Eagles' quarterback situation still unclear


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.”

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

Anthem singer at Sixers-Heat game kneels during performance

MIAMI — A woman performing the national anthem before an NBA preseason game in Miami on Friday night did so while kneeling at midcourt, and opening her jacket to show a shirt with the phrase "Black Lives Matter."

The singer was identified by the Heat as Denasia Lawrence. It was unclear if she remained in the arena after the performance, and messages left for her were not immediately returned.

Heat players and coaches stood side-by-side for the anthem, all with their arms linked as has been their custom during the preseason. Many had their heads down as Lawrence sang, and the team released a statement saying it had no advance knowledge that she planned to kneel.

"We felt as a basketball team that we would do something united, so that was our focus," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Throughout all of this, I think the most important thing that has come out is the very poignant, thoughtful dialogue. We've had great dialogue within our walls here and hopefully this will lead to action."

The anthem issue has been a major topic in the sports world in recent months, starting with the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to not stand for its playing. Kaepernick cited racial injustice and police brutality among the reasons for his protest, and athletes from many sports -- and many levels, from youth all the way to professional -- have followed his lead in various ways.

"All I can say is what we've seen in multiple preseason games so far is our players standing for the national anthem," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in New York earlier Friday, at a news conference following the league's board of governors meetings. "It would be my hope that they would continue to stand for the national anthem. I think that is the appropriate thing to do."

The NBA has a rule calling for players and coaches to stand during the anthem.

Heat guard Wayne Ellington often speaks about the need to curb gun violence, after his father was shot and killed two years ago. He had his eyes closed for most of the anthem Friday, as per his own custom, though was aware of Lawrence's actions.

"At the end of the day, to each his own," Ellington said. "If she feels like that's the way she wants to stand for it, then more power to her."

Making a statement in the manner that Lawrence did Friday is rare, but not unheard of in recent weeks.

When the Sacramento Kings played their first home preseason game earlier this month, anthem singer Leah Tysse dropped to one knee as she finished singing the song.

Tysse is white. Lawrence is black.

"I love and honor my country as deeply as anyone yet it is my responsibility as an American to speak up against injustice as it affects my fellow Americans," Tysse wrote on Facebook. "I have sung the anthem before but this time taking a knee felt like the most patriotic thing I could do. I cannot idly stand by as black people are unlawfully profiled, harassed and killed by our law enforcement over and over and without a drop of accountability."

Joel Embiid ends preseason on impressive note, has Sixers excited

Joel Embiid ends preseason on impressive note, has Sixers excited

MIAMI — It’s a cautious optimism to be sure — there can be no other type for the Sixers right now given their history of injuries — but you can tell the team is starting to get excited about Joel Embiid.

In Friday’s 113-110 exhibition finale win over the Miami Heat (see game story), Embiid scored 18 points in 18 minutes before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

The 7-0 center, who missed his first two NBA seasons because of foot surgeries, made 8 of 16 shots and 2 of 2 on free throws, adding a game-high nine rebounds.

“I’ve always felt like I’m a complete player — that’s what I do,” Embiid said. “I’m starting to get easy points.

“I just got better every game [in the preseason], defensively, offensively.”

Sixers coach Brett Brown said he is still learning how to best use Embiid.

Brown added that the rust is apparent in Embiid’s game. But …

“He is as self-taught as any player I’ve ever been around,” Brown said. “He grew up in Cameroon and hasn’t played a lot (because of injuries). But he studies, he looks at stuff. He pays attention. He’s instinctively curious.

“There’s a lot of stuff in his head that he thinks through. His mind is quicker than his feet. At times, his core, his balance and his decision-making are off because his mind is working faster than his body.”

Embiid scored most of his buckets on Friday at close range — a finger roll, a tip-in, a couple of put-back dunks, an alley-oop dunk and a fast-break layup. But he did make a 10-foot jumper and took — but missed — a three-point try.

“He does stuff in a game that makes you step back and say, ‘Wow,’” Brown said. “He will trail and hit a three. He will have a pound, pound drop-step, dunk.

“Like a traditional post, he will turn his face and make a bank shot. He has that up-and-under stuff.

“But he’s raw. His preseason has been highlighted by those few things that you notice, all under the umbrella of, ‘He really has a chance to be very, very good.’"

Brown was asked to summarize the Sixers' 2-5 preseason, and he called it a “completely erratic” exhibition season because of injuries.

“Jahlil [Okafor] hasn’t practiced,” Brown said. “Joel has been steady and incremental. I think we all see that Dario Saric has got a lot to offer. I think the pairing of Joel and Dario was solid.

“We’ve seen Jerami [Grant] have a really good preseason. Richaun Holmes has taken his opportunity to play big minutes. Those type of things come to my mind.”