Eagles Pass on Geno, Select Stanford TE Zach Ertz in Round Two of the Draft

Eagles Pass on Geno, Select Stanford TE Zach Ertz in Round Two of the Draft

It wasn’t a quarterback, but
the Eagles continued to focus on offense in the second round of the NFL Draft on
Friday. Zach Ertz joins Brent Celek and James Casey in a suddenly crowded field
of tight ends for Philadelphia.

Chip Kelly’s offense is
expected to feature the tight end heavily, so despite Celek’s presence on the
roster plus the addition of Casey through free agency, adding another with the 35th overall selection was far from surprising. The belief is the Eagles will carry up to four, possibly
even five tight ends this season.

The Stanford product was
easily one of the top prospects at the position, as he was just the second tight
end to come off the board. He has good size (6-5, 249 lbs.) and strength, and
is said to be an excellent route runner. He'll also be useful in an H-back role.

Here’s the scouting report from NFL.com:

Strengths

Smooth athlete
with good route quickness to create some separation and sneaky speed to get
behind the defense. Sturdy, well-built frame, adding 30 pounds of bulk and
muscle since he arrived in Palo Alto. Tough with the ball in his hands and isnt afraid to deliver hits, lowering his pads and finishing
runs. Not afraid to get physical as a blocker and gives good effort in this
area, always looking for someone to block downfield. Tracks the ball well and
does a nice job adjusting his frame to make the tough catch, extending and
plucking. Looks like he has glue on his hands with some of the catches he is
able to make. Does a nice job selling his patterns, getting good depth in his
routes and immediately looking for the ball out of his breaks. Nice job
deceiving defenders and finding soft spots in coverage to make something happen
after the catch, averaging over 13 yards per catch in 2012. Has experience all
over the offense for Stanford, lining up in-line, slot and out wide, but looked
most comfortable in the slot. In 2012 Ertz doubled Coby Fleeners production from the year before, earning All-American honors as a
Mackey Award finalist. Hard worker on and off the field and plans to graduate
in June.

Weaknesses

Missed half
of his sophomore year due to injury. Must prove his straight-line speed to
scouts. Will not elude NFL defensive backs after the catch with pure quickness.
Inconsistent in-line blocker, can get after his man but also loses the leverage
battle and gets pushed back too easily. Misses second-level blocks when lunging
at targets instead of getting position. Nice job adding bulk to his frame, but
needs to continue to develop his strength to sustain blocks at the line of
scrimmage. Will round off some routes at times and needs to better control
himself in/out of his breaks. Needs to do a better job coming down with
contested throws and will drop some easy ones seems to
have at least one drop each game.

Ertz posted a whopping 69
receptions for 898 yards and six touchdowns last year as a redshirt junior, including 11
for 106 and a score in a 17-14 win over Chip’s Ducks. It was by far his most
productive season, although he was always a threat inside the red zone, hauling in an additional nine touchdowns the previous two years despite a much smaller role.

Looking at this selection from
another perspective, Ertz and Lane Johnson aren’t just offensive players. They
are BIG, powerful offensive players. The Eagles aren’t going to just tucker
opponents out with a breakneck pace, or try to finesse their way down the
field. They want to wear defenses
down physically as well.

Geoff Mosher wrote more about the Eagles' plan at tight end earlier this week:

When the Eagles signed versatile fullback/tight end James Casey in
March, coach Chip Kelly spoke about the increase of two tight-end
formations, about the creation of a lethal tight end tag team similar to
New England’s Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Casey and
veteran tight end Brent Celek, right now, are Kelly’s vision of the
Gronkowski-Hernandez pairing. Backups Clay Harbor and Emil Igwenagu are
OK but haven’t proven themselves to be dynamic.

Hoping to emulate
the Patriots, who have stockpiled at the position, the Eagles have
closely examined this year’s college crop of tight ends, and several
league officials familiar with Kelly’s background and offense expect the
Eagles to add depth there before the end of the draft.

The downside is the Eagles
haven’t addressed defense yet in this draft even though the unit was tied for
third in points allowed last season. However, an inconsistent and erratic
offense has compounded the issues on the other side of the ball for the last
two years.

Besides, it makes sense to build
a team that suits the head coach. Whatever Chip Kelly’s vision is for this
offense, he needs certain types of players to make it work. Ertz, like Johnson
before him, fits the mold.

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

Pete Mackanin on Odubel Herrera's slump: 'He needs to battle his way out'

After an 0-for-5 day at the plate, Odubel Herrera isn't heading to the bench a day later.

He's leading off. 

Pete Mackanin chose to move the slumping centerfielder atop the lineup card for Friday's series opener against the Reds despite Herrera's striking out in all five plate appearances Thursday.

"I think he's a .290-plus hitter as a leadoff man and I'm not going to sit him," Mackanin said pregame. "He needs to battle his way out. You figure you're the leadoff hitter once a game. After that, it's wide open."

While he hasn't batted leadoff this season, Herrera spent the majority of his time in that spot last season. In 76 games there, he batted .285 with a .359 OBP and .417 slugging percentage. 

The leadoff hitter this season has been Cesar Hernandez, who has a day off with a groin pull he's dealt with the last 10 days. Herrera primarily has been the No. 3 hitter this season and his average is down to .226 with 49 strikeouts to just 11 walks. 

Mackanin hopes the leadoff role can help change Herrera's approach at the plate.

"He was drawing a lot of walks at leadoff, so whether he has that mindset or not, I'm not sure," the manager said. "I just want to get him as many at-bats as possible. We need to get him going. We need him and [Maikel] Franco to get going."

May specifically has been tough on Herrera. He has four hits in his last 36 at-bats and has seven strikeouts in his last two games. He has just seven hits in 22 games this month. 

"I think he's at the point where he's grinding and sometimes when you grind, sometimes there's that feeling where you get lost," Mackanin said. "I've been in situations as a hitter where I've gone up to the plate saying, 'I don't care where it is. I'm going up there and just hacking.' Because you start thinking and that's not working.

"And you look for a pitch and then all of a sudden you say I'm going to take a pitch to get a look at and it's strike one. Then he throws you a nasty slider and that's strike two and your plan is out the window. So I've gone up to the plate myself saying, 'I'm just looking down the middle and swinging. I'm not thinking.'"

When asked, Mackanin said the team had not discussed demoting Herrera or Franco to the minors to take pressure off the duo.

While Herrera tries to hit his way back into a groove, Howie Kendrick is in the midst of working his way back to the majors. He was hit by pitch twice in a rehab appearance Thursday but is back in the lineup Friday in left field. 

Mackanin said Kendrick needed four days minimum in his rehab assignment and will therefore play Friday and Saturday before the team sees how he feels.

The manager also said the team would give more playing time to backup catcher Andrew Knapp. He started consecutive games for the first time on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

"I'm going to try and see him as much as possible and keep him as sharp as possible instead of once a week," Mackanin said. "That's tough to hit, once a week. It's tough to hit twice a week if you don't hit back-to-back. There's no ulterior motive."

Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

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Report: Brett Brown accuses longtime friend of defrauding him of $750,000

Sixers head coach Brett Brown is in Australia this week, where he has accused longtime friend and former Australian men's national team assistant coach Shane Heal of defrauding him of $750,000, according to the Australian Associated Press.

Brown invested $250,000 into each of three companies for which Heal was the sole director. Brown wasn't given a legal title regarding the companies and didn't know the specifics of how the money would be used.

"I assumed that the money was going to be used for what Shane told me it was going to be used for," Brown said. "Because it was a friend that I had for 25 years."

Heal was charged last year by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission following an investigation relating to alleged misconduct in 2008, 2009 and 2010, according to the AAP.

The sides return to court in Brisbane on July 20.

Heal played in the NBA for the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1996-97 and was with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003.