Common sense would indicate yes this ride is coming to an end, a lot of moneys allocated, many holes filled. However, how much common sense and linear thinking have you seen emanating from the Nova Care complex in the last ten days? A franchise running back traded and a NFL top ten wide receiver permitted to test the market and subsequently left. A young promising QB traded for a slightly older but perhaps more promising QB who hasn’t just been bitten by the injury bug, the man has been mauled by an injury monster. Veterans have been cut: i.e Cole, Herremans, Williams and Casey. About the only development as crazy and unconventional as the moves we have witnessed by the Birds is perhaps Nate Allen having a boat load of cash dumped on him by the Raiders…What tape have they watched that we have not seen? Hey, I just heard someone out there mumble Carey Williams and that Seattle actually gave him more money than Eagles were unwilling to pay for his services….but at least he could play a little. Nate really couldn’t. Let’s not forget that a few of the holes are in fact not filled, and a team which intends to contend would not, alas should not elect to do so through the draft alone. Also as the ink on this blog begins to dry, All Pro guard Evan Mathis is again being shopped around the league to the highest bidder. So, unless Chip can either land a starting quality safety or a number one WR with any possible Mathis trade, he has in fact created another hole to be filled. This author would feel a whole lot more confident without a rookie at both guard positions,safety and number one wide receiver.(please don’t tell me Jordan Matthews can be our #1 next year) So to close this blog out I have convinced myself, if not you, that the free agent roller coaster is slowing down but not completely stopping…yet.
via Wikimedia Commons
It says here using elementary logic predicated on Chip Kelly’s actions or rather in actions , one could arrive at the conclusion that he either does not want Marcus Mariota , or he does not believe Mariota will be on the draft board long enough for the Eagles to move up and select him. Now shall we quickly glance at the elementary logic and action\in action part of the equation? It seems quite logical to this writer that if in fact coach Kelly wanted Marcus Mariota as badly as some talk radio hosts and writers both locally as well as nationally believe or would like Eagles nation to believe , that Chip would have simply played reserves at many positions for evaluation purposes vs the N.Y. Giants for the last game of the season. The ultimate process of evaluation is real game situations, so no one would question a decision enabling a coaching staff to evaluate reserves and prospects during an actual game which meant absolutely nothing to the Eagles who were already eliminated from contention. The excuse of compromising the integrity of the game was also invalid because the Giants were also eliminated, therefore the Birds were not just surrendering a win to a team in contention thus giving them an unfair advantage over other teams competing for a playoff seed. So, without wandering off tangent too far, if Chip wanted Mariota that badly he would have started Matt Barkley at Qb, and benched or at least limited the reps for stars like McCoy or Maclin , and perhaps did the same to many of the other seven pro bowlers, as well as other key starters, ( you get the idea) for evaluation purposes. This would have or at least could have exponentially increased the chances for defeat, thus providing the Birds with a much better draft position at fifteen then they currently have at the twentieth spot. Now for the unless segment…..All bets are off if Mariota slips in the draft like Aaron Rodgers and falls to the Birds at or around their current position. Only time will tell what the ramifications of that useless and potentially harmful win vs the Giants will be….one could even say careless win. Especially for a coach who is rumored to want his former college qb.
Well it’s nice to be back after a few months of baby hibernation or coma depending upon one’s perspective-anyhow, What about full disclosure? This is where a less confidant writer or blogger (insert your decriptive classification of choice) would claim that he or she had extrapolated from training camp and preseason that the Eagles would be a 12-4 team, and for whatever reason didn’t have the time to put that prediction on record. I however will humbly state the opposite. I projected the Eagles to be 9-7 this season- but didn’t take the time to put it on record. The reasons I believed to be obvious. The lack of a pass rush without blitzing. An average at best secondary-especially at the corners, and finally, a glaring need for an upgrade at place kicker. (In spirit of full disclosure I must admit Cody Parkey and his lack of a pro resume didn’t stifile my apprehension.) I could also mention depth at a few positions but 31 other teams could claim the same concern. Now that I concisely disclosed my projection for the Birds in 2014, I will make one more disclosure which is also unfortunate if it becomes the truth. Eagles lose to Green Bay this Sunday 34-23. Beyond this Sunday, and now with Mark Sanchez at QB I can not honestly claim to have a read on this team. But with a 9-7 preseason projection, I can’t say I had a correct read to begin with…Yet, a playoff berth does seem to be a foregone conclusion, but we can save that for another disclosure.
Short answer? Simply not as much as one would think. Improvement from the defense i.e. consistent pressure on Qb’s in passing situations which should vastly improve the secondary’s effectiveness.Progression and subsequent execution of the 3-4 defense installed last year by coach Bill Davis. Look for young players such as LB Michal Kendricks and S Earl Wolff to stand out. Special Teams need to display improvement in coverage. Remember the playoff game vs the Saints? Nick Foles and the offense leave the field late in the 4th quarter with the lead and the kickoff coverage unit fails to contain Darren Sproles forcing CB Cary Wiiliams to horsecollar and that penalty places the Saints 15 yards shy of the game clinching field goal. We all know how that concluded. As for punt return situations, they absolutey need to give the offense better field position. Last year it became painfully apparent Desean Jackson was indifferent to returning punts. Finally the offense…Qb Nick Foles needs to look sharp and the O-line should look to prove it can protect Foles without the services of OT Lane Johnson while he serves a four game suspension. The WR’s need to display the ability to get open and make plays without Desean Jackson demenading additional safety help. Count on Philly and national media placing the offense under the microscope early and often until it shows it can be as explosive and at times overwhelming as it was last year. (It says here it will be.) All of the preceding things we are looking for starting tomorrow night mean absolutely little, if anything at all, if key players get hurt. Thus team health is also something we look for. That is the obvious thing at the beginning and especially the end of every preseason. Look for your team to emerge healthy or relatively so.
While there is still some time remaining before the 4 p.m MLB trade deadline tomorrow rumblings and grumblings around baseball seem to indicate that option years included in the contracts for A.J. Burnett & Marlon Byrd are what is holding up possible deals. Burnett to the Pirates was a real possibility but according to sources which include Espn Insider & CSN Philly, Burnett would have to waive his player option for next year which currently stands at 7.5 million but if he finishes season could escalate to well over 12 million. Much too hefty for Pirates payroll. Same line of thinking could be applied to Baltimore and St. Louis in a trade scenario for Burnett. Meanwhile the length of Marlon Byrd’s contract may be the road block for Royals, Reds , Blue Jays or Mariners because he is currently 36 soon to be 37 & will be 41 at the conclusion of the contract if as expected the vested option will be attained. It is also believed both Byrd and Burnett also have limited no trade clause. It seems that Ruben Amaro has perhaps “contract optioned” himself into a corner. Stay tuned.
Philadelphia Daily News writer Paul Domowitch reports Eagles Offensive tackle Lane Johnson has been suspended four games for PED use. This is a big blow the the Birds offensive line. No word as of yet from the Eagles or Lane Johnson.
Lets begin our examination of our four Philly sports’ passions with the Phils. We all remember the great journey of 2008. The championship drought came to an end, and the whole city and region toasted the” world Bleepin champions” as Chase Utley would coin it. The parade was amazing, and for years after this city was a red city. Baseball was king. When Pat Gillick the architect of that team decided to retire and just periodically consult in I believe 2009, Ruben Amaro was left with the task of keeping the Phils in world series contention.This entailed keeping the core of Rollins, Utley, Howard, Ruiz, & Hamels together ,while also surrounding them with enough talent. Money was not the problem. The ball park was sold out nightly. 257 straight nights. Longest steak in national league history! Third longest in baseball history. Since 2008 the Phils payroll has not been below fourth highest in baseball. Teams have won the world series recently with much less.( Cardinals once and Giants twice). It says here that Amaro’s plan was correct. Keep core together who had already won, and build around them using unproven farm system talent to acquire what was needed. I can’t seem to remember any complaints with trading for Cliff Lee or Doc Halladay. Nor do I remember an angry mob forming down on South Pattison Ave with torches and pitch forks when Hunter Pence was acquired.I however was calling for a mob when Amaro traded Lee shortly after landing Halladay.That was pure economics, I concede, but the payroll was still astronomical. Roy Oswalt haters? I think the point is clear. HOWEVER, where Ruben and I differ was in his execution of the original blue print. I was fine with allowing Jason Werth to leave with a rediculous contract offer from the Nationals. Same type situation with Victorino with Boston, buts as in the case of the Eagles with Brian Dawkins , these players’ production and roles were never replaced. Infact they became holes.You could also add third base to the “holes” in the lineup section, but I remain hopeful that Cody Asche may infact be a long term answer there. I will defer to the greatest third baseman ever, Mike Schmidt who seems to believe in a bright future at third for Cody. Closer Brad Lidge was actually replaced nicely with Papelbon even if the money was absurd. Halladay’s injury was unforeseen and unfortunate, yet the A.J. Burnett addition was splendid and a solid addition to the rotation. Overall, Amaro during his tenure has failed to strengthen the bench, provide his managers with a reliable bullpen, and obtain or develop a corner outfielder or centerfielder to replace Werth or Victorino. Again money has not been his problem. Player scouting and evaluations have been. Deep breaths…..Currently the team is unwatchable. Amaro to his credit has been front and center with accepting responsibility. But that is not enough. What to do from here is another blog altogether. But I had to rehash all of that to arrive at my level of optimism .The bullpen can’t seem to keep leads, or provide holds to give the anaemic offense a chance. Papelbon has been spot on even if his act is getting old. Adams as of late has been solid. Other than that, the bull pen has been awful. The bench is as usual under Amaro is a collection of fringe major leaguers. Little or no help there. The starting pitching has been fair at best, but not really Amaro’s doing. Now we arrive at the biggest problem.Ben Revere is not a major league starter. His defense is average to below average. He doesn’t provide any power or gap power for that matter. This would be mitigated abit if he would walk and provide a high on base percentage (OBA). He does not. His arm in the field is worse that his power while at the plate.Both the worst in baseball. His release is in my opinion is the only option. Dominic Brown is not the player we thought he was. I can go on for along time with him , but just focus on him during the next game. He does not pass the eye test. Lazy in the outfield and seems to be uninterested during much of the game. Watching him frustrates me. Sadly I thought he approached five tool status. Now his game resembles a tool. Not a useful one either.Perhaps an extended trip to minors would provide him with much needed perspective.Marlon Byrd has been very solid both in the field and at the plate. Period. Ryan Howard is not and has not been an elite player in three years. His contract was unavoidable and now due to lack of production unmoveable. His defense is sub par.Chase Utley is still a very good offensive player with text book baseball IQ. You show a video of Chase to youngsters to explain how game is played.His defense is average or slightly above. Range deminishing though. Jimmy Rollins has taken a step forward this season in his offensive approach and now is taking walks instead of fly outs. No complaints offensively there. Defense is still of an elite level. Cody Ashe will get an incomplete due to injury and the fact that he was getting hot at the plate. His defense needs to improve and from watching some of his minor league games I do not see that as much of a stretch that it will and that he can play a good third base. Chooch Ruiz has been solid defensively but not great. At the plate he has been mediocre. The sum of these parts equal little or no optimism for this season or for the near future. This outlook would be drastically better if Asche and Brown or Darin Ruff were playing to expectations, and the young arms in the bull pen were progressing and developing.The construction of this lineup is flawed , and has been for years. If the team is not hitting home runs the offense is not sucessful consistently. The teams on base percentage is comical.The ratio of strikeouts to hits is borderline historically bad.Base running other than perhaps Utley is unsatisfactory. And team speed is below average in part to the on base percentagebeing awful. You can’t steal firstbase. So to conclude this lengthy first part of the four part series gauging optimism for the four professional teams of Philly I say this was my lowest by far measurement.I even omitted many examples which would have strenghthened my position due to over emphasizing my point . (See Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez signing or players recieved in the Cliff Lee trade, etc,etc.) I invite you to disagree, however do not see a convincing case for the inverse perspective. Level of optimism 2 out of 10. Worse case senario we needed the Phillies to remain relevant until Eagles training camp. They fell short by ninety some days.
In this four part blog report we will measure your level of optimism with regards to our four great passions……Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers. And as always your opinions are of vital importance, so please weigh in on a topic , or on all four! Look for this special blog report in the next few days.
If you are paying close attention to all of the coverage this year’s NFL draft is receiving (pun intended) with regards to the depth of talent it projects, and then you apply that knowledge with the amount of draft picks the Eagles currently have, you may arrive at the same conclusion that I have…..That the Eagles will look to make a trade or two in order to acquire more selections. The Birds do not have a sixth round selection this year. It says here that players such as RB Bryce Brown , DE Vinny Curry, and perhaps even DE Brandon Graham who appear not to “fit” schematically what that particular side of the ball is attempting to implement, may become available closer to the draft or during the actual draft. I look for the Eagles to try to obtain picks for these players or others whom they believe to be more valuable to other teams which use systems more appropriate for that players’ specific skill set. Can you smell it now? The smell of an additional fourth or fifth or a sixth round draft choice coming our way? I do…..and we could certainly utilize such picks in a year which portends depth in talent and certainly the need of more talent on our end.
Thats right Philly….As we approach the NHL playoffs ,which in my humble opinion is the best playoffs bar none, we are witnessing greatness. Flyers captain Claude Giroux has been white hot. In fact since December 10th he has the most points in all of the NHL. This after he did next to nothing for the first twenty games due to a freak hand injury playing golf ! Reports claimed he could barely grip a stick for the first few weeks of the season. Motivated in part to several snubs by Team Canada for the winter Olympics, Giroux has been playing like a man on a mission quickly climbing up the scoring charts and more importantly leading his team to victory. The Flyers have won three straight games, with a home and home sweep of hated division leading rival Penguins and last nights victory vs current Cup champs the Chicago Blackhawks the Flyers now have obtained second place in the division. Giroux had multiple points in each of those games and last night provided the game winner in OT with four seconds left. With his team poised for the post season and himself now fourth overall in scoring in NHL , a Hart trophy ( NHL MVP) is within reach….No doubt Philly is Flyered up.