Saturday, December 31, 2011

The latest on 2012 Eagles free agents

Does Smitty go back to the Giants?
The list of pending Eagles free agents and what their respective futures look like:

Victor Abiamiri, DE: Injuries could prompt retirement.

Ronnie Brown, RB: Wants to find a better situation.

Antonio Dixon, DT (RFA): Will be retained.

King Dunlap, OT: Valuable utility man will get offers.

DeSean Jackson, WR: Gets the franchise tag.

Derek Landri, DT: Proved he still has gas in the tank.

Trevor Laws, DT: Talented but injury prone.

Evan Mathis, G: Wants to stick around.

Juqua Parker, DE: Future role is situational.

Owen Schmitt, FB: Must fight off Stanley Havili.

Steve Smith, WR: Already gone.

Vince Young, QB: Cya.

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Eagles might need to extend Reid

Decision time after end of season nap.
The signs are pointing to And Reid being back next year as head coach of the Eagles.

If, that is, Big Red wants to come back. With a dearth of qualified head coaches in the NFL,  Reid is in a position to leverage the Eagles - possibly for more years on a contract that expires in 2013 or for more autonomy over personnel.

NFL sources say Reid would be hired almost immediately if he leaves the Eagles despite going 13 years without a Super Bowl title.

Reid now has final say over his coaching staff, including the fate of embattled defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan says he doesn't know what Reid will do. But knowing his counterpart, Shanahan offered insight into the hot-button issue around here.

"I don't know how Andy feels," Shanahan said. "Andy may say 'Hey, I think it's best for me to go. You guys can have this job. I'm going some place else.' Or maybe he would say 'Hey, let me finish my job.' You just don't know what goes on beyond closed doors with any head coach or any organization."

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Samuel seen, not heard at complex

Asante Samuel (R) with LeSean McCoy
Asante Samuel lately has been seen, not heard around the NovaCare Complex.
Barely seen.

Sure, he's rehabbing a tight hamstring that will keep him out of the season finale against the Redskins.

But  until the past two weeks, Samuel has been a regular at the open locker room, if only to tell reporters he's not talking.

The absence is an obvious indication his time in Philadelphia is almost up, and the Eagles don’t want him telling the world he expects to be traded.

That would diminish his value and put the organization he accused of engaging in a power struggle with Andy Reid, in a  nasty light.

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

McCoy partial practice participant Thursday

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy says the ankle he turned against the Cowboys feels better.

"I felt good today," McCoy said. "I needed a day off to kind of rehab a little bit. It helped me out."

McCoy wasn't able to practice fully Thursday but is hopeful of getting his usual touches when the Eagles oppose the Redskins in the regular season finale Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

McCoy is 128 yards behind league rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew and 203 yards behind Wilbert Montgomery's single-season club record of 1,512 yards set in 1979.

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No Reid presser Monday

Andy Reid's usual Monday press conference will be later in the week.

First, Reid meets with owner Jeffrey Lurie, at which time they almost certainly will determine the coach's fate for 2012.

Lurie will be at a news conference later in the week.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Vick says Jackson will be back in 2012

DJax's agent, unhappy client
If DeSean Jackson is out of Philly after the Eagles' final game, as some believe, it's news to Michael Vick.

At his locker Wednesday, Vick playfully cautioned the media not to put "thoughts in anybody's head around here.

"I expect DeSean to be back next year," Vick said. "I expect him to continue to grow and excel as a player. So don't you guys go talking the talk and put any thoughts in anybody's head around here because it's not going to work."

Jackson's contract is up after this season. The Eagles can sign him to a new contract, put the franchise tag on him for $9.4 million and try to trade him or let him walk.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

McCoy, Babin, Peters make Pro Bowl

First Pro Bowl for McCoy.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, defensive end Jason Babin and offensive tackle Jason Peters were voted to the NFC Pro Bowl team.

All are starters.

Eagles DT Cullen Jenkins is a well-deserved first alternate for the NFC Pro Bowl squad. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is a second-team alternate.

Conspicuously absent from the team were Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel, who had made three straight Pro Bowls and wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who made two in a row.

It was the first Pro Bowl selection for McCoy, the second for Babin and the fifth in a row for Peters, who had a dominating year at left tackle.

Five Eagles made the Pro Bowl last year, two the previous year.

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Castillo getting thrown under the bus?

Out the door?
A report in the San Diego Union-Tribune says the Eagles likely will hire Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator.

Spagnuolo would first be fired as head coach of the Rams, opening the door for the team to hire Jon Gruden as head coach. GM A.J. Smith would be axed by the Chargers and join the Rams.

The report mentioned that Spagnuolo would be joining Andy Reid's staff.

Spagnuolo would be Reid's fourth defensive coordinator in five years. Here's the link.

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Monday, December 26, 2011

If Reid won't do it, Banner should sit McCoy

If Andy Reid is serious about playing a sub-100 percent LeSean McCoy against the Redskins, team president Joe Banner ought to step in and stop it.

It's absurd to put your best player and his twisted ankle on the field for anything more than a cameo in a ridiculously meaningless season finale.

All the Eagles need in this totally lost and regrettable season is to subject a player who can't do all of the things he previously could do (like protect himself) to a potentially serious injury. Eagles Nation will understand. This isn't a playoff game. Other than a less desirabie draft position there is nothing to be gained and the future to lose.

If Big Red balks, show him film of Adrian Peterson's career-changing knee injury, against the Redskins. Think the Vikings would like to do that one over?

I'm hoping Reid just wants to string everyone along for the week, that he can't bear having anyone else preempt his injury reporting power and that his judgement in these matters is better than the clock management.

If he's serious about putting McCoy out there for four quarters, someone in that Eagles front office needs to do a Jerry Jones and end it. McCoy is too valuable to play games with.

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vick wants roster, coaching turnover to end

Feels Eagles have right players, coaches.
With no chance for a winning record and the futures of Pro Bowl talents DeSean Jackson and Asante Samuel uncertain, the Eagles could undergo significant change over the offseason.

Then there's the coaching staff. To save his job as head coach Andy Reid might have to relieve Juan Castillo, the defensive coordinator, of his duties.

Quarterback Michael Vick wants to keep it all together. If ownership is listening, that's coaches and players - keep it all together.

“You look at all the teams that are winning Super Bowls in the last couple of years,” Vick said. “Those teams have been together for a long time. That’s how leaders are born and that’s how guys learn to step up and accept the challenge of their role in the offense and the defense. There’s got to be a balance. You’ve got to have veteran guys and leaders who have been together for a long time, who learn to become a voice in the locker room. And these guys are doing it now.”

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

If Giants win, RB Jones won't face Eagles

Up to something - again.
Matt Mosley of FOX Sports Southwest has reported Cowboys running back Felix Jones (sore hamstring) will not play against the Eagles Saturday at 4:15 p.m. if the Giants beat the Jets at 1 p.m.

With the Giants (7-7) winning the Cowboys (8-6) still would be unable to clinch the NFC East pennant and the accompanying playoff berth.

The teams oppose each other in the regular season finale. If they finish with 9-7 records, the Giants win the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Listed questionable, Jones might play if the Giants lose because the Cowboys could clinch Saturday,

A Giants win would eliminate the Eagles.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Birds can be more aggressive without Samuel

LeSean McCoy, Asante Samuel warm up
Asante Samuel and his hamstring are out. That means the Eagles can play the style of defense they used to play when the late Jim Johnson was calling the games.

Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are accomplished press cornerbacks.

They use their height and long arms to leverage and jam receivers at the line of scrimmage, disrupting their rhythm.
They also are adept at covering down the field without deep help from the safeties.

That could allow the Eagles to blitz Tony Romo more, and use their safeties in run support.

The late Johnson's most effective defenses were with Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor playing press. Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie  are built like their predecessors.

Samuel's strength is playing off the ball. He's nowhere near as long-legged or armed as DRC or Nnamdi.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

McCoy, Peters, Babin are Pro Bowl locks

All but officially in.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, offensive tackle Jason Peters and defensive end Jason Babin are certain to be voted into the Pro Bowl.

McCoy has 20 touchdowns, Babin 18 sacks and Peters may be the best offensive lineman in football right now.

The last of the players/coaches vote takes place this week. That counts two-thirds in the process with the fan vote the other third.

Defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson deserve Pro Bowl consideration, as does offensive tackle Todd Herremans and safety Kurt Coleman.
Can he make it on reputation?

You could even make cases for cornerbacks Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel and wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

But remember three Pro Bowl players are a lot for a 6-8 team.

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Jerry Jones' talk "reverse psychology"

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones loves drama so much it appears he's trying to create some.
Says the Eagles scare him. Seriously.

"After the butt kicking they gave us, I'm scared," Jones said.

Eagles defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins almost fell on his butt

after hearing it.

"I think he’s trying to use a little reverse psychology on his players or something and see how they respond," Jenkins said among other things.

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DRC could return kickoffs

Rookie running.back Dion Lewis has hit the wall.

His fumbled kickoff last week could have turned the Jets game around.

It also could mean the Eagles revisit Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as their  kickoff returner.

Special teams coach Bobby April said the change was a possibility this week against the Cowboys.

DRC got hurt returning a kickoff a month ago.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rookie answer to a stupid question

Just because a player is asked a ridiculous question doesn't mean he has to answer.

And so it was Tuesday for rookie linebacker Casey Matthews.

The Eagles need to win two games and pray for two other favorable outcomes to get into the playoffs. Their longest winning streak - two games.

When Matthews was asked if the Eagles would be a dangerous team in the playoffs, he should have acknowledged how presumptuous the question was. After all, he's a rookie.

Instead he took it on and realizing how ridiculous it was, mentioned that at the end of his answer. Some film editor will cut that off and Matthews will come off as arrogant.

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With vet coordinator, Eagles in playoffs

Ann Margret on holiday with Troops.
With an experienced defensive coordinator, the Eagles are in the playoffs.

That's basically the conclusion of this insightful piece.

It's obvious to you, me and everyone else who knows Andy Reid has three timeouts a half. And it's going to be scrutinized by  ownership at the end of the season.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Andy Reid 'huge Jets fan'

Huge 'Jets' fan, or 'huge' Jets fan?
The Eagles need to beat the Cowboys Saturday.

To stay in the playoff hunt they also need the Jets to defeat the Giants this Saturday.

Realizing that, Eagles head coach Andy Reid proclaimed "I'm a huge Jets fan."

Which can be interpreted multiple ways.

At any rate he wants the Jets to prevail this weekend.

And the Jets are 3-point favorites - as well as the home team - when they take on the Giants Saturday at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.

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Castillo rallied defense with video

The Fighter.
The Fighter came out in Juan Castillo a couple of weeks ago.

To see where the heads of his players were, the workaholic defensive coordinator cued up footage of the bouts between Micky Ward and the late Arturo Gatti, who went toe-to-toe without giving up an inch in a series of epic fights.

Ward's story ultimately was told in The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg (Vince Papale in Invincible). 

I don't think it was a coincidence the Eagles shutdown the Dolphins' vaunted short-yardage running attack after they watched those fighters pound each other yet refuse to give in.

Or that the Eagles dropped the Jets with a torrent of shots unleashed largely by the defense Sunday.

Castillo made his point and so did his players. More on that later.

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Juan Castillo is Eagles unsung hero

After a rough start Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo has hit his stride over the past two games.

His players appreciate it, starting with Jason Babin. With 18 sacks, he's just three away from tying the immortal Reggie White's club record set in just 12 games during the 1987 strike-shortened season.

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Larry The Cable Guy tailgate joke favorites

Comedian Larry The Cable Guy stopped in Sunday to pitch the Prilosec OTC tailgate challenge (

The Nebraska-born Cable Guy is quite the football fan. He's pals with Clete Blakeman, the referee for the Eagles-Jets contest.

"If you see him tell him I'm outside here working," the Cable Guy said of Blakeman, who played quarterback at Nebraska from 1983-87.

In addition to promoting a healthier tailgate and the Prilosec OTC contest with a door prize of Super Bowl tickets, The Cable Guy dropped a couple of good jokes on his fans.

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Tapp, Laws scratched for Jets

The Eagles deactivated injured defensive linemen Darryl Tapp and Trevor Laws.

Also scratched - Brandon Hughes, Julian Vandervelde,  Winston Justice, Greg Lloyd and Cedric Thornton.

Obviously the Eagles felt it would be more productive to go with three defensive tackles instead of letting Thornton debut. That despite a run-first Jets attack.

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(Below, Larry The Cable Guy autographs hats at a Prilosec OTC tailgate party outside the Linc)

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Reid will have his day with ownership

"Over there? Be right with you, Joe."
For those who have had a tough time finding my piece about what's ahead for Eagles head coach Andy Reid,  here's the latest.

No decision - repeat, no decision - has been made yet.

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Saturday, December 17, 2011

When sacks don't translate to wins

This one led to a win.
If it's sacks you want, your guy is Jason Babin.

Babin has 28 sacks in two seasons, including 15 this year.

Victories are another thing.

Babin's teams are a collective 11-18 in spite of all the production.

Disruptive as those sacks are supposed to be, the cold, hard fact is they don't show up  nearly as big in the win column.

The Titans went 6-10 with Babin getting 13 sacks in 2010.

The Eagles are 5-8 with 15 Babin sacks and counting this season.
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Check out 'Angry Birds' pass rush

Got to appreciate the creative effort the Eagles' website people used to illustrate the key to victory over the Jets.

The 'Angry Birds' pass rush in this cartoon getting after Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is essential to disrupting the timing of the offense. In it the Birds launch defensive linemen Jason Babin, Mike Patterson, Cullen Jenkins and Trent Cole at Sanchez (piloting the plane).

But the Eagles must stop the run to make this plan viable. They can expect to see a lot of running back Shonn Greene Sunday at the Linc.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Eagles rookie Thornton back on his feet

Rookie Eagles defensive tackle Cedric Thornton has worked his way up from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.

And it's taken effort as this video clip illustrates.

Thornton now is acing this drill (much to the chagrin of teammates searching for comic relief). He could be activated Sunday when the Eagles oppose the Jets at Lincoln Financial Field.

To beat the Jets the Eagles must limit the ground game with running back Shonn Greene. To stop the run the Eagles need a fresh rotation of linemen.

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How Eagles avoid elimination Sunday

Eagles need this guy to choke.
If the Cowboys (7-6) lose Saturday and the Eagles beat the Jets the following day, the Birds (5-8) still would be in the NFC East title chase after the weekend.

There will be no division chase if the Cowboys beat the Bucs and the Giants (7-6) defeat the Redskins. Or if the Eagles lose and either the Cowboys or Giants prevail.

If the Eagles lose to the Jets, their wild card hopes are shot.

If the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants win and the Lions (8-5) beat the Raiders (4:15 p.m. start), the Birds are playing for next season.

Finally there will be no playoffs for the Eagles if they, the Cowboys and Giants win, the Seahawks (6-7) beat the Bears and the Cardinals (6-7) beat the Browns.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sitting out practice not worst thing for Vick

The good news: quarterback Michael Vick attended the Wednesday practice where the Eagles put in their game plan.

Actually it's 3 cracked ribs.
It also indicates round-the-clock rehab isn't necessary for the cracked ribs on his throwing side.

The bad news: Vick's ribs are too sore for him to practice. Remember, he's played just one game in four weeks because of the rib issue. This could go down to the wire.

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Eagles cannot be eliminated before kickoff

The Eagles can be 86ed from the division pennant hunt right around the time they hit the field for their 4:15 p.m. kickoff Sunday with the New York Jets.

But they will be alive for a wild card berth when their game with the Jets begins.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, if the Cowboys, Giants, Falcons and Bears all win before the kickoff, the possibility would exist that the Eagles, Lions and Bears all could finish 8-8 and in a tie for the final wild card berth.

The Lions would beat the Bears in a division tiebreaker and Eagles-Lions would come down to strength of victory. That would depend on how the teams the Eagles and the Lions beat this year do in their final three games.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Celek tops Eagles in catches, second in drops

On pace for 59 catches, 11 drops.
If Brent Celek, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and McCoy keep up the pace, the Eagles would become the third  NFL team with five players catching 50 or more passes  in the same season.

They also would have the worst record of all those teams. But who's counting?

The Patriots had five receivers with 50-plus receptions in 1994.  Among the group - Michael Timpson (74) and Kevin Turner (52), who would become Eagles. Drew Bledsoe quarterbacked the Bill Parcells team that went 10-6.

The 1980 Browns went 11-5 with league MVP Brian Sipe at quarterback, Sam Rutigliano the head coach.

By the way Celek's five drops trail only team leader Jackson (nine drops).

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Eagles $4 million mistake

The Eagles signed wide receiver Steve Smith to a one-year $4 million contract  near the end of training camp.

Didn't work out.
On Monday they put Smith on injured reserve, ending  the season of the veteran who caught 107 passes for the Giants in 2009 but just 11 in nine games with his new team. Smith also bagged a touchdown - against the Giants.

Apparently the knee injury that reduced Smith’s 2010 season to nine games flared up. He practiced fully last week but made the trip to Miami. He was scratched for the game against the Dolphins.

When the Eagles signed Smith, they said they weren't concerned about Jeremy Maclin, who was awaiting tests to see if he had cancer. Those tests were negative.
Despite their best efforts the Eagles couldn't find a role for Smith. They needed the roster space due to injuries on the defensive line.

The Eagles gave Smith's roster spot to undrafted rookie defensive tackle Cedric Thornton, signed off the practice squad.

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