the ball and secure it. Also, the ball is smaller. Practice catching a Nerf ball and then a regular football will look huge when you move to those drills.
The WRs also practice catching the ball behind plastic poles. This forces the receiver to reach out and grab the ball without having a clean line of sight. It makes the receiver catch the ball using only his hands. There are no body catches. It also gets the receiver accustomed to making obstructed catches.
There was video today showing a receiver catching a short pass and just as the ball arrives, a player standing behind him, hits the receiver with a pad. There is another drill that allows for clean catches, but forces the receiver to then focus on keeping control of the ball. We’ll turn to Jimmy Bama for a description of this:
• The Eagles have a few new WR drills this year. Here’s video of a drill in which the football is attached to one end of a rope, with a thing that looks like a “Shake Weight” attached to the other. An assistant coach tries to yank the ball away after the receiver makes the catch.
The point of all this is that a lot of catches in games are made under less than ideal circumstances. Why not replicate that in practice? Teach guys to make tough catches. Develop specific skills that are needed in a game. Catching the ball from a QB or Jugs machine is good, but learning to hold onto the ball when someone is trying to pry it loose might is just as practical. On most pass plays, as soon as a receiver gets into traffic I’m screaming at the TV, “Hold the ball! Hold the ball!”
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The Eagles cut WR Nick Miller so they could add RB William Powell. Why? This certainly has to be a reaction to RB Matthew Tucker failing his conditioning test. Tucker will re-take the test on Thursday. There are no guarantees that he’ll pass. The Eagles will need plenty of RBs to eat up practice reps so they added Powell, a player they liked going back to last summer.
Powell was recently waived by the Cardinals and the Eagles claimed him. One of the benefits of going 4-12 last year is that the Eagles have a very good chance at getting players that are waived.
Powell, 25, originally joined the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and spent most of that season on the team’s practice squad. The 5-foot-9, 207-pounder then spent the 2012 season on the Cardinals active roster, rushing for 217 yards on 60 carries (3.6 yards per carry) in 13 games. He added 19 catches for 132 yards (6.9 yards per catch). He also has experience as a kickoff returner, where he had an average of 24.1 yards per kickoff return on 21 returns, good for 15th in the NFL.
“In the preseason last year we studied him; quick, tough, good hands, got a lot of work,” Roseman said. “So he was a guy that we thought could upgrade the competition at the running back position.
“Good vision, quick, runs really hard, he can also return kickoffs … he’s a little undersized in terms of height but he’s fun to watch because he’s getting yards after contact.”
Powell only ran for 250 yards in his Senior season at Kansas State, but he did average 11 yards per carry and he scored 4 TDs. I’m interested to see what he can do.
No update yet from Brian Baldinger on how Powell compares to Bo Jackson.
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Peter King’s new MMQB site has a great article on the Eagle and their Sports Science Coordinator, Shaun Huls. There isn’t one quote to share with you. Go read the whole thing. You’ll come away interested in what they’re doing, and also in Huls. Jenny Vrentas did a great job with the piece.
Kelly is bringing a lot of new ideas to the Eagles. I’m excited to see which ones work and which don’t.
Even if some stuff only brings you a small advantage, that can be worth it. NFL games are decided by one possession more than ever. As bad as the 2012 Eagles were, think about how many games there were where one play meant winning or losing. If “science” can lead to an Eagle having a minute advantage on that one play that turns out to be important, that could be the difference in having that play come out favorably for the Eagles.
There is no salary cap for the organization and what it spends. Why not get creative and see if you can come up with an advantage?