Patient LB Clayton gets a chance in nickel

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Patient LB Clayton gets a chance in nickel

Keenan Clayton just waited his turn. Around here, if youre a linebacker and you wait your turn, eventually youll get your turn.

Clayton has played almost exclusively on special teams since the Eagles drafted him in the fourth round out of Oklahoma last year. On Sunday, finally, hes expected to get his first extended chance to play on defense.

Clayton said hes been promoted to first nickel and will be one of two linebackers on the field in clear passing downs when the Eagles face the Giants at the Meadowlands in a prime-time, national TV game.

Its kind of what I expected myself to be doing from the jump, Clayton said. But I had to work my way into it, and now theyre giving me a shot at it, and now its time for me to make some plays and not get off the field.

Clayton was a safety at Oklahoma and a good one. The Eagles could use a healthy does of speed and athleticism at linebacker, and Clayton has it. Hes also got himself up to about 230 pounds over the past two years after playing in college at about 215.

His strength is in pass coverage, and the Eagle are hoping he can contribute Sunday night against the Giants fifth-ranked pass offense.

The Eagles, 3-6, must beat the 6-3 Giants to have any hope of salvaging anything out of what looks like a lost season.

Im real excited, Clayton said after practice Thursday. It probably wont hit me until Sunday, but then again, I cant get overwhelmed, because Ill be messing up and everything, so just taking it a day at a time right now and doing what I have to do at practice to get ready.

I feel ready. Each week I prepare like Im starting because you never know, anything can happen someone can get hurt, someone might need a break, anything so the preparation is no different from any other week.

Clayton has only played in 15 games over the past two years and was inactive as recently as the Washington and Dallas wins. But he did play well late last year and even got some important reps in the wild-card loss to the Packers. Hes apparently shown enough on special teams to convince the coaches to give him a shot in this ever-changing linebacker lineup.

"Its like having a safety out there at linebacker, real athletic but a safety thats a linebacker," said Jamar Chaney, who will be the other linebacker in nickel. "He has a lot of experience. Anytime you start a playoff game at nickel, thats pretty good experience against a really good team in the Packers.

"Hes a real good competitor. He loves a challenge. He likes to stop tight ends and running backs. He doesnt think anyone can catch a pass on him. You ask him to go out there and cover a teams best receiver, hell probably try and hell think hell win too. Thats the type of guy he is."

A lot of observers thought Clayton would be starting by now. What took so long for him to even get into the rotation?

I cant point fingers, I just point fingers at myself, he said. Maybe I wasnt preparing right, maybe they didnt feel like I was mentally ready, maybe I wasnt showing what they needed to see for me to get on the field and play defense. I dont know. Maybe theyve seen a change in my play, my practice, and decided to give me a shot.

Nobody wants to come in and not play. From the time they gave me the phone call (on draft day last year), my first mind set was, Im ready to go out and play.

Clayton will replace rookie Brian Rolle in the Eagles nickel package. Hell be out there with Jamar Chaney, the only linebacker who stays on the field on all downs.

Clayton said Rolle will remain in the Buffalo package, which the Eagles use in goal-line and short-yardage.

I think its more for me on passing downs, him on run downs, Clayton said. Third and short, hell be in. Third and long, when we know theyre going to throw the ball, they just probably like my matchup with certain guys better than than do him.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

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Brian Carroll's goal in 92nd minute gives Union draw with Rapids

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- Brian Carroll tied it in 92nd minute and the Union escaped with a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids in a showdown of the Western and Eastern conference leaders.

Carroll ran underneath Fabian Herbers' high-arching header and slotted the finish under goalkeeper Zac MacMath from close range.

The Union (5-3-5) responded only 5 minutes after the Rapids (8-2-4) opened the scoring on Sam Cronin's header in the 87th minute. Cronin made a deep run to connect with Marlon Hairston's cross from the right flank, redirecting it into the far corner of the goal.

Both Dillon Powers and Luis Solignac had shots crash off the crossbar for the Rapids after the 70th minute.

The Union extended their unbeaten streak to seven while the Rapids stayed unbeaten in their nine home games this season.

Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

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Chase Utley haunts Mets in Dodgers' rout at Citi Field

NEW YORK -- Chase Utley hit a grand slam and a solo homer after Noah Syndergaard threw a 99 mph fastball behind his back, and the Los Angeles Dodgers went deep a season-high five times in routing the New York Mets 9-1 on Saturday night.

In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, Syndergaard was immediately ejected following the third-inning pitch -- almost certainly his shot at retaliation against Utley for the late takeout slide that broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in last year's playoffs.

Plate umpire Adam Hamari tossed Syndergaard, sending Mets manager Terry Collins into a rage, but no trouble ensued between the teams. A longtime New York nemesis, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers' bench to keep teammates calm -- and later answered by doing all sorts of damage with his bat.

Kenta Maeda (4-3) shook off an early line drive that appeared to hit him in the pitching hand and threw five shutout innings for the win. The right-hander yielded two hits, both in the first, and snapped his three-game losing streak.

Adrian Gonzalez homered and had four hits for the Dodgers, who spoiled the Mets' 30th anniversary celebration of their 1986 World Series championship. Corey Seager and Howie Kendrick also connected, all after Syndergaard was gone.

Pinch-hitter Juan Lagares homered in the eighth for New York, long after the outcome was decided.

The stoic Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since Tejada was injured. The Mets -- and their fans -- were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders in what some call the Utley Rule.

But the Mets had not tried to retaliate until Saturday night.

With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard's first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman's back by a considerable margin.

Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.

After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets' dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.

Logan Verrett (3-2) entered for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent in the sellout crowd of 42,227 urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett's first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

Booed all night, Utley added his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.

In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants. He had four RBIs in a 6-5 loss, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth.

Where are you now?
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.

Trainer's room
Dodgers: RF Trayce Thompson exited in the fifth with lower back soreness. He was replaced by Yasiel Puig, who hit an RBI single off Verrett in the sixth.

Mets: INF Wilmer Flores (hamstring) went 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly in his fifth rehab game for Double-A Binghamton. Before the game, Collins said it was reasonable to think Flores could come off the disabled list Sunday.

Up next
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (7-1, 1.48 ERA) starts the series finale Sunday night against 43-year-old Bartolo Colon (4-3, 3.44). Kershaw, coming off a two-hit shutout against Cincinnati, is 7-0 with a 1.17 ERA in 10 starts against the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA in May -- including a three-hit shutout of New York on May 12 at Dodger Stadium. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has struck out 55 and walked two this month.

Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

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Soul drop 1st road game of season to Gladiators

The Soul fell on the road to the Cleveland Gladiators, 63-49, at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night.

The loss was just the second of the season and the first away from the Wells Fargo Center for the Soul. Quarterback Dan Raudabaugh completed 25 of 44 passes for 342 yards and seven touchdownsi in a losing effort.

The Gladiators were led by receiver Quentin Sims, who finished with 10 receptions for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and signal caller Arvell Nelson who completed 22 of 36 passes for 307 yards and seven touchdowns.

Next week, the Soul travel to Jacksonville to take on the Sharks on Saturday, June 4. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports and 97.5 The Fanatic.  Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.