Frank: A forecast of your 2011 Eagles

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Frank: A forecast of your 2011 Eagles

Football is back, and all of a sudden, opening day is just seven weeks away. Teams must now squeeze an entire six-month offseason into less than two months. A frenzy of roster moves that will give the Eagles new look especially on defense starts now.

So what might the Eagles lineups look like on Sept. 11, when they open their 78th season in St. Louis against the Rams?

Counting some of the key backup spots, we figure there are 15 jobs up for grabs 17 if you include the kicking game.

Some of the 17 guys who win those jobs are already on the roster, some will be newcomers. Whatever happens, the next week is guaranteed to be one of the most eventful offseason weeks in Eagles history.

Heres one look at what the Eagles opening-day lineup may look like:

Offense
Quarterback: Michael Vick will make his first opening-day start in five years, since he started for the Falcons in the 2006 opener, a 20-6 win over the Panthers in Charlotte. Following Donovan McNabb in 2009 and Kevin Kolb in 2010, this will be the first time the Eagles have used different quarterbacks in three consecutive season openers since 1998 through 2000, with Bobby Hoying, Doug Pederson and McNabb.

Backup Quarterback: How important is this position? Only once in the last eight years has the Eagles starting QB started all 16 games. That was McNabb in 2008. Considering the reckless way Vick plays, the Eagles are more likely to bring in a veteran to be No. 2 once they trade Kevin Kolb than take their chances with Mike Kafka. Rex Grossman? Nope. Tarvaris Jackson? Nah. Hey, Brett Favre is about due to unretire, right? No, thanks. Well go with Matt Hasselbeck, if he becomes available and cant get a starting job. Otherwise, our pick is Marc Bulger.

Tailback: LeSean McCoy is back for his second year as the Eagles fulltime running back after an 1,080-yard rushing, 78-reception, nine-touchdown season. Only four players in NFL history including Brian Westbrook have ever had more than one season with 1,000 rushing yards and 75 catches. Barring injury, McCoy is a lock to become the fifth.

Backup Tailback: We kind of like what Jerome Harrison brought to the Eagles after that lopsided Mike Bell trade with the Browns. Harrison averaged 6.0 yards on 40 carries, highest by any Eagle running back with 40 or more carries since Timmy Brown averaged 6.8 yards per carry in 1961. Harrison is a free agent and wants to be a starter, but in this convoluted offseason, his chances to start somewhere appear slim. If hes willing to come back, wed love to have him. And wed like to see him get a handful of meaningful touches a game.

Fullback: In a normal offseason, rookie Stanley Havili would get every opportunity to win the starting fullback job. This year? With no offseason workouts? And no chance to practice with his teammates and impress or even meet his coaches? Its going to be very difficult for somebody like Havili to win a job. So well go with inspirational incumbent Owen Schmitt, whos not Leonard Weaver but is certainly a capable enough guy.

Wide Receiver: With 1,945 career receiving yards (including playoffs), Jeremy Maclin ranks third in NFL history in receiving yards before his 23rd birthday (behind Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald and just ahead of DeSean Jackson). Maclin, who fell 36 yards shy of 1,000 last year, seems ready to enter the NFLs receiving elite in his third season.

Wide Receiver: Same stat, different age. With 2,978 career receiving yards, DeSean Jackson ranks fourth in NFL history in receiving yards before turning 24 (behind Moss, David Boston and Fitzgerald). The big challenge facing Jackson this year is becoming more consistent a year after being limited to fewer than 35 yards in six of his 15 games.

Third Wide Receiver: Jason Avants catches have increased in each of his five NFL seasons (7, 23, 32, 41, 51), and hes now one of the top third-down receivers in football. One through three, the Eagles have the best receiving corps in football. Look for Riley Cooper to blossom as the fourth guy in that group in his second year.

Tight End: Brent Celeks numbers were cut almost in half during an injury-plagued 2010 season, and the Eagles need a big bounce-back season from Celek this fall in his third year as a full-time starter. Were high on promising Clay Harbor as the backup.

Left Tackle: The only position on the offensive line thats etched in stone. Jason Peters goes into his third year with the Eagles, and when healthy, hes a dominating blocker.

Left Guard: Todd Herremans is the incumbent, but we believe the Eagles strongest offensive line features Herremans at right tackle, so were going to pencil in Mike McGlynn at left guard and swing Herremans outside.

Center: Jamaal Jackson returns after missing the 2009 postseason and all of last year with major injuries. If Jackson can return to form, it would be huge for an offensive line that struggled badly last year.

Right Guard: After a couple unsettled years following Shawn Andrews problems (Nick Cole, Stacy Andrews, Max Jean-Gilles, Reggie Wells, etc.), right guard is finally in good hands with rookie Danny Watkins. Hell be a stud. Hed better be a stud.

Right Tackle: Reid still wants competition here, so hell give Winston Justice a chance to win his job back, and hell give surprising King Dunlap a shot, too. But when all is said and done, weve got the veteran Herremans as the opening-day starter.

Defense

Defensive End: Trent Cole is one of only two players in the NFL whos had eight or more sacks every year since 2006 (DeMarcus Ware is the other). With 57 sacks, Cole trails only Reggie White and Clyde Simmons in Eagles history. Pretty fair company.

Defensive End: The Eagles have been trying to upgrade Juqua Parker for a while now, but Parker has an edge this year since hes a veteran, knows the defense, has played for Jim Washburn and produces enough to stay around hes one of only seven players with at least five sacks in each of the last five seasons.

We love Parkers effort, but the Eagles desperately need more pressure. Victor Abiamiri? Ricky Sapp? Darryl Tapp? Daniel Teo-Nesheim? Phillip Hunt? Rehabbing Brandon Graham? The Eagles have plenty of bodies, but we think they need more than what they have. Jason Babin is everybodys favorite D-end, and there is the Washburn connection, but the reality is Babin netted 17 sacks in his first six seasons before recording 12 last year. Hes not going to come cheap, and hes 31. Which Jason Babin would the Eagles get? Ray Edwards, whom the Eagles apparently are pursuing, is going to be looking for a deal in the neighborhood of 8 million a year, and that's too much money for someone who's yet to record double-digit sacks in a season. So Babin might be the best option.

Defensive Tackle: Solid Mike Patterson stays.

Defensive Tackle: Underachieving Brodrick Bunkley goes. The Eagles need more from their interior defensive front, and Bunkley just hasnt become the elite player he should be. Albert Haynesworth? Just tough to imagine the Eagles going in that direction. Theres a role for Antonio Dixon, but well dip into free agency for our starter Seahawks free agent Brandon Mebane, just 26, and a 310-pound run stuffer who can collapse the pocket.

Strong Linebacker: We want Stewart Bradley back, not to play in the middle but at strong-side, where his athleticism is such an asset. Hes got to find a way to stay healthy, but if he can, Bradley is solid.

Middle Linebacker: We saw enough of Jamar Chaney last year to believe hell be just fine in the middle. Thats two pieces of a decent (finally) linebacking crew.

Weak Linebacker: Keenan Clayton gets the first crack at a position thats been unsettled since forever. Clayton is said to be bigger and stronger than in his rookie season, and we saw last year that hes active and around the ball. BradleyChaneyClayton is potentially a very productive group.

Right Cornerback: The Eagles just have too many needs to pay what Nnamdi Asomugha wants. We think Ike Taylor is OK, but Jonathan Joseph of the Bengals is more skilled, younger and will probably be cheaper. Hes our guy.
Left Cornerback: In three seasons, Asante Samuel has only eight fewer interceptions than Troy Vincent had in eight years with the Eagles.

Nickel Cornerback: Joselio Hanson struggles when he moves outside, but hes solid inside.

Free Safety: Nate Allen is back, hes healthy, and expectations are very high for the second-year pro.

Strong Safety: It wont be easy for Jaiquawn Jarrett to condense an entire offseason of learning into a month and a half, but Quintin Mikell certainly seems headed somewhere where hes assured of a starting job, so were going to stick with the Temple rookie. The fallback if Jarrett isnt ready? Marlin Jackson?

Special Teams

Kicker: They drafted Alex Henery for a reason. David Akers is one of the greatest outdoorbad-weather kickers in NFL history. Its a shame his worst game as an Eagle will likely be his last.

Punter: If you want to replace Sav Rocca, you better be ready to find somebody better. Dont think you will. Roccas net has improved in each of his four NFL seasons, and his 37.6 career net is best in franchise history. Hes back.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Cody Asche: 'I'm close' to being ready to rejoin Phillies

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Cody Asche: 'I'm close' to being ready to rejoin Phillies

READING, Pa. — The stat sheet says one thing, Cody Asche another.

“I’m close,” the Phillies’ once (and possibly future) leftfielder said after going hitless in four at-bats in a rehab assignment game for Double A Reading on Thursday morning. “I’m close, for sure.”

Asche, recovering from a strained left oblique muscle, is just 2 for 16 in four games at Reading, after going 3 for 18 in five games at Single A Clearwater.

But not to worry, he said. There are just “a couple little things” he needs to shore up at the plate, things that have led to “not-so-favorable results,” before he is ready to return to the major leagues.

“But I’m confident,” he said. “They’re easy fixes.”

Asche, a little over a month away from his 26th birthday, said he feels healthy, that he just needs to get his timing back, just needs to face more “good quality pitching.”

Where he will get that opportunity is a matter of conjecture. Immediately after beating Erie, 7-4, in Thursday’s matinee, Reading headed to New Hampshire to begin a road trip. Asche was not expected to accompany the Fightin Phils. Meanwhile, Triple A Lehigh Valley begins a homestand Friday.

“I think the plan right now is maybe go up to Lehigh [Friday], but that’s still in the air,” Asche said, adding that he still must consult trainer Scott Sheridan, as well as his rehab coordinator, before a decision is finalized.

It’s not clear if the organization also believes Asche is close to returning to the big leagues. Manager Dusty Wathan was not available for comment after Thursday’s game.

Wathan did address Asche’s situation after he played his first game at Reading on Sunday.

“It’s like his spring training,” the manager told reporters. “He’s trying to get himself back, get himself comfortable in left field, get himself comfortable at the plate and back into baseball shape.”

Asche, the Phillies’ fourth-round pick in 2011, hit .252 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs in 121 games at third base in 2014. Last year he began the season at that position before making the transition to left, in the wake of Maikel Franco’s emergence. But when Franco broke a wrist late in the year, Asche returned to his natural position.

Overall he hit .245 with 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 129 games. Five of his homers came in his last 18 games.

“I came in to spring training as confident as anybody in myself, and building on last year and going forward this year,” he said.

But he injured his oblique (which is near the rib cage) while swinging a bat on the eve of spring drills. Then he rehabbed, returned and promptly reaggravated the injury while swinging through a pitch the final week of camp.

It only hurt when he did … well, everything.

“Imagine everything you do during the day, you feel pain in your abdomen,” he said. “Just small things, like sneezing and coughing, are uncomfortable. Getting in and out of cars.”

Nor was his anguish merely physical.

“We’d be here all day if I tried to explain how frustrating it is,” he said. “It’s been a long process. It’s been tiring. It’s been stressful. A lot of sleepless nights during it, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I can see it. I know I’m close. It’s just a matter of time, from here on out. Once it clicks, it will click, and I’ll be ready to go.”

Asche began swinging a bat on May 1, and started his rehab assignment at Clearwater on May 13. He made the move to Reading nine days later.

“I’m kind of over the frustration part,” he said. “I had eight weeks to be frustrated while I was rehabbing. Right now I’m just solely focused on playing baseball, and preparing myself to go up there and compete when it’s my time.”

The Phillies could use him, to add punch to the anemic corner outfield spots. And he believes he can help. 

“There’s still plenty of time,” he said. “We’ve still got a long season left. It’s not even June yet. I’ve got plenty of time to leave my mark on this year.”

Report: Rockets to hire Sixers associate coach Mike D'Antoni

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Report: Rockets to hire Sixers associate coach Mike D'Antoni

The Sixers are losing a top assistant coach just five months after he joined the team. 

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo's The Vertical, the Houston Rockets are finalizing a deal to hire Mike D'Antoni as their head coach. According to Wojnarowski, the deal is for four years, with a team option in the final year.  

D'Antoni had been a Sixers associate coach since last December, when the team hired him after starting the season with a 1-26 record. 

While he took a supporting role in Philadelphia, D'Antoni has 12 years of NBA head coaching experience with the Nuggets, Suns (where he worked with Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and special advisor Jerry Colangelo) and, most recently, the Lakers. The 2013-14 Lakers went 27-55 under D'Antoni. 

D’Antoni is 455-426 as a head coach. He won the 2004-05 NBA Coach of the Year Award with the Suns. He also was an assistant coach for gold-winning Team USA men’s national teams.

Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff withdrew himself from consideration for the job earlier this month, and D’Antoni has been considered a top candidate for the position. The Rockets have had four coaches in the past 10 seasons, including Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman, Kevin McHale and Bickerstaff.

The Rockets finished eighth in the Western Conference this season with a 41-41 record. They were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Warriors, 4-1. 

Earlier in the week, Wojnarowski reported P.J. Carlesimo could take D'Antoni's place. 

Carlesimo, 66, and Sixers head coach Brett Brown were both assistant coaches under Gregg Popovich with the Spurs from 2002-07. Carlesimo also has previous head coaching experience with the Blazers, Warriors and Sonics/Thunder. 

CSNPhilly.com's Dave Zangaro contributed to this story.

Markieff Morris detained at Philadelphia International Airport

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Markieff Morris detained at Philadelphia International Airport

Former Prep Charter and current Washington Wizards star Markieff Morris was detained at Philadelphia International Airport Thursday, according to law enforcement officials.

Morris, who was with a party that included his mother, checked a bag for an international trip when “a suspicious item” was found in his suitcase, according to law enforcement.

A secondary search of his bag revealed what law enforcement officials called “suspected marijuana.” Terminal A at Philadelphia International is overseen by Tinicum Township Police in Delaware County, not by the Philadelphia Police Department. Philadelphia airport security notified Tinicum Township Police. Morris was then taken to the Tinicum Township Police precinct for questioning. He was later released on his own recognizance.

A Tinicum Township police spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.

Morris, a Philadelphia native, is in his first full season with the Wizards, who acquired him from the Phoenix Suns in February. The Suns drafted him out of Kansas with the 13th overall pick in 2011. Morris' twin brother Marcus was drafted one pick later by the Houston Rockets before being dealt to Phoenix, where played with his brother for a little more than two seasons. Marcus now plays for the Detroit Pistons.