Didinger: Eagles-Ravens first impressions

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Didinger: Eagles-Ravens first impressions

Here are my first impressions of the Eagles first preseason game, a 13-6 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday night.

Michael Vick downplayed the hype for the first preseason game, saying it would be little more than a glorified scrimmage. Thats true which is why he played only one series but the Eagles quarterback put on quite a show.

Vick completed four of six pass attempts and he really couldnt be faulted for the two that were not complete. One pass was batted down by defensive lineman Haloti Ngata and the other was a pretty fade to the corner of the end zone that Jason Avant couldnt quite keep in bounds. Avant made the catch but couldnt get both feet down inside the line.

Vick has been very sharp at training camp and he carried that into the game against the Ravens. On his one possession, he drove the Eagles 80 yards in eight plays and capped it off with a touchdown pass to tight end Brent Celek.

We were hoping to get a clue about how the Eagles would deploy their three Pro Bowl cornerbacks, but it was hard to tell much with such a brief sampling. The starters were out there for the first series then sat down.

But it was interesting that Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel lined up at the corners and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie played the nickel role. Whether thats how they will play during the regular season remains to be seen, but I think it is the right alignment.

I dont understand why you would sign the best press corner in the NFL and ask him to change positions, which is basically what you would be doing by putting Asomugha in the slot. If you are the Eagles, you want Asomugha outside where he can shut down the likes of Hakeem Nicks (Giants) and Dez Bryant (Dallas). Why would you want him in the slot covering Mario Manningham? Its almost a waste.

Samuel is not built for the role of slot defender. He would not be as effective playing in those tight quarters and getting bumped around. Rodgers-Cromartie probably is the best fit in there. We only saw it for one series, but thats how the Eagles played it against the Ravens.

We saw the influence of the new assistant coaches, Jim Washburn (defensive line) and Howard Mudd (offensive line). The Eagles got consistent pressure on the quarterback, recording six sacks. And when they ran the ball, particularly on the second series, they ran stretch plays with Ronnie Brown behind zone blocking. Thats a Mudd trademark.

Among all the celebrated additions to the Eagles roster this year, the hiring of Washburn and Mudd ranks right up there with any of the player signings in importance. When you see the teaching the two veteran coaches do on the practice field every day, you see how much the Eagles have improved in that area since last season and that should carry over to the actual games.

For years, Andy Reid had a veteran coaching staff led by his top lieutenant Jim Johnson, the defensive coordinator. Tommy Brasher was a crusty old defensive line coach. John Harbaugh had been around. Reid trusted them enough to let them do their thing. But with Johnsons death and the loss of other assistants (many of them to head coaching jobs) the staff skewed very young last season and it showed.

Reid recognized that and realized he needed some old-school types, guys he could trust in the same way he trusted Johnson and the others. With Washburn and Mudd, Reid appears much more comfortable and confident.

Speaking of coaches, it was a good first night for Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator. The communication from the sideline to the field went smoothly, the right players got on the field when they changed defensive packages (which they did often) and, bottom line, they kept the Ravens out of the end zone.

I scratched my head when Reid gave Castillo the job. I thought it was a huge leap of faith on the part of Reid considering Castillo was a career offensive line coach and we still dont know how it is going to work out over the long haul, but for the first night, it looked good with three interceptions to go along with the six sacks.

Im starting to think the coaches are really serious about rookie Casey Matthews being the starting middle linebacker. When they put him with the first unit at the start of camp, I thought they were just getting him some reps to speed his development but they really were shopping around for a veteran to fill the position, at least for this season.

But after watching practice and watching the interaction between Castillo and Matthews, I think it is more likely that the fourth-round draft pick will be the guy when they kick off the regular season. And so far Matthews hasnt looked out of place. He has been good in camp and he was good again in limited snaps on Thursday.

It appeared Matthews might have been fooled on a Joe Flacco to Ray Rice screen pass that gained 23 yards on the opening drive, but it was his tight coverage on the tight end that forced Flacco to hold the ball and allowed Trent Cole to record his first sack later in the first quarter.

Overall, I thought the Eagles were very good. I expected a sloppy mess of a game with the players having less than two weeks to prepare and it did become that in the second half when the coaches cleared the bench but in the first half when the ones and twos were on the field, the Eagles were much sharper than I thought they would be.
E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

NBA draft profile: G Kris Dunn

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NBA draft profile: G Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn

Position: Point guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 205

School: Providence

Point guards are coveted on NBA rosters, and a team could land a long-term solution with Dunn. Last season he averaged 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 2.5 steals in 33.0 minutes per game. The Sixers met with Dunn at the draft combine and plan to work him out as well. In order for the Sixers, who hold the first, 24th and 26th picks, to acquire Dunn, they would have to make a trade to move up in the selection order. 

Strengths
Dunn brings a physical presence to the one spot. At 6-4, he has a 6-9 wingspan and can create size mismatches at the point guard position. Dunn is athletic with strong leaping abilities, which allows him to move well without the ball to the basket and attack the rim as well. While Dunn can score (16.4 points per game), he also averaged 2.5 steals per game this season. 

Beyond the numbers, he has immeasurable mental strength and focus after overcoming obstacles to reach the highest level of basketball. “You’re going to get someone who works hard every day,” Dunn said at the combine. “I like to say I’m a blue collar worker. Nothing was ever given to me and I go after it with everything I have.”

Weaknesses
As an NBA point guard, Dunn has to be disciplined running the floor. At times in college he went for the highlight play over fundamentals, resulting in turnovers (3.5 per game). He will have to improve shot selection in the pros. Dunn took 21 more field goal attempts from his junior to senior season but actually made one less year to year. He also shot 69.5 percent at the line. 

How he'd fit with the Sixers
The Sixers had a revolving door at the point guard position this season. They didn’t have a consistent starter until late December when they traded to re-acquire Ish Smith, who is a free agent this summer. Dunn could be their point guard for the future. 

NBA comparison
Dunn has been compared to Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall. At the combine, Dunn said he liked that comparison because of Wall’s defensive skillset.

Draft projection
Dunn is projected to be drafted as high as in the top five. He could be selected lower, though, given teams close to the top already have point guards.

MLB Notes: Sore left foot sidelines Red Sox's David Ortiz against Blue Jays

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MLB Notes: Sore left foot sidelines Red Sox's David Ortiz against Blue Jays

TORONTO -- Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz has been scratched from the lineup for Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays with a sore left foot.

He is day to day.

Ortiz, who leads the major leagues with 46 RBIs, 23 doubles, and 121 total bases, was hit on the foot by a pitch in the fifth inning of Saturday's 10-9 loss. Ortiz struck out on the play.

Hanley Ramirez moved from first base to DH, Travis Shaw moved from third to first and Josh Rutledge replaced Shaw at third.

Ortiz is batting .339 with 13 home runs. He has announced his intention to retire at the end of the season.

Yankees: Beltran misses Rays game with shoulder tightness
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- New York Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran is out of the starting lineup Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays because of right shoulder tightness but says he is available off the bench.

Beltran was hurt Saturday on a checked swing.

He said Sunday: "A little sore, but I'm good. I saw the doctor yesterday and he said that it should go away in a couple days, so I'm not worried."

Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira didn't start for the fifth consecutive game because of neck stiffness but said he "felt pretty good" after resuming batting practice and taking grounders.

Teixeira had a cortisone shot Thursday. He said that made a "night and day difference."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi is hopeful that Teixeira can start Monday night's game at Toronto.

Royals: C Salvador Perez out 7-10 days
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez is expected to be out 7 to 10 days with a bruised left thigh after colliding with rookie third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert while catching a foul pop up in the ninth inning Saturday.

Perez had a MRI on Saturday night, which confirmed the injury was a contusion with no structural damage.

"Hopefully it's not going to require a trip to the DL," Royals manager Ned Yost said Sunday. "We're hoping he'll be back in 7 to 10 days. It could be earlier or later. We'll just have to wait and see and just manage it day to day.

"Great news, you don't want to have to put him on the DL and he's ready to play in eight days and has to sit there for another week."

The Royals recalled catcher Tony Cruz from Triple-A Omaha, where he was hitting .278 with three home runs and 20 RBIs in 31 games. Cruz has a .220 average in 229 games with St. Louis the past five years (see full story).

©2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Pelicans' Bryce Dejean-Jones killed after going to wrong apartment

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The Associated Press

Pelicans' Bryce Dejean-Jones killed after going to wrong apartment

DALLAS -- New Orleans Pelicans guard Bryce Dejean-Jones was fatally shot on his daughter's first birthday after he mistakenly went to the wrong apartment in Dallas, a death that rattled the NBA over Memorial Day weekend.

"We are devastated at the loss of this young man's life," the Pelicans said Saturday in a statement.

Dallas police said Sunday they would not have more information about the shooting until after the holiday and did not answer The Associated Press' question regarding whether the man who shot the 23-year-old Dejean-Jones would face charges. It is legal in Texas for someone to use deadly force to protect themselves from intruders.

Dejean-Jones was visiting his girlfriend for his daughter's first birthday and had gone for a walk early Saturday, according to his agent, Scott W. Nichols. His girlfriend lives on the fourth floor, and Dejean-Jones, who was visiting the complex for the first time, went to the third.

A man living at the apartment was sleeping when he heard his front door kicked open, police Senior Cpl. DeMarquis Black said Saturday in a statement. When Dejean-Jones began kicking at the bedroom door, the man retrieved a handgun and fired. Dejean-Jones collapsed in an outdoor passageway, and he died at a hospital.

Dejean-Jones's father told KCAL-TV that his son was "tenacious."

"He has had so many things that have happened to him along his path," K.C. Jones told the station. "He made up his mind that he wanted to do what he was doing -- play pro ball. And whatever it took, he was going to get there. He was going to do it."

In Dejean-Jones' only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

Nichols said Dejean-Jones had nearly completed his rehab and was set to begin shooting with his right hand again next week.

"It's shocking this happened," Nichols said. "Wrong place, wrong time, I think."

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called it a "tragic loss" and said Dejean-Jones "had a bright future in our league."

Dejean-Jones was signed by the Pelicans last summer after not being selected in the 2015 draft.

"I just lost my best friend/cousin last night enjoy life because you never know if tomorrow is guaranteed," Shabazz Muhammad of the Minnesota Timberwolves wrote on Twitter.

Dejean-Jones was part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He also played at Southern California and UNLV; he was suspended late in the 2013-14 season from UNLV for conduct detrimental to the team, and announced that he was leaving USC midway through the 2010-11 season.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, now the coach of the NBA's Chicago Bulls, added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

Julie Keel, a spokeswoman for Camden Property Trust, the real estate company that owns the apartment complex in Dallas, confirmed that the complex's apartment manager had sent out an email to residents saying that the person who had been shot had been trying to break into "the apartment of an estranged acquaintance" and that this person had "inadvertently" broken into the wrong apartment.

Black said he could not confirm that Dejean-Jones was trying to access an acquaintance's apartment.

©2016 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.