Chip Kelly protégé tells Eagles players to shape up
INDIANAPOLIS - NFL rules prohibit Chip Kelly from talking shop with his players until the middle of next month. But here's an important piece of advice for the Eagles' offensive players from somebody who spent the last 4 years playing for Chippah.
"Be in great shape," running back Kenjon Barner said. "That's the best advice I can give to those guys. Be in great shape. Because he pushes you to a limit that you didn't know you had.
"If you're not in shape, you're not going to last in that offense. That's the bottom line. During the offseason, you have to push yourself to the absolute limit. To the point where you feel you can't go any further. Then, by the time the season came around, it was a piece of cake."
In case you haven't heard, Kelly runs an up-tempo offense. Averaged 82 offensive plays a game last season at Oregon, the most in the nation. Run a play, get up, run to the line and quickly run another one. And another.
Not only in games, but in practice, as well. Now, Kelly may have to temper that a bit with the Eagles, since he'll have only 53 players at his disposal, which is about 70 fewer than he had in Oregon. But he definitely will push the envelope.
Barner still remembers the Ducks' first practice in 2009 after Kelly replaced Mike Bellotti as head coach.
"We were used to coach Bellotti, where it was run a play, take a break, run another play, take another break," said Barner, one of five former Kelly pupils participating in this week's NFL Scouting Combine.
"With coach Kelly, it was, 'I want it right now.' Keep going. No huddle. Keep going, keep going, keep going. You've got your tongue hanging out of your mouth. You're tired. You're dry-heaving. It was a rough day."
So, put down the remote and get on the Stairmaster, Jason Peters. Stop the tweeting and start the wind sprints, LeSean McCoy. Charles "Chip" Kelly is about to take you where no NFL man has gone before.
Barner is a Kelly believer. He has absolutely no doubt that the guy will lift the Lombardi Trophy at some point in the next few years.
"The man's a genius," he said. "His ability to adapt to any environment, any situation, I've never seen anything like it. I think he'll be just fine at the next level."
Asked for an example of Kelly's genius, he quickly dialed up last November's "Civil War" game between Oregon and archrival Oregon State.
"We had been running inside zone the entire day and we hadn't really hit it like we wanted it to hit," he said.
"Then coach Kelly saw something with the defensive end. He called timeout. He pulled me aside and told me to cut it back.
"I didn't know what he was talking about. I said, 'Coach, it hasn't been there all game.' But I did it and I ran for 60 yards. For him to see that, that's kind of uncommon."
Kelly's Ducks turned a close game into a 24-point rout in the second half. Barner rushed for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
With 21 assistants, Kelly has one of the league's larger coaching staffs. Even has a sports science coordinator, Shaun Huls, whose last job was combative coordinator for Navy Special Warfare. He could end up being the most important coach on staff.
"Coach Kelly was huge on science over tradition," Barner said. "Everything we did at Oregon was based on science. How we practiced. What time we started. What time we ended. What time we ended meetings. What we ate. How we rehabbed. Everything was based on science.
"He was always looking something up, always bringing some fact or number to us in a meeting."
Barner said Kelly is big on diet and nutrition.
"Not so much what we ate, but how we ate. The amount of food. The times we would eat. He was huge on the time we went to bed. He would ask everyone, 'What time did you go to bed?' "
Kelly always emphasized the importance of a good night's sleep to his players at Oregon. Not sure how that will play with grown NFL men, but we'll see.
"I'm a night owl," Barner said. "I could sit up all night watching TV and playing video games, and get up the next morning and go. [When Kelly would talk to them about getting enough rest], I'd be thinking, do I really need that much sleep? But once I got the sleep, I'd say, OK, I see what he was talking about."
This and that
Some over/under combine odds, courtesy of Las Vegas oddsmaker Bovada: fastest 40-yard dash, 4.32 seconds; most 225-pound bench press reps, 44; highest vertical leap, 43 inches. The over/under on both quarterback Geno Smith and linebacker Manti Te'o's 40 times is 4.75 seconds.
Michigan QB Denard Robinson is one of the more than 300 invitees at the combine. But teams are looking at him as a wide receiver and return specialist, not a quarterback. "He's a playmaker who can get things done and create with the ball in his hands," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. "But he's got to improve as a pass-catcher. There's a place in the NFL for him. He's just too good of an athlete. He made too many big plays and created too many yards for him not to be in the NFL." McShay thinks Robinson will be no worse than a fifth-round pick, but could climb into the fourth - and maybe even third - round if he catches the ball well at the combine and in his Pro Day and private workouts.
Based strictly on talent, Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree would be a top-10 pick in the draft. But he has character issues that almost certainly will drop him. He was charged earlier this month with drunken driving and was suspended for the first four games last season, reportedly for failing a drug test. Three years ago, he also was charged with misdemeanor theft for stealing a $35 scooter helmet. "Most teams wil say the top 10 is too much risk there," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. "Too much risk not enough reward. If we can get him in the second half of the first round or the first half of the second round, [maybe]. Every team will be different with that. They're going to assign a value based on the risk. Until they get a better feel for him as a kid, it's going to hurt him a half-round, a round. It depends on the team."
Most of the NFL people I've talked to don't think the whole fake-girlfriend saga will drag Manti Te'o's draft stock down. "We'll talk [with him] about it, we'll find out about it," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "But the bottom line is, is he a good person and can he play football?" Said Mayock: "At the end of the day, what I think happens is that, up until that story became public, he had a plus, plus, plus intangible grade. Was he going to become Ray Lewis? Could he galvanize a locker room? He had a huge intangible grade that would push his on-the-field grade higher. I think he's lost all of that. At best, it's now going to be neutral. Just, hey, what kind of player are you and where can we slot you? If you put the tape on over the last several years and watch him play 40 times and watched him play against Stanford and watched him play against Michigan State and Oklahoma, I think the body of work over that period tells you he's a first-round pick."
Carolina's defense showed dramatic improvement last season under former Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. The Panthers improved statistically in almost every significant statistical category, jumping from 28th to 10th in total defense, 27th to 18th in points allowed, 27th to ninth in third-down defense, 22nd to ninth in sacks per pass play, 25th to 14th in run defense and 24th to 13th in pass defense. "He did a terrific job," Rivera said. "He's gotten better and better each year. The first year was tough for him, with all of the injuries we had on defense. This year, for the most part, we were relatively healthy, and I thought he did a great job in terms of designing the defense, working with the defensive coaches, and then putting the players in position to have success, as seen by [NFL defensive rookie of the year] Luke Kuechly."
If Jadeveon Clowney had been able to declare for the draft this year, most NFL personnel people agree that the South Carolina defensive end would've been the top pick. The 6-6, 256-pound Clowney, who had 13 sacks for the Gamecocks last season, is a true sophomore. NFL rules don't allow players to declare for the draft until 3 years after they've graduated from high school.
Mayock has first-round grades on six offensive tackles: Luke Joeckel, of Texas A&M; Eric Fisher, of Central Michigan; Lane Johnson, of Oklahoma; D.J. Fluker, of Alabama; Manelik Watson, of Florida State; and Justin Pugh, of Syracuse. He also has first-round grades on six defensive tackles: Sharrif Floyd, of Florida; Star Lotulelei, of Utah; Sheldon Richardson, of Missouri; Sylvester Wiliams, of North Carolina; Kawann Short, of Purdue; and Jonathan Hankins, of Ohio State.
NFL scouts are comparing Brigham Young defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah to the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul because of his unique athletic ability and high ceiling. The 6-6, 270-pound native of Ghana is being looked at as a 4-3 end and a 3-4 end and outside linebacker, which is rare. Ansah's been playing football for only 3 years. "He's more raw than JPP was a couple of years ago," Mayock said. "But I'm willing to bet on the kid. I think he's going to become a very good player."
Only one running back is expected to go in the first round, Alabama's Eddie Lacy. And he likely won't get claimed until late in the round.
The most critical part of the combine for Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones won't be any of the on-field testing. It will be the medical. Jones, like Ogletree, is considered a top-10 player. But he has spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column. He can play with it, but, depending on the severity, it could shorten his career. Former Chargers offensive tackle Marcus McNeill had spinal stenosis. He was a two-time Pro Bowler, but lasted only six seasons. He missed 12 games with back problems his last 2 years in the league before retiring. "All 32 teams are privy to the same [medical] information," Mayock said. "But they evaluate it differently. Some teams might say, 'Hey, if I can get a good 4 years out of the kid, what does that mean? Will I still take him in the top 10? Will I drop him down lower?' Every team is a little different.' "
* "I wouldn't want a top-10 pick this year. I think the fifth pick and the 25th pick in the draft are very similar." - NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock
* "I felt that he deserved a second chance. The league felt he deserved a second chance. I felt he took responsibility for the things that happened and the things he was involved in. And I don't see anything like that ever happening again." - Titans coach Mike Munchak on hiring Bountygate orchestrator Gregg Williams as an assistant coach
* "I want to win. I'm not a predictions guy. I'm not going to tell you we're this, this, this and this. I can tell you it's the end of February, and I'm getting ready to see a lot of prospects in the next couple of days, and that's where we are." - Chip Kelly on whether Eagles can win right away and still build for the future
* "If either one of those players slides to Baltimore, I think they'd sprint to the podium." - Mayock on the possibility of linebackers Manti Te'o or Alec Ogletree sliding to the Ravens at 32
* "The biggest thing from last year was I watched a dear friend get healthy. Football took a back seat to watching Chuck fight that fight and win. Everyone in the country joined the fight. It was heartwarming to watch the cheerleaders shave their heads, players shave their heads, fans, truck drivers doing it. I already was [bald]. I was a natural. I jumped in the picture, though." - Cardinals coach and former Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on Colts coach Chuck Pagano's leukemia battle
* "Currently, when you look at everything, Tim is under contract to be a New York Jets. We'll see how things go in the offseason, but Tim is under contract." - Jets coach Rex Ryan when asked whether Tim Tebow will be part of his team's quarterback competition
That's sayin' thumbthing
THUMBS UP: To Eagles coach Chip Kelly for showing he's not one of those coaches who spend every waking moment focused on football, when he referenced a line from the movie "Wedding Crashers" in response to a question about reports he was close to taking the Browns job in January. "Erroneous," Kelly said. In the movie, Owen Wilson's character, John Beckwith, is talking about Chazz Reinhold, played by Will Ferrell. "He lived with his mom until he was 40!" Beckwith said. "She tried to poison his oatmeal." To which Vince Vaughn's character, Jeremy Grey, responded, "Erroneous! Erroneous! Erroneous on both counts."
THUMBS DOWN: To the NFL Players Association for continued foot-dragging on HGH testing. Thanks to the late Gene Upshaw, who understood the importance of getting performance-enhancing drugs out of the sport, the NFL players agreed to steroids testing nearly 2 decades before Major League Baseball's players union finally relented. But baseball has beaten football to the punch on HGH testing, even though it was approved as part of the 2011 labor agreement. The NFLPA keeps coming up with new excuses for holding up HGH testing, the latest being objections to the appeals process and a lack of trust in the people running the league.