Didinger's Mailbag: Bloodlines, LBs, sleepers

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Didinger's Mailbag: Bloodlines, LBs, sleepers

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Posted: 10 a.m.

By Ray Didinger
CSNPhilly.com

Answering your questions and commenting on your comments, here is todays dip into the mailbag.

Q. After watching the Kentucky Derby, I started thinking about bloodlines and whether there is a correlation in other sports. Im thinking specifically of the Eagles draft. They drafted two linebackers Casey Matthews and Greg Lloyd, Jr., with fathers that starred in the NFL. Is that something teams value?
Nick G.Bensalem, Pa.

A. In some cases bloodlines seem significant; in others, not so much. It appears to be a real thing in the Matthews clan. That is a three-generation NFL family. Clay, Sr., played four years with San Francisco (1950, 1953-55). Clay, Jr., played a ridiculous 19 seasons with Cleveland and Atlanta (1978-96) and Clay, 3rd, is an All-Pro with Green Bay. Casey isnt as big or explosive as his brother, but he has the instincts and passion of a kid who grew up around the game and understands it from the inside-out.

Lloyd did not have a close relationship with his father, the former Steelers star, so it is hard to tell how much, if anything, was handed down. All players are different. You have to judge them individually. If you put too much stock in bloodlines, you are asking for trouble. In 1951, the Eagles took Ebert Van Buren, the younger brother of Steve Van Buren, in the first round of the draft. Ebert played just three seasons and rushed for all of 61 yards. He wasnt his Hall of Fame brother, in other words. Bloodlines only take you so far.

Q. I think fans need to be somewhat suspicious of the Eagles approach to linebackers. They have a group of around the same age, etc. However, the highest draft pick invested is the fourth round. They are all late-round picks. The problem with the defense the last few years, in my opinion, is not that it is bad but that it is too average across the board.

Chris Strings

A. Stewart Bradley was a third-round pick, but I get your point. This isnt a blue-chip group. Omar Gaither and Ricky Sapp were fifth-rounders, Moise Fokou and Jamar Chaney were seventh-rounders and Akeem Jordan was a free agent. This year the Eagles added Matthews (fourth round), Brian Rolle (sixth round) and Lloyd (seventh).

Fans complain that the Eagles dont value the linebacker position and dont invest in it, but thats not true. They just make bad decisions. Since Andy Reid has been here, theyve drafted Barry Gardner, Quinton Caver and Matt McCoy all in the second round so they tried to upgrade the linebackers, they just picked the wrong guys. They did the same thing last year trading for Ernie Sims. He came here and bombed. Again, they tried; they just made a mistake.

Give them credit for finding Chaney in the seventh round. He showed promise when he took over in the middle last season. But I agree with your final point: I think the defense has a lot of average players. We all know what Asante Samuel brings (turnovers) and we know what he doesnt bring (tackling), but otherwise this defense lacks game-changers. The Eagles have game-changers on offense, but not on defense. They have to find some.

Q. I have an issue with the Eagles draft. Not that the players they picked cant play, but their overall philosophy of drafting for speed. Unfortunately, that has also meant getting smaller to get faster. The linebackers they took this year look more like Matt McCoy than Jeremiah Trotter. I see the other teams running the ball down their throat and the Eagles offense never getting on the field.

Donald Pierce

A. I wonder about that, too. The Eagles got pushed around up front last season and they did not exactly bulk up in the draft. I would expect them to add a lineman or two through free agency when the lockout is lifted. I also think they will be better with Jim Washburn coaching the D-line. Washburn will do a better job of stunting, getting players into and through the gaps. Adding him to the staff will really help this team.

Q. I heard you and Glen Macnow on WIP radio discussing your list of draft sleepers. Could you recap who those players were and where they may have gone in the draft?

Joseph ManloveWilmington, De.

A. Four of the five sleepers were drafted: Will Rackley, the Lehigh guard, in the third round by Jacksonville; Kendrick Ellis, a defensive tackle from Hampton, in the third round by the Jets; Cecil Shorts, a wide receiver from Mt. Union, in the fourth round by Jacksonville, and Kealoha Pilares, a receiver from Hawaii, in the fifth round by Carolina. Nick Bellore, a linebacker from Central Michigan, was not drafted but Im sure he will be signed as a free agent.

Q. Do you think the Eagles have changed the way they select players in the draft? It seems they are drafting more mature, high character type guys the past couple drafts, players that are able to pick up the system quickly and play sooner.

Joe McGauley

A. I dont think it represents a change. When you study the list of Eagles draftees most years, you see a number of team captains, coachs sons, all-academics, etc. They do factor that into their decision-making and this season was no exception. Seven of the 11 picks were team captains including the kicker, Alex Henery. Character is important, but it still comes down to talent. The most impactful draft pick of the last three years, DeSean Jackson, was considered a bad-attitude guy, which is why he slipped in the draft. The Eagles took him in the second round and now he is one of the most dynamic players in the league. He also proved to be a quick study who started from the first game his rookie year.

Q. Boy, Ill miss David Akers and Quintin Mikell, but if these new pieces to the puzzle do their job well be OK. One question: Will drafting Danny Watkins and having Jamaal Jackson healthy at center free up Brent Celek to be a force in the passing game?
Lionel EvansWilmington, De.

A. Adding Watkins and getting Jackson back will improve the middle of the O-line, but most often it is the play on the outside that forces a team to keep its tight end in to block. That means the tackles must be better and the backs have to more consistent in carrying out their blocking assignments. But part of Celeks problem last season was a series of nagging injuries that started in training camp and lingered throughout the year. He never was fully healthy, which is a big reason why his receptions declined from 76 in 2009 to 42 last season.

Q. In last weeks mailbag you said you thought New Orleans had the best draft. Im a big Indianapolis Colts fan. I thought they had a great draft. What did you think?

Tom G.Doylestown, Pa.

A. I agree, the Colts had an excellent draft. With the first two picks, they acquired tackle Anthony Castonzo (Boston College) and tackle-guard Ben Ijalana (Villanova) to solidify their offensive line. They also landed defensive tackle Drake Nevis (LSU), a steal in the third round, running back Delone Carter (Syracuse) and cornerback Chris Rucker (Michigan State).

Q. Tennessee will need a veteran quarterback while (Jake) Locker develops. What about Donovan McNabb? They have very similar playing styles coming out of college: mobile, strong quarterbacks who throw very well outside the pocket. As such, McNabb might be a perfect role model for what Locker can achieve.

John Bartholomew

A. Interesting that you should think of McNabb because Lockers biggest weakness is still McNabbs biggest weakness and that is a lack of accuracy. Yes, Locker is mobile, but McNabb isnt mobile anymore. I dont see it as a fit. Besides, McNabb doesnt want to be a mentor or a guy who keeps the seat warm for the next quarterback. He wants to be the starter, which is why I still think he will wind up in Minnesota.

E-mail Ray Didinger at viewfromthehall@comcast.net

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

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USA Today Images

National champion Villanova to be honored at White House next week

It's been nearly two months since Villanova won the National Championship in one of the most memorable games in NCAA Tournament history.

Since then, the Wildcats have been honored by the city (parade), the New York Stock Exchange (opening bell), the Phillies (first pitch), the Flyers and the Union. Earlier this week, head coach Jay Wright addressed the Eagles.

But that will all pale in comparison to where the Wildcats will be next Tuesday, when they become the latest championship team to visit the White House and meet President Barack Obama.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 4:10 p.m. and will be streamed on www.whitehouse.gov/live.

In his pool, President Obama had Villanova finally advancing past the second round — "I know that eventually they're going to break through. They've had some bad luck over the last couple of years," Obama told ESPN.com — but had the Wildcats falling to Kansas in the regional semifinal.

He then had Kansas beating North Carolina to win the title.

After surviving the first weekend for the first time since their Final Four run in 2009, Villanova ousted Kansas, 64-59, before shocking Buddy Hield and Oklahoma in the national semifinal, winning by 44. The Wildcats then won one of the most memorable championship games in NCAA Tournament history when Kris Jenkins hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, 77-74.

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

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Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

The Union have cashed in on Michael Lahoud.

After terminating his loan to the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, the Union recalled Lahoud and officially sold the 29-year-old midfielder to Miami FC of the NASL for an undisclosed amount.

“Mike always served the club in a professional manner during his time here,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, who loaned Lahoud to the Cosmos this offseason. “We thank him for his service and want to wish him the best of luck in Miami and in his future endeavors.”

Lahoud, whose prorated $115,637.50 guaranteed salary comes off the Union’s salary cap, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with Chivas USA for defender Danny Califf. He made 58 appearances with the Union before being loaned out.

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

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Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

Allen Barbre is the Eagles’ starting left guard.

For now.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman started all 16 games at left guard in 2015, and as of Tuesday at OTAs, he was still a starter for Doug Pederson’s new-look offense.

But that could change.

There are several players pushing for the left guard spot. Among them are Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche, Isaac Seumalo and Andrew Gardner.

“I definitely am trying to start somewhere,” said Wisniewski, a free-agent signing. “I think I would be a good starting left guard.”

Wisniewski, 27, signed a one-year prove-it deal in early April to join the Eagles (see story). After being taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Wisniewski has started 77 of 80 possible games in the NFL. He clearly views himself as a starter in the NFL.

For the last two weeks, he’s been working with the second team at guard and center.

“Yeah, it’s weird. It’s definitely weird,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t spent much time with the twos in five years. Probably a week or two. So it’s definitely different, but I’m just looking at it as a temporary thing, though.”

This offseason, the Eagles added veteran Brandon Brooks to play right guard, taking over for Matt Tobin, but Barbre is still slotted on the left side. In fact, to hammer the point home, the starting offensive linemen have their lockers in a row in the deep corner of the locker room, from left to right: Jason Peters, Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brooks, Lane Johnson.

So, as of late May, Barbre is still the starter.

“I really like where we're at. I like the depth at that position right now,” Pederson said last week. “But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he's our starter.”

Wisniewski is the most accomplished of the backups pushing for that starting left guard spot, but he’s not alone.

Bunche, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2015 after going undrafted out of UCLA, has been working with the second team at left guard during practice. And the second-year player thinks he has a shot at the starting job too.

“Oh yes. But not just that one,” Bunche said. “Throughout the season, anything can happen. That’s one thing that [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland], he talks about it a lot, you never know when you’re number is going to be called. You just gotta stay in tune with what’s being called, the play-calling, the different techniques going into certain games. I feel I have an opportunity to take that spot if I wanted to. My mindset it to come in and get better each and every day.”

Another possible starting left guard isn’t with the team right now. Third-round pick Seumalo, from Oregon State, is back at school because of the NFL graduation rule and Oregon State’s quarters system. He would be a logical choice to compete for that starting job, but he’s missing valuable time at OTAs.

Meanwhile, Barbre, who had started just eight total games in his seven-year career before 2015, is trying to stave off his competitors. The veteran knows the team brought in a bunch of new offensive linemen this offseason (they have 17 on the roster). He just doesn’t care.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really worried about that,” Barbre said Tuesday. “Honestly, I thought I played fairly decent (in 2015), if you studied the film and you understood what went on. There was a lot of stuff that was tough on the O-line, so it made it kind of tough on us.”

The criticism of the offensive line last season was loud, especially criticism of the guard positions, but Barbre did his best to avoid it.  

“I don’t even read it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t even care. You guys got your jobs and I have my job. We all have different things we have to do.”

Right now, Barbre’s job is to hold onto that starting spot, while Wisniewski and the rest try to steal it away.