Eagles might not be in position to take a franchise quarterback in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

Eagles might not be in position to take a franchise quarterback in first round of 2014 NFL Draft

A quick look at the NFL standings shows that, even with the Eagles 17-3 loss to the Cowboys and 3-4 record, if the season ended today, 13 teams would draft before Philadelphia in the first round of 2014: Tampa Bay (0-6), Jacksonville (0-7), NY Giants (1-6), Minnesota (1-5), Houston (2-5), Oakland (2-4), Washington (2-4), Pittsburgh (2-4), Atlanta (2-4), Tennessee (3-4), Buffalo (3-4), Arizona (3-4) and Cleveland (3-4).

Save for the Falcons, and (on principle) Bills, the commonality between these teams -- and not uncoincidentally, the driver of their ineptitude -- is their lack of a franchise quarterback. You can quibble over a few. Jake Locker looked good enough early on that the Titans may stick with him. (But would Mike Munchak's replacement if Munchak is fired?) New York has Eli, Pittsburgh has Roethlisberger. (But how often will the Giants and Steelers get to pick in the top 10?) Brian Hoyer did some nice things for a while there. (But then, this.) Terrelle Pryor? Mike Glennon? Cinderella story, anyone?!

But don't forget a few likely additions to the line.

St. Louis, somehow the owners of a 3-4 mark (and better point differential than the Eagles), own the Redskins' No. 1 thanks to the RG3 trade two years ago. It also just watched Sam Bradford's knee go boom, likely giving the Rams two top picks and a glaring need at the position. Chicago, only 4-3 and likely to be quarterbacked by Josh McCown for what should be "at least" four truly dreadful weeks, will at the end of the season have to decide whether to re-sign an oft-concussed and erratic Jay Cutler, now coming off a torn groin.

Point is, even the most conservative estimate has six of these teams in the market for a quarterback. Even if we go "married couples in separate twin beds" conservative, that still leaves something like four teams drafting quarterbacks.

Who's (possibly) available? (Asterisks indicate draft-eligible underclassmen.) Even the most casual college football fans know the names. Bridgewater. Mariota*. Hundley*. Manziel*. Boyd. Braxton*. Murray. Mettenberger. Morris. Logan. But do they know about their warts?

Teddy Bridgewater has faced only two ranked teams in 36 games. He also has a hideous release, dainty frame, iffy accuracy. Johnny Manziel's recklessness (on and off the field) and durability (hurt twice in each of the last two weeks? really?) justify comparisons to Mike Vick. Samesies with Ohio State's Braxton Miller, who while he seems to have a squeaky-clean character, at times can't help himself but to unleash his arm strength on receivers, some only five yards away. Same footwork problems, too. Boyd has had the following written about him, by ESPN Scouts Inc: "Has had problems keeping weight down in the past and dedication to conditioning needs to be investigated further." (Sounds familiar...) Aaron Murray's a gamer for Georgia despite his reputation for "coming up small" in big games, but he's, well, small -- 6'0, less than 200 pounds. Zack Mettenberger only flourished this year, under LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron -- in a sport where guys routinely shine without such advantages. (There was also this.) Logan Thomas, well, he hasn't done too well at Virginia Tech, ever, but boy, does he have a big arm!

IMO, the only guys I'd be comfortable drafting in the first round and anointing the face of the Eagles for the life of a four-year rookie deal are Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley. Both have elite physical abilities. Uncanny arm strength. Above-average accuracy. Remarkable escapability. Mariota fits Chip Kelly's scheme, obviously. Hundley has experience in a pro set. And, it should be noted, with a horrendous offensive line chock full of true freshmen. Which, with the way the Eagles O-line has looked this year, makes for a seamless fit.

(Feel free to debate in the comment box below.)

Problem is, they could be gone with the first two picks.

Even if we assume that the Eagles season goes straight to hell, that they win only three more games for the rest of the way (despite getting four gift-wrapped in the Giants, Vikings, Raiders and Cardinals) to finish with a 6-10 record, that's still, what? The eighth overall pick in next year's draft? 10th? And of the quarterback-thirsty teams above, how many out-lose the Eagles the rest of the way?

Even if Howie Roseman went Thomas Dmitroff and traded, basically, their entire draft to move up, how many teams would be willing to move down? In this class? With this many quarterbacks? And so many teams needing them? Would that even be in their best interests, given all of their holes on defense?

Where does that leave the Chip Kelly on Draft Day?

Maybe, without a franchise guy to take.

You'd like to say that the Eagles could just go defense -- maybe a corner like Florida's Marcus Roberson and Loucheiz Purifoy  or Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, safety like Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, nose tackle like Louis Nix III,  linebacker like Alabama's C.J. or Buffalo's Khalil Mack, or, maybe, draft DeSean Jackson's eventual replacement in Clemson's Sammy Watkins -- and wait until 2015 for a QB.

But it's unfortunately not so easy. Here, the Eagles would be stuck between a series of rocks and hard places. Ownership may be able to be patient through one year of Kelly hype yet no results. Could they stomach two? Isn't the only way for Kelly to bide time landing a solid draft class? Does that class lift the Eagles enough that the problem repeats? Maybe the absolute worst-case scenario: they reach, elevating an unworthy talent how Jacksonville, Minnesota and Tennessee did in the Gabbert-Ponder-Locker 2010 Draft.

Then again, the best-case scenario sounds pretty good. They could take Roberson or Purifoy, the best physical talents among the three top corners, slide Bradley Fletcher to the No. 2 corner spot, with Brandon Boykin staying in the slot to, hopefully, transform the defense the way that Patrick Peterson and Joe Haden did singlehandedly for Arizona and Cleveland, and wait for a quarterback to slide into the second round, most likely Murray or Morris. (Who's stock may soon be on the rise, now that Miami is bowl eligible this season.)

Ultimately, while it sounds like a great way to get through what may be a tough season, don't delude yourself into thinking the Eagles are definitely getting a franchise quarterback next year. At least not in Round 1.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MKH973 Catch him every Saturday from 12-2 on 97.3 ESPN-FM.

Reliever Joaquin Benoit gives manager Mackanin a thumbs-up for calling team meeting

Reliever Joaquin Benoit gives manager Mackanin a thumbs-up for calling team meeting

Pete Mackanin gave his team an earful after it lost for the 21st time in 26 games Friday night.
 
Reliever Joaquin Benoit thought it was a good idea.
 
And he believes it had an impact.
 
The Phillies reported for work on Saturday and beat the Cincinnati Reds, 4-3, on Tommy Joseph's walk-off hit in the ninth (see game story).
 
"It always helps when the manager comes and talks about different situations and the things we need to do," said Benoit, a 39-year-old veteran in his 17th big-league season. "It always helps. It shows that everybody cares on the whole team and it's a wake-up call for everybody."
 
While Joseph was the ultimate hero for the Phillies on Saturday, Benoit and his mates in the bullpen weren't far behind. Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Benoit and Hector Neris combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings to help put Joseph in a position to win it in the ninth.
 
Not long ago, the Phillies' bullpen was having big problems, giving up big hits and posting big ERA numbers.
 
But over the last five games, the bullpen has racked up a string of scoreless innings that numbers 19 2/3. That scoreless streak has lowered the bullpen's overall ERA from 4.82 to 4.23, not great, but better and moving in the right direction.
 
"I believe that we are going good, taking advantage of the situation," Benoit said. "I think we are being more consistent in the strike zone and getting ahead. That translates to zeroes."
 
Benoit had been critical of Mackanin for not having his relievers in set roles. The manager responded by saying it was difficult to give guys set roles when they were pitching poorly.
 
Performances are improving.

And roles are now emerging.
 
"I believe everything is going well for us and I believe everyone is where they are supposed to be," Benoit said.
 
Benoit took some pride in Saturday's win. He has pitched seven straight scoreless innings.
 
"Every win is a step forward," he said.
 
No matter how many steps this Phillies team takes forward, it will not be a contender this season. It has dug itself a huge hole and it wasn't expected to contend anyway. It is a rebuilding team.
 
But Benoit will likely pitch for a contender later this season. He is expected to be dealt to a contender in July. Who knows what he will bring back, but his value will only go up if he can keep putting up zeroes.
 
Neshek, too. He has allowed just two runs in 18 2/3 innings. He has 15 strikeouts and just three walks.
 
While it's not clear how long Benoit will be here, he believes this Phillies team has weathered the worst and is ready for a turnaround.
 
"It's tough when you are losing," he said. "When you start winning and you do the little things, I believe everything can change.
 
"I'm the kind of guy who likes to start over from zero so everything that happens is in the past and you start over from scratch and let's see where everything goes from now on."

Phillies respond to Mackanin's verbal spanking, beat Reds on Joseph's walk-off

Phillies respond to Mackanin's verbal spanking, beat Reds on Joseph's walk-off

BOX SCORE

It's too early to tell if the worm has turned for the Phillies, but this was certainly a step in the right direction.

The Phils, who entered the day with the worst record in the majors, pulled off a 4-3, walk-off win over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday (see Instant Replay). The Phils won it on a hit by Tommy Joseph after Aaron Altherr made a heads-up baserunning play to advance to second on a wild pitch that bounced just a few feet away from Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart.

The win was just the Phillies' sixth in the last 27 games — inching them out baseball's basement — but it was their second in the last three and both of them have been walk-off specials with Joseph delivering the winning run with a single up the middle.

"Works for me," Joseph said of his recent penchant for walk-off hits.

Works for manager Pete Mackanin, too.

On Saturday night, the Phils were beaten, 5-2, by the Reds. The Phils were held to one hit and no runs over the first eight innings by a pitcher (Tim Adleman) with an ERA of over 6.00 and after the game, Mackanin called a team meeting. The skipper was tight-lipped about the meeting, but sources say he gave the lads a verbal spanking that belied his mild-mannered personality.

Time will tell if the meeting creates lasting impact and the intensity Mackanin would like to see, but he saw a response Saturday.

"I'd like to think it did (have an impact)," Mackanin said. "I was hoping they would. They played well. They put together a few hits. The home runs were nice to see, but I would like to see us bunch four or five base hits."

For the record, Joseph did not think the meeting had a huge impact on the team. He believes the Phils are better than they have shown and did not need a manager's scolding to play better.

"No, no," he said when asked if the meeting led to more intensity. "We know what we're capable of. We have a great team in here. It's a matter of playing great as a team. We were able to show that today."

There were a lot of contributors in this win.

Cesar Hernandez, Michael Saunders and Joseph all smacked solo homers off 40-year old Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo.

Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff was not at his best, but he did manage to stop the bleeding after allowing a two-run homer in the first. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up only one more run before handing a tie game off to the bullpen.

That bullpen was outstanding, running its scoreless streak to 19 2/3 innings. Edubray Ramos, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris combined on 3 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the game tied until Joseph could work his walk-off magic in the ninth.

But that magic started when Aaron Altherr led off the bottom of the ninth with a single off Michael Lorenzen and alertly took second on an 0-2 wild pitch that didn't bounce very far away from Barnhart. Altherr's getting into scoring position for Joseph was huge.

"Tommy Joseph has been coming up big in big situations and coming through for us," Mackanin said. "That wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for Altherr coming up and advancing on that ball in the dirt. So it's a good day.

"Maybe I should have a meeting every night."

After batting just .179 with one homer and seven RBIs in April, Joseph has hit .321 (25 for 78) with seven homers and 17 RBIs in 24 games this month. He is the first Phillie with two walk-off hits in a three-game span since Juan Samuel in June 1985 and first in the majors since Starlin Castro, then of the Cubs, did it in June 2015.

"If he continues like this, he’s going to have a heck of a good year and help us win a lot of games," Mackanin said.

Joseph nearly had his career ended by a series of concussions. A month-long slump was nothing he couldn't handle.

"At the beginning of April, I didn't think I'd have an April like I did," he said. "So it was just a matter of making adjustments with (hitting coach) Matt Stairs, making sure that we stay a little more consistent with what's going on, and it's all about really sticking to the adjustments that we make."

The Phillies have not won two games in a row in exactly a month — since April 26-27.

Can they do it Sunday?

Is the worm turning for this team?