Eagles-Redskins Storylines and Predictions: Can Birds' D Keep RG3 and Alfred Morris from Spoiling Chip Kelly's Debut?

Eagles-Redskins Storylines and Predictions: Can Birds' D Keep RG3 and Alfred Morris from Spoiling Chip Kelly's Debut?

Is RG3 Ready?

There’s already more coverage of Robert Griffin III than you can shake a stick at – even I wrote about him last week – so chances are you’re sick of hearing about the Redskins’ quarterback. We won’t spend dwell on this, but it’s worth noting RG3 is only eight months removed from tearing his ACL, and didn’t take a single snap during the preseason.

Prediction: Griffin is not sharp tonight. Maybe the knee is 100% or close enough, but teams can’t simulate the speed and intensity of an NFL game at practice, where he was also limited for much of the summer. If this were Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, I’d be a bit more confident they could shake off the rust quickly, but RG3 swag or no, he’s still a second-year QB with a lot to learn.

Skins’ Running Game vs. Eagles’ D

Alfred Morris and the Washington’s vaunted ground attack versus the Philadelphia’s defense is the mismatch of the night – at least on paper. Morris finished second to only Adrian Peterson last season with 1,613 rushing yards, while the Redskins averaged an NFL-best 169.3 yards per game. The Birds’ D meanwhile was dead last at stopping the run this summer, surrendering 163.5 YPG and a league-worst three runs over 40 yards in preseason action.

The good news is the Eagles’ issues there might be correctable up to a point. I broke down the main culprits behind the huge gains here, which each involved either losing backside contain, the deep safety taking horrible angles to the ball carrier in the open field, or some combination of the two. In any case, these seem more like mental issues than lack of talent.

If defensive coordinator Bill Davis can get his players to eliminate the 50-60 yard runs that haunted them in the preseason, the Eagles still probably won’t have the makings of an elite unit, but they’ll at least stand a chance at making a few more stops this year.

Prediction: I don’t see the Eagles shutting down Morris, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll run wild, either. Morris’ long run during last year’s rookie season was 39 yards (including playoffs), and he only cracked 30 on one other occasion. He still averaged a very effective 4.8 yards per carry though, so the Birds will have their hands full.

Does Defense Matter?

Speaking of the Birds’ defense, the number one reason most fans and media types don’t think the Eagles are destined for any better than 8-8 this season – and in most cases, worse – is just that. Philadelphia was ranked near the bottom in 2012 in points allowed (t-30th) and opponents’ passer efficiency rating (31st), and now they are making a difficult transition from a 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 under Bill Davis. There is a chance things could get ugly on that side of the ball.

The question is, if the offense under Chip Kelly is as good as we think it has to potential to be, how important is defense actually? Brent Cohen of Eagles Rewind and Bleeding Green Nation posed this question back in August, and the answer he came up with might surprise you: an average or above-average defense – while no doubt helpful – is not mandatory. Plenty of teams have won or appeared in the Super Bowl in the last 10 years with suspect defenses, but none without a quality offense.

So as long as Michael Vick and company can keep the chains moving and the scoreboard lighting up, and Washington doesn’t lay a 40-spot on Monday Night, Philly should have a shot to win.

Prediction: Although they won’t be good in any classical sense, the Eagles won’t be quite as inept on defense as everybody seems to be expecting. If Griffin isn’t sharp and the Birds can avoid the kind of complete breakdowns that have plagued against the run, there is a chance they will force enough to stops to get out of Washington with a W.

Chip’s Debut

Obviously the big story in Birdland is Chip Kelly making his first official appearance on the sidelines as the Eagles head coach. Naturally we’re all curious about the offense – what Chip has up his sleeve, what the pace will be, and most of all whether it will work in the NFL. We’ll finally have a lot of answers by the time clock reaches zero.

As far as debuts are concerned, they don’t always go so well. Zach Berman wrote about the time Kelly lost his first game as the head coach at Oregon to Boise St. Bob Brookover delves into look the rocky starts the Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid eras got out to in Philadelphia. And both Inquirer writers could have told us to simply look around the league, as Chicago’s Marc Trestman is the only first-time NFL head coach in 2013 to win in his debut so far.

It’s a big night for the future of the Eagles, but history and the percentages suggest it might not be all that memorable.

Prediction: The fact that it’s Chip Kelly’s first game in the NFL likely has zero impact on the outcome. He has head coaching experience, so it shouldn’t be an issue of managing the game. It’s only a matter of whether or not his system works and there’s enough talent on the roster to pull it off.

Final Thoughts

I have a ton of respect for RG3 and think he’ll be a very good quarterback for years to come, but I would be a little surprised if he was at his best on Monday night. Provided Morris doesn’t rip off a 200-yard game, and the Eagles’ offense…

Well, we really don’t know what to expect from the Eagles’ offense. My gut tells me they’re going to be good. What we saw during the preseason (third in the NFL with 397.0 yards per game) suggests they’re going to be good. The up-tempo pace practically dictates they’re going to be good – in 2012, seven of the eight teams that ran the most plays from scrimmage also had a top-10 offense.

So assuming the Eagles’ offense is in fact good, and the defense doesn’t wind up getting totally embarrassed, they’ve got a good shot to win in Chip’s debut. My final prediction is counting on Griffin having somewhat of a rough start though.

Prediction: Eagles 37, Washington 27

CSN NBA Insiders: Raptors win trade deadline, Lakers heading for lottery

CSN NBA Insiders: Raptors win trade deadline, Lakers heading for lottery

AN ARENA NEAR YOU –  The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, so the rosters you see now are pretty much what you’re going to see for the rest of the season.

Of course there will be some teams that will bolster their roster via buyout candidates, but most of those players will have a very defined and to a greater extent, limited role with whatever new team they sign with for the rest of this season.

So who were the winners and losers during this now-completed trade season?

Our CSN Insiders examine which franchises really cleaned up during the trade season, and which teams got taken to the cleaners, in addition to looking at a few teams that struck gold during the buyout season, as well as some that stood pat and why that was a good — or not so good — idea.

We start off north of the border where Toronto pulled off a pair of trades that in the eyes of many league executives and coaches, probably addressed their biggest needs going forward and should solidify them as a top-four team in the East with the potential to now go as high as the number two spot.

CSN New England’s A. Sherrod Blakely takes a closer look at the Raptors deal, how it paid off almost immediately and what it means for the Eastern Conference going forward.

Trade Deadline Winners
Toronto 
By adding Serge Ibaka, the Raptors were able to address the increasingly obvious need for them to upgrade their power forward position. Ibaka was traded from Oklahoma City to Orlando because they didn’t want to pay him a near-max salary this summer. And the Magic, realizing he wasn’t a good fit for them going forward, cut ties just months after acquiring him.

Playing with the Raptors has Ibaka in a familiar position, one that he enjoyed years of success in with the Thunder. Back then, it was Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s team, with Ibaka as a really good No. 3 guy. In Toronto, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are Ibaka’s Durant-Westbrook all over again and that’s a good thing. In his first game as a Raptor, Ibaka had 15 points and seven rebounds in Toronto’s win over Boston.

Considering Ibaka was going to be a player Toronto planned to pursue this summer when he becomes a free agent, acquiring him now makes the Raptors the odds-on favorite to sign him.

He wasn’t the only new guy for Toronto that gave the Celtics problems.

P.J. Tucker, acquired from the Phoenix Suns, had a near double-double against Boston with nine points and 10 rebounds.

The numbers they put up help, but even more important is they provide a heightened level of toughness which multiple league executives and coaches that CSNNE.com has talked with since all-star weekend, said was sorely lacking on their roster.

If the Raptors manage to climb the Eastern Conference standings and play their way into a deep postseason run, these two trades will be seen as instrumental in making that happen. — by A. Sherrod Blakely

Houston 
The Rockets bolstered their playoff push in a single trade by landing former Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams from the Lakers. They sent Corey Brewer and a first round pick to Los Angeles in the deal. Williams gives the Rockets another high-scoring guard to complement James Harden and Eric Gordon. The addition of Williams’ instant spark off the bench can make a difference in the grind of a postseason series. — by Jessica Camerato

Lakers
They traded their most effective player, sixth-man Lou Williams, for Corey Brewer and Houston’s unprotected first-round draft pick. The biggest upside might be that the loss of Williams makes LA an even weaker team and therefore improves its own draft positioning. If the Lakers continue on the lottery-bound path they are on, it would mark the fourth consecutive season they will have a lottery (top-14) selection. — by Monte Poole

Thunder
OKC needed a shake up if they had any hope of making noise in the postseason. They traded two young players in Joffrey Lauvergne and Cameron Payne, along with veteran Anthony Morrow, to the Bulls for Doug McDermott, Taj Gibson and a second-round pick.

McDermott instantly improves the small forward position for Oklahoma, giving them a high end shooting option for Russell Westbrook to kick to. Gibson is a solid veteran big that defends and rebounds either as a starter or off the bench.

The Thunder gave up two young pieces in the deal, but they are in “win now” mode as they try to move up in the Western Conference standings. And while there were certainly more high-profile moves made at the trade deadline, the Thunder can now set their sights on being more than just a team in the playoffs. These additions give them the kind of depth that’s required in the postseason to potentially knock off a higher-seeded team. — by James Ham

Magic
If you factor in all that the Magic gave up to acquire Serge Ibaka, only to trade him away for a good but not great player in Terrence Ross, there’s not a lot to like about the deal, right?

Not true.

Trading away Ibaka on many levels was a classic example of addition by subtraction.

The trade of Ibaka has allowed the Magic to play Aaron Gordon at his correct position at power forward.

The glut of forwards/centers had coach Frank Vogel trying to force Gordon to play at small forward which didn’t suit his strengths. He lacks the ball-handling and shooting to make that a natural transition.

“Everybody is now in their right position,” Vogel said. “Aaron being a four is better for him. He did well at the three defensively, but he’s better at the four.” — by J. Michael

Wizards
The addition of Bojan Bogdanovic isn’t the sexiest deal to be swung during this trade season, but it meets what has clearly been one of Washington’s biggest weaknesses – depth.

Specifically, Washington needed to add a scorer off the bench, which is exactly what Bogdanovic has the skills and talent to provide.

The Wizards haven’t ruled out another move in the free-agent market to help with the bench with a possible playoff run looming.

Trey Burke hasn’t been adequate as John Wall’s backup, Tomas Satoransky might not be ready for the role yet and Kelly Oubre hasn’t done the job behind Otto Porter.
The next move, if there is one, could be for the best player available but a creator with the second unit is desperately needed. — by J. Michael

Trade Deadline Losers
Kings
The Sacramento Kings hit a hard reset button on All-Star Sunday, dealing center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans for a package that included rookie Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and a first and second round pick.

Sacramento received below market value for their franchise cornerstone and started a youth movement that was long overdue. They now have four first round picks from the 2016 NBA Draft and potentially two first round picks in the highly touted 2017 NBA draft.

The Kings sat just a game and a half out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff chase at the time of the move. They have been raked over the coals in the media for their handling of Cousins, including making promises to not only keep the star big, but hand him a $219 million extension this summer. They chose to reboot the franchise, calling for an improved culture. — by James Ham

Clippers
Their pursuit of another wing shooter came up empty, as did their perpetual search for a legitimate small forward. On the other hand, as a group that has been crippled by injuries to key players, they’ll be happy to have a healthy starting five once Chris Paul is back and effective. — by Monte Poole

Knicks
So, the Knicks are all still there. Between Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, at points leading up to the deadline it seemed like a player could be on the move. In the end, the team remained intact. No better, no worse, just the same. Which in this season, the same isn’t necessarily the best outcome. New York needed to make a move to shake up a roster that’s once again underachieving. No one expected the Knicks to be among the top three or four clubs, but they were seen at the very least as a legit playoff contender. Of course there’s still time for them to get back in the postseason picture. But with all the drama surrounding this team, it’s unlikely their direction will change anytime soon which means another season ending without a playoff berth. — by Jessica Camerato

Celtics
This team has been fireworks-in-waiting for years now, seemingly on the cusp of a big deal that ultimately turns into a big dud. It’s hard to be critical of a team that has endured as many injuries as they have this season and still find themselves in second place behind the NBA defending champion.

Because of their lofty position, the Celtics’ focus was primarily on landing a major player like Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George.

The Celtics struck out on both of those guys and wound up keeping their current roster intact.

Adding insult to injury, two players – Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker – were both players Boston was in the mix for in terms of signing only to get serious love from Toronto which traded for both players. When the Celtics opened their post All-Star break portion of the schedule in Toronto, Ibaka and Tucker were huge factors in the game’s outcome. The Celtics did try to get in on acquiring the soon-to-be bought out Andrew Bogut only to learn that he’s likely signing with Cleveland. — by A. Sherrod Blakely

Buyout Winner 
Cavaliers
Indeed, the rich will get richer in the East with the Cavaliers on the cusp of adding both Andrew Bogut and Deron Williams who became unrestricted free agents. Bogut has reportedly reached a buyout after he was traded to Philadelphia from Dallas, while Williams was waived by the Mavericks when they could not find a partner to swing a trade for his services.

With Bogut, the Cavs add one of the best defensive centers in the NBA. Injuries have limited his impact this season, but the load he’ll be asked to carry is relatively small compared to what the former No. 1 overall pick has been tasked with elsewhere.

As for Williams, he gives them a ready-to-roll backup point guard. When Kyrie Irving takes a rest, LeBron James has often been shifted to being the primary ball-handler. But the addition of Williams gives the Cavs another choice coming off the bench of a player who has played this game for a while and has a solid understanding of how to run a team effectively. — by A. Sherrod Blakely

Hawks: Schroder off to rough start after All-star break
When the Hawks opted to move on from Jeff Teague, the assumption was that Dennis Schroder was ready to be the starting point guard.

Coming out of the All-Star break, Schroder has served a one-game suspension for not reporting to the team on time, and then was benched for the first half of the next game because he missed the team bus.

Going into Monday, the Hawks had a three-game losing streak, losing by a total of 53 points.

“We continue to hold our entire roster, all of our players, accountable,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “Our culture is important to us. Respect for your teammates is important to us. That’s our job and that’s our organization’s job is to continue to build on our culture.” — by J. Michael

MLB Notes: Josh Hamilton undergoes knee surgery

MLB Notes: Josh Hamilton undergoes knee surgery

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Josh Hamilton has had another surgery on his balky left knee, ending any chance of the 2010 AL MVP making the Texas Rangers' opening day roster.

The arthroscopic procedure Monday was to repair some damaged meniscus cartilage in his left knee. There were no issues with the surgically repaired ACL in that knee.

Hamilton had left spring training in Arizona and returned to Houston for the second time in less than a week to be examined by Dr. Walt Lowe, who also performed Hamilton's season-ending surgery last June.

The latest knee procedure is the 11th in Hamilton's career, and the third since the 35-year-old slugger last played in the majors in 2015.

Hamilton, in camp on a minor league contract, faces six weeks of rehabilitation before he will be able to start running again.

Orioles: Bourn broke finger during football drill
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Baltimore outfielder Michael Bourn hasn't played football since his sophomore year in high school. But it's a pigskin injury that's preventing him from playing this spring for the Orioles.

On Friday, the speedy 34-year-old broke his right ring finger catching a football at a workout. Bourn, who signed a minor league contract on Feb. 20, will be out for four weeks, making it difficult for him to be ready for Baltimore's April 3 opener. He'll make $2 million if he's put on the 40-man roster.

Bourn has difficult competition. Another veteran major league outfielder, Craig Gentry, signed two days before, plus the Orioles want to take long looks at Rule 5 outfielders Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez. Joey Rickard, a Rule 5 pick who played with the team last season, is also a serious contender.

Because he signed late, Bourn hadn't played.

"I was ready to go and pretty much ready to get into games the next couple days and now I've got to wait a about four weeks to heal. I want it to heal correctly but I want to push it, too. There's really nothing I can do about it," he said. (see full story)

Indians: Kipnis sidelined by shoulder injury
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has a rotator cuff strain and will stop throwing for a couple days.

Kipnis got a cortisone shot on Saturday, and manager Terry Francona didn't sound very worried about the situation.

"If it was during the season we wouldn't do anything," Francona said before Sunday's spring game against the Chicago Cubs in Mesa. "There's so much time to get ready that to kind of put a Band-Aid on it now didn't seem to make sense."

The 29-year-old Kipnis hit .275 with 23 homers and 82 RBIs last season, helping Cleveland to the AL Central title. He added four more homers and eight RBIs in the playoffs as the Indians made it all the way to the World Series before losing to the Cubs in seven games.

Kipnis had been on a shoulder program.

"I would say probably eight out of 10 guys, as they get their arms loose, you feel something," Francona said. "You throw through stuff and you get through the aches and pains of getting back, but then when there is some history there, you just try to use good judgment.

"He can do all his cardio and everything and all that stuff, but throwing is shut down for four to five days. I don't think he's going to hit today."

The Indians also announced left-hander Tim Cooney will be sidelined for 10 to 12 weeks because of a muscle strain in his arm. Cooney went 1-0 with a 3.16 ERA in six starts with St. Louis last season and was claimed off waivers from the Cardinals in November.

"Originally, they thought it was forearm," Francona said. "It's lower than that. By all accounts, it is an extremely unique area."