Eagles-Jaguars: Chip Kelly’s Dress Rehearsal Is Here, Battles on D

Eagles-Jaguars: Chip Kelly’s Dress Rehearsal Is Here, Battles on D

This has been the most exciting Eagles preseason in recent memory, probably since at least 2004, but it doesn’t take very long to grow weary of games that don’t count toward the standings. I think I speak for everybody – fans, players, even the coaching staff – when I say I’m ready to get to September 9, ready for Washington.

Unfortunately that’s just not the way things work, and we still have a couple exhibitions to go. The good news is tonight’s is the big one. Week three is traditionally the “dress rehearsal” so to speak. The starters will play for the entirety of the first half, likely into the third quarter, which means among other things that we’ll get out first extended look at newly-named starting quarterback Michael Vick, not to mention more Chip ball in general.

Plus, the perception that these games don’t mean anything is false. It will be good for Vick to get the reps for sure. Jason Peters will be in action for the first time since rupturing his Achilles as well. Mainly this stacks up as a big game for Philly’s defense though. There are still jobs to be won or lost all over the field, and the night-and-day performances versus the Patriots and Panthers has everybody wondering which tape is closer to the truth.

Chances are we won’t really find out how good or bad the Birds’ defense is on Saturday night, as the Jaguars simply don’t provide much in the way of a test. Still, if they can take care of business again – this time against a Blaine Gabbert/Chad Henne-led Jaguar offense – that would be a lot more reassuring than the inverse.

Here’s a quick look at some of the individual battles taking place on D:

Vinny Curry and Bennie Logan to start?

The two guys who have probably made the most surprising impacts thus far. Curry is widely presumed to be playing out of position as a defensive end in a 3-4, but he’s been more than offensive linemen could handle through the first two games. Logan has been moving all over the line, doing a fantastic job at disrupting plays in the backfield and getting his hands up to bat down passes.

Fletcher Cox obviously has one spot on the defensive line locked down, but Curry and Logan are making bids for playing time at the others. Cedric Thornton is doing all he can to stave off both of them at the other end, and he’s been fantastic in doing so, so he’ll definitely be in the rotation. Isaac Sopoaga has been invisible at nose tackle however, and he’s considered a two-down player anyway, so we’ll see if Logan begins to get more looks there than on third down, although they like the third rounder at end as well.

Brandon Graham vs. … the trade block?

It’s out there, so I’ll address it, but I simply don’t agree with Geoff Mosher’s line of thinking on CSNPhilly today that this might be Graham’s “last chance.” Actually, aside from one mental lapse where he failed to contain the backside and allowed a huge cutback run, he’s been one of their most disruptive defenders at the point of attack. According to metrics by Pro Football Focus, Graham has been the best against the run, and only Curry grades higher overall. I'd say he's passed the eye test, too.

When you also consider the Eagles are thin at outside linebacker, I don’t see any way they are trading him as some have suggested, even if he's not the smoothest in coverage. Never say never, but Graham has shown me enough that he can be useful to the Eagles this season.

Who’s at safety?

Despite a very bad outing in Week 1, Nate Allen has managed to remain in the hunt for the second safety spot opposite of Patrick Chung. Earl Wolff made some noise last week when he was taking first-team reps at practice, but defensive coordinator Billy Davis seems hesitant to go with the rookie. Kenny Phillips didn’t play in the last game and has hardly practiced, so he might have trouble making the roster. And we haven’t seen anything from Kurt Coleman or David Sims that screams they are in line for the job.

We’ll be watching whether or not anyone gets in there with the starters besides Nate, but he might be in the lineup come September by default. Big night for this group.

Michal Neuvirth mum on reports of new contract talks with Flyers

Michal Neuvirth mum on reports of new contract talks with Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- As the Flyers try to re-sign goalie Michal Neuvirth on trade deadline day (see report here ), the 28-year-old Czech was both nervous and cautious in talking to the media after Wednesday's practice.

Do you expect to get a deal done?

"I don't know, I don't know," Neuvirth said. "You got to talk to Hexy about that."

Hoping it gets done?

"We'll see."

Neuvirth said he lets his agent, Patrik Stefan, handle everything.

He said he speaks to him every day but would not elaborate on what was said either last night or today. Neuvirth seemed genuinely fearful of saying anything that would upset Flyers general manager Ron Hextall.

He did say he wants to remain a Flyer.

"Yeah, it's a great group of guys here and I love the city and the organization," Neuvirth said. "I'm gonna try whatever I can to be here."

Asked about the negotiations, Neuvirth said, "I don't know if I can say anything, you have to talk to Hexy about contracts. For me, I am here to stop pucks."

Asked whether Stefan needed assurances that if he were to be re-signed Wednesday, he would not be traded this afternoon to another club before the 3 p.m. deadline, Neuvirth replied, "I have no idea.

"What can I tell you guys? Sorry. I don't want to get in trouble. I don't know what I can say and can't say, so I say nothing."

Q & A with ABC 7 Chicago anchor Dionne Miller

Q & A with ABC 7 Chicago anchor Dionne Miller

Q: What experience has had the biggest impact on your life and career in sports and why?
A:
It’s hard to point to just one experience, I mean I have loved sports for as long as I can remember. Honestly, I cried when John Elway led “The Drive” to beat my Browns! Actual tears!! That was the moment I knew sports meant more to me than just entertainment. As I got older, I realized sports is just like real life… sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail, but the next day, the next play we all try our best to be a little bit better. This is why I love sports!!

But my plan was never broadcasting. My plan was teaching- English Lit- to high school kids. I think I watched Dead Poets Society a dozen too many times and wanted to see kids standing on desks citing poetry. Clearly, I took a detour! It was actually thru some pretty big real-life struggles in college, and taking a semester off -- that I realized how much I wanted to be a writer --not creative writing but a journalist! I attended a small private liberal arts school that had no professional writing program to speak of, so they sort of created curriculum for me -- what a gift!

On my way to becoming a magazine columnist, I had to fulfill a communications requirement. On a whim, I signed up for TV Broadcasting. One of my first assignments was to report from a “fire” for our faux news cast. I prepared, researched, took my place in front of the “fire” back drop, and the red light went on. Game. Changer. I have no clue what I said, but I remember what I was wearing when I realized what I wanted to do with my life. I left the class, called my parents and immediately added a minor in communications. Though it honestly never crossed my mind to do news. I was already talking about sports, and binge watching ESPN. Sports just made sense. 

Q: Who’s had the biggest impact and why ?  
A:
Because I didn’t attend a journalism school, I graduated knowing precious little about this job I wanted so badly. I was advised to pursue an internship, which I did at WWSB ABC7 in my hometown of Sarasota, Fla. I walked in the first day, wide-eyed and so eager to learn all I could. I had the best teacher in Kevin Neghandi. Kevin was the weekend sports anchor at the time and honestly taught me everything. Everything. 

Shawn McClintock (VP Root Sports Pittsburgh). I met Shawn when I took it upon myself to show up in his news room and interview for a position I wanted. He didn’t hire me, told me to accept a job offer I had in San Diego (which I did) and then told me to keep in touch. Less than a year later, I was let go from my job in California. I had never dreamed I would be fired. Let alone for no other reason than new management wanted someone else. I called Shawn. He not only encouraged me through that time, but led me to the two jobs that would change my life forever.  

He told me he had a college friend who was at a start-up station in Columbus, Ohio and they were looking for a female anchor. Shawn also said he wanted to send my reel to Fox Sports Ohio as he was good friends with the bosses there. Well, that “college friend” not only helped get me hired in Columbus, he became my husband. And after the station we met at folded, Fox Sports Ohio hired me. That job with FSO led me to Big Ten Network, which led me to Chicago and here we are. 

Q: What are some of the funniest moments you’ve experienced as a woman in sports?
A:
When I was hired at FOX 32 in Chicago, they sent a station-wide email welcoming “ Dionne Miller to the Sports Department”… I was told later they all thought I was an African- American man. This cracks me up. 

Q: What was the most negative moment you’ve experienced? The one that got you fired up or perhaps made you think about quitting?
A:
Losing my job sucked! I pride myself on being a team player, I work my butt off, & I did everything I was asked to do and then some. But it wasn’t enough. Still makes me mad! I see now what a gift it was that this happened. I had so many more blessings as a result. And I can truly say it NEVER made me want to quit. It only drove me to push harder. 

And as a woman in sports, I already know I HAVE to push harder. I have to know more, I have to research more, I have to work harder. I can’t make as many mistakes. I am fully aware of this fact and it’s a drag sometimes. But it will never make me want to quit. I know what I signed up for. I pray that one day there is more equality in sports broadcasting -- especially when it comes to pay. But no job is perfect. And I love mine! 

Q: Have you had any teachable moments?  I.e. someone made an ignorant comment, but had no idea you were offended until you said something?
A:
I remember one of my first college football experiences, I interviewed the coach at Montana State University. I asked a question about his failing secondary and he basically answered me like I didn’t know that his team played football. It stuck with me. Especially because the next question came from a male reporter who asked virtually the same thing and got a specific football answer. Annoying. 

Q: Any awkward moments?   
A:
Let’s face it, every time I march into a locker room, it’s awkward.  It just is. Athletes have gotten comfortable with it, and truthfully so have I. We all understand I am there to do a job, but it took some getting used to. I always wonder how I would feel if men came into my bathroom while I’m trying to get dressed or undressed. AWKWARD! But show respect, get respect. That’s kind of how approach it. 

Q: What are you most proud of?
A:
I’m a mom of little people… sometimes I’m most proud that I am awake for work at 10pm, and dressed! Kidding aside I am most proud to be a working wife and mom in a city I can’t believe I get to call home, at a station that gives me the opportunity to do so many amazing things, and continue to sharpen my skills. Six months into my first job in Billings, Montana, I was filming a HS Football game for work. Got tackled and broke my leg in 3 places. Never once during months off the air, rehab and being thousands of miles from home, did I consider quitting. Not once. I am so proud of where I am and my journey to get here. Because it’s MY story. I can’t wait to see what happens next! 

Q: Many girls look up to you. Any advice for those that want to get into sports media? 
A:
 First: NO JOB IS BENEATH YOU! I feel like I need to shout this at young girls wanting to get into the business. Try everything, trust your talents and dive in. If someone offers you an opportunity you think isn’t “ideal”, remember that it could open a door you never imagined if you just go for it. Trust me, you will not be stuck in “Montana." Nothing will last forever and you will not die.

Also, understand what the landscape of the business is. Yes, we will always be outnumbered. Yes we will be judged by our dress, hair, and make up before anyone actually hears the words we say. None of this is a surprise. I’m not saying just accept ignorance. Not at all. But to act like this isn’t happening is ridiculous. It is. And its not just in TV. It happens in every job. 

BE KIND! To your co-workers, your competition and yourself! First of all, you need absolutely everyone in the building you work in to make you look good on the air. DO not take this for granted. Be kind to your competition -- especially other women. Yes, work hard to get your story correct and the best it can be. But do not tear down others on the way. This business is small. Everyone knows everyone. A bad reputation will ruin a stellar resume and incredible on-air talent. Male or female. 

And be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes. You will. I do. It’s ok. It will always be ok. Nothing is ever as bad as you think or as good. Stay humble, but don’t beat yourself up. If you make a mistake, or miss a story, learn, make a change and know you’ll do better next time… there is always another show coming. 

Q: How has social media changed how easily fans can reach out to you? Do you let it bother you?
A:
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love it for keeping me connected with what’s going on all over the sports world. But I hate that if I have one slip up on the air, I get immediate comment on twitter. Or if I show personality and it rubs someone the wrong way, I get an email attack. It’s the worst when someone attacks my clothes and hair… um, did you even hear what I said? Yes.. It sucks. And honestly, sometimes it does bother me. But I am working towards letting that stuff go. I have to remind myself that the people who use social media to attack me, don’t know me. I know the men I work with get comments too, so I never feel singled out. I just wish people would pause before they lash out. Social media gives us no reason to filter. People are mean. But we can rise above.