Eagles Are Unpredictably Predictable in First Round

Eagles Are Unpredictably Predictable in First Round

One word that doesn't quite describe the Eagles in the first round of the NFL Draft under Andy Reid is predictable -- yet, somehow, that's also exactly what they are.

They've traded into the top 20 four times since 2003, while moving out of the first round entirely in back-to-back drafts in '08 and '09. Since 2006, they have only stuck with their original pick once -- last year with Danny Watkins -- and just three times in the last nine drafts. You can never be sure when they're coming or going, or who it is they might be targeting.

Then again, when you look back on all of those recent drafts, they have dropped a fairly big hint as to what they might be targeting in the first round. Some Eagles draft trivia, and perhaps insight, after the jump.

Six of the Eagles' last seven first-round draft picks were linemen -- two offensive, and four defensive linemen. The only exception was Jeremy Maclin in '09, who wound up tumbling out of the top 10, and all the way down to 19, where the Eagles traded up two spots to land him.

If you include top selections that were not made in round one, the addition of Trevor Laws in 2008 bumps the Birds up to seven linemen -- five on defense -- chosen first over the last 10 drafts.

Unfortunately, one reason they've had to draft so many linemen is because quite a few of them have not panned out, particularly over the long haul.

Jerome McDougle (15h in '03) and Shawn Andrews (16th in '04) are both out of the league, though for vastly different reasons. McDougle is the epitome of a bust, a defensive end who achieved no measurable success in the NFL. Andrews at one point may have been the best guard in the NFL, but injuries, and perhaps off-field issues, shortened his career.

Mike Patterson (31st in '05) and Brodrick Bunkley (14th in '06) formed the starting combination at defensive tackle for three seasons. Together they dug a deep trench against the run, but were not so much a factor rushing the quarterback. Patt obviously remains a steady hand for the club, but Bunk was moved last summer to make room for the more versatile Cullen Jenkins.

The jury is still out on their two most recent picks, Brandon Graham (13th in '10) and Watkins (23rd). Graham tore his ACL and required microfracture surgery toward the end of a promising rookie season, and basically missed all of last year while recovering. Watkins wasn't able to crack the starting lineup right away in 2011, but eventually moved in to his spot at right guard, and played well enough there is reason for optimism.

The 47th pick and top choice for Philadelphia after trading their first rounder to the Carolina Panthers in '08, Trevor Laws never amounted to much at all, and remains an unsigned free agent as of this writing.

Even before Andy Reid controlled the Eagles personnel universe, the Birds used the sixth overall selection on Corey Simon in 2000. For five seasons, Simon was a force in the middle, a Pro Bowler even -- the kind of talent that's a bit easier to locate in the top 10, where the team has not chosen since -- but his weight was an issue, which played into contract negotiations that went awry. Simon was allowed to walk, and he would appear in 17 more NFL games over three seasons before calling it quits.

The odds could be in favor of the Eagles taking yet another lineman this month. Clearly they believe that's where the value is, staying true to the timeless philosophy that football games are won up front.

Even after adding Demetress Bell to replace an injured Jason Peters, the front office might try to play it safe on the offensive line in Achilles's aftermath.

Defensive line is even more likely. Patterson is still a questionable fit in Jim Washburn's wide nine, and the backup tackles are all signed through this season only. At end, Graham making a full recovery is no guarantee, and the rest of the talent behind Jason Babin and Trent Cole is questionable.

Even if it's not a lineman, there still could be clues as to the direction the Eagles are headed. The only other positions where first rounders have been used during the Andy Reid era are cornerback, wide receiver, and quarterback.

Lito Sheppard was selected 26th in '02, followed immediately by safety Michael Lewis and corner Sheldon Brown in the second round. There aren't many other examples of the Eagles taking corners high, but they've spent big money in free agency on Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, so it's been a consistent focus.

Besides using a first on Maclin in '09, Freddie Mitchell was chosen 25th in '01. The Eagles also took DeSean Jackson two picks after Laws in '08, and have used seconds on Reggie Brown, Todd Pinkston, and tight end L.J. Smith in the recent past.

Finally, besides using the second overall selection in the '99 draft on Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb was the club's first choice in '07, trading out of the first round to scoop him up at 36.

Running back, linebacker, and safety are the only prevalent areas where a first round pick has not been utilized -- though all three have been given the attention of multiple second and third round picks.

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

Another struggling pitcher gets well against the Phillies' feeble hitters

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MIAMI -- For struggling pitchers, facing the Phillies has become like a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
 
Another rival pitcher searching for a cure got it Monday night when the Phillies suffered their 23rd loss in the last 29 games. This time it was Miami Marlins right-hander Edinson Volquez. He pitched six shutout innings and allowed just three hits in leading his club to a 4-1 win over the Phillies, who fell to 6-20 in May (see Instant Replay).

Volquez had gone 16 starts between wins.
 
"Every loss stings, I don’t care who's pitching," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're just in a rut. We've got to battle our way out of it. We have to show up tomorrow and get after it. We've got to get more than three or four hits in the game."
 
The Phillies had just four hits in the game. It was the fifth time in the last nine games that they've had four or fewer hits. Only one of the hits was for extra bases and one of the singles was an infield hit.
 
"Once again, we need more offense," Mackanin said.
 
Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson completed a difficult month of May by allowing six hits, including a two-run homer, and four runs over six innings.
 
Hellickson surrendered a two-run homer to Derek Dietrich with two outs in the sixth and that was basically the ball game. Dietrich hit a high changeup. Back in April, that pitch would have been at the knees. But Hellickson has misplaced the pitch command that he needs to succeed.
 
Hellickson went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five starts in April. In May, however, he went 1-3 with a 7.04 ERA in six starts. He was tagged for 35 hits, including nine homers, in 30 2/3 innings.
 
"Command in general," said Hellickson, describing his problem this month. "The biggest thing is not getting strike one, falling behind too much. I'm not getting the quick easy outs I was getting early in the season. I'm trying to get ahead, just missing."
 
Volquez signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the Marlins over the winter, but it wasn't until this game that he delivered his first win. He entered the game 0-7 with a 4.82 ERA in nine starts.
 
The win was Volquez's first since Aug. 25, 2016, when he was a member of the Kansas City Royals.

Volquez isn't the first struggling pitcher to shine against the Phils recently. Eight days earlier, Pittsburgh's Chad Kuhl took a 6.69 ERA into a start against the Phils and pitched five shutout innings. In the series against Colorado, the Phillies were dominated by a pair of rookies. In the only game they won (in a late rally), they were held to one run over six innings by Tyler Anderson, who had entered that game with an ERA of 6.00. On Friday night, Cincinnati Reds right-hander Tim Adleman pitched eight shutout innings against the Phils and gave up just one hit in the best start of his life. He had come into that game with an ERA of 6.19.
 
So Volquez had to be heartened when he saw the Phillies on the schedule.
 
They are the get-well team for pitchers in need of a pick-me-up.
 
It's actually kind of sad.
 
With Odubel Herrera locked in the throes of the worst slump of his life and on the bench and Maikel Franco mired in a 2 for 21 slump and hitting .209, Mackanin is trying to push things a little. He gave Aaron Altherr the green light to steal with one out and runners on the corners in a one-run game in the sixth inning. Altherr was out at second on a close play and Tommy Joseph struck out to leave the runner at third.
 
The Marlins salted the game away in the bottom of the inning on Dietrich's homer.
 
"With our offense, I have to take chances," Mackanin said. "I can't sit around and wait for three hits in a row. We haven't been doing that."
 
The Phils have the worst record in the majors at 17-32.
 
They have lost eight of their last 10 and scored just 15 runs in the losses.
 
"It sucks," catcher Cameron Rupp said. "There's really no other way to put it. It's frustrating. But the only people that are going to help us are ourselves. Nobody's going to go out there and play for us, swing the bats, pitch, play defense. That's on us and we have to do a better job all around.
 
"We all want to be successful and get the job done. We just haven't been hitting the ball. There's no other way to put it. But the good thing about baseball is we play every day so we turn the page and come back tomorrow and try to get it done."

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

Stanley Cup Final: Penguins come alive late in third to steal Game 1 vs. Predators

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PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins rarely tested the hottest goaltender in the playoffs in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against Nashville.

They beat Pekka Rinne anyway.

Rookie Jake Guentzel fired the puck past Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a back-and-forth 5-3 victory on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Matt Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in Final history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37 minutes at one point without a shot.

"I think at the end of the day we're up 1-0," Bonino said. "We had a good first, we had a terrible second and we were terrible in the third. I don't think it's Xs and Os. We've got to work harder, compete a little harder, but we got some timely goals."

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions, trying to become the first repeat winner since Detroit in 1998.

All the guys from "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

"The impact of that moment and then the chain of events that happened after that with the penalty kills I think changed the course of the game," Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said.

The decision gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge. Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead, they rallied and took over the game.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second and Nashville kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history -- and the first such period by any team in a Final game since the NHL began tracking shots on goal in 1958.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

"We didn't do a great job of (shooting), but we made them count," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "But it was a good finish there to get that one from Jake."