Picking a kicker likely slams door on Akers' return


Picking a kicker likely slams door on Akers' return

Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 11:06 p.m.

By Reuben Frank

When David Akers rejected the Eagles one-year transition tag, it essentially closed the door on Akers returning to the Eagles.

When they drafted a kicker in the fourth round Saturday, it essentially slammed that door shut. And locked it.

Hes taking it in stride, Voorhees-based agent Jerrold Colton said. Hes been around a long time, and understands how the business works, and hes anxious to see where hes going to land.

Akers has made 82 percent of his career field goal attempts, has gone to five Pro Bowls including the last two and was named to the Eagles 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

But things began to go downhill between Akers and the Eagles soon after he missed 34 and 41-yard field goals in the five-point wildcard playoff loss to the Packers. Immediately after the game, Reid said, We can all count. Those points would have helped.

Although Reid was simply answering a question about how costly the two misses were, some perceived the comment as a cheap shot at Akers, especially in light of the very serious health issue Akers young daughter was going through at the time.

The Eagles placed the transition tag on Akers after the season, guaranteeing him about 2.8 million if he signed. But he didnt sign the tag while he still had the chance, leaving free agency as the likely next option.

That appears about to happen, whenever free agency finally begins.

The Eagles drafted Nebraska kicker Alex Henery in the fourth round on Saturday. Henery made 90 percent of his field goal attempts in college, 95 percent as a senior.

A fourth-round pick is a pretty major commitment. Henery is the first kicker drafted that high by any NFL team in five years, since the Patriots took Stephen Gostkowski out of Memphis with the 118th pick in 2006.

Since 1950, there have been only 41 kickers taken in the first four rounds of the draft. The Eagles hadnt drafted any kicker in any round in 27 years.

Akers scored more points (1,323) and played in more games (188) than anybody in franchise history.

He was third in the league last season with 23 touchbacks, but his kickoff strength will be neutralized thanks to the new NFL rule calling for kickoffs from the 35 instead of the 30.
What if Henery struggles in minicamp or cant handle the pressure of the NFL or is unable to adjust to the NFL ball?

By the time the Eagles have a chance to see him kick in practice, Akers will likely already be with his new team.

Eagles punter Sav Rocca, like Akers, is also a veteran without a contract. Henery also did some punting in college, although hes not considered a big-time NFL punting prospect.

Well just see how everything goes with our kicker and punter ... but we sure are glad to have Alex aboard, Reid said. He was the best in college football and at this particular time it was hard to pass him up.

What about Akers?

Reid refused to speculate.

Well listen, I havent even gone there with general manager Howie Roseman, Reid said. But I will tell you that Henery is a good kicker. And so well talk about that as we go here.

Its difficult to imagine Reid and Roseman havent even talked about Akers future. They wouldnt have drafted Henery in the fourth round if they hadnt discussed the fact that the greatest kicker in franchise history just happens to be without a contract.

Reid said Akers contract status had nothing to do with the Henery pick.

Its more about this kid just being a good kicker, he said. Right now, Davids with us.

Even Colton wouldnt completely shut the door on Akers, whose 85.3 percent accuracy the last two years is sixth-highest in the NFL.

All indications are that Henery is going to be here you dont waste fourth-round picks but Im not willing to say its impossible for him to return here, Colton said. There are no guarantees of anything right now except that David will be kicking somewhere next year.

E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com

Related: R4: Eagles add a Matthews, then Akers' successor R5: Eagles draft fellow Pitt product to back up Shady

Justin Verlander powers his way through Phillies' weak lineup


Justin Verlander powers his way through Phillies' weak lineup


DETROIT – Back on March 26, the Detroit Tigers made the trip to Clearwater to play the Phillies during the final week of the Grapefruit League schedule.
Justin Verlander was the Tigers’ starting pitcher that day at Bright House Field. The Phillies ended up losing that game by a run when their bullpen came undone in the late innings. But earlier in the game, the Phils had pretty good success against Verlander. They knocked him around for three runs in five innings. They had seven hits against him, four for extra bases.
Two months later, the Phillies came face to face with Verlander again on a warm Tuesday night in Detroit.
This time, the Phils had no chance.
They were manhandled by the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner in suffering a 3-1 loss to the Tigers (see Instant Replay).
“Verlander pitched well,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “He had a good fastball and we weren’t catching up to it.”
Yes, Verlander had good fastball and he knew it. Sixty-five of his 108 pitches were fastballs. He averaged 94 mph with the pitch and topped out at 97. That’s how hard his final pitch of night was. He blew it by the Phillies’ best hitter, Odubel Herrera, for his 10th strikeout of the night.
In all, Verlander pitched eight shutout innings and gave up just three hits against one of baseball’s worst offenses; the Phils entered the game averaging just 3.24 runs per game.
The loss was the Phillies’ fourth in the last five games and it dropped them to 25-21. They have opened this challenging road trip, which finishes with three against the Chicago Cubs, owners of the best record in the game, with two straight losses heading into Wednesday’s series finale against the Tigers. Aaron Nola will get the ball against Anibal Sanchez.
Can Nola be a stopper? The Phillies could really use a victory. To get it, they will need some offense. They got just about none until Verlander left the game Tuesday night.
“We just couldn’t get enough going,” Mackanin said. “Verlander really relied on his fastball and we couldn’t capitalize.”
Jeremy Hellickson pitched well for the third straight time for the Phillies. (He has allowed just five earned runs over 20 innings in his last three starts. He has walked just three batters and struck out 20 over that span.) But with no run support, Hellickson couldn’t afford to make any mistakes and he needed excellent defensive support – which he did not get.
Hellickson served up a down-the-middle fastball to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning and Cabrera swatted it for an RBI double. He has four RBIs in the first two games against the Phillies.
In the third inning, Hellickson struck Cabrera out on a nasty changeup for the third out. The pitch was so good that Cabrera flashed Hellickson a thumbs-up before spiking his helmet to the ground.
Hellickson’s changeup has been very good lately.
“I really feel comfortable with it right now and I’m throwing it for a lot of strikes,” he said.
In a close game with not much offense going against Verlander, Hellickson needed strong defense behind him. He did not get it from third baseman Maikel Franco in the fifth inning. With a runner on first and no outs, J.D. Martinez hit a bounding ball to Franco’s right. Franco tried to backhand the ball with a quick snap of his glove. Fielded cleanly, Franco probably could have started a double play. Instead, the ball got by him, was generously scored a double and led to a run. The Tigers scored twice in the inning to take a 3-1 lead.
“Yes, it’s makeable,” Mackanin said of the ball that got by Franco. “He got to a certain spot and then he stopped and tried to snag it instead of taking one more step toward it. I don’t think he could have gotten in front of the ball but he could have gone through it instead of stopping and trying to snag it. I thought he could have done that.
“It’s a potential double-play ball. He needed to take one more step instead of reaching for it.”
Tommy Joseph had the best at-bats against Verlander. He lined out twice to the pull side and had a base hit in the seventh. In the ninth, the Phillies rallied for a couple of hits against Francisco Rodriguez. Joseph scorched a liner to left for a sacrifice fly and the Phillies’ only run.
“He hit the ball on the nose four times, really good at bats,” Mackanin said of Joseph. “If that ball he hits in the ninth inning finds a gap, we have the tying run at second.”
Joseph has seven hits in his first 23 at-bats and has made some hard outs. He will start at first base again Wednesday and also on Friday as the Cubs will start lefty Jon Lester. After that, he could get starts against right-handers because he’s simply out-hitting Ryan Howard, who went 1 for 4 and saw his average climb to .159.
Before the game, Mackanin said Joseph could take playing time away from Howard if he continues to hit.

Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

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Delaware hires Martin Ingelsby as new head basketball coach

Delaware has its new head basketball coach in Martin Ingelsby.

Ingelsby, a native of Berwyn, Pennsylvania, comes from Notre Dame, where he played from 1997-2001 and coached for 13 seasons, seven as an assistant.

Ingelsby played his high school ball at Archbishop Carroll and is the son of Tom Ingelsby, who played for Villanova from 1970-73.

Delaware is coming off a 7-23 season and 2-16 mark in CAA play, which led to the firing of head coach Monte Ross.

The Blue Hens, who announced the hire Tuesday, will formally introduce Ingelsby in a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Bob Carpenter Center Auditorium.

Josh Hart returning to Villanova for senior season


Josh Hart returning to Villanova for senior season

Villanova’s chances at repeating as national champions just got much better.

Josh Hart is returning for his senior season.

The Wildcats’ leading scorer from last season’s title-winning team tweeted this Tuesday night:

Shortly after, Villanova officially announced the news.

Hart was in the midst of going through the NBA draft process, attending the combine in Chicago and working out for teams. By not hiring an agent, he was able to test the waters without jeopardizing his final year of college eligibility. Hart had until Wednesday to make a decision, which is coming back to the defending champs.

“I enjoyed the process and learned a lot,” Hart said in a statement released by the school. “It was definitely worthwhile. I look forward to graduating next year and coming back to play with my teammates.”

As a junior, the 6-foot-5 guard averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game while shooting 51.3 percent from the field. He put up 23 points, eight rebounds and four assists in Villanova’s 95-51 Final Four win over Oklahoma, before following it up with 12 points and eight rebounds in the national title game in which the Wildcats thrillingly won at the buzzer, 77-74, on a Kris Jenkins three-pointer.

Hart and Jenkins, the team’s two leading scorers, return along with key pieces Jalen Brunson (9.6 ppg), Phil Booth (7.0 ppg), Mikal Bridges (6.4 ppg) and Darryl Reynolds (4.5 rpg).

“Josh Hart did a great job in this process,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “I’m really proud of the way that he showed himself. I am really happy for him that he is returning to play with his classmates and that he will graduate on time.”