2014 Eagles ‘light years’ ahead of last year’s squad and more observations at OTAs

2014 Eagles ‘light years’ ahead of last year’s squad and more observations at OTAs

Full-squad OTAs have been underway at the NovaCare Complex since Tuesday, but Thursday marked the first day the media was invited to take in a practice. It’s also the first time Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly spoke to reporters since the draft.

For everyone except the Dallas Cowboys apparently, practices at this point in the year are all non-contact, and there’s only so much you can learn about players when they’re in shorts and T-shirts. One thing Kelly did mention though, which several reporters have since confirmed, is the Eagles are moving even faster during OTAs than they did one year ago.

“Light years” faster.

Before you ask how a team could possibly move any faster than the Eagles did in 2013, Kelly is referring to last year’s OTAs. Obviously, this time a year ago, every little practice detail was new to practically all 90 players, save for maybe a few who went to Oregon. Now, most of the roster knows what to expect, which undoubtedly makes it a lot easier for newcomers to fall in line as well.

Will familiarity with Kelly’s ways help the Birds hit the ground running come September? It probably couldn’t hurt. We tend to overlook the fact that this club got off to a 1-3 start and fell to 3-5 before rattling off wins in six of their final seven contests.

Anything that indicates the Eagles are better prepared for the season ahead can’t be a bad sign.

Then again, we really can’t read too much into anything this time of year. Just remember, this is still very early stages of the offseason, but I think we can all appreciate the appetite for any kind of Eagles news right now.

 

• Wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Been and linebacker Jason Phillips are all full participants after sustaining torn ACLs early in training camp last summer. Time will tell how their recovery is going, but the first step is getting back on the field.

Jimmy Kempski for Philly.com already notes Phillips does not appear to be full speed.

 

• At this point in time, safety seems to be the only starting job on either side of the ball that’s truly up for grabs. That being said, it should come as no surprise that Nate Allen would be listed first on the depth chart. The fifth-year veteran started all 16 games last season, improving gradually as time went on. He was actually fairly reliable down the stretch.

However, right now, it might be just a matter of somebody has to go first. I wouldn’t rule out Earl Wolff overtaking Allen at some point based on how the lineup looks like in May.

 

• Wouldn’t look too deep into Mark Sanchez’s performance at this point, either. Have to think he’s still learning the offense and getting timing down with his receivers. And while several reporters remark he is taking second-team snaps behind Nick Foles to start, I wouldn’t rule out Matt Barkley winning the backup job if Sanchez did struggle.

 

• I’m sure Chip would love it if the rest of the league continues to view Darren Sproles as a running back so he continues to draw favorable matchups in coverage, but the numbers suggest otherwise. He’s not a guy you’re ever going to hand the ball to 15-20 times in a game.

 

• Marcus Smith’s versatility, not his pass-rush ability, may be the quickest way to earn the first-round pick playing time as a rookie. Let’s face it, Trent Cole held his own in that role last season, but it’s not his forte, nor will it ever be as the two-time Pro Bowler approaches 32 years of age.

 

• Interesting to note, as the competition for the fifth wide receiver spot is thought to be very wide open at this point. Brad Smith, a versatile offensive weapon and special teams contributor, has to be the favorite.

 

• Alex Henery has done this exactly twice in his three-year NFL career. Long live Carey Spear.

Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

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Gary Bettman talks NHL expansion, missing Ed Snider's presence, 2018 Winter Olympics

PITTSBURGH -- NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman offered no clues on Monday during his annual Stanley Cup Final address as to the state of NHL expansion or the current odds that Las Vegas gets a franchise.
 
The league’s Board of Governors will meet on June 22 to make a decision on expansion. The earliest a team(s) could play would be 2017-18.
 
Quebec City is also in the running, but the value of the Canadian dollars weighs heavily against another team being added north of the border at the moment.
 
If a Vegas franchise is added, it would have a direct impact on Pacific Division clubs such as the Sharks, who take on the Penguins in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center.
 
Bettman refused to “handicap” the situation but said he expected to know at least a week in advance as to what the committee’s recommendation will be.
 
Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said there are “a lot of on-going” issues related to expansion and some involve input from third parties.
 
“We’ve made good progress ... it hasn’t been quick progress,” Daly said.
 
Asked about rumors of the NFL, specifically the Oakland Raiders, going to Vegas and what that impact would mean to hockey, Bettman said he hasn’t even broached the topic of having two pro sports there with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or even considered such.
 
“If the NFL comes to Vegas at some point, so be it,” Bettman said. “We’re judging the application we have before us on the merits of that application.”
 
Bettman said the thought the NFL moving to Vegas, in his opinion, wasn’t “anywhere close to a done deal.”
 
Daly added that even if there is movement by the NFL toward Vegas, it would not be seen as a “deterrent” to the NHL expanding there.
 
Snider not replaced
Bettman said that former Flyers chairman Ed Snider’s spot on the 10-person executive and competition committees has not been filled since Snider's death in April.
 
Snider was an original member of the league’s competition committee and the only owner on it.
 
“He was a great owner and is terribly missed,” Bettman said.

More Olympic issues  
IOC President Thomas Bach and IIHF President Rene Fasel have gone on record they want to end paying the out-of-pocket expenses for NHL players to attend the Olympics.
 
That’s a non-starter for the NHL if both organizations want participation of the NHL's players at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. The practice of subsidy has been in effect for the past five Winter Olympics.
 
“If they are unable to resolve the issue, I have no doubt it will have an impact on our decision,” Bettman said, adding the NHL would have to take a hard look at continued Olympic participation since its member clubs aren’t interested in putting up the “many, many millions” it would take to make up the financial gap.
 
Whenever there is change in the IOC leadership, Bettman said, there are always discussions of whether some sports, such as hockey, should receive subsidies.

P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

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P.J. Carlesimo turns down Sixers' associate head coach job for 'family reasons'

Thirty-five years is more than enough time to get a sense of who a person is and how they do their job. That is how long Brett Brown has known P.J. Carlesimo, which made it easy for the Sixers' head coach to have interest in adding him to the staff. 

With Mike D’Antoni leaving to coach the Rockets, the Sixers had a vacancy at the associate head coach position. On Sunday, though, Carlesimo decided not to join the Sixers’ staff and remain a television analyst.

“He was a natural fit for me,” Brown said Monday following a pre-draft workout. “For family reasons, he just couldn’t do it. We talked a lot and it was an emotional thing from P.J.’s perspective. 

“P.J. is a very close friend of mine and he made that decision for family reasons and I understand it. The phone call really didn’t surprise me knowing what I know of him and how he views his family, having to travel across the country the whole time.”

Like D’Antoni, Carlesimo has a lengthy résumé on the NBA sidelines. He was a head coach for parts of nine seasons and worked five as an assistant coach. Brown called working with D’Antoni “a real learning experience,” and an ideal candidate would have similar experience to help both the staff and the young roster.

“That role will be filled with maybe that type of flavor,” Brown said. “I know this, we are still in a complete development mode. We still have a bunch of 20 year olds, guys that could be with us for a long time, but they’re not old, that we have to make sure that the city and me, we remember that. We still need people and teachers that can teach and coach and establish relationships. 

“So you tick boxes on relationships, teaching, development, those still rule the day. If you can do that with some veteran wisdom and some type of experiences like Mike’s, say, or P.J. had, well then you’re really knocking it out of the park.”

Coaching vacancies are coveted at this level. With the No. 1 pick in the draft, a revamped front office, and a 125,000-square foot training facility under construction, the Sixers have enhanced the appeal of the role. 

"My phone is very active, as you can imagine," Brown said. "I think it’s a highly attractive position. … Like our draft picks, I too spend a lot of time studying who will be the best fit for me and our program."

Tonight's Lineup: Ryan Howard (surprisingly) starts at 1B

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Tonight's Lineup: Ryan Howard (surprisingly) starts at 1B

So much for trimming Ryan Howard's playing time.

One day after Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he plans on giving 24-year-old Tommy Joseph more starts against right-handed pitchers, Mackanin flipped the switch Monday.

Howard is penciled in as the starting first baseman for the Phils' series-opener against the Nationals on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park against Tanner Roark (3-4, 2.71).

After the Phillies were clobbered by the MLB-best Chicago Cubs on Sunday — and the weekend, really — Mackanin said the Phils have to get a longer look at Joseph.

"We brought up Joseph up here for a reason, to get a look at him," the manager said after the Phillies' 7-2 on Sunday afternoon (see story). "I can't let him stagnate on the bench like (Darin) Ruf ended up doing, so he's going to face some right-handed pitchers to keep his timing."

Joseph will have to wait another day to get in the lineup. To be fair, Joseph did face five righties last week, but three of those came with the designated hitter in play.

For Howard, however, the club icon is in a major rut that has had many outsiders calling for him to retire or for the team to release him. He's hitting .154 with eight home runs and 18 RBIs in 136 at-bats and is 6 for 62 (.097) with 25 strikeouts in May.

Here's the silver lining, however. Howard is a career .333 hitter in 12 at-bats against Roark, who he's taken deep once and has six RBIs against.

The Phillies turn to Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.97) to snap their three-game skid. He's faced the Nationals twice this season, allowing six — five earned — runs over 10⅓ innings.

Here is the Phillies' full lineup:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Carlos Ruiz, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. Tyler Goeddel, LF
8. Jeremy Hellickson, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

For more on tonight's game, check out Steven Tyding's game notes.