Thus far, Chip Kelly has dazzled Philadelphia with wholesome press conferences, fan-friendly statements, and fresh approaches. He may, however, be over-thinking his training camp strategy.
Fans have yet to see a full-fledged, professional tackle.
When CSNPhilly’s Geoff Mosher inquired about the lack of hitting, Kelly differed: “We have four preseason games for that.”
There’s a fine line [in] what we have to get done from a work standpoint. We also know we have to get our guys to the game, too.
Coach Kelly’s cautious stance on the subject may haunt him in the future. The Eagles of 2012 were one of the worst tackling teams in the NFL. They became a mockery in front of a national audience for their inability to execute a fundamental skill. One would think that, after such a horrendous display last season, Kelly would focus on tackling in training camp. He refuses to even touch upon it. A defense that ranked 25th in tackles last season requires intense training in the technique.
The fact of the matter is, players are prone to injuries in every sport. Football is no exception. The ACL injuries to receiver Jeremy Maclin and linebacker Jason Phillips occurred even without collisions. By not tackling, Kelly is exposing players to more severe injuries. Injuries to the knee and ankle are caused often by a sudden jerk or quick movement, simulated in many of Kelly drills. Without tackling, players are having to “pretend” and “mimic” certain cuts. The physical presence of a tackler allows players to visualize where to move and go, helping them avoid missteps and injuries. In addition, the sudden increase in hitting that will take place in the preseason games leaves players more vulnerable to injury. Since they will not have prepared for it physically in camp, players may become more prone to injury in the preseason.
Chip Kelly is ignoring a key portion of his team’s preparation, which will become evident once the season begins. Players need to prepare for the season in the most authentic manner possible: with full-on tackling. The lack of hitting in camp will only hinder the defensive performance when the Eagles face Washington in week one. Four preseason games is not enough to knock the rust off of these players, especially since tackling is not practiced daily.
No matter how Chip Kelly tries to wiggle around it, the truth is that football is a game of tackling. Players are paid to tackle and hit. No drill, station, or exercise can portray the true physicality of an NFL tackle. If Chip Kelly wishes to succeed in his first NFL season, it would be in his best interest to run full-contact, 11-on-11 drills. If not, prepare for a season where every primetime game becomes flight night, the flight coming from Eagle defenders missing tackles in mid-air. Stay tuned.
Photo: Daily Times