Frank: A forecast of your 2011 Eagles

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Frank: A forecast of your 2011 Eagles

Football is back, and all of a sudden, opening day is just seven weeks away. Teams must now squeeze an entire six-month offseason into less than two months. A frenzy of roster moves that will give the Eagles new look especially on defense starts now.

So what might the Eagles lineups look like on Sept. 11, when they open their 78th season in St. Louis against the Rams?

Counting some of the key backup spots, we figure there are 15 jobs up for grabs 17 if you include the kicking game.

Some of the 17 guys who win those jobs are already on the roster, some will be newcomers. Whatever happens, the next week is guaranteed to be one of the most eventful offseason weeks in Eagles history.

Heres one look at what the Eagles opening-day lineup may look like:

Offense
Quarterback: Michael Vick will make his first opening-day start in five years, since he started for the Falcons in the 2006 opener, a 20-6 win over the Panthers in Charlotte. Following Donovan McNabb in 2009 and Kevin Kolb in 2010, this will be the first time the Eagles have used different quarterbacks in three consecutive season openers since 1998 through 2000, with Bobby Hoying, Doug Pederson and McNabb.

Backup Quarterback: How important is this position? Only once in the last eight years has the Eagles starting QB started all 16 games. That was McNabb in 2008. Considering the reckless way Vick plays, the Eagles are more likely to bring in a veteran to be No. 2 once they trade Kevin Kolb than take their chances with Mike Kafka. Rex Grossman? Nope. Tarvaris Jackson? Nah. Hey, Brett Favre is about due to unretire, right? No, thanks. Well go with Matt Hasselbeck, if he becomes available and cant get a starting job. Otherwise, our pick is Marc Bulger.

Tailback: LeSean McCoy is back for his second year as the Eagles fulltime running back after an 1,080-yard rushing, 78-reception, nine-touchdown season. Only four players in NFL history including Brian Westbrook have ever had more than one season with 1,000 rushing yards and 75 catches. Barring injury, McCoy is a lock to become the fifth.

Backup Tailback: We kind of like what Jerome Harrison brought to the Eagles after that lopsided Mike Bell trade with the Browns. Harrison averaged 6.0 yards on 40 carries, highest by any Eagle running back with 40 or more carries since Timmy Brown averaged 6.8 yards per carry in 1961. Harrison is a free agent and wants to be a starter, but in this convoluted offseason, his chances to start somewhere appear slim. If hes willing to come back, wed love to have him. And wed like to see him get a handful of meaningful touches a game.

Fullback: In a normal offseason, rookie Stanley Havili would get every opportunity to win the starting fullback job. This year? With no offseason workouts? And no chance to practice with his teammates and impress or even meet his coaches? Its going to be very difficult for somebody like Havili to win a job. So well go with inspirational incumbent Owen Schmitt, whos not Leonard Weaver but is certainly a capable enough guy.

Wide Receiver: With 1,945 career receiving yards (including playoffs), Jeremy Maclin ranks third in NFL history in receiving yards before his 23rd birthday (behind Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald and just ahead of DeSean Jackson). Maclin, who fell 36 yards shy of 1,000 last year, seems ready to enter the NFLs receiving elite in his third season.

Wide Receiver: Same stat, different age. With 2,978 career receiving yards, DeSean Jackson ranks fourth in NFL history in receiving yards before turning 24 (behind Moss, David Boston and Fitzgerald). The big challenge facing Jackson this year is becoming more consistent a year after being limited to fewer than 35 yards in six of his 15 games.

Third Wide Receiver: Jason Avants catches have increased in each of his five NFL seasons (7, 23, 32, 41, 51), and hes now one of the top third-down receivers in football. One through three, the Eagles have the best receiving corps in football. Look for Riley Cooper to blossom as the fourth guy in that group in his second year.

Tight End: Brent Celeks numbers were cut almost in half during an injury-plagued 2010 season, and the Eagles need a big bounce-back season from Celek this fall in his third year as a full-time starter. Were high on promising Clay Harbor as the backup.

Left Tackle: The only position on the offensive line thats etched in stone. Jason Peters goes into his third year with the Eagles, and when healthy, hes a dominating blocker.

Left Guard: Todd Herremans is the incumbent, but we believe the Eagles strongest offensive line features Herremans at right tackle, so were going to pencil in Mike McGlynn at left guard and swing Herremans outside.

Center: Jamaal Jackson returns after missing the 2009 postseason and all of last year with major injuries. If Jackson can return to form, it would be huge for an offensive line that struggled badly last year.

Right Guard: After a couple unsettled years following Shawn Andrews problems (Nick Cole, Stacy Andrews, Max Jean-Gilles, Reggie Wells, etc.), right guard is finally in good hands with rookie Danny Watkins. Hell be a stud. Hed better be a stud.

Right Tackle: Reid still wants competition here, so hell give Winston Justice a chance to win his job back, and hell give surprising King Dunlap a shot, too. But when all is said and done, weve got the veteran Herremans as the opening-day starter.

Defense

Defensive End: Trent Cole is one of only two players in the NFL whos had eight or more sacks every year since 2006 (DeMarcus Ware is the other). With 57 sacks, Cole trails only Reggie White and Clyde Simmons in Eagles history. Pretty fair company.

Defensive End: The Eagles have been trying to upgrade Juqua Parker for a while now, but Parker has an edge this year since hes a veteran, knows the defense, has played for Jim Washburn and produces enough to stay around hes one of only seven players with at least five sacks in each of the last five seasons.

We love Parkers effort, but the Eagles desperately need more pressure. Victor Abiamiri? Ricky Sapp? Darryl Tapp? Daniel Teo-Nesheim? Phillip Hunt? Rehabbing Brandon Graham? The Eagles have plenty of bodies, but we think they need more than what they have. Jason Babin is everybodys favorite D-end, and there is the Washburn connection, but the reality is Babin netted 17 sacks in his first six seasons before recording 12 last year. Hes not going to come cheap, and hes 31. Which Jason Babin would the Eagles get? Tamba Hali, the former Penn Stater whos been playing 3-4 linebacker with the Chiefs but is really a 4-3 end, is younger and has been more productive, with four seasons of 7 or more sacks since 2006, including 14 last year second-most in the NFL. He wont be cheap, but Halis our guy.

Defensive Tackle: Solid Mike Patterson stays.

Defensive Tackle: Underachieving Brodrick Bunkley goes. The Eagles need more from their interior defensive front, and Bunkley just hasnt become the elite player he should be. Albert Haynesworth? Just tough to imagine the Eagles going in that direction. Theres a role for Antonio Dixon, but well dip into free agency for our starter Seahawks free agent Brandon Mebane, just 26, and a 310-pound run stuffer who can collapse the pocket.

Strong Linebacker: We want Stewart Bradley back, not to play in the middle but at strong-side, where his athleticism is such an asset. Hes got to find a way to stay healthy, but if he can, Bradley is solid.

Middle Linebacker: We saw enough of Jamar Chaney last year to believe hell be just fine in the middle. Thats two pieces of a decent (finally) linebacking crew.

Weak Linebacker: Keenan Clayton gets the first crack at a position thats been unsettled since forever. Clayton is said to be bigger and stronger than in his rookie season, and we saw last year that hes active and around the ball. BradleyChaneyClayton is potentially a very productive group.

Right Cornerback: The Eagles just have too many needs to pay what Nnamdi Asomugha wants. We think Ike Taylor is OK, but Jonathan Joseph of the Bengals is more skilled, younger and will probably be cheaper. Hes our guy.
Left Cornerback: In three seasons, Asante Samuel has only eight fewer interceptions than Troy Vincent had in eight years with the Eagles.

Nickel Cornerback: Joselio Hanson struggles when he moves outside, but hes solid inside.

Free Safety: Nate Allen is back, hes healthy, and expectations are very high for the second-year pro.

Strong Safety: It wont be easy for Jaiquawn Jarrett to condense an entire offseason of learning into a month and a half, but Quintin Mikell certainly seems headed somewhere where hes assured of a starting job, so were going to stick with the Temple rookie. The fallback if Jarrett isnt ready? Marlin Jackson?

Special Teams

Kicker: They drafted Alex Henery for a reason. David Akers is one of the greatest outdoorbad-weather kickers in NFL history. Its a shame his worst game as an Eagle will likely be his last.

Punter: If you want to replace Sav Rocca, you better be ready to find somebody better. Dont think you will. Roccas net has improved in each of his four NFL seasons, and his 37.6 career net is best in franchise history. Hes back.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 3

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Instant Replay: Nationals 4, Phillies 3

BOX SCORE

Jeremy Hellickson did everything he could Monday night to stop the bleeding a rough road trip through Detroit and Chicago provided the Phillies.

But the usually consistent Hector Neris had his worst inning of the year and Washington pounced.

The Nationals scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning and snapped a four-game losing streak to the Phillies with a 4-3 win on Monday at Citizens Bank Park.

Jayson Werth’s two-out RBI single plated the tying run in the top of the eighth to even the score at 2-2. Neris then walked Chris Heisey to load the bases for Daniel Murphy, who homered earlier. He delivered with the crushing blow, a two-run single that put the Nationals ahead for good.

Jonathan Papelbon, whom the Phillies have had success against at Citizens Bank Park, worked around back-to-back doubles by Maikel Franco and Ryan Howard to start the ninth inning and to pick up his 14th save of the season.

Papelbon fanned pinch-hitter Tommy Joseph with a slider, blew a fastball by Cesar Hernandez and got Tyler Goeddel to line out to second base to end the game.

The Phillies, now losers in eight of 10, saw their record fall to 26-25. On Tuesday, they’ll try to avoid falling to .500 for the first time since April 26.

Starting pitching report
In a pitcher’s duel against Washington’s Tanner Roark, Hellickson was dominant in seven innings of work. He needed just 79 pitches in those innings before being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning.

For the fifth straight time, Hellickson held his opponents to three runs or less. He struck out eight Nationals and scattered just three hits while not issuing a walk. Hellickson left the game in line for the win, but the Phillies' usually efficient bullpen faltered.

Hellickson struck out the side in the sixth inning, which ended with Werth swinging through a breaking ball.

Bullpen report
Neris entered Monday having not given up a run since May 6, a streak of nine and 2/3 innings. He started off by striking out Wilson Ramos with his nasty splitter.

Neris then walked Danny Espinosa before getting pinch-hitter Clint Robinson to line out for the inning’s second out. But command continued to be an issue. Neris walked Ben Revere to keep the inning alive for Werth, who made him pay. And then Murphy made it worse.

Jeanmar Gomez came on to clean up the eighth inning and then pitched a perfect ninth inning.

At the plate
The Phillies used their small ball ways to score the game’s first run in the bottom of the second. Back-to-back one-out walks of Hernandez, who would steal second and reach third on a wild pitch, and Goeddel put runners on the corners for Hellickson, who executed a perfect sacrifice safety squeeze bunt to score Hernandez.

After Washington tied the game at 1-1 on a Murphy home run, the Phillies struck back in the bottom of the sixth with a Freddy Galvis homer on a 1-2 slider down in the zone. Galvis went down to get the pitch and drove it to the right field seats for what turned out to be the game-winning run.

Howard, who was given the start at first base after sitting Sunday, was 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts and a long flyout to deep right-centerfield before he smashed an RBI double to follow up Franco’s double to kick off the ninth inning.

In the field
Howard’s leaping catch of Ramos’ line drive to end the second inning helped keep the Nationals off the board early.

Goeddel, who made that game-ending throw to the plate a few weeks back, again showed off his arm in the top of the seventh inning. With Bryce Harper on first base after being hit by a Hellickson fastball in the knee, Murphy, moments after hitting a home run foul and out of play, drove a pitch toward the gap in left-centerfield.

Goeddel closed on it and quickly fired to first. Harper, slow getting back to the base, was doubled off as Howard deceptively waited to show his glove until the ball neared. Washington manager Dusty Baker challenged the play, but a review that lasted two minutes and 15 seconds confirmed the call on the field.

Franco made a catch in the eighth inning similar to Howard’s. Robinson sent a line shot over the head of Franco, who made a full-extension grab with his glove. He appeared to injure his left shoulder on the play but remained in the game.

Asche on the way?
Cody Asche, who continues to work his way back from an oblique injury, went 1 for 4 Monday afternoon with a home run - his second during his rehab assignment - in Lehigh Valley’s 6-4 win over Norfolk.

Asche’s 20-day rehab assignment concludes Wednesday. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the club would look at Asche then and said it's a “possibility” the 25-year-old joins the Phillies after.

Up next
The Phillies continue their 10-game homestand on Tuesday with Aaron Nola (4-3, 2.86 ERA) facing off against Washington’s Joe Ross (4-4, 2.52).

NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

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NL East Wrap: Mets SP Matt Harvey gets back on track in win over White Sox

NEW YORK -- On the mound in the seventh inning for the first time this season, Matt Harvey gave up his first walk of the game and his second hit, leading to a sacrifice bunt and a second-and-third jam.

"You kind of think about the worst at that point," he said. "You start getting some negative thoughts that creep in your head."

But 11 days after disappointed fans at Citi Field booed him like a villain, the Dark Knight was back - at least for one afternoon.

Harvey retired Todd Frazier on a foulout and J.B. Shuck on a grounder to escape trouble, Neil Walker homered off Jose Quintana on the second pitch of the bottom half and the New York Mets beat Chicago 1-0 Monday to send the reeling White Sox to their seventh straight loss.

"Today's a big first step," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia got six straight outs to complete the two-hitter, preserving Harvey's first win since May 8. Harvey struck out six, walked two and threw four pitches of 98-98.5 mph after not topping 97.5 mph previously this season. He threw 61 of 87 pitches for strikes (see full recap).

Mallex Smith's 3-run triple powers Braves past Giants
ATLANTA -- Mike Foltynewicz is showing he can be more than just a fastball pitcher - and that he can be part of the Braves' long-term rotation.

Foltynewicz continued his recent upswing by allowing only three hits and one run in six-plus innings, Mallex Smith hit a three-run triple and Atlanta beat Jeff Samardzija and the San Francisco Giants 5-3 on Monday.

The Braves survived San Francisco's two-run, ninth-inning rally. They have won three of four and are 5-21 at home, still easily the worst in the majors.

Foltynewicz (2-2) gave up a leadoff homer to Brandon Belt in the second inning, but allowed only one other runner to advance to second.

Foltynewicz, 24, has had other recent strong starts, including eight scoreless innings in a 5-0 win at Kansas City on May 14. His start on Monday may have been his most impressive demonstration of altering the speeds of his fastball while mixing in a curveball and slider (see full recap).

Locke tosses three-hit shutout against Marlins
MIAMI -- Jeff Locke tossed a three-hitter and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Miami Marlins 10-0 on Monday night.

Gregory Polanco's grand slam, Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer, and David Freese's four hits helped power the offense for the Pirates, who won the first of a four-game series in Miami. The first two games were originally scheduled to be played in Puerto Rico, but were moved due to concerns of the Zika virus.

Locke (4-3) struck out one and did not walk a batter while throwing 67 of 105 pitches for strikes. It was his first complete game in 101 career starts. Locke retired 19 straight at one point and needed just six pitches to get through the seventh inning.

The announced crowd of 10,856 was a season-low for the Marlins, who entered the day averaging just under 20,000.

Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

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Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered no clues on Monday during his annual Stanley Cup Final address as to the state of NHL expansion or the current odds that Las Vegas gets a franchise.
 
The league’s Board of Governors will meet on June 22 to make a decision on expansion. The earliest a team(s) could play would be 2017-18.
 
Quebec City is also in the running, but the value of the Canadian dollars weighs heavily against another team being added north of the border at the moment.
 
If a Vegas franchise is added, it would have a direct impact on Pacific Division clubs such as the Sharks, who take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
 
Bettman refused to “handicap” the situation but said he expected to know at least a week in advance as to what the committee’s recommendation will be.
 
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said there are “a lot of on-going” issues related to expansion and some involve input from third parties.
 
“We’ve made good progress ... it hasn’t been quick progress,” Daly said.
 
Asked about rumors of the NFL, specifically the Oakland Raiders, going to Vegas and what that impact would mean to hockey, Bettman said he hasn’t even broached the topic of having two pro sports there with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or even considered such.
 
“If the NFL comes to Vegas at some point, so be it,” Bettman said. “We’re judging the application we have before us on the merits of that application.”
 
Bettman said the thought the NFL moving to Vegas, in his opinion, wasn’t “anywhere close to a done deal.”
 
Daly added that even if there is movement by the NFL toward Vegas, it would not be seen as a “deterrent” to the NHL expanding there.
 
Snider not replaced
Bettman said that former Flyers chairman Ed Snider’s spot on the 10-person executive and competition committees has not been filled since Snider's death in April.
 
Snider was an original member of the league’s competition committee and the only owner on it.
 
“He was a great owner and is terribly missed,” Bettman said.

More Olympic issues  
IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel have gone on record they want to end paying the out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players to attend the Olympics.
 
That’s a non-starter for the NHL if both organizations want participation of the NHL's players at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The practice of subsidy has been in effect for the past five Winter Olympics.
 
“If they are unable to resolve the issue, I have no doubt it will have an impact on our decision,” Bettman said, adding the NHL would have to take a hard look at continued Olympic participation since its member clubs aren’t interested in putting up the “many, many millions” it would take to make up the financial gap.
 
Whenever there is change in the IOC leadership, Bettman said, there are always discussions of whether some sports, such as hockey, should receive subsidies.