Clifton for the Sweep, Plus J-Roll Speaks

Clifton for the Sweep, Plus J-Roll Speaks

Cliff Lee (9-6, 2.83) toes the rubber this afternoon at Citizens Bank Park and will take on right-hander Aaron Harang (8-2, 3.29) as the Phillies look to continue their hot play of late and sweep the Padres out of town. The Fightins have taken the first three of this four game series with San Diego, and if they can earn the victory today, it will be their second consecutive four-game sweep of the Pads this season.

It's an early 1:05 pm start this afternoon from South Philadelphia.

We thought we'd use this game thread to take a look at what young James Calvin Rollins had to say about a wide range of topics. J-Roll spoke at length with Delaware Online's David Hale about how he's feeling physically, how he's been swinging the bat, how he keeps refueling the tank after all these years, and how he would feel if things didn't work out next season and Jimmy had to put on another team's uniform.

You can read Hale's article about Jimmy or opt for the full transcript of their discussion here.

There are plenty of insightful quotes from Rollins, and we could have highlighted many of them, but Jimmy on his approach is quite interesting.

Q. It’s not that you’ve changed who you are as a player, but
your walk rate is up this year, you’re seeing more pitches, swinging at
fewer first pitches.

A. It’s a little different, yeah. You just get
smarter. My approach hasn’t changed, you just get smarter with it.
There’s certain things that you naturally become better at. You start
recognizing it. You make adjustments. My approach is the same. I’m going
to be aggressive. Sometimes, it’s like — I don’t feel like swinging at
the first pitch. Other days, I’m swinging. You find what works. Some
days I don’t have the energy to swing at the first pitch, so I look for a
walk. You take a couple pitches and then you start getting into a
rhythm of the at-bat and can carry that through the whole game. In the
past, you feel a little tired – well, I’m going to make something
happen. I should go out there and force something to happen. It usually
doesn’t work out that way.

The second thing that sticks out, as Jimmy mentions above, is his energy or lack there of.

Perhaps all of that Red Bull is failing to give him wings as advertised.

From watching Rollins play the field, you wouldn't have thought for a second he has lost a step, is lacking energy, or is banged up. Jimmy's still a world class defender.

But occasionally you see him run to first on a basically routine ground out and his foot isn't exactly on the gas pedal. We know Jimmy's a bit banged up and getting older, but Hale's quotes from Rollins really make it seem worse than I had thought it actually was.

Jimmy on his thought process on stealing:

The way I choose to steal a base or the situation is always the same. If
it’s a base I have to steal, I’m going to steal it. If I don’t
necessarily have to steal it, it’s how do I feel today? How are my legs?
I’m not just going to run if I’m not feeling good and take a chance of
getting thrown out. If it’s a situation where I absolutely have to go,
the adrenaline takes care of you. My legs are a little tired today, my
knee’s bothering me – but I have to go. And then you make that first
move and it’s like – whoosh. Then you stop and it’s like, oh shoot that
hurts. But during that time you do what you have to do and it doesn’t
bother you.

At least we know he can get the job done when he absolutely needs to, but do those sound like quotes from a guy you'd give big money and big years to?

Make no mistake about it, Jimmy Rollins is one of the Phillies leaders and we most certainly hope to see him back at Citizens Bank Park next season and beyond. But will Jimmy and his agent see eye-to-eye with Ruben Amaro Jr.?

J-Roll says, after spending his entire career in Philly, he doesn't get attached.

"I’ve never been attached to anything. I understand everything is temporary," Rollins told Hale.

I'm not sure I believe him though.

>>Rollins Talks About His Season, His Role & His Future [Philled In]

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

FIlm Review: What led to Eagles' poor run defense against Washington?

The Eagles have vowed to get better. 

They desperately don't want to have a performance from their run defense like the one against Washington, when they gave up 230 yards on the ground. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said the run defense is "a pride thing" and the guys responsible for the performance, Jim Schwartz included, say things will get better. The defensive coordinator cited bad angles as a reason there were so many missed tackles on Sunday afternoon. 

In all, the Eagles missed 10 tackles and gave up 156 yards after contact — both more than they had given up in the first four games of the season. 

Washington's rushing yards came in some big chunks. Here's a look at some of the key running plays from Sunday as we try to figure out what went wrong: 

This is a key 3rd-and-7 from the Washington 13-yard line. On this drive, Washington ends up scoring a touchdown to go up 14-0, but it doesn't happen without this key third down conversion. 

The Eagles collapse the pocket and force Kirk Cousins to his left. That's exactly what Schwartz said he wants, to force the quarterback to his non-throwing side. Everything at this point is working out perfectly. 

Here's the angle that's really troublesome. At this point, Nigel Bradham (circled in green) has Cousins in his sights, while Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham (farther behind) are in pursuit. Curry and Graham seem to let up in their pursuit when it looks like Cousins will go out of bounds. But he doesn't. 

Schwartz talked about bad angles, and this is the perfect example from Bradham. He overshoots it and when Cousins makes his cut back inside, all of Bradham's momentum is heading toward the sideline. Curry ends up making the tackle but tackles Cousins forward for a big first down. 

This next play was just a little counter draw that ended up going for a huge 45-yard gain. Rob Kelley takes the handoff, which looks to be going right. The entire Eagles' linebacking group bites hard. Still, right end Connor Barwin is free and has a chance to make the play. 

He doesn't. Just a missed tackle. 

Kelley finds some open field. Rodney McLeod is the next guy to beat and Kelley simply turns him around. You'll see Mychal Kendricks enter the frame. Kendricks showed great recovery speed to get back in the play and has a chance to finally bring the running back down. 

Nope. Can't do it. Eventually, McLeod recovers to bring him down. 

This last play ended the game on Sunday. The Eagles punted the ball away with the hope that their defense would stop Washington and give them the ball back. Instead, Matt Jones broke off a 57-yard run on 3rd-and-7. 

Jordan Hicks over pursues, probably thinking the run was going wide. But he loses his gap and Jones is off to the races. 

Once Jones gets past the first down, it doesn't really matter that it was a 57-yard run. It could have been an 8-yarder and the game was over. 

So what did we learn? 

Well, Schwartz was right. Angles absolutely killed the Eagles on Sunday. But when they have a guy wrapped up, they need to bring him down. Sure, that's not Earth-shattering, but they couldn't do it on Sunday and it led to a loss. 

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

Sixers to ease in Jahlil Okafor off bench, expect more from him on D

The Sixers struggled to carve a clear role for Jahlil Okafor last season as he and Nerlens Noel split time out of position in the frontcourt. Brett Brown has a more clear picture of how to utilize Okafor in his second year, highlighted by goals and a shift to the bench. 

Okafor has been sidelined from preseason action because of his right knee. He underwent surgery to repair a meniscus tear in March and aggravated it during the final training camp scrimmage. 

Okafor said he felt “pretty sore” after scrimmaging Monday, his first since camp, and he was better after going through individualized training and work in the water on Tuesday. This setback has forced him to exercise patience. 

“I know I told you guys I wasn’t frustrated a few weeks ago, but at this point it has been frustrating because I’ve been doing all the right stuff and I want to see me back out there sooner,” Okafor said after practice Thursday. “But I can’t rush my body, I can’t rush my health. ... I would love to have the opportunity to be there for opening night and play in front of our fans. Right now it’s looking like that’s probable."

The Sixers plan to use Okafor in a reserve role to start the season. Okafor expects to be on a 12- to 15-minute restriction, similar to Joel Embiid, when he is cleared to play. 

“I think about it all the time, but I talk to him. We’ve talked about this for months,” Brown said of Okafor's coming off the bench. “It’s not anything that is going to surprise anybody. He’s been fantastic. ... I talked with Jahlil about a lot of things and that could be, to start the year it will be, a scenario.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015, started 48 of his 53 games last season. He is approaching this year with realistic expectations given his restrictions and is not concerned about being out of the starting five. 

“I’ll be fine,” Okafor said. “That won’t be a tough adjustment for me. I came off the bench a couple of times last year.”

Brown’s focus is not necessarily on how Okafor starts the game, but how he finishes. He would like Okafor and Embiid to be able to play together at the end of games to give the team a fourth-quarter boost.

“If it ends up you’ve got Jahlil coming off the bench and he’s going against backup five men, you think you probably have an advantage there,” Brown said. “If he does anything, he scores the ball, he scores buckets, he gets points. You can see how that can be a really nice role for him and for us.”

Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season with 17.5 points per game. Brown, though, is focusing on his defensive improvements. The Sixers are looking to play an uptempo system in which they will need Okafor to hustle on defense each possession. Okafor slimmed down and added muscle this summer to prepare for the season. 

“He has to be elite in two areas to me,” Brown said. “Transition defense first — A-plus-plus-plus, get back. If you’re tired, if you’ve got to conserve energy, it’s not that way. It’s running back on offense. We have to get him back on defense.

“Then he has to be better skilled, better drilled by me, [a] high level of accountability with pick-and-roll defense. ... You can go over to defensive rebounding (as) a close third, but those two things happen the most.”

Okafor expects to be more effective on the defensive end after getting adjusted to it as a rookie. 

“(I want) to be smarter on defense, knowing where to be,” Okafor said. “My first year playing in the NBA, it was just a lot going on. Everybody was so fast.” 

Brown sees a focused 20-year-old who is more disciplined and ready to embrace whatever role he is given this season. 

“I can’t wait to coach him this year," Brown said. "I think he’s going to come back and have a great year. His body tells me that, his attitude tells me that. He’s in a good place personally."