Sunday, September 30, 2007
JUSTICE NOT READY
Winston Justice didn't exactly look like the Eagles future at left offensive tackle Sunday night. At least a future with promise. The Giants are a tough team to block, unquestionably. Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan all can bring it. But Justice knew that before the opening kickoff, and he still didn't put up enough of a fight. That led to five first-half sacks for the Giants, three by Umenyiora, who lined up opposite Justice. The pass rush totally disrupted the Eagles' offense, which was unable to score in the first half for the first time this season. The Eagles had just six first downs and 84 net yards, including 44 passing.
THE BYE DOESN'T EXIST
Professional athletes and coaches often are creative beyond words. You almost have to be there to enjoy the beauty and nothingness of some quotes.
When O.C. Marty Mornhinweg was asked about the blitzing of quarterbacks in preseason game, and whether there was an unwritten rule frowning on it he responded, "There are no unwritten rules anymore."
Then we had Giants head coach Tom Coughlin, asked on a conference call what he's seen in the play of Jevon Kearse this year. "Just what you see," Coughlin said.
Thanks for the insight.
Finally there is safety Brian Dawkins after being reminded the Eagles have a bye next week and are 3-5 in games entering the bye. "The bye doesn't exist. The bye doesn't exist. This is a game we have to win so the bye doesn't exist right now."
Spoken like a true veteran.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
JT EARNED THIS START
When the Eagles get on the field Sunday night, Juqua Thomas, not Jevon Kearse should be the starter at left end and for good reason - no Eagles defender, not even teammate and NFL sack leader Trent Cole, is playing better football.
Kearse isn't through as many have speculated. Is he a $5.2 million talent right now? Hardly. But it's no coincidence the Eagles pass rush is better when he's in the lineup than not for the veteran still commands attention, if not the double teams of years past.
Thomas isn't strictly a relentless pass rusher. He's the best run-stopping defensive end though it would seem an underhanded compliment for a smallish group crafted to get after the quarterback.
The player Thomas is a lot like is William Fuller, roughly the same size and who played the run and the pass at a high level during a very successful tour with the Eagles.
Turn Thomas loose, give him more snaps and you just might get the same results.
Kearse's knee still isn't 100 percent from ligament damage.
Monday, September 24, 2007
THE SUNGLASSES DON'T WORK
It was a big win, an unexpectedly big win, the first win of the season and the Eagles locker room was full of players who wanted to talk. Peering out from rose-colored sunglasses that probably cost more than the weekly take-home pay of some of the people asking questions, Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews spoke of how people abandoned the Eagles during their 0-2 start. Abandoned. Andrews also said it was 'sad' that people booed McNabb. (Sustained. But ticket buyers have a right to express themselves). Then Andrews said, "We have to play for our fans and everybody but the people that don't believe, we just have to push them away." Looking at reporters he continued with, "we don't go to their jobs knocking the pens out of their hands." Finally it occurred to me; it was the media's fault the Eagles lost their first two games. A little less criticism and they'd be 3-0 and booking hotels in Glendale, Ariz., for Super Bowl XLII. Viva Arizona! Seriously now, if the Eagles pushed away all the people that didn't believe in them each and every week of a horrendous start they wouldn't have a fan base. If the players are so impacted by emotion, wouldn't it be a lot wiser putting more effort into playing better than determining who to push away? Hey, just about anything the coaches and staff can do to motivate players to perform is acceptable. Even the age-old yet ridiculous us-against-them rant. That's Stone Age stuff. You can bet the cavemen and women got a lot of mileage out of it. Instead of pointing the finger, watch some more film, lift some more weights, help a rookie out, tell the position coach what you think. It won't leave you much time to figure out who to push away. If you want people to believe, believe in yourself. And don't wear those expensive sunglasses the next time you want sympathy. They just doesn't work.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
DAWKINS SCRATCHED; NO BRACE FOR 5
The Eagles deactivated Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, who was held out of practice last week with a neck stinger. Veteran Quintin Mikell made his first career start in place of Dawkins at free safety. Pro Bowl cornerback Lito Sheppard (knee) and tight end L.J. Smith (groin) also were scratched. The Lions scratched DE Kalimba Edwards. Donovan McNabb warmed up without a brace.
75 REASONS TO CHEER
Eagles players and coaches didn't do a great job of expressing it this week, which is a shame.
But this is what they want:
The unconditional support of their fans today. In addition to facing virtual playoff elimination with a third straight loss, it's the 75th anniversary of Eagles football. A lot of franchise greats will be in attendance including Chuck Bednarik and Steve Van Buren.
Listless in the first two games, the Eagles won't have much of a chance if the hometown turns on them today. They need a spark, not a summary execution.
All Eagles fans need is another ugly episode to reinforce all of those blatantly wrong stereotypes they are haters. Unless you've been here awhile you know Eagles fans hate losing more than anything.
These suggestions go for you, too, Concrete Charlie, who have been critical of the organization in the past and aren't afraid to express himself.
Try to set aside your conflicts with the current regime and give the franchise that gave you a chance to be yourself all of the support it needs today.
And do it the way you played the game - for 60 minutes.
Trust me, the Eagles players and coaches would be indebted to all of you.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
BIG (TUNA) CHANGES AHEAD?
You don't believe everything you hear. But it's tough to pretend like you don't hear some of the stuff out there. Case in point, the rumor - repeat, rumor - that Bill Parcells might be interested in being part of the Eagles. Now known only for those catchy sound-bites on Coors Light mock press conferences, the Big Tuna is a pretty good friend of Andy Reid. What Parcells likely would be looking for is a front office job, though. According to reports he probed the Giants for such a position. Then again, the Eagles already have a solid GM in Tom Heckert, making me wonder how a guy like Parcells might fit in. Might is the operative word. Reid would surprise no one if he took time off from football to get reacquainted with his family - regardless of what happens to the two sons facing jail time. Reid could return to the NFL and get another job in the blink of an eye, possibly even in a front office. Marty Mornhinweg, the offensive coordinator, would be the likely successor. The Eagles are in enough trouble right now almost nothing would be shocking.
Monday, September 17, 2007
JUST GIVE #36 THE DANG BALL
It's OK to keep feeding the ball to your best football players, something fast becoming a habit with the Eagles judging by last night's divisional game with the Redskins. Instead of riding running back Brian Westbrook and to a lesser extent wide receivers Kevin Curtis and Jason Avant, their deadliest weapons, the Eagles for some reason figure they should spread the ball around to their second tier players. That list includes Correll Buckhalter, Hank Baskett, Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis. Whatever happened to run it until they stop it? Seriously now, there's a reason Westbrook annually leads the Eagles in touchdowns.
Friday, September 14, 2007
BELICHICK DESERVED SUSPENSION
Would you pay $500,000 and a first round draft pick to win a Super Bowl?
That was the bill Bill Belichick received from the NFL for cheating. And it's only a first round pick if his New England Patriots make it to the playoffs this year. If poetic justice prevails and the Patriots don't reach the postseason they would surrender only a second and a third round pick. The Patriots also were fined $250,000.
Let's see ... Belichick knowingly flaunts the rules by the use of videotaping the sideline signals of opponents, the NFL knows he's done so, almost every team in the league suspects he's been doing so, questions abound as to whether the Patriots deserved to win three Super Bowls and this is the best Commissioner Roger Goodell can do? Is Patriots owner Bob Kraft running the league?
How can Goodell not suspend Belichick indefinitely, just as he did Mike Vick?
Why doesn't he put the Patriots on an NCAA type of probation where they're not eligible for the playoffs this season?
What ever happened to the integrity of the game?
This kind of discipline is a message, just not the right message. It's the mercy rule. Belichick's pre-sentencing apology wasn't even sincere.
All Goodell has done is raise the stakes in a whatever-it-takes to win a Super Bowl atmosphere. How bad do you want it? Just do this. And don't worry about
Why not do the crime, if there's no time?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
MARK JONES RE-SIGNS WITH BUCS
Great news for Mark Jones, the two-time Daily Times Player of the Year out of Strath Haven High.
Barring an unforeseen snag, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will re-sign the punt returner-wide receiver today.
Jones (5-9, 185) can help immediately, having had success during the preseason before getting caught up in the numbers game.
Why the Eagles didn't at least give Jones a workout is an issue for another time - maybe the next time they muff a punt. He's a punt returner, not a converted skier or wide receiver.
Jones, 26, is healthy again after fighting through a strained hamstring that limited him to just six games last year and 20 punt returns. Jones averaged 7.8 yards a return.
Jones has a history of making good decisions and securing punts. He's also best in space, where he can use his quickness and athleticism.
Jones averaged 9.6 yards on 51 punt returns to rank among the NFC leaders in both categories in 2005, the best of his three seasons in the NFL.
The Buccaneers selected Jones in the seventh round of the 2004 draft but he waived him just before the start of the season. Jones spent his rookie year withe the New York Giants.
Monday, September 10, 2007
EAGLES ARROGANCE SHOWS
The first sign the Eagles would have problems with their kick return game came at the first minicamp in early May when Bethel Johnson, a guy supposedly with track star speed, showed up with a track injury in the form of a stress fracture in his foot. He was supposed to be the answer.
For some reason the fact that Johnson didn’t pass his physical (he was released) made Jeremy Bloom, the converted skier who hadn’t played football since before the last Winter Olympics, much more appealing.
How anyone could project Bloom as a punt and kickoff return man based on watching him field kids in the non-contact atmosphere of minicamp was beyond me. Yet every day or so I heard raves about what a great minicamp or OTA Bloom was having – even from reporters who are supposed to be unbiased but obviously had swallowed the whole company line. Unbelievable.
Bloom, more likable than a good neighbor, looked like the answer for exactly one – that’s one – return in the preseason. But he turned passive virtually each and every chance thereafter, and at least a couple of his former teammates who can play good football opined that they basically felt all along that Bloom – with the cover boy looks – just didn’t like to get hit.
It was so obvious we weren’t the only ones who noticed.
Plan B wasn’t much better although to his credit, Greg “Muff” Lewis at least attacked the duty he had been given for the first time in his career.
To put Lewis on the field when he was so obviously overmatched is something Andy Reid will have a tough time living down. The same can be said of Reed although in all fairness, most of us would have tried anyone but Lewis after watching him flounder.
Truth be told, Lewis’ arrogance in dismissing punt returning as an art wasn’t his opinion alone. Reid, who oversees personnel decisions, felt the same way or he wouldn’t have thrown the journeyman receiver into the fold.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
DEFENSE NOT THE PROBLEM TODAY
The Eagles were supposed to be vulnerable defensively, particularly at linebacker. That obviously wasn't the case in the first half against the Packers Sunday. The defense held the Packers to 106 yards and five first downs. It was special teams and the offense that gave the Packers all of their points leaving the teams deadlocked, 10-10, at the intermission. Greg Lewis' muffed punt was recovered in the end zone for the Packers touchdown. It looked like Matt Schobel had it but Tracy White wrestled it away. Donovan McNabb's interception set up the 53-yard field goal by rookie Mason Crosby, the defense having limited the Pack to minus-1 yard following the turnover. The Eagles also committed four penalties for 41 yards, although that could have been worse. One of those penalties resulted from play-calling that was incredibly suspect at the outset, McNabb getting flagged for intentional grounding on a flea flicker. The defense gave McNabb almost the entire half to get into a rhythm. His eight-yard TD pass to Jason Avant with 6 minutes left knotted the game.
KOLB BACKS UP MCNABB; L.J. ACTIVE
For months I've said rookie quarterback Kevin Kolb would play this season.
Backing up Donovan McNabb in the season opener puts Kolb ahead of even the ambitious schedule this blogger initially had for him.
With A.J. Feeley unable to take snaps comfortably, the ball banging against his broken and heavily padded left hand, it's Kolb who's one snap away from actualizing the plan the Eagles had when they selected him in the second round of the draft.
The Eagles designated Feeley the third quarterback, which in the NFL is the equivalent of being scratched.
Speaking of scratches the Birds deactivated guards Scott Young and Max Jean-Gilles, and tackle Pat McCoy, opening the door for left tackle Winston Justice to suit up for his first game. Last year it was Young who dressed.
Eagles tight end L.J. Smith dressed.
Mildly surprising was the deactivation of rookie defensive end Victor Abiamiri, the second-round pick who had an excellent training camp and preseason. The Birds decided to go with four defensive ends (starters Jevon Kearse and Trent Cole, Juqua Thomas and Darren Howard) and four tackles (starters Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson, Montae Reagor and Kimo von Oelhoffen.
The Eagles also scratched cornerback Nick Graham, linebacker Pago Togafau and defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey.
The Packers scratched starters Vernand Morency (running back) and Greg Jennings (wide receiver). Rookies Brandon Jackson and James Jones started at running back and wide receiver.
Friday, September 7, 2007
LJ ... PROTECT YOURSELF AT ALL TIMES
Spend a day in the shoes of L.J. Smith and you will understand why he's not as anxious to get back on the field as his coaches. Smith strained his groin early in training camp while rushing back from surgery for a sports hernia. He turned out to be right when his body didn't feel right when he got back to practice, and it basically cost him the entire preseason. What makes the injury a mini-drama is that Smith is in the last year of his contract and the Eagles obviously are prepared to go in the direction of rookie Brent Celek, the fifth round pick who looks like one of the steals of the draft. Just like the Eagles protected themselves with Celek, Smith has to look out for himself. If he's not ultra-smart about his injury, everybody loses including the Eagles. Neither Matt Schobel or Celek can get down the field like a healthy Smith, whose speed adds another dimension to the Philly attack.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
NO TIME TO CRITIQUE A LEGEND
With the biggest game of his nine-year career just days away, Donovan McNabb criticized the gunslinger instincts that helped Brett Favre win a Super Bowl. McNabb better back it up Sunday in Green Bay because he's left himself open for criticism. I don't get it. Sure, Favre takes chances and obviously chances result in interceptions, which McNabb for some reason figured he had to point out Wednesday. If it's all about winning, as McNabb has so often stated, the risks were worth it. In addition to the world championship ring Favre is two victories from becoming the winningest quarterback in the history of the NFL, Favre has started 257 games. That's something McNabb just doesn't get, and may never get. Favre wasn't healthy in each of those games. Unlike McNabb, who has benefited from organizational stability, Favre basically has been the only stability the Packers have had through the years. A ton of coaches, GM's and players have rolled through Lambeau during his tenure. McNabb picked the wrong time to critique a legend.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
EAGLES claim J.R. Reed, Pago Togafau; sign Kimo von Oelhoffen,
Safety obviously is a big concern because the Eagles reached into their past in claiming J.R. Reed off waivers Sunday. Yes, it's that J.R. Reed, the Eagles' 2004 fourth-round pick out of South Florida who after a stellar rookie season returning kickoffs and playing in the dime package sliced a nerve in his foot unsuccessfully jumping a fence fleeing an angry dog. Reed had been unable to find a home in St. Louis or New York, the Giants cutting him most recently. Reed's agent, Jonathan Kline, broke the news. Reed has played in just six games since appearing in 14 in his first season with the Eagles. Reed had five tackles in six games with the Rams last year. To make room the Eagles cut undrafted rookie Marcus Paschal and likely will sign him to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
New York Jets castoff Kimo von Oelhoffen (6-4, 299) signed a one-year contract, enabling the Eagles to put defensive tackle Ian Scott and his puffy knee on minor injured reserve. As soon as Scott is healthy he will be released - and eligible to sign with any team willing to put up with his attitude. It's fairly obvious why the tackle-needy Bears didn't want Scott, the Eagles simply unable to push the right buttons to get him to play with some pain.
Von Oelhoffen is a run-stuffer with considerable mileage. The 36-year-old veteran of 14 years has 26.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 7 fumble recoveries in 192 career games. He broke into the NFL as a sixth round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, teaming there with current Eagles linebacker Takeo Spikes, and later starred with the Pittsburgh Steelers .
Von O also is a master of malapropism. On his way to South Philly via Delaware County and the Blue Route, the native Hawaiian said he and his family had just visited the King of Persia Mall. It's Prussia, O.
Linebacker Pago Togafau (5-10, 250) is an undrafted rookie of the Arizona Cardinals by way of Idaho State. Linebacker/practice squad candidate Akeem Jordan was released to make roster room.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
EAGLES CUT-GATE LIST OFF BY 5
The Haters won't believe this but that list of projected cuts released by the Eagles internet people was an honest, if unfortunate mistake resulting from the urge to be first. It was obvious today that the Eagles' internet people were working from their own dummy list because there were 10 inaccuracies - the five guys that were supposed to be cut and the handful that didn't make the team. Rashad Barksdale, Torrance Daniels, Jeremy Clark, C.J. Gaddis and Bill Sampy had to be be confused. On the day the infamous list came out implying they made the team, they were told personally by Eagles football people they would be released. At the same time the Eagles who were on the list of internet cuts but made the team - Nick Graham, Marcus Paschal, Ian Scott, Akeem Jordan and Pat McCoy - had to wonder what exactly was up. The Eagles typically notify the guys that don't make the team, not the other way around. This all could have been avoided with due diligence, rather than being in a rush. At the same time, it was a mistake and we've all made them, particularly angry sports reporters fearful of taking a good look in the mirror - two mirrors, considering the size of some. Live, learn and give it a rest - and try some sit-ups and ab crunches to deal with the anger and poor self image.