It's a strange, sticky hotness at Citizens Bank Park this afternoon after what seems like a week's worth of rain. But the sun is trying to peak through prior to this evening's game.
INDIANAPOLIS – Veteran Stephen Tulloch made his Eagles debut Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium … late in the second half.
Tulloch, 31, was just signed earlier in the week. And after years of being a starter in the NFL, Tulloch comes to Philadelphia as role player.
When was the last time he played in the fourth quarter of a preseason game?
“Wow. Two thouuusaaandd,” he said, trying to think. “Six, maybe … seven. But I didn’t have any training camp here, so it’s good to be out here and just run around.”
On one of Tulloch’s first plays of the night he was called for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness, and didn’t appear on the stat sheet otherwise after playing 19 snaps. Still, he was happy just to be back on the field.
After spending all of training camp on the street and missing the first two preseason games, this was his first real football action in a long time. And he didn’t feel much rust.
“Not really, man,” he said. “Just get my feet back under me again. It’s just different. I haven’t played since Jan. 3, but to get out there and see the calls and get familiarized with everything.”
There isn’t too much with which to get familiarized since Tulloch is not just a veteran of the NFL but also Jim Schwartz’s defense. He played in it in Tennessee and then Detroit. In fact, it’s what made it possible for him to even see the field during Saturday’s 33-23 win.
How did the defense look to him?
“The same way it always looks when my man Schwartz puts it together,” he said. “It’s very simple. He’s going to work to the guys’ strengths and it’s always been a productive defense as long as I’ve been a part of it. He has the talent here, the talent on this team, to be able to execute the defense.”
Aside from the defense on the field, there was something else familiar about Saturday night. As a MIKE linebacker, he had the earpiece in his helmet, which means direct communication with Schwartz.
“You know how Jim is, he’s going to make sure you know everything,” Tulloch said. “Not just give you the call, but tell you what to look out for. He’s a madman when it comes to that. He’s studying film, he knows to look for certain down and distances. It’s good to have him back in my ear again.”
In his six seasons under Schwartz, Tulloch was a piece in two top-10 defenses, so he’s seen this scheme work at a high level.
Now that he’s been with the Eagles for a few days and has seen what they have to offer, he thinks this defense should be a very good one.
“A lot of talent,” Tulloch said. “Like I said, that D-line is special. [Malcolm Jenkins] on the back end, [Rodney McLeod]. There’s a lot of good young talent here and this is perfect for this defense. Guys will fit very well here and this defense should be a top-ranked defense.”
NEW YORK – Jeremy Hellickson will be with the Phillies for the remainder of the season.
According to sources, the veteran right-hander was recently claimed on waivers. The Phillies were unable to work out a deal with the claiming team and Hellickson was pulled back, making him ineligible to be traded the remainder of the season.
Hellickson drew interest before the Aug. 1 trade deadline, but the Phillies did not receive an offer that they liked so they hung on to the pitcher. A player traded after Aug. 1 must first go through waivers.
Players traded in August must be on their new team’s roster by Sept. 1 — Thursday — to gain playoff eligibility. Players can still be traded in waiver deals after Sept. 1, but they would be ineligible for the playoffs.
Even though Hellickson, 29, can be a free agent at season’s end, Phillies officials did not view trading him as an imperative. The Phillies believe they can get good value for Hellickson with a compensatory pick in next June’s draft. But first the Phils must extend Hellickson a qualifying salary offer for 2017. That could be close to $17 million. Hellickson would have to turn the offer down and opt for the free-agent market for the Phils to get that pick.
Hellickson is 10-8 with a 3.80 ERA in 26 starts for the Phillies this season. He struggled against the Mets on Saturday night, but had a 2.60 ERA in his previous 11 starts. Chances seem good that he will find a multi-year deal on the free-agent market and reject the Phillies’ one-year qualifying offer, thus giving the team a draft pick between the first and second rounds.
INDIANAPOLIS – If this was a realistic glimpse at what the Eagles’ defensive line is going to be, watch out.
This D-line has a chance to be something special.
All the usual preseason disclaimers apply. We don’t know how much the Colts game planned. We don’t know if they can all stay healthy. It’s always dangerous to project too much from a preseason game into the regular season.
This was dominating stuff Saturday night from a defensive line that is clearly the strength of this football team.
If they can keep it up … watch out.
“You don’t want to get carried away and go out there after a preseason game and say how great we are, but it’s still exciting,” defensive tackle Beau Allen said.
“I think we an be a really good crew. I think it’s a mature group, and we’ve all played in a lot of football games and we get out there we just feel comfortable with each other."
In the final tuneup for the starters, the Eagles beat the Colts, 33-23, at Lucas Oil Stadium (see story).
With the starting defense on the field, the Colts scored only on a field goal following a turnover and on a blocked punt. The Colts, with all-pro Andrew Luck playing into the third quarter, managed just 206 yards and those three points on six drives.
The Eagles sacked Luck three times, held Colts ball carriers to 24 yards on 13 carries and didn’t give Luck any time to get the ball down the field.
“They didn’t run the ball on us, which is always important early in the game,” Barwin said. “And then we were consistently getting Andrew off his spot, making him move around a little bit, making him uncomfortable.”
Yes, it’s preseason. But as Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins points out, an effective pass rush is an effective pass rush. No matter when you see it.
“One thing I think you can really evaluate in the preseason is a pass rush,” Jenkins said. “Especially if it’s a four-man rush. Because there’s not much of scheme to it. You cut ‘em loose and you either can beat him 1-on-1 or you can’t, and the consistent pressure we got from a four-man rush was definitely encouraging.
“We got more guys in coverage, the quarterback has to hold the ball a little bit longer, and every time we made him double clutch, he got put on the ground.
“It goes hand and hand, coverage and pressure, so that’s obviously something we want to continue to excel at. … This was our last real opportuity to get out there together and play in some signifiant time and we wanted to make sure we had a clean run, had the small mistakes that we might have made earlier in camp, make sure those things are eradicated. Make sure we communicated well and played fast.”
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz used seven defensive linemen with the first group — starters Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin, plus Vinny Curry, Taylor Hart and Allen.
It’s a talented group and it’s a deep group, and it's a group that's been together a long time.
"There’s a comfort level that comes with playing a lot of snaps with your guys and I think it shows out there on the field," Allen said. "It was a fun game and it seemed like we were flying around.”
Graham is in his seventh year with the Eagles, Cox and Curry in their fifth, Barwin and Logan in their fourth and Hart and Allen in their third.
Of the 16 players who’ve been here at least four years, five are defensive linemen. Of the eight Andy Reid holdovers, three are defensive linemen.
“I think we have great communication, great rapport,” Allen said. “It’s things like that you don’t really think about but it really goes a long way. We’ve all been here a while and it’s great when you get that.”
Every defensive coordinator talks about playing all his guys, about depth. From what we saw Saturday night, Schwartz truly believes in it.
He worked just about everybody in with the first group.
“We’re going to continue to move guys around, rotate guys in, keep guys fresh and play with that kind of speed all game long,” Barwin said.
“I know we’re pretty deep at defensive line. Everybody can play. Everybody’s capable of making plays. When you are playing at that speed every single snap and you know your’e only going to play three, four, five plays in a row? And you can go as hard as you can possibly go? That allows you to make plays.”
Logan, Barwin and Allen sacked Luck Saturday night, and Logan, Allen, Barwin, Graham, Hart and Cox were all credited with quarterback hits.
It was dominating stuff. It didn’t count but it sure was promising.
“It was just fun, man, when you’re out there flying around,” Graham said. “We know we still have to keep getting better. It’s preseason and a lot of guys don’t really game plan us and stuff like that, but it’s definitely good that the effort part is there. You don’t have to coach that.
“We’re all out there going hard and playing fast and for us we just want to keep getting better and it’s going to be nice when we actually game plan a team and really start getting after it, man.
“I’m excited. I’m just excited about where this defense is going to go if we continue to stay together.”