On Thursday, the Eagles made their assistant coaches available to the media. Below are excerpts from a 40-minute interview with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland:
Q: Has the college-to-NFL switch forced you to change your coaching style at all?
A: “I don’t think you have to change anything. I think the reason Chip brought me here, Chip likes physical football. I think the perception of this type of offense is that it’s not physical. Even my former players were joking about it. But this stuff is no different than what I was teaching at Alabama.
“Football is a game of angles. It’s all angles. I don’t care if you’re run-blocking or you’re pass-setting. You’ve got to calculate your angle based on what’s in front of you. And you gotta hit it 100 mph.
“I haven’t changed one bit. These players want to be coached, just like college players. The only difference is these are older guys. This is their livelihood. College guys, sometimes they want things to be over pretty quick so they can do something else. These guys are hungry, fighting to make the team.’’
Q: You haven’t changed anything?
A: I haven’t. I swear to you. I try to be extremely detailed so there’s no question in the players’ minds. I say all the time, I know you don’t like gray areas, so I’m not gonna leave it gray for you. So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to step six inches with your left foot. Then I want you to take your inside foot and step on his inside foot. So if you don’t do that on the film, I’m gonna remind you of what I said. Because that’s exactly the way I want it to be. They like that. It gives them a frame of reference.’’
Q: There appears to be a significant difference in the blocking schemes you ran at Alabama and the ones you will be running here. Alabama seemed to be mainly a man-blocking team, while Chip Kelly’s offense features a lot of zone-blocking. True?
A: “That’s the perception, but it’s not true. We run a lot of the same plays here that we ran there. It’s just that we’re spread out a little bit more than we were there. But the schemes are the same. Zone plays. We ran the inside zone play at Alabama. We ran the outside zone play. Eddie Lacy ran for 250 yards in the last two games of the year running the outside zone.’’
Q: Was it a tough decision to leave Alabama and make the jump to the NFL?
A: “It was very difficult to leave Alabama. Coach (Nick) Saban was very good to me and my family. I learned a whole lot of football from that man. He would share with me thoughts from a defensive perspective. Why don’t you do this, coach? We can’t cover that. I would write everything he said down because it only made me better as a coach. I improved as a coach in my two years at Alabama because of him and his knowledge of football and his willingness to share that with me.
That was a dream job at Alabama. But I’ve always wanted to coach in the National Football League. And my dad’s in Pennsylvania (he lives in Mohrsvile, north of Reading). He’s getting older now. I’ve seen my father more in the last 2 ½ months than I saw him in the previous 10 years. So for me, it was a no-brainer.’’
Q: What do you think of Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense?
A: “I know this. Whenever we played teams who ran this style of offense, it was nerve-racking for the defensive coaches. Here’s why it’s difficult in my opinion. Some of the best defensive minds, coach (Bill) Belichick and people like that, those people make a living on special packages, special situations. What’s the down and distance? Ok, it’s third-and-seven. We have this package for that. Ok, it’s third-and-one. We have this package for that. It’s all different packages.
“Well, you’re not really allowing people to get in and out of those packages (when you run an up-tempo offense). That’s uncomfortable for those people.’’
Q: What are your early impressions of your first-round draft pick, Lane Johnson?
A: “From the skill-set standpoint, he’s really good. He’s long. His arms are long. He’s explosive. He’s everything that we thought he would be. Now, we’ve got to get him into some really good habits.
“I enjoy coaching him so much. There are so many things I can bring to the table for him. I can see exactly what he’s doing wrong. Here’s what’s great about Lane. When you tell him something or correct him about something, he’s a blue-collar guy. He’s not offended. He doesn’t give you a look or anything. He just wants to learn and be coached hard.
“After you correct him, he goes out on the field and applies what you’ve taught him. It shows up in the video the next day. It’s apparent that he was listening and applying what you’re teaching.’’
Q: What’s the biggest thing he has to learn?
A: “Football is all about angles. He has to understand how it’s all working. It’s like synchronized swimming. It all has to tie together. If the (running) back goes this far, he’s got to go this far.
“We saw on film before we drafted him that Lane kind of had that (angle) concept down. There are still things we need to work on with him. Details of how to move his feet, those kinds of things. It’s just gonna be a lot of repetition until it becomes second nature for him.
Q: Will Johnson be your starting right tackle in September?
A: Right now, there’s no depth chart. I swear, since we started this thing, I don’t think the same five guys have lined up together. It’s been guys in and out at different positions. Right now, the focus is on, hey let’s learn the system. Let’s learn the terminology. Let’s learn what the expectations are. Then, when we go to camp, we’ll figure out who the best five players are.’’
Q: What are your early impressions of Danny Watkins?
A: “I have seen an improvement in Danny. I’ve spent a lot of time with Danny. He’s put a lot of time into this thing on his own. Outside of what we’re doing (as a team), he’s putting a lot of time into it trying to learn this system. Because it’s a new system. New terminology. New footwork. He’s a pleasure to coach. He wants to learn. Those are the kind of people I like to be around. People who have a burning desire to be the best.’’
Q: Can Jason Peters come all the way back from his Achilles injury?
A: “Honestly, you wouldn’t know Jason ever had an injury. For a guy his size, the leverage that he gains. . . he plays so low to the ground. Moves his feet so fast. Out of all the players I’ve ever coached, he’s got the best balance and body control of anybody I’ve ever seen.’’
Q: Your thoughts on Jason Kelce?
A: “I feel very good about Kelce. This guy can run. He’s quick. He’s quick-twitch. He’s a commander of the game. He runs the show when he’s in there. He knows exactly what to do in any given situation. So I feel real good about him. It’s just a matter of him getting to 100 percent, and he’s very close to that right now.
“The other thing about Kelce is if you tell him, ‘Listen I want you to aim for that (defensive lineman’s) armpit and give the guard something to strike, give him a surface to strike,’ it’s done. It’s not like you’ve got to go through five more (practice) periods before he figures it out. He advances his learning process pretty fast.’’
Q: Any concern about Kelce’s ability to handle much-bigger 3-4 nose tackles, particularly coming off a torn ACL?
A: “There’s things you can to do help a guy. Let’s say you’re playing against a big giant nose guard who’s 2-gapping and stuff. There’s concepts you can utilize to get a guy like that. I’ve had a lot of experience with that because that’s what we ran at Alabama. We were a 3-4 2-gap team. Alabama runs a pro-style defense. Watch the Redskins (defense)? That’s Alabama. The last two teams we played last year, Georgia and notre dame, both ran the 3-4. With big, athletic nose guards.’’
Q: Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis?
A: “I have a lot of respect for Todd Herremans. He’s a guy that’s fun to coach. He’s out there hooting and hollering. He’s been doing this for like nine years. He really enjoys the game. I love coaching players like that. They play for a long time. The energy level is always there. Him going inside (to tackle), he knows what the tackle is thinking about. He knows the whole picture.
“Evan’s the same way. Evan can tell you what the center is supposed to do on every play. He can tell you what the tackle is supposed to do. He’s been playing for 10 years. He’s got a notebook full of every technique that he’s been taught in that meeting room for every position. It’s pretty amazing.’’
Q: I know you said you don’t have a depth chart yet, but Dennis Kelly has been taking most of the first-team reps at right tackle, ahead of Johnson. What are your early impressions of Kelly?
A: “He might’ve had just one day where he didn’t perform better than the day before. He’s gotten better every day. He’s done some nice things the last couple of days. I’m happy with him.’’
Q: You seem to be increasing Julian Vandervelde’s snaps at center. Could he end up backing up Kelce?
A: “We’re trying everything to solidify the depth of the center position. (Vandervelde) is an interesting guy because he’s got some girth to him and he can get some push.
“In this league, there are a lot of teams playing 3-4 with that big nose guard. You better have somebody that can handle that guy from a physicality standpoint. And I think he brings a little bit of that to the table. So I’ve been letting him play a little more center than he had before because I want to see if that’s a possibility. It’s intriguing me.’’