Eagles rebound in preseason win over Browns


Eagles rebound in preseason win over Browns


A week after a disaster in Pittsburgh, the Eagles once again resembled a real football team Thursday night.

With the starters playing only the first half well short of the full three quarters Andy Reid had them scheduled for the Eagles got encouraging performances from both sides of the football Thursday night in a 24-14 win over the Browns at the Linc.

With the starters on the field, the Eagles outscored the Browns 17-0. A far cry from the Steelers game, when the Eagles starters were outscored 14-0.

Were making progress, guard Todd Herremans said. Obviously, better than last week. We came out a little more ready to play than last week.

OK, it was just the Browns. And there were still major issues on the right side of the offensive line. And Michael Vick still doesnt look all that sharp. But with opening day only 17 days away, the Eagles put on a respectable showing for the fans who braved occasional heavy rain to watch what is expected to be the final tuneup of the preseason for the starters.

The Eagles finish the preseason against the Jets next Thursday at the Meadowlands, and the starters arent expected to play at all.

Our guys played a little better this week, Reid said. Theres plenty of things to work on. We still have things to clean up on both sides of the ball.

Most encouraging for the Birds against long-time Eagles assistant Pat Shurmurs Browns was the steady performance turned in by the first defense. Seven days after being shredded for two long touchdown drives in Pittsburgh, the Eagles blanked Colt McCoy and the Browns starting offense on six first-half possessions.

With outside linebacker Jamar Chaney and safety Kurt Coleman leading the way and rookie middle linebacker Casey Matthews holding his own the Eagles first defense recorded three sacks (Mike Patterson, Trent Cole, Phillip Hunt) and a takeaway against the Browns starting offense.

The Browns netted 103 yards with six first downs against the Eagles starters and were 2 for 8 on third down.

I think based on the progress that weve shown, everybodys pretty confident with where were at right now, Nnamdi Asomugha said. Obviously, were going to continue to get better, but where were at right now, it looks pretty good.

Matthews, who has come under intense scrutiny as a rookie starter, showed progress over his performance in Pittsburgh last week. He made five tackles, many of them near the line of scrimmage, knocked down a pass, and was just around the ball more than he had been.

I definitely felt better this week, Matthews said. Last week against the Steelers was really my first week. I think it was only seven or eight plays (against the Ravens), so I really couldnt get in a rhythm. I felt like it slowed down a lot thats what was the biggest change from last week to this week. I was making plays.

The Eagles first offense was hardly spectacular, but did put up 17 points on TD runs by Ronnie Brown and Vick and a 37-yard Alex Henery field goal.

The first couple scoring drives were set up by turnovers long snapper Jon Dorenbos recovered a muffed fumble by former Eagle Jordan Norwood (who was interfered with by another former Eagle, Sheldon Brown), and Samuel picked off McCoy in Browns territory. The final scoring drive went 77 yards in 10 plays over 5 minutes.

The Eagles ran well 4.5 average with the first team and didnt commit a turnover.

I thought we played well, LeSean McCoy said. We can always do better. For the most part I thought we did a good job. The defense gave us good field position and we took advantage of it and put some points on the board. Right now, its all about coming together and gelling together and getting the job done.

The offense wasnt particularly sharp but it was also quite vanilla. Vick picked off three times in Pittsburgh completed only one pass to a wide receiver, and McCoy (7 for 69 receiving) was on the receiving end of all but three of Vicks completions.

We still have a lot of work to do, it just takes time, but I think things will be OK, Vick said. Even after last week I still felt confident in my teammates and myself and our ability to succeed as an offense.

The Jason Kelce experiment didnt go particularly well. Kelce, getting first-team reps at center for the first time in place of Jamaal Jackson, blocked nicely down the field, in particular on Browns 13-yard TD run. But he struggled at times at the point of attack and looked much like the rookie sixth-round pick he is. Expect Jackson back with the starters in time for the opener, although Reid still wont say what his plan is moving forward at center.

The right side of the line rookie Danny Watkins and King Dunlap also struggled at times, especially in the first quarter. Although Vick was sacked only once, he absorbed a number of hits of the sort no coach wants to see in a preseason game.

Opening day is around the corner and still the Eagles are unsure about 40 percent of their starting offensive line.

Vick said it doesnt matter.

Regardless of who it is, Im going to give defenses fits, Vick said. Plain and simple. Saying it out of confidence, not arrogance. I trust those guys to get their jobs done, and for four quarters were going to give teams everything. Im going to instill confidence in them and thats the way were going to play, and thats the way theyre going to play.

Every player out there I have confidence in. If theyre talented enough to be on this level, I expect them to go out and fulfill their responsibilities and expect them to work just as hard as I am to try and get better.

Matthews and Watkins, the two likely rookie starters, were the only starters to play into the second half.

It was a good night for special teams, with Dorenbos recovering the muffed punt return, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie blocking a field goal attempt and Clay Harbor recovering a fumbled punt.

Harbor, a second-year tight end, also converted a 4th-and-1 with a seven-yard run on the Brown TD drive.

Vince Young was fairly effective, completing nine of 12 passes for 58 yards and scoring on a 10-yard run late in the third quarter.

Derek Landri and Brian Rolle contributed second-half sacks, giving the Eagles five in the game and 14 in three games this preseason.

The Browns didnt score until the fourth quarter on Seneca Wallaces flukey 17-yard TD to former Eagle Alex Smith on a deflected pass.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com.

MLB Notes: Mets' manager Terry Collins worried David Wright might be headed for DL


MLB Notes: Mets' manager Terry Collins worried David Wright might be headed for DL

NEW YORK -- Mets manager Terry Collins is worried David Wright may wind up on the disabled list because of a neck injury.

New York's captain and third baseman was out of the starting lineup for the third straight day Monday because of his neck. He was given anti-inflammatory medicine over the weekend.

Now 33, Wright was on the disabled list from April 15 to Aug. 24 last year when he strained his right hamstring and then developed spinal stenosis. He has a lengthy physical therapy routine he must go through before each game.

Wright homered in three straight games last week before getting hurt. He is batting .226 with seven homers, 14 RBIs and 55 strikeouts in 137 at-bats.

White Sox: Shuck called up with Jackson injured
NEW YORK -- With Austin Jackson bothered by turf toe, the Chicago White Sox recalled outfielder J.B. Shuck from Charlotte and optioned right-hander Tommy Kahnle to the Triple-A farm team.

Jackson left Sunday's game in the eighth inning because of his left foot.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said before Monday's series opener against the New York Mets that he doesn't think Jackson's injury at this point merits a move to the disabled list. He adds that the team does not "necessarily want to lose him for two weeks right away."

Shuck was batting fifth and playing center field Monday. He was 0 for 9 with the White Sox before he was sent down April 18 when Chicago needed to add a pitcher. He is hitting .299 at Charlotte with two homers and 17 RBIs.

Kahnle is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in four games over three stints with Chicago this season.

NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray


NBA draft profile: Kentucky G Jamal Murray

Jamal Murray

Position: Guard

Height: 6-5

Weight: 210

School: Kentucky

It's tough for a Kentucky star freshman to fly under the radar, but that's exactly what Murray did last season. While Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine dominated the spotlight, Murray was quietly as good as anyone in the country for the second half of the season.

In Kentucky's final 14 games, Murray averaged just under 24 points and shot better than 46 percent from three-point range. For the season, he averaged an even 20 points and connected on 41 percent of his three-point attempts. He also chipped in an impressive 5.2 rebounds. 

Kentucky lost some games early and fell toward the bottom of the Top 25 rankings. But Murray continued to produce and played his best basketball down the stretch, lifting the Wildcats to 27 wins and SEC regular season and tournament titles. 

As good as he was during his only college season, Murray projects to be an even better pro. He's the best guard prospect in the 2016 NBA Draft. 

Shooting the ball. He has the best shooting stroke of any prospect in this year's draft. Murray's form on his jump shot is textbook with the results to match. He's able to get his shot off quickly and has range well beyond the NBA three-point line. Murray's outside shot is his greatest asset. Shooters are always in high demand and have never been more valuable in the NBA. The defending champion Warriors offer all the proof you need of that.

However Murray isn't a one-dimensional player. He can get to the basket off the dribble and is a terrific finisher around the basket. He also developed a polished mid-range game during his time at Kentucky. Murray also plays hard — a characteristic that NBA executives monitor closely. He rarely takes a possession off and competes hard on the glass for a perimeter player, as evidenced by his five rebounds per game last season.

Murray doesn't have a defined position on the NBA level. He's not a true point guard and isn't quite big enough to be considered a prototypical shooting guard. While NBA talent evaluators are concerned by this, I don't necessarily view it as a weakness. Murray projects as a combo guard, capable of playing point guard but also comfortable away from the ball. He's similar to the Trail Blazers' C.J. McCollum in that regard.

Murray isn't an elite-level athlete and by no means is he a great defender. He'll struggle to stay in front of the more dynamic perimeter players in the NBA. But he has a very good work ethic and should be able to improve defensively.

How he'd fit with the Sixers
Extremely well. The 76ers need shooters. That need will only become exaggerated if and when they draft Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick. With Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, the Sixers have a significantly frontcourt-heavy nucleus. They need quality guards to balance out their lineup.

The much-discussed hypothetical trade that would send Okafor to the Celtics for the No. 3 pick makes a ton of sense for the 76ers. They could clear out space in their frontcourt rotation as well as acquire Murray with that third pick. Murray would flourish playing alongside Simmons, knocking down the open jump shots that Simmons creates.    

NBA comparison
I see a mix of Bradley Beal and Eric Gordon in Murray's game. Beal and Gordon have similar builds to Murray and both entered the NBA as exceptional shooters. All three are natural scorers who have no problem getting their own shot on the NBA level.

Draft projection
Murray will be a high-end lottery pick. He could go as high as the No. 3 to the Celtics and shouldn't fall any lower than No. 6 to the Pelicans.  

Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

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Western Conference Finals: Warriors-Thunder ready for Game 7

OAKLAND, Calif. -- After a record 73 wins and a memorable Game 6 comeback on the road, the Golden State Warriors' goal of getting back to the NBA Finals and defending their title comes down to Game 7 at home against the powerful Oklahoma City Thunder.

All along, the Warriors have said the numerous team milestones and personal accomplishments they set during this special season won't matter a bit unless they repeat as champions.

They need one more victory to become the 10th team to rally from a 3-1 postseason deficit.

"I've learned that our players are tough, they're mentally tough," Coach of the Year Steve Kerr said Sunday, when his team took a day off from film and practice. "I don't know if I really learned that. I already knew that. But they've firmly confirmed that. It's been a great comeback. Now we still have to play. We still have another game."

Kerr just wanted his Warriors to grab back some momentum from Kevin Durant and the Thunder. Now, they have it, all right, heading into the decisive game of the Western Conference finals Monday night after winning two straight.

When his team won Game 5 on Thursday night, MVP Stephen Curry hollered "We ain't going home!" -- and Golden State wants no part of the Thunder having the last say in the Warriors' summer plans.

"We got a big one last night to stay alive, and now we've got some momentum. But it can work in reverse," Kerr said. "One game changes everything, and we've got to come out and play our game and play well to finish the series out."

Golden State hardly considers this a gimmee just because the team is playing at deafening Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost just three times this season. They have had their problems against Durant, Russell Westbrook and the towering Thunder.

Oklahoma City is fueled by trying to reach its first NBA Finals since losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat in 2012. James and Cleveland are waiting on Monday's winner.

"It's going to be a hard game. If we thought tonight was hard, Game 7's going to be even tougher," Curry said. "Everybody on both sides of the ball is going to leave it all out on the floor. It's win or go home. So we can't expect just because we're at home that we can just show up and win."

As has been the case all playoffs with Curry ailing, Golden State got a huge performance from Klay Thompson. He made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points in a 108-101 win at Oklahoma City on Saturday night, and will need an encore Monday.

"Lot of people probably counted us out," Thompson said.

Kerr said last week that his group might be different than the all the other teams that have tried to come back from 3-1 down: because the Warriors won it all last year.

The Thunder certainly would have preferred to close out the series at home over traveling back across the country to the Bay Area for the deciding game.

Yet they never expected it to be easy against the 2015 champs.

"This is what you dream about, getting this opportunity. We've got to take advantage of it," Durant said Sunday. "Go up into their building, and it's going to be great atmosphere. ... No matter where you play, you've still got to play. That's how we look at it."

That's partly because first-year Thunder coach Billy Donovan has talked to his team about the mentality it takes to win in a hostile venue like raucous, sold-out Oracle Arena, and Oklahoma City came in and did it in Game 1.

"We lost Game 6, and it was a tough, hard-fought game," Donovan said. "We're disappointed about not having a different outcome. But we haven't lost the series, and we have an opportunity again. I think just being around these guys, they're a resilient group."

Curry and the Warriors expect another entertaining, great game.

From an ankle injury that sidelined him in the first round against Houston to a sprained right knee and puffy elbow, Curry has dealt with his share of pain this postseason. He has to push that aside for what he hopes is one more game this series and then a second straight trip to the Finals and another championship.

"I actually kind of like it, because you understand the moment of the playoffs and just kind of gets you going," he said. "I'll be ready to go and give it everything I've got for Game 7."