Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: OL

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Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: OL

Monday, May 30, 2011
Posted: 10 a.m.
By Reuben Frank
CSNPhilly.com

In the third installment of this summers Most Overrated and Underrated Eagles of all Time, we take a look at offensive linemen. The Eagles have had plenty of terrible offensive linemen over the years. Anybody heard from David Diaz-Infante, Dennis McKnight or Lonnie Palelei lately? But who are the most overrated and underrated?

Read on!

Next Monday: Defensive backs.

Overrated

Steve Everitt
He talked tough, he looked tough, he acted tough. He just didnt play tough.

The Eagles signed Steve Everitt to a much-ballyhooed five-year, 11.5 million contract before the 1996 season, making him the highest-paid center in NFL history at the time.

Everitt looked the part and quickly became a fan favorite because of his affinity for tattoos, heavy metal and motorcycles. Theres a phrase football scouts use: Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane. Applies here. Everitt was big, mean looking, talked trash and seemed to be everything Eagles fans had been craving in an offensive lineman after a decade of O-line ineptitude. Everitt was the highest drafted center in the 1990s, the 14th pick in 1993, and we all agreed it was about time the Eagles finally had a big-time offensive lineman.

Only problem was that Everitt wasnt very good. He was actually pretty bad.

Everitt lasted three years with the Eagles, and it was the worst three-year period the franchise has endured since the mid-1970s. From 1997 through 1999, with Everitt in the middle of everything, the Eagles had the fewest wins in the NFL (14), scored the fewest points in the NFL (15.6 per game) and allowed the third-most sacks (169, five fewer than the Raiders).

The interesting thing about Everitt is that it took us a little while to realize just how ineffective he was. After a generation of bad offensive linemen -- from Adam Schreiber to Gerry Feehery to Ron Hallstrom to Broderick Thompson to Ben Tamburello to Barrett Brooks -- we desperately wanted Everitt to be the savior. The guy who brought our O-line back to respectability. Instead, he led it through one of the darkest periods in Eagles history.

Dave Alexander
Dave Alexander benefitted from being surrounded by some world-class awful offensive linemen, so in comparison, it seemed like he was relatively competent. In reality, Alexander was a relatively small, relatively ineffective, relatively soft center whose intelligence and savvy werent enough to make up for his physical limitations.

Alexander was certainly durable -- he started 113 consecutive games for the Eagles at left guard (1988) or center (1989 through 1994) over an eight-year period. During that span, the Eagles allowed more sacks than any NFL team (307) and won just one playoff game (thanks mainly to the defense).

Alexander blocked for just one running back who gained at least 700 yards in a season, and that back -- Herschel Walker -- was benched by the end of his only 1,000-yard season in Philly.

Alexanders biggest job was protecting Randall Cunningham, and on opening day 1991, he failed to do that, allowing Packers linebacker Bryce Paup a free shot on the reigning NFL MVP. Paup came in low at Randall early in the second quarter at Lambeau Field, tearing up his knee and ending his season. Those 1991 Birds had one of the greatest defenses ever assembled -- No. 1 against the pass, No. 1 against the run -- but without Randall, they didnt even make the playoffs.

Thats Alexanders lasting legacy. The one play hes best-known for may have cost the Eagles a trip to the Super Bowl.

Steve Wallace
Steve Wallace remains one of the most infuriating free agent signings in Eagles history. After the 49ers released him in the spring of 1996 to let Kirk Scrafford start at left tackle, the Eagles snapped up Wallace, signing him to a one-year, 1.1 million contract to finally answer their long-standing issues at left tackle.

Wallace was a former Pro Bowl player and two-time All-Pro who had won three Super Bowl rings as a 49er, so this was a huge move for the Eagles.

It lasted about two months.

After one preseason game, one of the Eagles assistant coaches, asked how bad Wallace played, grumbled, It looked like the damn fix was in.

Wallace was so bad the Eagles released him before the season even began.

He quickly rejoined the 49ers for the NFL minimum of 275,000. And quickly reclaimed his starting left tackle job over the since-forgotten Scrafford. Wallace helped Steve Young and the 49ers reach the playoffs, where in the wild-card round they faced ... the Eagles.

With Wallace playing the entire game at left tackle, the 49ers beat the Eagles, 14-0. The ultimate insult to the Eagles was that Wallace counted more against the Eagles salary cap in 1996 (375,000) than the Niners cap (275,000). Yet he was a 49er all year -- and helped end the Eagles season.

So essentially, the Eagles paid Wallace nearly half a million dollars to kick their butts.

Underrated

Jermane Mayberry
For the first few years of his career, Jermane Mayberry was just another in a long line of Eagles first-round offensive line busts.

The original plan was to play him at left tackle, but that lasted one week in 1997, and after the Eagles drafted Tra Thomas in 1998, Mayberrys days at tackle were over for good.

So he was quietly shifted over to left guard in 1998 -- and promptly benched late in the season for George Hegamin. He spent 1999 as a backup at a variety of positions before finally getting a shot at right guard in 2000, his fifth NFL season.

It was at right guard that Mayberry finally emerged as a very solid, very capable and very resilient lineman. After getting benched several times by two coaches, he even made a Pro Bowl team in 2002.

Although he missed a bunch of games in 2003, Mayberry was a fixture on Eagles teams that reached the playoffs every year from 2000 through 2004, reaching the NFC Championship Game four straight years and the Super Bowl in the 2004-05 season.

He never quite shed the tag as a first-round bust, but by the time his 10-year career was over, Mayberry was anything but a bust. He was one of the Eagles best offensive linemen of the past 25 years.

Jamaal Jackson
All you need to do to recognize Jacksons value is go back and examine what happened when he got hurt in 2009.

The Eagles had the No. 5 offense in the NFL and they were rolling toward the playoffs, scoring nearly 32 points per game over the previous two months when the Broncos came to town Christmas weekend.

At halftime, the Eagles were up 20-10. But Jackson was done. Late in the second quarter, he had torn the ACL in his left knee, ending his season.

After tearing through the Broncos for 20 first-half points, they managed 10 in the second half. Then they were shut out by the Cowboys on the last day of the season and then held to 14 points -- seven of them on a meaningless touchdown in the closing minutes -- in their wild-card game at Dallas.

With Jackson? They scored 419 points in 14 12 games, or 29 per game.

Without Jackson? They scored 24 points in 2 12 games, or 9.6 per game.

Because he was undrafted and even spent time in 2003 and 2005 on the Eagles practice squad, Jackson has never gotten his due as a big-time center. But he is one. Hes big and smart and powerful and athletic enough to handle the unusually high amount of 1-on-1 blocking the Eagles demand from their center.

Although the Eagles did a better job replacing Jackson in 2010 when he got hurt again -- Mike McGlynn was an upgrade over Nick Cole -- his absence certainly showed again in the playoffs, when the Eagles managed only 16 points against the Packers.

Since 2006, the Eagles have averaged 24 points in playoff games with Jackson and 15 points in playoff games without him.

Ron Baker
The Eagles assembled for a summer workout a few weeks before training camp in 1989, and the first thing Ron Baker did when he arrived at the teams facility was check out the teams preseason depth chart. He saw he was listed as the fourth-team guard.

The fourth team? Baker told reporters after a practice at JFK Stadium. Ive been around long enough to know there isnt a fourth team.

And with that, Baker retired, quietly walking away from the game after 11 unheralded, but solid, years.

That was typical Ron Baker. He never liked to draw attention to himself. He just played the game at a high level and let his play speak for itself.

Because Baker was part of the 1986 offensive line that allowed a staggering NFL-record 104 sacks -- 26 more than any other team in history -- Baker is incorrectly remembered by many as just another Buddy Ryan slappy offensive linemen. But he wasnt Ron Solt or Matt Patchan or Matt Darwin. He was actually a solid pro who was a backup and occasional starter on the 1980 Super Bowl team, and he started on some decent offensive lines on bad teams in the mid-1980s. He was also still starting in 1988, when the Eagles ranked No. 5 in the NFL in offense and finally reached the playoffs for the first time since 1981.

By 1988, only Baker and Roynell Young remained from the 1980 Super Bowl team. Baker turned humble beginnings -- he was a 10th-round pick of the Colts in 1977 -- into a decade-long career with the Eagles that spanned both the Dick Vermeil and Buddy Ryan Eras.

He was a good player that played on a really bad offensive line. You cant get much more underrated than that.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

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NHL Playoffs: Sharks win to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

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NHL Playoffs: Sharks win to reach 1st Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and the rest of the San Jose Sharks gathered around the Campbell Bowl for a celebratory picture after winning the Western Conference final.

In that moment, all those past playoff disappointments and collapses were forgotten. It will take four more wins to put to rest those questions about if they had the fortitude to win it all.

Captain Joe Pavelski scored an early goal, Joel Ward added two more and the Sharks advanced to their first Stanley Cup final in franchise history by beating the St. Louis Blues 5-2 on Wednesday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference final.

"It's a pretty cool feeling," Thornton said. "Obviously it's our first time. It was pretty neat to get this done at home. The fans here have waited so long, 25 years. We've waited 18 years or so. So it's a great feeling."

Joonas Donskoi also scored, Logan Couture had an empty-netter and Martin Jones made 24 saves as a Sharks team notorious for postseason letdowns will play for the championship that has eluded Thornton and Marleau since they entered the league as the top two picks in 1997.

Thornton assisted on Pavelski's goal less than four minutes into the game to set the tone and Marleau had two assists in the third period that set off chants of "We Want The Cup! We Want The Cup!"

"We're just enjoying the ride right now," Marleau said. "We've had some really good teams over the years."

Despite making the playoffs 16 times in 18 seasons and winning the second-most games in the NHL since the start of the 2003-04 season, the Sharks have been known for their soul-crushing playoff disappointments.

They won just three games in three previous trips to the conference final, were knocked out twice in four seasons by a No. 8 seed and most notably blew a 3-0 series lead to lose in the first round to Los Angeles in 2014.

The impact of that loss lasted for a while as San Jose missed the playoffs entirely last season. But led by first-year coach Peter DeBoer and bolstered by some key acquisitions by general manager Doug Wilson, the Sharks recovered this year and are now only four wins from a championship.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final will be Monday night. The Sharks will either host Tampa Bay or visit Pittsburgh, depending on which team wins Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final Thursday night.

"It's a great moment for those guys who have put in a lot of work but we still have another series to go," Couture said. "We still have four more wins to try to get. It's another step. This is the third one now. We're ready for that next challenge."

With the loss, the Blues' postseason woes continue as the franchise still seeks its first championship and first trip to the Cup final since 1970. Coach Ken Hitchcock's second goalie change of the series did not work as Brian Elliott allowed four goals on 26 shots in his return to the net.

Vladimir Tarasenko, a 40-goal scorer in the regular season, got his first points of the series when he scored twice in the third period but it was too late for the Blues, who still trailed 4-2.

"It stings right now," captain David Backes said. "Six more wins and we're having parades on Market Street. Right now ... not enough."

This was the first time in San Jose's history that the team played with a trip to the Stanley Cup final on the line. The atmosphere in the Shark Tank reflected the high stakes with the fans at a frenzy during pregame introductions and the "Let's Go Sharks!" chants starting soon after the puck dropped.

The Sharks fed off that energy and were buzzing early as Hitchcock predicted before the game. St. Louis nearly silenced the crowd when Alexander Steen got a chance in the slot early in the period but Jones robbed him with a glove save.

That led to a breakaway for Thornton, who missed the net on his chance. But Pavelski recovered the puck behind the net and before Elliott knew what was happening, Pavelski tucked the puck in on a wraparound for his NHL-leading 13th goal of the playoffs.

San Jose added to the lead early in the second when Ward tipped a point shot from Brent Burns past Elliott to make it 2-0.

Ward's second goal and another by Donskoi in the third period removed any drama and allowed the fans to celebrate and the Blues to ponder their missed opportunity.

"They're hurting right now," Hitchcock said. "We're all hurting. "You don't want this to be our best opportunity. You want this to be a building block."

Notes
Marleau played his 165th career playoff game, the most ever for someone who never played in the finals. Thornton is next on the list with 150 games, followed by Curtis Joseph with 133. ... The only franchise that has played longer than San Jose without going to a Cup final is Arizona, which began NHL play as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979-80.

NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5

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NBA Playoffs: Cavs respond to destroy Raptors in Game 5

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- Back home, the Cavaliers were not hospitable.

They rudely roughed up the Raptors again.

LeBron James scored 23 points then sat the fourth quarter, Kevin Love scored 25, and Cleveland unleashed tenacious defense on Toronto to regain control of the Eastern Conference finals with a 116-78 rout of the Raptors in Game 5 on Wednesday night.

On their court in front of 20,000-plus screaming fans following two straight losses in Canada, the Cavs opened a 34-point lead in the first half and never slowed while taking a 3-2 series lead.

They can clinch their second straight conference title and trip to the NBA Finals with a win in Game 6 on Friday night in Toronto.

"We ought to be able to transfer that on Friday," James said. "Playing in that beast of an arena that we're going to we got to be composed, we got to be tough and we got to be sharp."

The Raptors, who came in with momentum and confidence after winning Games 3 and 4, left Quicken Loans Arena shaken and one loss from having their deepest playoff run stopped.

"They kicked our butts, bottom line," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "That's been all three ballgames."

James had eight assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes before checking out late in the third quarter with the Cavs up 37. He spent the fourth quarter resting on the bench while Cleveland's reserves finished the romp.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points and he, James and Love outscored the Raptors 43-34 in the first half. Cleveland has won its three games in the series by a combined 88 points.

"They are a different team here," Casey said. "We came in here with a chance to do something special and we didn't get it done. They pushed us around and took what they wanted."

DeMar DeRozan scored 14 points and Kyle Lowry had 13 for the Raptors, who were overwhelmed from the start. Bismack Biyombo had just four rebounds after getting 40 the past two games. The only positive for Toronto was center Jonas Valanciunas, who returned after missing eight straight games with a sprained right ankle. He scored nine points in 18 minutes.

Playing defense as if every possession was the game's last, Cleveland held Toronto to 34 points in the opening half while building a 31-point halftime lead -- the largest in conference finals history. Since their expansion arrival in 1993, the Raptors had never been down by 30 before in any game -- regular or postseason -- at halftime but they have rarely seen a defense like this either.

The Cavs were all over the court, swarming and stifling DeRozan and Lowry, who combined for 67 points in Game 4.

A courtside doctor might have stopped this one in the first half.

Love found his shooting touch after it went missing during the lost weekend in Toronto, where he went just 5 of 23 and was benched for the fourth quarter of Game 4. He finished 8 of 10 from the field, a confidence-boosting performance that should temporarily quiet his critics.

"Kevin Love being Kevin Love," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He had two bad shooting games and we made a big deal out of it. Nothing he does amazes me. We gotta keep him aggressive all the time."

The Cavs made a point of getting Love the ball right away and he responded by making all four field goal attempts, dropping a 3 late in the first quarter that pushed the Cavs to a 37-19 lead.

"He was just locked in," James said. "We saw that and just wanted to keep giving him the ball. The easiest one he had tonight, he missed."

Cleveland's onslaught continued in the second quarter, and when James got free for an easy two-handed dunk, Cavs fans could relax and begin making TV viewing plans for Friday.

These looked more like the Cavaliers who opened the postseason with 10 straight wins, obliterated the Raptors by a combined 50 points in Games 1 and 2 and given a chance to beat whomever survived in the West.

Center of attention
Valanciunas hadn't played since May 7. He scored two quick baskets in the first quarter when the Raptors were still close.

Tip-ins
Raptors: Dropped to 2-7 on the road in this postseason. ... Played a game every other day since April 29, going 7-7. . Biyombo and Valanciunas are the only teammates with at least 120 rebounds this postseason.

Cavaliers: Trumped their 31-point win in Game 1, which was the previous most lopsided playoff victory in team history. ... James played in his 191st career postseason game, moving him ahead of Magic Johnson for 12th place on the all-time list. ... James (1,320) is tied with Kobe Bryant (1,320) for the second-most free throws in postseason history. Michael Jordan made 1,463. ... Improved to 7-0 at home in these playoffs.

Up next
Game 6 is Friday night in Toronto.

Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

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Best of MLB: Walk-off single gives Giants 13th win in last 14 games

SAN FRANCISCO -- Brandon Crawford singled in Matt Duffy with two outs in the 10th inning, and the surging San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 4-3 Wednesday for their 13th win in 14 games.

Duffy singled off Brad Hand (1-2) with one out, pinch-hitter Hunter Pence popped out, Duffy advanced on a wild pitch and Crawford hit a 1-2 offering over center fielder Jon Jay as Duffy scored standing up.

Crawford also singled and scored after some alert baserunning in the second inning. Duffy and Denard Span drove in runs for the NL West-leading Giants.

San Francisco completed a three-game sweep, extended its winning streak to five and improved to 9-0 against the Padres this season. The Giants' two walkoff wins in the series were against Hand (see full recap).

Arrieta moves to 9-0 in Cubs' win over Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Jake Arrieta remained unbeaten on the season despite allowing as many as four runs for the first time in nearly a year and the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-8 on Wednesday.

Arrieta (9-0) joined the White Sox's Chris Sale as the only nine-game winners in the majors.

Arrieta allowed four runs in a regular-season game for the first time since June 16, 2015.

Arrieta became the first Cub to win his first nine decisions since Kenny Holtzman in 1967 and it is the best start to a season for the franchise since Jim McCormick went 16-0 in 1886.

Kris Bryant hit a three-run homer and Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist each drove in two for the Cubs (see full recap).

Bradley extends hit streak to 29 in BoSox victory
BOSTON -- Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his major league-best hitting streak to 29 games, Xander Bogaerts homered to extend his hitting streak to 18 games and the Boston Red Sox beat the Colorado Rockies 10-3 on Wednesday night for their fourth straight win.

Travis Shaw had three RBIs and Boston moved to a season-best 12 games over .500. The Red Sox have scored eight or more runs 10 times in their last 14 home games.

Steven Wright (4-4) had another solid outing, giving up three runs, two earned. He has now given up three runs or fewer in eight of his nine starts.

Chad Bettis (4-3) held the Red Sox scoreless through three innings but was responsible for seven runs over the next two innings before getting pulled.

The Rockies have lost six of their last seven -- all on the road (see full recap).