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Sacks in 3 seasons for 2014 1st-round pick Marcus Smith, cut by Eagles on Wednesday

We provide five areas that could determine whether the Sixers have a bad season or an awful season.

The undefeated Villanova Wildcats are far and away the best team in the City Six. Eric Fisher also tells us help may be on the way for Temple, why Penn’s future is looking brighter and what to look for during a light pre-Christmas schedule.

What if, like the participants in WWE’s Royal Rumble on Sunday, we could throw out all the people we’re sick of in the local sports scene? Eric Fisher gives his best effort to eliminate those who need to go.

Archive for the ‘Eagles’ Category

Birds make for good underdogs

Posted by Gordon Glantz On July - 23 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Blame it on George Washington.

No, not the high school in Northeast Philly.

No, not the double-decker bridge connecting Fort Lee, N.J., to Upper Manhattan.

Talking about the father of our country.

The original GW.

The guy who could tell no lies.

Why, you may ask?

Because when he led the rag-tag Colonial army to victory over the superior forces of the British Army, it was the upset of all upsets.

Vegas odds had the war ending, in Britain’s favor, within an over/under time frame of eight months. Instead, after eight years, a new nation was born.

And we Americans have embraced underdogs ever since.

Even if a nameless and faceless No. 5 seed is playing a No. 4 seed during March Madness, we are now genetically engineered to cheer for the No. 5 seed for no other reason.

In Philadelphia, where the country was born, we have an incurable case of US (Underdog Syndrome). We have it so bad that we erect statues to a fictional character, Rocky Balboa, because he was the ultimate cinematic underdog.

And when it comes to our football team, the Philadelphia Eagles, a new Rocky figure is born every August when some kid with a relatable tale to tell comes out of nowhere to make an unlikely run for a roster spot.

The franchise’s past includes many such figures – such as 1948 and 1949 title-winning quarterback Tommy Thompson, who was blind in one eye – but really came into focus during the tenure of Dick Vermeil, who molded a championship contender out of a lot of undrafted and recycled free agents and low draft picks.

The most notable Rocky figure in football gear is Vince Papale, whose story – although “Hollyweirded” – was told in the movie “Invincible.”

In actuality, another Eagle in the Dick Vermeil Era – Lem Burnham – may have made for a better flick. Originally a 15th round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs in 1974 (out of U.S. International, where he played after a decorated four-year stint in the Marines), Burnham played with the Hawaii team in the ill-fated WFL (as did Papale, for the Philadelphia Bell) and then made the Eagles, albeit after stopover with the Washington Redskins and Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Burnham led the Eagles in sacks with in 1977 with 10.

An undersized defensive end (234 pounds), he remained with the Eagles all the way through the 1980 NFC championship season, although he spent it on IR. Burnham then worked as the team psychologist for the Eagles and 76ers, and later the Baltimore Orioles before moving on work as an executive with the NFL and developing the rookie symposium.

The Buddy Ryan Era saw several Rocky types. Running back Junior Tautalatasi was a college backup out of Washington drafted in the 10th round who turned a big preseason, and a Keith Byars injury, into an opening-day start in the backfield. He started one other game as a rookie and caught 41 passes after settling in as the third-down back. Unable, or unwilling, to say his last name, Ryan dubbed the oft-injured Tautalatasi “Junior Smith.”

And who could forget Marvin Hargove? He was the Willingboro, N.J., native who had an OK college career at Richmond, but still asked Ryan for a chance. A receiver/returner, Hargrove ran a 4.5 40 and, probably as more of a PR stunt, was put on the training camp roster in 1990. Added to the roster during the season, he caught a touchdown pass from Randall Cunningham on his first snap, only to never catch a pass again before being released before the end of the season.

Running back Vaughan Hebron and quarterback Jay Fiedler each made the team as undrafted rookies under Rich Kotite. Hebron later won a Super Bowl ring with the Denver Broncos while Fielder bounced around, including a stint in Europe, before becoming the starter in Miami and leading the Dolphins to their only playoff win since Dan Marino retired.

Andy Reid was known for giving undrafted rookies opportunities and folk heroes included Sam “Truck Driver” Rayburn and receiver Chad Hall, who came by way of a hitch in the Air Force.

Since Chip Kelly generally had his 53-man roster set in his head no matter who did what in training camp, we’ll give him credit for current tight end Trey Burton – and deduct points for not even finding a spot on the practice squad for home-grown receiver Rasheed Bailey – and move to the present regime.

A year ago, in Doug Pederson’s first year, it was undrafted receiver Paul Turner out of Louisiana Tech who turned a strong preseason into practice squad berth and an eventual promotion to the active roster.

Which brings us to the present. Who will be this year’s player who steps out of the shadows and threatens to shake up the depth chart and, at the very least, create a nice storyline for a few weeks?

Here is a list of likely suspects to steal your heart:

1. David Watford, WR: A college quarterback (three years at Virginia, one at Hampton), Watford had a promising showing as a UDFA last summer while learning the receiver position, even catching a touchdown pass in a preseason game. He was kept on the practice squad and could really shine, without much advance fanfare this year. He was the athleticism and size (6-foot-2, 209 pounds) as well as a work ethic and desire to learn that has made him a favorite among the coaches, who seem to have seen more long-term potential than with Turner. He could just as easily become a fan favorite next. If drafted rookies Mack Hollins and/or Shelton Gibson struggle or Nelson Agholor continues to play himself off team while Watford makes plays, look out.

2. Aaron Grymes, CB: Like Watford, Grymes plays a noticeable position and one of dire need, meaning fans could be drawn to any light he might shine on a dark situation. Grymes, like Watford, played well last preseason – after standing out in the CFL – and could not only push for a roster spot but for playing time in nickel and dime packages.

3. Joe Walker, LB: Almost a lock to make the team, Walker is the reason the Eagles didn’t really go hard for linebacker depth during the offseason. A seventh-round pick last year, he had the team made before a knee injury. Still, for the average fan there is the out-of-sight, out-of-mind aspect that will make him popular in the preseason. Plus, the whole “battling-back-from-injury” angle always plays well in Philly.

4. Corey Clement, RB: Like Papale, Hargrove and Bailey, the undrafted 1,000-yard rusher last season at Wisconsin has the local thing working for him, as he is from Glassboro, N.J. Clement was projected be a mid-round pick but his tweener status – 5-11, 209 with middling speed and power – made him hard to peg and he slipped through the cracks. Nonetheless, backs in this category have found by-committee success in the NFL by just hitting the holes that are there without any extra fancy footwork. While fourth-round pick Donnel Pumphrey is the most likely rookie to excite in the preseason, Clement only has the likes of last year’s fifth-round pick Wendell Smallword and Byron Marshall in his way to carve a place for himself.

5. Randall Goforth, DB: An UDFA out of UCLA, Goforth was productive, passionate and always around the ball in college. His size (a generous 5-10, 190) makes him tough to project at safety, and a lack of elite speed (north of 4.5) limits him at just the slot as a corner. Still, a football player is a football player is a football player. As is the case with Grymes, the lack of clarity in the secondary creates a real chance here.

 

10 camp questions

Posted by Eric Fisher On July - 20 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

There are always a lot of questions surrounding the Eagles as they begin training camp. Some of them are answered during training camp. Some are not.

With starters usually seeing very little time during the preseason, with the third game being the most likely opportunity to see them for a full half and the fourth game being the time most likely not to see them at all, some questions will remain unanswered until the regular season.

Despite the uncertainty, here are 10 questions to consider during Eagles training camp.

How much will Carson Wentz improve?

Nothing is riding on this other than the Eagles’ hopes for a division title and playoff berth. Wentz reportedly worked to improve his mechanics during the offseason. There will be daily reports from practice on Wentz’s accuracy, but game conditions – even preseason games – will be the best indicator of whether Wentz improved.

Who will start at cornerback?

This might be the biggest question mark entering training camp. If there were good options, the Eagles wouldn’t have so many of them. The Eagles didn’t bring in veteran Patrick Robinson to sit on the bench. A big question mark is Ron Brooks, who was injured last season. Jalen Mills, a seventh-round draft pick, earned points by battling last season when pressed into a starting role. Aaron Grymes played well last summer before getting injured. Third-round draft pick Rasul Douglas will have to shed his reputation for getting beat deep to earn a major role. C.J. Smith shouldn’t be counted out, and Dwayne Gratz, Mitchell White and Jomal Wiltz will receive an opportunity to show they are more than bodies for training camp.

How will the Eagles use LaGarette Blount?

The real question is whether Blount will be the featured running back. He ran for 18 touchdowns last season with the Patriots, but remember that DeMarco Murray led the NFL in rushing the year before the Eagles acquired him. The issue with Blount is that he doesn’t have much history catching the ball out of the backfield. In the Eagles’ scheme, having a running back who can be a receiving threat seems essential. With Blount in the game, the Eagles will either run the ball or use Blount as a decoy in a play-action pass. Will Blount come out of the game on third down or second-and-long? Will he get the ball on third down in short-yardage situations?

How much better will the receivers be?

They can’t be any worse than last season. The addition of Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith should automatically improve the receiving corps. Jordan Matthews, the former No. 1 receiver will be, at best, the No. 2 receiver. Matthews’ contract is up after this season, so it will be interesting to see what role he plays. The receivers could also be better if former first-round selection Nelson Aghlor improves (see next question). Rookies Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson are competing for the final spot(s) with holdovers Paul Turner, Bryce Treggs and converted quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (For a complete breakdown of every position, see Gordon Glantz’s training camp preview.)

Will Nelson Agholor look like a first-round draft pick?

Agholor, the 20th overall pick in 2015, had 36 receptions last season. He also has had a tendency to drop passes during his first two NFL seasons.  He reportedly looked better in the mini-camps, but that won’t be worth anything if he drops passes during training camp and in preseason games.

Eagles-Barnett2How much of an impact should we expect Derek Barnett to make in his rookie season?

There is an opportunity for Barnett to get a lot of playing time as a rookie opposite defensive end Brandon Graham. On the other hand, rookie defensive ends don’t usually make too much of an impact. How well Barnett plays during the preseason could affect how many defensive ends – and which ones – the Eagles keep on their final roster. The disappointing Vinny Curry and first-round bust Marcus Smith (see next question) are among those competing for playing time at defensive end.

Will Marcus Smith make the final roster?

Let’s see how Smith plays during the preseason. He certainly didn’t help his chances by skipping voluntary offseason team activities. With Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett and Vinny Curry virtual locks to make the team, and veteran Chris Long having a decent shot at making the roster, Smith may find himself on the outside looking in if Alex McAlister, Steven Means or Destiny Vaeao displays better skills and a better attitude.

Who will start on the offensive line?

The early call seems to be Jason Peters and Lane Johnson at the tackles, Jason Kelce at center and Brandon Brooks and Allen Barbre at guard. But don’t be shocked if Isaac Seumalo replaces Barbre at guard. The real competition is for the backup offensive line positions. Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and guard Chance Warmack would seem to have the inside track, but don’t count out Josh Andrews, Dillon Gordon, Tyler Orlosky, Darrell Greene and converted defensive end Taylor Hart. Veteran Matt Tobin, who has started for the Eagles, might find himself looking for a job.

Will Nick Foles make Eagles fans more confident that this team can survive an injury to Carson Wentz?

If the Eagles are going to insist on having former Chiefs as their backup quarterback, Nick Foles seems to be a better option than Chase Daniel, who the Eagles signed to an absurdly expensive contract last season. Foles, of course, is a former Eagle who threw 27 touchdown passes in 2013 while throwing just two interceptions. With Foles around, a minor injury to Wentz shouldn’t be a disaster.

Who will be the punter?

We could see an interesting battle between veteran Donnie Jones and rookie Cameron Johnston, so keep paying attention during the preseason when the offense leaves the field for fourth down.

 


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