Eagles' quarterback situation still unclear

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Eagles' quarterback situation still unclear

PHOENIX -- Asked Tuesday morning how many college prospects he would consider with the No. 1 overall pick in next month’s draft, Chiefs coach Andy Reid estimated anywhere between eight and 10.

Reid said he recently hit the road to work out two pass rushers -- Oregon’s Dion Jordan and Brigham Young’s Ziggy Ansah -- and would be keeping tabs in coming weeks on all the top offensive linemen prospects.

The natural assumption is that Reid wouldn’t pull the trigger on Geno Smith, the former West Virginia quarterback who will probably be picked in the top 10 despite mixed reviews from scouts and talking heads. The Chiefs addressed their quarterback deficiency by trading for Alex Smith.

But Reid, ever the salesman and bargain shopper, made sure to keep the clouds of smoke billowing out the Arizona Biltmore chimney during the owners meetings.

“That doesn’t mean Geno is out of the water,” said Reid, surrounded by a herd of Philadelphia reporters and, surprisingly, no representatives from the Kansas City media. “I’m going to keep my eyes open on everybody. I think Geno is a good quarterback. I’m going to keep this workout thing going.”

Hours later in the Biltmore lobby, Eagles general manager Howie Roseman likewise fanned the flames about his nebulous quarterback situation. Roseman reiterated his intent to keep Nick Foles on the roster and let competition decide the fate of his second-year quarterback.

Roseman also didn’t squash the idea of adding another arm -- he already has five -- in next month’s draft. He recently traveled with owner Jeffrey Lurie and new coach Chip Kelly to Morgantown for a bird’s-eye view of Smith during a private workout. That same day, Arizona quarterback Matt Scott arrived at the NovaCare Complex, presumably to interview with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.

Therein lies the confusion.

If the Eagles have already committed roughly $7 million this year to Michael Vick, and if they’re not averse to landing another passer in the draft, wouldn’t it be more logical to deal Foles now, when quarterback-needy teams still have time -- and picks -- to deal?

What is the benefit in having Foles sit every Sunday if he’s really not part of Chip Kelly’s vision?

“It’s the most important position in football,” Roseman said. “If you’re telling me that the worst thing we can have on our football team is we have a bunch of good players at the quarterback position, where do I sign up?”

That sounds all well and good. But this comes from the man who heads the same front office that twice dealt odd-man out quarterbacks for hefty draft compensation: Donovan McNabb after the 2009 season and Kevin Kolb after 2010.

Roseman was also quickly ascending the Eagles front office ladder in 2003 when the Eagles pilfered a second-round pick from the Dolphins in exchange for third-string quarterback A.J. Feeley.

This is different, Roseman promised. So long as Foles is in the hunt for the starting job, the Eagles don’t see value in moving in.

“I can’t sit here and tell you for a fact I know exactly what Nick is going to be,” Roseman added. “Because he hasn’t been our full-time player.”

Roseman admitted that his story is hard to believe, given the team’s reputation for sending quarterbacks packing. But an old ally backed Roseman’s claim. Reid was asked if he made any serious overtures about trading for Foles before he explored the Smith deal.

“They weren’t in a position where they were gonna let him go,” Reid said. “That was really never part of the discussion. We kind of had our sights set on Alex, and that’s the route we went.”

Roseman repeated what Kelly said in February at the NFL Scouting Combine, that Kelly has honest plans to have Foles compete for the starting job and looks forward to working with the former Arizona quarterback who once carved up Kelly’s defense at Oregon in 2011.

“You heard it from Andy, we have not tried to trade Nick,” Roseman said. “And to be totally honest, I understand that people don’t believe that. I get that. Chip came in, he watched him and he told you the truth. He wants to work with him. We want to see him at minicamp. We drafted him.

“He didn’t get a chance to play with his full complement of skill guys. He didn’t get a chance to play with his full offensive line. I think the worst thing you can do is trade a young quarterback before you at least think you know what he is and then go see him have a tremendous amount of success somewhere else.”

Roseman painted an incomplete picture of Foles, a third-round pick who replaced a concussed Vick as the Eagles spiraled downward to their worst season ever in Reid’s 14 seasons as head coach.

He won just one of his six starts and missed the season finale with a broken hand but also averaged nearly 247 passing yards per game and completed 61 percent of his passes. Mobility -- or lack thereof -- would seemingly be his disadvantage as Kelly prefers that his quarterbacks have some running ability to freeze the extra defender who comes down into the box.

Kelly has repeatedly said that his playbook will be built around the best quarterback instead of vice versa, but it’s telling that the two quarterbacks who have joined the roster since Kelly’s hiring -- Dennis Dixon and G.J. Kinnie -- are dual-threat quarterbacks with plus mobility.

Reid, who also looked for mobility in his quarterbacks to run his West Coast offense, said Foles “is mobile enough” to keep defenses honest and noted the 14-yard touchdown run against Tampa Bay, a game the Eagles thrillingly won, 23-21, on Foles’ 1-yard touchdown to Jeremy Maclin at the buzzer.

“Most of the quarterbacks in our offense have been mobile guys,” he said. “If you take the history of the West Coast offense most of the kids have run when needed, and you saw Nick do that against Tampa, when they played all the two-man they were playing. He took off and scored and had a couple of good plays. You just have to be able to do enough of it. He’s always been able to go when he needed to. I think that’s a plus.”

Union-D.C. United 5 things: Slumping Union look to end slide against D.C. United

Union-D.C. United 5 things: Slumping Union look to end slide against D.C. United

Union vs. D.C. United 
7:00 p.m. on 6ABC
 
Looking to avoid four-straight losses for the second time this season, the last-place Union (4-7-4) aim to prey on vulnerable D.C. United (5-8-3) in a battle at the bottom of the Eastern Conference on Saturday night (7:00 p.m., 6ABC) at Talen Energy Stadium.
 
Here are five things to know:
 
1. Back to slump busting
The Union are a streaky team. After losing four-straight matches earlier this season, the club claimed two draws then went on a four-game winning streak. Things were looking up until the Union stumbled again and dropped their last three matches, including a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls last Sunday.
 
“We had a tough start, a hot run and a little bit of a dip,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “We can not allow this to be a long-term thing.”
 
Although the potential of another four-game losing streak will loom large over Saturday’s match, the Union will have to shrug it off if they want to turn their season around. The weekend tilt features the two lowest ranked teams in the Eastern Conference. 
 
“It’s a weird run of form,” said Curtin, who pointed out the Union’s recent losing streak was more about bad luck than poor play. “Streaks get longer and can get problematic or we can step up on Saturday night and put an end to it.”
 
To do that, the Union need more on both sides of the ball. Over that four-game winning run, the Curtin’s outscored their competition 11-1. They took the lead and locked the game down.
 
“It’s a league of runs, Curtin said. The strong teams are the ones that aren’t conceding a lot of goals. If you start with that foundation, which is something we believe in and something we’ve improved on but that hasn’t been perfect, it at least gives you a chance to get results in every game. We showed glimpses of that through the four-game stretch of winning.” 
 
2. Looking for a fix
To get back to those winning ways, the Union need a quick fix. But as Curtin explained on Wednesday, the defense, which has allowed five goals in its last three matches, has been unlucky rather than poor.
 
“If you look at our last eight games as a team defensively we’ve conceded six goals, which isn’t bad,” he said. “Four of them are without [Alejandro] Bedoya in the last two games. Two of the goals were down a man and two were on restarts. We have a team that needs to do a little better offensively and is a little cleaner defensively decisions as well. But overall I don’t think there’s a real problem with us conceding a ton of goals.” 
 
But while leaning away from putting all of the losing weight on his defense, which has recently included Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Oguchi Onyewu and Fabinho, Curtin, a defender at heart, didn’t let his team’s defensive effort go unscathed. 
 
“We need to continue work on things, to build on that,” Curtin said. “It does start with defense in this league. If you at the team at the top of standings and they defend their butts on for 90 minutes. We’ve been able to do that in patches of games but it’s been too inconsistent.”
 
One solution? Score more. The Union have only managed one goal in their last three games. Curtin stated that it’s not for lack of chances but missing finish that has caused the trouble.
 
“You want to try to get into the situations where you get to th[Chris] Pontius comes to life, that’s where [C.J.] Sapong comes to life. In short, we need more crosses.”
 
3. Basement battle
Although Saturday’s match against D.C. United is technically just another early-summer game, it will tell a lot about where the two clubs are headed. It’s a battle of teams trying to climb out of the East basement.
 
“If we can [get a win], we put ourselves in a good spot moving up the table,” said D.C. United manager Ben Olsen. “Philly is right around us so it’s an important match at this point in the season.” 
 
The Union are leaning on previous success against United as navigation through Saturday. On May 13, they dismantled their rivals, 4-0, at RFK Stadium.
 
“We were good with the ball, possession was strong,” Curtin said. “We were clinical with our finishing. When you take your chances in this league it’s everything. That day we finished everything and that’s what it comes down to. Hopefully, we have a sharp day in front of goal, we’ve proven we can do it.”
 
Olsen is expecting a familiar contest.
 
“We know them very well and they know us very well,” he said. “There will be no secrets on what our teams are about, it’s always a physical matchup, it’s a rivalry game for us. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s never an easy place to get points but we’ve done it before.” 
 
4. Keep an eye on
Deshorn Brown: The United newcomer, who was acquired this week from the Tampa Bay Rowdies, made his debut on Wednesday for United and will likely play a factor on Saturday. He’s a speedster that the Union know well. “Tough timing,” Curtin said. “It’s speed, that’s what he is. He looks to get in behind, he’s a guy who creates chances and he’s dangerous. We’ll see him for sure. That’s my belief at least. I think we’ll see Deshorn one way or another. It was a good acquisition for them.”

Alejandro Bedoya: After missing two games with a lower-body injury, the midfielder is expected to return Saturday against United. That should give the Union a boost on both ends of the ball, as the club found chemistry and settled nicely with Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin working together in the center.

5. This and that
• The Union will be without Derrick Jones, who is suspended after receiving a red card last Sunday against the New York Red Bulls. It puts Curtin is a tough position as Warren Creavalle (out with a right hamstring strain) would be the primary depth behind Bedoya at the No. 8 spot.

• The Union will also be without Fabian Herbers and potentially Jay Simpson, who is questionable with a left hamstring strain. United will miss Nick DeLeon, Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin and Patrick Mullins. 

• The Union are 8-8-4 against D.C. United all time and 6-3-0 at home.

Flyers move up to draft Isaac Ratcliffe, who is 'going to be a force in the future'

Flyers move up to draft Isaac Ratcliffe, who is 'going to be a force in the future'

CHICAGO — Isaac Ratcliffe was the biggest player in this year's NHL draft at 6-foot-6, though a little light at 200 pounds for that frame.

He plays like Wayne Simmonds at the net with a physical edge and he's a left winger, too.

How badly did the Flyers want him?

So much so, they moved their second-round pick (44) along with a third (75) and fourth (108) to Arizona on Saturday morning to take the Coyotes' pick at No. 35 and select the big winger from the OHL's Guelph Storm (see Day 2 tracker).

"They definitely showed interest and going through a trade like that to get me here, it definitely makes me feel happier where I am," Ratcliffe said.

"Even on top of all the emotions and the excitement I am feeling right now, being in this organization and city, it's definitely going to be awesome for the future."

He models his game after the Rangers' Rick Nash, who goes 6-foot-4, 212 pounds.

"He's a big guy like myself and he moves well," the 18-year-old Ratcliffe said. "He has that offensive instinct but he plays well in the defensive zone. Any position on the ice, whether power play or penalty kill, he can take over any aspect of the ice with his size and abilities."

General manager Ron Hextall forecasted coming into the draft that the Flyers would be looking to beef up on the wings, given the lack of such on the organizational depth chart. Ratcliffe plays both sides of the ice.

He met with the Flyers at the NHL Scouting Combine, but most of the contact came before that with amateur scout Rick Pracey.

Ratcliffe seems like a prototypical Flyer.

"I'm a big guy, I think I can play both offensively and defensively," he said. "Really, that full-ice game and playing all areas in the zone. Adding that to their lineup, and being able to maneuver my way into their lineup, being with a lot of those guys ... I think I can bring a lot to the table."

He was ranked 15th by NHL Central Scouting.

"Coming into the draft, I didn't have any expectations," Ratcliffe said. "I knew how unpredictable it can be. I know there are a lot of great players in this draft. I didn't know if I'd go [Friday] or today."

His goal is to add more speed to his game and to fill out his tall frame.

"I'm definitely going to have to get a lot stronger, too, to try and make my way to the next level," he said. "I need to prove to them they made the right pick here. I'm still developing. I got the height now, I need to put on a little weight now to get that size."

Ratcliffe had a prediction for Flyers fans, too.  

"In the next one to two years, you're going to see that progress and start to see how big a player I can be and that I can be one of the top players in this draft with my size, with my talent," Ratcliffe said. "I can definitely be a player who's going to be a force in the future."