Today's practice was billed as just a brief walkthrough, but the reality was different entirely. Chip Kelly and Bill Belichick are old friends as part of the close-knit New England coaching fraternity, but they are also intense competitors and, increasingly, fierce rivals.
This goes back at least to 2012, when Belichick flew Chip in to pick his brain on no huddle tactics while Kelly was still at Oregon. There's as much probing and sizing up in their relationship as there is collaboration. It's not the kind of bromance where you can start calling the couple "BeliChip."
If you've ever seen a Hollywood sports movie, you know this is going to end up with an epic Super Bowl battle of old age and treachery against youth and talent. The two coaches certainly seem aware of that possibility.
After some stretching and separate drills, the teams quickly got into 7 on 7s, which continued well past the scheduled ending time of 11am. The scrimmages were punctuated by both separate and combined drills; the latter were mostly special teams, kickoff coverage, onside kicks, and punt returns.
In the Phialdelphia Eagles' own drills, wide receivers juked invisible press man defenders before catching short passes, while the offensive line did 2 on 2 and 6 on 6 drills. The former were just positioning; Coach Stoutland yelled out an alignment or play after the big boys got set -- shift right, or pull left, or double that guy -- and they did. You might be asking, who is the 6th player in an OL drill? Allen Barbre continued to play with the 1s, but he lined up as the TE with the twos; and Lane Johnson returned the favor in reverse.
By this point in training camp, you can see that some players are getting serious consideration for the team, earning extra attention and coaching from the coaches, as well as reps. Andrew Gardner appeared to get a lot of tips from Coach Stoutland, for example.
In the 7 on 7 red zone drills, Mark Sanchez continued to look sharp, earning stunned admiration from New England Patriots beat writers. Foles connected on his three of his first four (to Ertz, Casey and Momah, respectively; Celek dropped one in tight coverage) but he tossed the first only after about 10 seconds of looking around. There is no rush in this drill.
Sanchez then threw three tight, accurate passes, and got his out MUCH more quickly than Nick did, though only one connected (to wide receiver Jeff Maehl, who had a good day). Huff simply dropped one, and the other came out so quickly to Ertz that it hit him in the thigh before he even turned his head. Amazingly, he almost caught it anyway, juggling for a couple of steps before it dropped.
In the second round of 7s, Foles threw one away due to coverage (which is actually a good sign for him), hit Casey at the goal line, and overthrew Celek in the back of the end zone (by accident; he was open). Sanchez then ripped off four straight great throws for TDs, 3 to Ertz over the middle. (The other was Maehl again on a fade.)
The first of these passes was particularly impressive, as Ertz had three defenders on him; The Artist Formerly Known as Buttfumble whipped a high bullet past all of them, which Ertz easily grabbed. If Chip and Bill Belichick are evenly matched, then the youngster has an advantage at QB2 over Jimmy Garoppollo and Ryan "Rubber" Mallett.
The Patriots put out a nice spread for reporters, with pork chops, BBQ chicken, mac and cheese, asparagus, a delicious sweet potato casserole, and two big but lonely looking bowls of salad. The sweet potato casserole tasted like a savory pumpkin pie. I'm not a big sweets guy, but if you put that in a flaky pie crust I would eat it three times a day.
After post-practice interviews, we walked through the catacombs below Gillette Stadium and passed by the kitchen. A cook was having trouble explaining something to his colleagues. "SMOOTHIES. Stay with me, guys. SMOOOOOOO--THIEEEEEES." On that level of innovation, Chip Kelly is winning this (mostly) friendly competition.