To my knowledge, none of these individuals have criticized the vigorous and ambitious training methods employed by Chip Kelly and his platoon of 'sports science' experts. Such methods include daily reporting by the players of how their bodies responded to the previous day's till of workouts, so that their own individual exercise programs can be customized for maximum results. Their protein intake is minutely regulated; at one time, 2013 seventh-round selection Dave King was eating six meals a day to make weight for the defensive line.
To a more basic degree, the practices during the week involve running. And running. And even more running. Makes sense that Kelly would want his players to be ridiculously fit in order to run the vaunted 'up-tempo' offense. The defense also needs to be strengthened to optimum levels, in part due to the speed of the offense. If Nick Foles and company score in two minutes, Mychal Kendricks and his co-horts need to return to the field immediately. If it's no rest for the weary, then Kelly understands that the weary need be 'less weary'.
A weary voice reared itself in the spoils of the Eagles 37-34 barn-burner victory over the Redskins last Sunday, and it was that of a disgruntled Cary Williams. Williams you'll recall was supposed to be a secondary upgrade over the distant Nnamdi Asomugha and the inconsistent Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, bringing edge and physicality to the cornerback position. Williams was a mixed bag last season, with many early struggles (namely against the Chargers), but picked off three passes. It should also be stated that Williams made a play that helped ensure a playoff run, deflecting a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied their season finale against Dallas. Boykin gets the credit for the game-sealing pick, but Williams helped gift-wrap the win too. In general, Williams brought stability to the secondary.
Stability, the spine of the winner. Houses divided rarely win Super Bowls, while a united group, like Williams' 2012 Ravens, can win the grand prize. Having four world-class defenders in Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, and Terrell Suggs hardly hurts either. But certainly, 106 eyes locked on the common goal while donning willful blinders opens the road to the Lombardi Trophy.
It makes you ask why, in the fallout of the 37-34 victory that brought the Eagles to a 3-0 record, that Williams overtly criticized the training methods employed by the team, stating:
"It's hard to go out there and fight for 60 minutes when you're fighting throughout the week to make it through one practice. I'm not the only one. I'm just the only one that's man enough to stand up here and talk to y'all. It's obviously, in my opinion, an issue in our starts."
Let's break this down, sentence by sentence.
"It's hard to go out there and fight for 60 minutes when you're fighting throughout the week to make it through one practice.
That's not an incorrect statement. If you can't survive a single round of practice, it would be expected that you'd get put through the wringer against a competitive opponent.
However, wouldn't the issue be Williams here? Maclin streaks up and down the field for roughly the same length of time, and has come up with three fourth-quarter touchdowns: two to put the Eagles ahead for good, and one to tie the dramatic Monday-nighter in Indianapolis. His 296 yards receiving don't come from three-yard sprints; this is a receiver that has come off of a missed season due to an ACL tear, is routinely beating his coverage, and is finding ways to do it for the length of a game.
Jenkins may not have to shade receivers on routes as often as Williams, but run-coverage requires him to streak from center field to help finish the plays. That's not counting the mental alertness he requires to figure out the quarterback's tendencies, which have netted him two interceptions, the only picks the team has so far this season. When did he get both interceptions? The fourth quarter.
Besides, unless I'm a complete novice when it comes to science, wouldn't a player be more tired in the *fourth* quarter rather than the first, had they been worked to the bone all week in practice? Did Williams actually think the strenuous practice pace is still grinding on them at game time, and doesn't wear off until they've exhausted themselves in the first half? I drifted in and out of paying attention in a number of high school science courses, but I'm sure that would have stuck with me had a teacher said such nonsense.
"I'm not the only one. I'm just the only one that's man enough to stand up here and talk to y'all."
Not withstanding the fact that Brent Celek and Connor Barwin both dismissed Williams' comments, all praise due to the almighty protein shake, it's pretty weak of Williams to try and throw the invisible teammates under the bus. If it's that much of a problem, name some names. Did Casey Matthews say it? How about Brad Smith? Maybe Nate Allen was sucking wind with Williams in the second quarter, just before the magic reserve of second half-injury kicked in, cursing Chip Kelly's name for those extra wind sprints on Thursday.
Something tells me it's more a case of a few players grumbling under their breath in practice, and that's understandable. People who work eight hours a day in retail do tasks that aren't fun, but are necessary. The same principle applies here: it's a hassle to perform such draining repetition day after day, but clearly the coaches feel it's for the greater good.
Of course, if one of Williams' teammates whiffed on a tackle against the much smaller DeSean Jackson, and was then torched for an 81-yard game-tying touchdown, leading to said player banging his helmet around on the sidelines in a mini-tantrum, I could see how that would lead to a digusted tirade post-game.
Unless that player uttered this statement:
"It's obviously, in my opinion, an issue in our starts."
Right, Wiliams said it's an issue with the *starts*. Jackson's mad dash for six points with Williams crumbling in his wake came late in the *third* quarter. By this time, the battery should have almost been charged up, using Professor Cornerback's laws of science.
The Eagles didn't even have a slow start against the Redskins. In fact, Philadelphia scored the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds to go before halftime, and never trailed the rest of the way.
The only negative fallout from Sunday's game should have centered around Jason Kelce's injury, Nick Foles' general well-being, and concern that Jason Peters may have been suspended for showing Chris Baker the difference between hitting someone when they're not looking, and hitting someone when they're looking right at you. Instead, a seething Williams took his game-related frustration out on something he doesn't like: repetition that tests the limits of his body and resolve.
The endurance regimen apparently wasn't an issue last season, and it hasn't been this year for any of the Eagles, save for his bitter rebuke. Williams apologized days later for what he said, and while it's water under the bridge for a team looking to keep a hard-fought winning streak alive, it's something for Kelly to file away for after the season.
Williams turns 30 in December. He's due $6.5M next season in the final year of his contract. Nolan Carroll is seeing an increase in first-team reps this week in practice. The message on the 12-sided die inside the magic 8-ball hasn't fully appeared, but through the purplish goo, I think it reads, 'adios'.
Odds are, Cary Williams won't be an Eagle in 2015, not as long as his outlook toward Kelly's chosen path to victory contradicts the path itself. If he still wants to play in the NFL, I hope another team holds out a contract for him. I hope they don't make him run for it.
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