You can say what you want about Chip Kelly’s tenure as Eagles coach, but he left one very positive legacy…the Sports Science program. Chip might have been a bit over the top with pushing players to live a certain lifestyle, but the overall ideas of the program have worked well for the Eagles.
Football Outsiders released its annual study on the amount of “Adjusted Games Lost” due to injury for 2016. The Eagles had the fourth-lowest total in the league at just 38.4 games, behind only Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Tennessee. Philadelphia ranked first in the NFL in 2013, and has not placed worse than sixth since then. Football Outsiders not only takes the amount of games that players were sidelined, but also factors in their level of involvement because the loss of a starter counts more than an inactive player on gameday.
Yes, the implementation of the Eagles’ sports science program coincides with the recent trend of good health, but director of high performance Shaun Huls says that it is only one part of the equation.
“The thing I think about is the team approach,” Huls said on Tuesday. “I think it shows that there is a good synergy throughout the entire team to support the guys and keep them healthy.”
“We’re in a people business. The strength of that information goes as far as what level of relationship you have with that person. It helps with establishing a relationship of trust back and forth, and communication and everyone going in the same direction,” Huls said. “As you monitor guys, train with guys, give them feedback on their progressions, it raises awareness of what they need to do to take care of themselves. I think that was the biggest part, the continuity of training amongst the staff, the consistency of language with the players, and then just being transparent with that information.
“Transparency helps with the guys understanding what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. That changes the conversation in the locker room in terms of how they’re going to recover and what type of training they need from an individual standpoint.”
Whatever they are doing and however they are doing it…sure seems to be working. Let’s hope this trend continues into the future. The frustrating part about this is that the Eagles haven’t been able to take advantage of being healthy. Consecutive 7-9 seasons aren’t anyone’s idea of success (okay, maybe Browns fans).
One interesting nugget in relation to the draft:
The process begins before most players ever set foot inside the NovaCare Complex. The scouting department looks for players with a favorable injury history, as that is a good predictor of their future.
Does John Ross have any chance of being drafted?
Ross' injury history includes:
Left ACL tear
now shoulder surgery post-Combine https://t.co/EtWAMLJ9Fs
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 10, 2017
I’m no doctor or injury expert. The Eagles obviously have guys that know what to look for with prospects. They aren’t simply looking for players who didn’t miss many games. They want to see if nagging injuries affected performance. They want to know how a player is going to handle the grind of the NFL. College kids play 12 to 14 games. NFL players have a tough Training Camp, 4 preseason games, 16 regular season games and hopefully some playoff games. You could have a rookie go from 12 college games to 24 NFL games. Not every body is ready for that.
There also is the question of value. Jordan Hicks had his share of injuries at Texas, but the Eagles felt he was too good to pass up at pick 84 in 2015. They rolled the dice on him and it paid off. Hicks did miss half his rookie season, but was healthy last year. And there is no question that he is a terrific talent.
When you evaluate someone like Ross, you have to worry about that history. How will he handle the NFL? Ross is a Top 15 talent, but his health is a legit concern and will likely drop him more toward the bottom of the 1st round. One of Chip’s dorky sayings that was actually dead on the money…the key ability is availability. The best player in the world does you know good if he can’t play.
The Eagles have tough decisions to make on several prospects.
- CB Sidney Jones – Achilles tear at Pro Day
- TE Jake Butt – tore ACL in bowl game
- LB Alex Anzalone – only played in 18 games in 4 years
- DT Jonathan Allen – arthritic condition in shoulders
- RB Dalvin Cook – shoulder issues
- WR Mike Williams – serious neck injury in 2015
- LB Reuben Foster – serious stinger issues
That’s only scratching the surface there are plenty of prospects who have questions. The Eagles will give positive reviews to some of the players, but will take others off the draft board. We’ll see what happens in a couple of weeks.