Eagles Open Preseason in Style, Top Ravens

Eagles Open Preseason in Style, Top Ravens

We try not to get too excited over results of exhibition games on the whole, and with a very limited training camp and scant opportunities for live scrimmages, the Eagles' first preseason game was little more than a very glorified practice under the big lights at Lincoln Financial Field. Still, in watching the ones take the field and move the ball efficiently against a respected NFL defense, even for only a few minutes, it was absolutely impossible not to get caught up in it.  

On both sides of the ball, the Eagles' top units looked sharp, with Michael Vick leading a scoring drive on his only series of the game and the defense looking hungry and nasty. Vick completed four of six passes for 74 yards, including a 42 yarder to Riley Cooper that perched the Eagles near the Ravens goal line. One of Vick's two incompletions came on a near TD to Jason Avant, who was shown to lose the ball out of bounds on a play that Andy Reid would challenge. He just had to throw that flag… you knew it was coming as soon as the close play was called an incompletion.  

But the offense answered with a quick TD strike to Brent Celek from three yards out, and that was it for for the V unit on the night. He wasn't the only one who looked great in limited or extended action though, with quite a few Eagles stepping up, and just about every unit playing as well as we could hope in such early action.  

Although we started with a look at the offense's TD drive, the Eagles defense was the big story of the night on the whole. The units combined to limit the Ravens to just a pair of field goals on the way to a 13-6 Eagles win.  

The defensive line was everything a Jim Washburn-led unit was advertised to be. They bottled up the run and got after the quarterback with explosiveness from the opening snap, making the Ravens offense look lost for stretches of the game, forcing field goals at best and turnovers at worst. On the night, Ravens QBs were sacked six times, with the Eagles owning the ends of the line in particular, but also getting good pressure up the middle. The rotations and unit replacements came, but the pressure remained constant.  

The completely revamped unit, from coaches to on-field personnel, looked to be on the same page, and that page was "straight at the point of attack." There's still a lot to prove, and all this came against an offense just getting its bearings, but Juan Castillo aced his first test as Eagles defensive coordinator. Darryl Tapp had his name called out quite a few times, and "Chef" Jaiquawn Jarrett enjoyed a huge moment on his college home field, hauling in an interception on what I think was his first ever series as an Eagle. Safety Jarrad Page also came up with a big pick in the end zone.  

Vince Young played parts of the first and second quarters, making plays with his legs when the Ravens seemed to have him cornered and connecting on a 32-yarder to Chad Hall. Much of the offense when VY was on the field seemed to center on handing the ball off to Ronnie Brown, who was bottled up for the most part, but looked sharp.  

Mike Kafka had the reins of the offense for much of the night, and despite an awful interception when he tried to go long and came up quite short, looked pretty crisp in running a more complete offensive package than Young was understandably given. Kafka finished the night 13 for 19 for 132 yards.  

Alex Henery lined up for two field goals in his debut as the replacement for Birds legend David Akers, and I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that he hit both. His first, a 35-yarder, was a bit tight toward the right upright, which provided for the Don "Tolly Sunshine" Tollefson moment of the night, when Tolly called the kick "perfect." I kinda love that guy.  

Although the Birds managed only one touchdown, it was encouraging to see how it happened. A few small completions and one big play, followed by a narrow miss in the red zone (which we've seen plenty of), and a quick strike to one of the weapons this team has had for a few seasons but is a bit overshadowed with some of the other names on the field. If Jeremy Maclin's health doesn't keep him from the field, the combination of him and DeSean Jackson on the outsides, Jason Avant or Steve Smith on the inside, and a backfield that includes LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown, and oh by the way, MICHAEL VICK… defenses are going to have trouble containing everyone, and Celek could be one of the biggest beneficiaries. With improvements on the O-line, he may not have quite as much blocking responsibility as last year, leaving him free to find a seam for Vick to hit underneath.  

Just thinking about all that this offense can throw at a team—so long as most of its personnel stays healthy—is enough to make us want to watch that opening drive a few more times this morning. The work the twos and beyond put in last night was encouraging in the event they need to step up and become starters, which at some positions will surely happen.  

Perhaps best of all, no key players got hurt last night. The NFL is a war of attrition as you've no doubt heard, and while the preseason games don't count for anything in the standings, the injuries that happen in them are very real. I don't know that anything serious actually wound up on the injury report last night, although Cooper came up a bit hobbled after being pulled to the ground hard on his big first-quarter catch, and that's an even bigger win than the 13-6 score line.  

Overall, the opening preseason game was a great appetizer. We didn't get to see the ones in action for long, but what we did see made us want a lot more.

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

Flyers Injury Update: Jordan Weal practices, but won't play vs. Washington

VOORHEES, N.J. — Jordan Weal participated in the Flyers' full practice Tuesday at Skate Zone, but will remain out of the lineup against Washington on Wednesday with an apparent concussion.

He was nailed in Edmonton by Oilers defenseman Eric Gryba. The hit in the corner came at 13:57 of the opening period.

Video replays show Gryba sandwiched Weal hard on the boards with Weal striking his head and right shoulder, then falling to the ice. Actually, Gryba hit him earlier in the period, as well, but it was the second hit that seemed to go the most damage. 

Weal said both he and trainer Jim McCrossin agreed it was better to not return to the game after the second hit.

“He kind of drove me in pretty good there,” Weal said. “It’s a hockey play, though. Not much you can do.” 

The Flyers are being cautious with the head injury.

Coach Dave Hakstol was vague as to when Weal would re-enter the lineup. Weal had just been called up last week to replace Travis Konecny, who was placed on IR.

“I feel good,” said Weal, who took extra practice on Tuesday. “It definitely has been progressing every day ... I’m day-to-day and as soon as I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go.

“It’s one of those injuries you just have to take your time with. I think when I feel I’m ready to play, I’ll be in.

“It’s frustrating. But it’s part of the game. With these injuries, it’s tougher than if it was, say your finger or your shin or something where you could put ice on it and get it better. You just have to treat it right and get back as quick as I can.”

Gudas’ departure
Defenseman Radko Gudas left early during what was a brief but long-delayed 45-minute practice on Tuesday.

What was noteworthy about Gudas’ departure, however, was that he picked up his gear and headed back to the dressing room while both trainers remained on the bench.

So he wasn’t injured.

Immediate speculation was that he might have been traded. An hour later, general manager Ron Hextall announced Gudas had a dentist appointment to fix a broken tooth, incurred during the recent road trip.

Needless to say, Gudas’ leaving blew up Twitter with trade rumors.

Lower, lower body
Jake Voracek took a shot below the belt line and couldn't stand for a few minutes near the end of practice. He remained in obvious pain in the dressing room and did not talk … as if he could. 

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

Michael Del Zotto on trade watch as NHL deadline nears

VOORHEES, N.J. — Michael Del Zotto knows the score.

With the NHL trade deadline just a week away, this can be a very uncomfortable time of year for an unrestricted free-agent-to-be.

Players who are expecting a pay day on a club where there are at least two or three younger and far less expensive rookies anticipating a promotion, know what that implies.

They’re on trade watch.

“It happens every year,” Del Zotto said. “It’s not like it’s the first time. I’ve been traded before. It is what it is. It’s a business.

“You realize that pretty early in your career. I understand where I’m at as far as my contract, being a UFA this summer.

“Same thing with taking each game one day at a time. You take each day one day at a time. Go home, make dinner, get ready for tomorrow and whatever happens, happens.”

The 26-year-old Del Zotto was traded in 2013-14 from the New York Rangers to Nashville. That trade occurred in January, well before the deadline, during a season after which he was about to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time.

That same summer, Del Zotto signed a one-year deal with the Flyers for $1.3 million. His current deal pays him $3.875 million. He’d have to take a pay cut to stay here given the long line of prospects ready to step in at a first-year NHL salary and that fact he has struggled defensively this season.

Del Zotto averages 19:23 ice time. He has 10 points in 32 games and is second among Flyers defensemen with 113 hits. He’s missed a total of 22 games this season with two different injuries, one to his left knee, the other to his left leg.

If you had a chart ranking of Flyers likely to be dealt at next Wednesday’s deadline, Del Zotto would be No. 1, with Mark Streit and one of the Flyers’ two goalies right behind him.

If possible, general manager Ron Hextall would like to add draft picks at the deadline.

“It’s a business and these things are out of your control,” Del Zotto said.

When he was traded to Nashville a few years ago, Del Zotto said he saw it coming.

“Anytime it does happen, and for the first time, it hits you hard,” he said. “Being in New York, I had my brother and wife living with me, it made it extra tough. With our schedule being tough, you don’t get to see them very often, but with them living with me, it was pretty special.

“That’s what hurt the most. Leaving my family. I decided, it’s a business and you never know when it can or can’t happen ...”

The line behind him in Philadelphia includes Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers, etc.  

Del Zotto laughed and admitted he’s aware of those waiting.

“That’s the part of the game that is out of my control,” he said. “That is why you have the GM and coaching staff. To make those decisions. My job is to come into work every day, give everything you have.

“That’s one thing. I can always look myself in the mirror. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I give everything I have every day. At the end of the day, if I can look myself in the mirror, I’m happy. That’s all I can control.”

The Flyers host Washington on Wednesday before going to Pittsburgh for their Stadium Series outdoor game this weekend.

"[Those] are huge four-point games for us," he said. "We can't overlook that. We know where we are in the standings."