Eagles' defense eager to get back in game action


Eagles' defense eager to get back in game action

Its safe to say that last weeks game against the Steelers didnt go as planned, especially for the Eagles defense.

Thats why its looking forward to getting back on the field Thursday against the Browns so much.

The next team is the next opportunity. Its another opportunity, linebacker Moise Fokou said. This week I think the starters are going to have a chance to go out there and showcase their talents and its going to be a good audition to see what this defense could look like.

Against the Steelers in the second preseason game, the defense looked porous to say the least. By the time Andy Reid took his starters out at halftime, the Steelers had a 21-0 lead, with all the touchdowns coming on passing plays of 20 yards or more.

Reid, after practice on Tuesday, said that the starters will play for the first three quarters against the Browns.

Its going to be a great test for us, safety Kurt Coleman said. Its really our last chance for us to get out there and get to play almost the whole game. As far as starters go, we need to solidify everything on the back end. We need to get more picks.

Defensive end Trent Cole said he didnt think the defense struggled: We just needed to make some minor adjustments.

The numbers might say otherwise.

The Eagles didnt force one turnover against Pittsburgh and the Steelers outgained them by 191 yards before halftime and converted nine of 12 third downs.

We just need to go out there and play our game, Jamar Chaney said. Against Pittsburgh we didnt get off the field on third down, so well need to try to do that more this week.

The Eagles will certainly welcome the presence of defensive tackle Mike Patterson, who will play in his first preseason game this year after missing 16 days following a seizure on Aug. 3 at training camp.

The Steelers ran through the Eagles D-line for 93 yards in the first half without Patterson and fellow defensive linemen Trevor Laws and Antonio Dixon.

To be honest with you, there were a lot of missed assignments, Coleman said. I think we tied those loose ends up and were ready to go out there and play the Browns.

It may have looked like all bad news for the Eagles defensively, but rookie starting middle linebacker Casey Matthews said there were some positives, too.

Im looking forward to playing the Browns, Matthews said. Toward the end of the Pittsburgh game in the second quarter I started to feel more comfortable, so Im just looking forward to carrying on from there.

If youre comfortable, things start slowing down. I feel thats what happened in the second quarter of the Pittsburgh game.

Perhaps no one was criticized more in the wake of the loss to the Steelers as much as Matthews, the Eagles fourth-round draft choice.

Hes only been with the defense for three weeks, Chaney said. You cant expect somebody to come out here and be an All-Pro, especially if you try to compare him to his brother (Green Bays Clay Matthews). Its unfair to him that hes getting those types of comparisons, but hes up to the task.

Matthews said that this week the defense really started to progress quickly during practice.

I thought this week we made a lot of improvements over the last few weeks, he said. We just really improved as a unit.

With the lockout lasting well into the summer, the Eagles defense hasnt had a whole lot of time to mesh under first-year defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.

Were where you would expect at this time, Reid said. Theres some good things we did the other night, theres some things we need to work on. I think theyre picking it up fairly quick.

While Reid is optimistic about the defenses progression, Fokou admitted on Tuesday that theyre not where they need to be. Not yet, anyway.

Obviously not, but I think Thursday will be a good test of that, he said. Well see what we need to fix before the regular season.

Thats the beauty of the preseason: it doesnt count at least the records dont. So while there were Eagles fans didnt like what they saw in the last game, the players think that its just too early to panic.

You cant put a lot into it, into the game against Pittsburgh, Chaney said. The main thing is that we go into the season with confidence and we go in healthy.

Health, of course, is always a concern before the season. Patterson will be back, but safety Nate Allen, who on Monday said he is 90-95 percent healthy, wont start. Instead, it will be Jarrad Page at safety with Coleman.

I think were excited its another chance for the coaches to call a defensive game and its a good chance to see where were at right now, Fokou said. The thing about the last game, I think it went south offensively and defensively. Especially on defense, there were a lot of good individual efforts. We just need to put it all together.

If they do put it all together, Cole proclaimed loudly what he expects for this weeks game.

Whoop some a--! he said with a smile.

What a difference a week could make.

E-mail Dave Zangaro at dzangaro@comcastsportsnet.com.

MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games


MLB Notes: Rangers' Rougned Odor's suspension reduced to 7 games

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor started serving his suspension Friday for punching Toronto's Jose Bautista after the penalty was reduced from eight to seven games.

Odor was out of the lineup for the series opener against Pittsburgh. He will be eligible to return June 4 when Texas is home against Seattle.

Bautista was suspended one game, and he was serving that Friday, when the penalty was upheld a day after his appeal was heard.

The Rangers promoted former top prospect Jurickson Profar from Triple-A Round Rock, and he was in the lineup against the Pirates as the leadoff hitter playing second base. Odor had been leading off.

Odor's penalty was cut by Major League Baseball special assistant John McHale Jr. The appeal over Odor's role in a May 15 brawl between the Rangers and Blue Jays was heard Tuesday. The league disciplined 14 players and staff over the melee in Arlington (see full story).

Red Sox: Struggling RHP Clay Buchholz to bullpen
TORONTO -- Struggling Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is being moved to the bullpen and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will take Buchholz's spot in the rotation, starting Tuesday at Baltimore.

Buchholz is 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA in 10 starts and has allowed five earned runs or more six times. He gave up season-highs of six runs and three home runs in Thursday's 8-2 loss to Colorado.

Rodriguez (right knee) is on the 15-day DL has not pitched for the Red Sox this season. He's 0-3 with a 3.54 ERA in five rehab starts at Triple-A Pawtucket. He went 10-6 with a 3.85 ERA as a rookie in 2015.

Buchholz has made two career relief appearances, one in his rookie season in 2007 and another in 2008.

Manager John Farrell said Buchholz will make multi-inning appearances in order to remain stretched out and could return to the rotation later in the season.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance


NBA Playoffs: Cavs blow out Raptors for second straight Finals appearance


TORONTO -- LeBron James scored 33 points, Kevin Love had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the Cleveland Cavaliers advanced to their second straight NBA Finals by beating the Toronto Raptors 113-87 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals Friday night.

It's the third finals appearance in team history for the Cavaliers. Cleveland lost to Golden State in six games last year and got swept by San Antonio in 2007.

For James, it's his sixth straight trip to the finals, including four with Miami. He broke the 30-point barrier for the first time this postseason and finished with 11 rebounds and six assists.

"We needed LeBron to set the tone for us early and I thought he did that," coach Tyronn Lue said.

James will be the eighth player in NBA history to appear in six consecutive finals and the first who didn't play for the Boston Celtics.

"He's just a great player," Lue said. "He's a proven winner. He's always won over the course of his career. To go to six straight finals is unbelievable."

James got there by taking down a Toronto team that set a franchise record with 56 wins and reached the conference finals for the first time in 21 seasons.

After a second-quarter dunk, James shared some verbal barbs with rapper Drake, the Raptors' global ambassador and the man who popularized the nickname `6ix' for Toronto.

Kyrie Irving had 30 points and J.R. Smith added 15 for the Cavaliers, who will face the winner of the Golden State-Oklahoma City series on Thursday.

Cleveland would open at home against the Thunder but would be on the road against the 73-win Warriors, who trail 3-2 against Oklahoma City heading into Saturday's Game 6.

The Cavs will be seeking to end Cleveland's 52-year championship drought, the longest by any city with at least three professional teams. No Cleveland team has won it all since the Browns blanked Baltimore 27-0 to win the NFL championship in 1964.

"This city has been craving a championship," Lue said. "We have the right team and we have the right talent."

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points and DeMar DeRozan had 20 as the deepest playoff run in Raptors team history ended, much to the disappointment of a sellout crowd of 20,605 dressed in red and white T-shirts that formed a maple leaf pattern on either side of the court. Fans stood and cheered "Let's go, Raptors! Let's go, Raptors!" throughout most of the final three minutes.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey said reaching the conference finals was "a tremendous learning experience" for his young team, one that's "a step ahead" in its process of becoming a championship contender.

"We're learning," Casey said. "We're not where (the Cavaliers) are right now. We're going to be."

A dejected Lowry said it was hard to see the positive side of Toronto's best season ever.

"Of course you're going to look back at some point but right now I'm disappointed," he said. "Simple as that, I'm disappointed."

Toronto prolonged the series with back-to-back home wins in Games 3 and 4 but never mounted much of a challenge to the conference champions in Game 6, falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.

The Cavaliers came in 0-4 at Air Canada Centre counting the regular season and playoffs, but looked much more like the team that handed the Raptors a trio of lopsided losses in Cleveland this series.

The Raptors trailed 88-78 on a jumper by DeRozan with 10:23 remaining but James scored six points in a 14-3 run that gave the Cavs a 102-81 lead with about 6 minutes left.

James scored 14 in the first and five of Cleveland's nine field goals were from long range as the Cavaliers led 31-25 after one.

After video review, the officials waved off a basket by Biyombo with 3:18 left in the period and gave him a flagrant foul for knocking down Love.

Tempers flared again early in the second when Richard Jefferson reacted angrily to catching an elbow from Jonas Valanciunas as the two battled for a rebound. Patrick Patterson came over and shoved Jefferson out of the way. Both Patterson and Jefferson were given technical fouls.

Cleveland made five more 3-pointers in the second and outscored Toronto 9-3 over the final 71 seconds to lead 55-41 at halftime. The Cavaliers made 10 of 15 3-point attempts in the first half, while Toronto was 2 of 12.

The Cavs led 78-57 after a 3 by Love at 3:53 of the third but Lowry scored 15 points as Toronto closed the quarter with a 17-8 run, cutting it to 86-74.

Cavaliers: Shot 17 for 31 from 3-point range. ... Outscored Toronto 17-5 in fast break points.

Raptors: Finished their playoff run by playing every other day from April 29 onward, a 15-game run that started with Game 6 of the first round against Indiana.

NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at 3 years


NFL Notes: Jets' offer to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick stands at 3 years

NEW YORK -- A person familiar with the negotiations says the New York Jets made a three-year offer to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in March that includes $12 million guaranteed in the first year.

That offer has remained on the table for Fitzpatrick, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither side is commenting publicly on the negotiations.

The New York Post first reported the terms of the offer Friday.

Fitzpatrick and the Jets have been locked in a contract stalemate. The 33-year-old quarterback is a free agent and coming off a season in which he threw a Jets-record 31 touchdown passes and led New York within a victory of the playoffs.

Both the Jets and Fitzpatrick have said they would like a reunion, but have unable to agree on a deal.

Bears: First-round pick Leonard Floyd agrees to deal
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears and first-round draft pick Leonard Floyd have agreed to a four-year contract with an option for a fifth year.

The Bears drafted the outside linebacker from Georgia with the ninth pick after trading up two spots in a deal with Tampa Bay. Chicago hopes he will add some athleticism to a team trying to build on a 6-10 season. The 6-foot-6, 244-pound Floyd led the Bulldogs in sacks for the third straight year with 4 , and tied for the team lead with 10 1/2 tackles for loss last season.

With the announcement Friday, the Bears have agreed to contracts with eight of their nine picks. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard, a third-rounder, is the exception.

NFL: Navy's Reynolds, Carter can defer military service
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Keenan Reynolds will get his chance to play in the NFL this season.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced Friday that the record-setting Navy quarterback Reynolds and fullback Chris Swain can defer their military service to play in the NFL.

Carter made the announcement during his graduation speech to the academy in Annapolis. As students cheered the news about their graduating classmates, Carter said: "Go get 'em."

Reynolds was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens. He is the NCAA's career leader in touchdowns with 88. He had 31 touchdown passes while leading Navy's triple-option offense. The Ravens plan to use him as a running back, receiver and kick returner.

Swain has signed with the San Diego Chargers (see full story).

Redskins: Activists criticize poll on team name
WASHINGTON -- Native American leaders and activists have criticized a recent US national poll that found nine of 10 Native Americans aren't offended by the Washington Redskins' name.

On a conference call held Friday by the National Congress of American Indians and "Change the Mascot" campaign, panelists voiced opposition to a Washington Post poll that surveyed 504 Native Americans, 90 percent of whom said the name doesn't bother them.

James Fenelon, a California State San Bernardino sociology professor, called the poll "immoral," adding it was not representative of Native American communities. Amanda Blackhorse, lead plaintiff in the trademark case against the Redskins, said the "misguided" poll will not affect attempts to change the name.

National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata said: "This issue is not about polling. This issue is about human rights."

D.C. council member David Grosso said he hadn't been swayed and that the government would not support the team moving back into the District unless the name was changed.

The team currently plays its home games in Maryland, with its headquarters and training facility in Virginia.