Gauging Nats Fans Feelings On Jayson Werth and Their Young Ball Club

Gauging Nats Fans Feelings On Jayson Werth and Their Young Ball Club

Prior to the Phillies kicking off a series tonight against the
Nationals in DC, we thought we'd ask the biggest Nats fan we know, Cathy
Taylor aka Miss Chatter, about how their team has fared early in 2011.
We also asked about our old friend Jayson Werth and just what kind of
expectations Nats fans have for their club. You can follow Miss Chatter on Twitter or read her blog featuring her awesome photography here.

Enrico: The Phillies are off to a
nice 7-2 start which I think has Phillies fans pretty excited with their
performance thus far into 2011. The Nats are off to mediocre 4-5 start
that puts them right in the middle of the pack in the East. We haven't
spent much time watching the Nats yet this season, have DC fans liked
what they've seen thus far? Feel free to touch on our old pal Jayson
Werth and his beard's performance thus far, if you so wish.

Miss Chatter: Jayson Werth's beard has put on a phenomenal
performance so far this season, after a nervous offseason wondering if
he'd make an appearance in spring training. He did and has been there
since. (Love the twitter account!) Jayson Werth, beard owner, has had
so-so results thus far this season in the field and at the plate. Off
the field, however, I admire Werth's talk. He is defending his new ball
club vigorously and with humor, which has been rather endearing. Fans
were rather stunned at the length and value of the contract he was
given, and there is some "show us the money" regarding him.

The Nats have had a rough start to the season thus far. They just
lost prized third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to the disabled list for a
strained abdominal muscle. That's a heavy blow. The DL stint arrives on
the heels of losing 2 of 3 games in their first two series, but then
they won 2 of 3 against the Mets to finish their first road trip with an
even record. New first baseman, Adam LaRoche, who was brought on as a
defensive upgrade over Adam Dunn, is also walking a fine line that could
easily land him on the DL. First, he revealed he has a balky shoulder
and can't really make throws. Then he strained his groin in the game
Sunday, but expects to be back today. If the Nats lose Zimmerman and
LaRoche, things could get very interesting.

However, Nats fans have been pleasantly surprised by the starting
pitching so far this season, and are particularly eager to see Jordan
Zimmermann thrive in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.
His success also eases nervousness over the future of Stephen
Strasburg, who likely won't return until next season. The solid bullpen
arms of Storen, Clippard and Burnett have also continued their dominance
in tight situations.

When he had his welcome to DC presser, Werth talked a lot
about building for the future, but not necessarily winning now. What's a
best-case scenario season for Nats fans this year?

Best case for Nats fans this year is umm, well, I'm not exactly sure!
I wouldn't even dare to predict a final record for the season. I would
have to say best case for Washington this year is if the team stays
healthy and Bryce Harper makes a loud statement in the minors over the
course of his development, Strasburg's rehab proceeds swimmingly and
Jordan Zimmermann's starts this season go deeper and remain effective
all year. Also add Ian Desmond committing less errors in the field and
Danny Espinosa becoming a true batting threat consistently!

What's the one thing about this Nats team that has encouraged you the most about their future?

One thing? Only one? (Why am I having such a hard time thinking of
something?!) I'm going to say the talent and progress of the young
players provides the most encouragement for the future (catcher Wilson
Ramos, 2nd baseman Danny Espinosa and shortstop Ian Desmond). I guess
that's three things.

Looking forward to spending so much quality time with Philadelphians over the three game series in DC?

Only if they're housebroken! I kid! I love a good baseball
conversation with fans of any team, so if Philadelphians come down and
respect our house and want to talk baseball, then that's fine.
Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case in the past (nightmares of last
year's opening day still haunt me).

Thanks to Miss Chatter for her time and her photo of Jayson Werth above.

Josh Huff's acrobatic kick return touchdown sparks Eagles to win

Josh Huff's acrobatic kick return touchdown sparks Eagles to win

For the first 40 yards of Josh Huff’s kick return touchdown on Sunday, he went untouched.

When he got to the Eagles’ 42-yard line, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh was the only guy left in his way.

Huff ran through him.

“Yeah, I can’t let a kicker tackle me,” Huff said. “If he would have tackled me, I really would have been pissed at myself.”

The 170-pound Walsh couldn’t make the tackle and was sent spinning as Huff ran through. Fifty-six yards later, Huff took off from the 2-yard line, flipping into the end zone to give the Eagles their first lead in an eventual 21-10 win over the Vikings (see Instant Replay).

Huff said he knew he was scoring as soon as he saw that he had just the kicker to beat.

With the Eagles’ down 3-0 and with their offense sputtering through the first quarter and change, Huff’s play was a game-changer (see 10 Observations).

“Josh did a great job on the return,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “[Special teams coordinator] Dave Fipp really has those guys ready every single week. You need those things. You need special teams scores.”

After Wendell Smallwood’s kick return touchdown last week, this is the first time in franchise history the Eagles have had kick return touchdowns in back-to-back games. They also have the NFL’s only two kick return touchdowns of the season (see Standout Plays).

“It’s super cool,” Smallwood said. “Now teams have to pick their poison. They can’t go away from one. They can’t say they’re not going to kick to Smallwood, then they kick to Huff and he takes it. I think we’re going to get a lot of teams’ attention.”

Huff also had a role in the Eagles’ offense against the Vikings. He caught four passes for 39 yards, including two that picked up first downs. His 14-yarder in the third helped set up the touchdown that sealed the win for the Eagles.

This season hasn’t been great offensively for Huff. He is clearly the Eagles’ fourth wideout and came into Sunday with just eight catches for 24 yards.

“Obviously, I want to play good on offense, but we have three great guys in front of me,” Huff said. “I’m doing what I can to stay ready and I’m at my best when those guys do need me. At the end of the day, as long as I’m doing my job and as long as I stay ready, today was evident. Whenever they call my number, I’m going to make the most of my opportunities.”

Huff finished off his 98-yard kick return touchdown the same way he finished off his 41-yard receiving touchdown in New England last year: With a flip.

Huff took off from the 2-yard line and did a front flip, landing in the middle in the black end zone on his backside.

“It’s just something that happens,” Huff said. “Everybody says I should have stuck the landing, but I’m not a gymnast.”

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

Eagles' defense outplays Vikings' top-ranked unit

The Eagles’ defense had two challenges on its mind Sunday. First, there was the challenge of outplaying Sam Bradford and the Vikings’ offense. Just as important was the challenge of outplaying the Vikings’ top-ranked defense.

“We wanted to be the better defense out there,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We wanted to match their intensity. That was the whole thing. That’s all we talked about — let’s be the best defense out there today. We wanted to make sure we were the most dominating defense in the game.

“We wanted to get more sacks, get more turnovers … that was our whole goal.”

In a clash of two of the NFL’s top defensive units, the Eagles beat the previously undefeated Vikings 21-10 Sunday at the Linc (see Instant Replay).

The Vikings defense was very good. It held the Eagles to 14 offensive points and forced four turnovers, but also had no sacks.

The Eagles’ defense was better. It held the Vikings to 10 offensive points, forced four turnovers and recorded six sacks.

If you watched this game and had to guess which defense is No. 1 in the NFL, you’d guess Eagles.

They were that dominating.

They outplayed the best defense in the game.

“We think we’re the best defense, but they’ve been playing great, and they were the best defense coming in,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said. “We knew it would come down to whichever defense played the best.

“You could see that the first quarter. We’d make a play, they’d make a play. But you’ve just got to keep on chopping. After the last two games, we wanted to get back to playing Eagles defense, and I feel like we did that.”

McLeod, linebacker Jordan Hicks, Connor Barwin and Graham led a ferocious defensive effort that saw the Eagles batter former teammate Sam Bradford, who absorbed his first loss as a Viking (see 10 Observations).

The Eagles sacked Bradford six times, intercepted him twice and mauled him snap after snap after snap. By the time the Vikings got in the end zone, with half a minute left, it was already a three-possession game.

Neither team had an offensive play longer than 29 yards.

“We think we’re the No. 1 defense in the league,” Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “We think we can be that and should be that if we go out and play the way we’re supposed to.

“We have to do that every week. But we think we can hang with any defenses out there. And we have a lot of respect for that defense across the field, and we knew we would have to show up for us to even have a chance to be in this game. Because that defense is ranked No. 1 coming into this thing.

“But we also feel we’re the best defense in the league, even though we haven’t played like it. But this is the opportunity you want. On the main stage, you’re coming into our home, and this was our opportunity to face the best defense in the league, and I think we showed our worth.”

The Eagles, who looked nothing like a top defense the last two weeks in losses in Detroit and Washington, improved to 4-2 and dropped the Vikings to 5-1.

Six games in, the Eagles’ defense is allowing just 13.5 points per game. That’s No. 2 in the league, behind only … who else … the Vikings at 12.8 per game.

“For us, it’s a battle of the defenses,” Hicks said. “And we always want to be the best defense on the field and put our team in a position to win.”

Bradford has been sacked more only once in his career, back in 2011 with the Rams, when the Redskins got him seven times.

And after opening the season with no interceptions in four games, the Eagles picked him off twice.

Whatever it takes to get motivated. If it works, it works. And this Eagles' defense was clearly motivated by that No. 1 ranking the Vikings brought to town.

“It motivated everybody,” Fletcher Cox said. “We knew in order to win this game we had to be good up front, and the last two weeks we weren’t very good up front. But we got back to basics and went out and played a physical football game.”

Hicks had 11 tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and two pass knockdowns in his finest game of the year. McLeod became the first Eagle since Quintin Mikell in 2007 with a sack, forced fumble and interception in the same game and added seven tackles. And Graham picked up his fourth sack to go with five quarterback hurries and a forced fumble (see Standout Plays).

The Eagles got back to the way they played defense the first three games of the season. They’ve now held their opponents to 14 or fewer points in four of six games and won them all. In their two losses, they’ve allowed 24 and 27.

“Pride … call it what you want, we knew we had to play well today,” Hicks said. “This defense has a certain standard, and it doesn’t matter what anybody else does, it matters what we do, and ultimately if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, we’re going to be a top, top, top defense.

“For me, it’s not about them. It’s about us and what we do.”