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Chip Kelly’s approach makes Eagles faster, healthier; Titans’ defense more aggressive

Posted Jun 5, 2014

ClevelandBrowns.com takes you around the NFL with the Daily Kickoff.

Bernard Pollard, Chip Kelly, Charles Woodson

By most accounts, the Philadelphia Eagles’ OTA practices have been moving at a particularly brisk pace this offseason.

Some of that would figure to stem from players on both sides of the ball having a better grasp of the up-tempo approach Chip Kelly brought with him when he became the Eagles’ coach last year.

But there is also a fairly substantial school of thought that Kelly’s approach, which places heavy emphasis on sports science, is doing wonders for the overall physical conditioning of the team and the results are showing.

“I feel healthy,” safety Nate Allen was quoted as saying in the Philadelphia Daily News. “I feel not as worn out sometimes. When you get into this OTA regimen, we just feel fresh every day and not as run down. We get the right rest and nutrition, and that all plays a big part in it.”

There’s evidence that whatever the Eagles are doing from a training standpoint is working well. According to data collected by the Dallas Morning News, the Eagles’ projected starters missed only 29 games last season, 16 of which were by wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, for the fourth-lowest total in the NFL. Teams with fewer injuries, according to the Morning News, were the Jets (20), Chiefs (22), and Redskins (22).

The Eagles also led the league with 14 players who started every regular-season game.

“We put a huge emphasis with the Eagles on recovery,” center Jason Kelce was quoted as saying in the Daily News. “I think that’s one of the things that helped us stay injury-free last year, for the most part. A lot of that came down to luck, too; it’s just kind of the way it goes. But the organization and the strength and conditioning department puts a huge emphasis on rest. A lot of the things that bigger guys have problems with (relate to) sleeping right. They’re big on making sure you're getting the right amount of sleep, eating right, hydration, all that stuff.”

BERNARD POLLARD SAYS RAY HORTON PUTTING A BITE IN TITANS’ DEFENSE

Tennessee Titans safety Bernard Pollard has noticed a much more aggressive mentality within the team’s defense during OTAs.

And in Pollard’s view, it is the result of the Titans’ new defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, who held the same job with the Cleveland Browns last season.

“We were German shepherds in the training phase, but for some reason we transformed to pit bulls, to Rottweilers,” Pollard was quoted as saying on the Titans’ official website. “Preferably, I want to be a lion, but there’s no lions over here, but I’ve got the heart.”

The Titans’ defense lacked a killer instinct last season, according to Pollard. But he thinks that has changed with Horton in charge.

“We had some great plays, but you look at some games, and we didn’t step on the throat when we were supposed to,” Pollard said. “We didn’t finish it off when we were supposed to, we didn’t get off the field when we were supposed to. So if you look at Coach Horton and the mentality that they’re instilling in players like us, it’s going to be a fun year.”

ANTONIO BROWN: ‘I’M THE MARQUEE GUY’ OF THE STEELERS’ RECEIVING CORPS

After saying goodbye to Emmanuel Sanders and Mike Wallace the past two offseasons, the Pittsburgh Steelers have targeted Antonio Brown as the veteran leader of their wide receivers.

That was why, during a recent OTA practice, coach Mike Tomlin was spotted telling Martavis Bryant, after the rookie receiver had incorrectly run a route, to watch how Brown runs patterns.

“You’ve got to set the tone and be an example,” Brown was quoted as saying in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I’m the guy, the marquee guy, who coach (Tomlin) likes to show to guys and tell guys, ‘That’s who you've got to watch.’ I pride myself and hold myself to that standard and try to set the right example.”

CHARLES WOODSON: VETERAN CORE CAN HELP RAIDERS ‘BUST THROUGH THE CEILING’

Until the Oakland Raiders offered him a one-year contract in late March, safety Charles Woodson wasn’t sure if he would be playing for them or any other NFL team this season.

At 37, he’s closing in on the end of his career, but is happy to have the chance to at least play for one more year. And he is excited about the prospect of helping the Raiders make a dramatic turnaround from last year’s 4-12 finish.

“We’re trying to bust through the ceiling,” Woodson said. “I look at the team, and I feel like I have what I need from a team standpoint to get all the way there.”

Woodson was on the last Raider team that played in the Super Bowl, after the 2002 season. He recalls that the lineup included players who, like him, were nearing the end of the line (quarterback Rich Gannon, wide receiver Jerry Rice, and safety Rod Woodson). Besides Charles Woodson, the veteran core this time around also includes defensive end Justin Tuck, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, quarterback Matt Schaub, and running back Maurice Jones-Drew.

“I see a lot of similarities,” Charles Woodson said.

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