Cough, cough . . . Injuries . . .
For 14 years, Andy Reid opened his Eagles news conferences with a roll call of injuries. He's done the same in his two seasons since with the Chiefs. Reid would sometimes defer to trainer Rick Burkholder, who would give reporters minute details on various injuries.
Burkholder, who followed Reid to Kansas City, once described guard Todd Herremans' dislocated cuboid bone injury by bringing out a skeleton model of a foot.
Chip Kelly would rather dislocate his cuboid bone than give out information beyond injury reports mandated by the NFL. Like most coaches, he doesn't want to provide opposing teams with any more detail than is required.
But the coach, who has his staff monitor the Eagles' sleep, eating and physical state more than perhaps any other team in the league, also takes a practical approach to injuries.
"I can affect their sleep patterns. I can't affect their injury, though," Kelly said Thursday. "If a guy tore a muscle, I'm not [Mr.] Miyagi [from the Karate Kid]. I can't put my hands together, rub them together, touch his leg and make him better.
"Just tell me who can play, who can't play. I'm really good at what we can control and what we can't control, and we can't control that."
Just because Kelly isn't forthcoming with injury information doesn't mean he isn't informed of the particulars.
"You don't think Chip knows the full details?" center Jason Kelce said. "He stays out of it because it's in the hands of the training staff, but I'm sure he has full communication with the training room. . . . I'm pretty sure they meet every day."
Kelly said that he isn't involved in the ultimate decision on whether a player should play. The training staff and team doctor Peter DeLuca obviously play a significant role in the process, but Kelly believes his players know their capabilities better than anyone.
Herremans suffered a torn biceps in his left arm against the Cardinals. He has practiced all week and apparently intends to play Sunday at Houston.
"All the players have leeway," Kelly said. "We never force a player to play here. . . . They know their bodies and they have the ultimate decision in terms of are they playing, aren't they playing."
Last season as a rookie, safety Earl Wolff suffered a knee sprain. After several weeks out, Kelly and his staff were told that Wolff was healthy enough to play, but he told the coaches he wasn't ready. Kelly had called it a miscommunication.
Linebacker Connor Barwin, who hasn't missed a game since the Eagles signed him as a free agent last year, said there isn't pressure to play through injuries.
"If a guy wants to go, you let him go," Barwin said. "If he can't go, you don't want a guy that doesn't want to go anyways."
If there is another difference in how Kelly handles injuries, it is at practice. Reid had his injured players - or at least the ones who had no chance of playing that week - receiving treatment or working with the strength and conditioning staff rather than attending practice.
Kelly wants his players at practice, getting mental repetitions.
"It makes sense to keep guys out there," said Barwin, who experienced the other way with the Texans. "Keep them involved because practice is two hours. The stuff we do in the training room - you can come back and get that in later at the end of the day or early in the morning."
The back- shoulder pass has become the "it" throw of the 2014 NFL season, although it has been around for decades and has been mastered by Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees in the last 10 years or so.
Some believe the pass was first used by the Eagles in the 1970s to exploit receiver Harold Carmichael's size advantage over cornerbacks. The modern-day Eagles, though, haven't used it very much this season, even though they spent a fair amount of training-camp time on what many consider a defenseless throw if perfected.
"I don't think we practiced it more than you guys wrote about it," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said this week.
But it was certainly a point of emphasis, and yet Nick Foles hasn't tossed one to the sidelines, where it is most commonly thrown.
"I had a few on seams down the middle, but a lot of time, I haven't had great looks for it," Foles said. "I'm just trying to stay within our offense right now, execute our plays, and do my job. The plays are designed for a reason. I know why Chip's calling the plays, so I'm going to run the play that we talked about it in meetings and execute it that way."
Kelly said the throw was in Foles' arsenal.
"Depending on what we're throwing and how we're calling it," he said. "Are we going vertical, are we getting a ton of press man?"
As difficult as it is to defend, it's just as difficult to complete. It's not a called route. It's a pass that should happen organically and that has several requirements: 1. An accurate quarterback, 2. An instinctive receiver, and 3. A cornerback who is playing press-man defense.
The receiver is running a go route or there's a called fade into the end zone. If the cornerback doesn't look back at the quarterback, there is an opportunity to throw the back shoulder. The pass is underthrown and, according to Eagles backup Mark Sanchez, it should be aimed at the back of the cornerback's head.
The rest is up to the receiver.
"At this level with the guys that we're playing with, they'll react to the ball thrown," Sanchez said. "If you put it on them on a line and they feel it behind them, they'll just turn and catch it. They do it naturally."
Sanchez said it's not a pass that should be overcoached. He said it works best with bigger receivers or tight ends down the seam. There was an opportunity for the back shoulder on the Eagles' second-to-last play against the Cardinals last week in which Foles threw a fade to tight end Zach Ertz.
Arizona safety Deone Bucannon made a play on the jump ball and knocked it away.
"We haven't perfected it yet," Ertz said, "so I don't know if we feel comfortable running it in a game."
Receiver Jerremy Maclin, though, said the back shoulder is in the Eagles' toolbox.
"That's something we can definitely get to if we feel like there's a situation where we need to get to it," Maclin said. "Obviously, that's something that we worked on during training camp. When you can do it well - look at the Green Bay Packers - it's really hard to defend."
FIVE QUESTIONS: MALCOLM JENKINS
Question: If you were NFL commissioner, what would be the one thing you would change about the league?
Answer: I would get rid of the sock fines.
Q: Who wins a fight between a bear and a shark in five feet of water and why?
A: Five feet of water? That's a lot of water. The shark. It was a four feet, I would say the bear.
Q: Are you a collector of anything?
A: I'm a halfhearted doomsday prepper, so I collect survival gear and equipment.
Q: If you could have lunch with one person from any time period, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
A: Woody Hayes.
Q: Who is your celebrity crush?
A: Jill Scott.
INSIDE THE GAME
Last week, before he returned from a four-game absence, Mychal Kendricks finally spoke about his calf injury, but he did so on Twitter. In a 700-word post, the Eagles linebacker "was venting" and spoke about having to watch for an extended period for the first time in his career.
"It was a pause and that's what I didn't want," Kendricks said. "There were a lot of plays that I thought were left out there. Guys stepped in and they did great. But I just wanted to be out there with them."
Kendricks originally told reporters that he suffered a calf "spasm" in the Colts game, but he and the Eagles offered no further explanation thereafter, even when it became obvious that the injury was more serious. He confirmed on Wednesday that it was a tear.
Kendricks played 22 snaps against the Cardinals, mostly as the lone inside linebacker in the dime package. He's been a full participant in practice this week and should have a more prominent role, but his calf still may not be 100 percent.
"We'll get together after Saturday and get a read with him and [trainer] Chris Peduzzi and say, 'How many snaps do we think is in the right ballpark with him?' " coach Chip Kelly said. "And then [defensive coordinator] Billy [Davis] makes adjustments in terms of his play-call and packages."
Even though Kendricks is close to a full recovery, Marcus Smith has continued to practice at inside linebacker this week. It doesn't appear that the Eagles have any plans to move him back outside, where the team projected him to play when the rookie was drafted in the first round.
"They haven't said anything to me about it," said Smith, who did not play against Arizona. "For right now, I guess I'll be an inside linebacker."
Davis said Smith could eventually cross-train at both positions. Right now, though, Bryan Braman is the fourth outside linebacker behind Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and Brandon Graham.
INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM
Matt Barkley is hands down the Eagles' best Ping-Pong player. There's a table in the lounge room attached to the NovaCare locker room. Here's Barkley's top four challengers, according to his rankings: 1. Paul, the smoothie guy 2. Jeremy Maclin 3. Riley Cooper 4. Trey Burton.
Barkley said he's only lost to Maclin once and the smoothie guy once or twice. All three of the top-ranked players have their own paddles.
"Coop doesn't want to play a whole lot, but he says he's good and he has his own paddle," said Barkley, who grew up with a guest house that had a table. "But I haven't seen it."
BY THE NUMBERS
+1 - Net turnover points for the Eagles, which is tied for 17th in the league. They are tied for 28th in turnover differential (-7). Last season, the Eagles were sixth in net turnover points (+46) and tied for fourth in turnover ratio (+12).
58.3 - Percentage of Zach Ertz receptions that have come on third down (14 of 24).
36.2 - The Eagles defense's third-down percentage, which is fifth in the league. Last season, the Eagles were 26th (40.3 percent).