Around the NFC East: Asomugha to Dallas?

Around the NFC East: Asomugha to Dallas?

If the Birds plan to make a serious run at the premiere free agent of 2011, as many observers suspect they will, they may face some competition in their own division. Rainer Sabin with the Dallas Morning News suggests the Cowboys will consider taking the plunge into the Nnamdi Asomugha market, both out of necessity and in an attempt to keep him away from a rival.

It's no secret the Eagles have something of a crater at one of their cornerback spots, and Asomugha is one of the best in the business. The franchise is also no stranger to major free agent signings, and they have the budget to make a splash this off-season.
We've been connecting the dots since January.

What we haven't discussed so much is the fact that there are other teams out there that wouldn't mind acquiring an Asomugha, and Dallas certainly could be one of them. Terence Newman is getting up there in years, and neither Mike Jenkins or Orlando Scandrick have proven to be consistently shutdown. Jerry Jones isn't afraid to spend, either.

It's worth noting the Eagles were thought to be interested in DE Julius Peppers last year. The Bears, motivated by their lack of draft picks, and aided by not having to pay those players, eventually outbid the field with an outrageous offer.

Sabin's theory is just that, a theory, and maybe the Cowboys aren't interested at all (yeah, right), or they can't fit him into their budget (yeah, right). The Eagles are almost certainly interested though, and it won't hurt to have a division rival potentially lighting a fire under their asses.

Vince Young to Washington?

While Donovan McNabb technically remains a member of the Redskins, he's on his way out soon enough, and neither Rex Grossman or John Beck are what you would consider building blocks. They passed on the opportunity to go quarterback with the 10th overall pick, so it makes you wonder who really will be under center in our nation's capital this season.

One interesting thought, as introduced by Omar Kelly of the Miami Sun-Sentinel, is Vince Young could be an option for Washington. Observers anticipate the Titans cutting the former third overall pick once the new league year begins, before he earns a sizeable roster bonus. Teams looking for an immediate starter with some upside might be inclined to go for this reclamation project.

Personally, I'm not sure VY couldn't make some noise if dropped in the right situation. His numbers really aren't that bad. While his completion percentage has dipped below 60% the past two seasons, everything else is improved; he's thrown 20 touchdowns to 10 interceptions over that timespan, and last season he finished with a career high 98.6 passer rating. Most impressive of all, the Titans were 30-17 in games Young started, and this without the benefit of a number one receiver for the majority of his career.

He's not somebody you want to see breaking the opposing team's huddle on Sunday, and under Mike Shanahan, there is no telling what Young's ceiling could be. There are some leadership issues there, and he's battled injuries, but he has all the physical tools to be a successful quarterback in the NFL, not to mention tremendous mobility.

Like the Asomugha rumor, it's pure conjecture. Again though, when you look at the simple facts that the Redskins need a starting quarterback, and their availability is limited, this makes some sense.

Danny Watkins or Cameron Jordan?

Last week, we listed some of the players the Eagles passed on in the draft, at least a couple of whom would have been high on many fans' wishlists. Yet another prospect still available when the Birds picked at 23, Cal's Cameron Jordan (6-4, 283), was recently spoken for by one of the all-time greats, Mr. Ray Didinger.

"My question was the value at that point in the draft: Would Jordan, an explosive pass rusher, have more impact than Watkins, a guard?"

A commenter once said to me something along the lines of, "Didinger is not the end-all, be-all on all things Eagles football," because I would cite his work so frequently when making my own point. Well, for once I actually disagree with the Hall of Famer, namely that Jordan is an explosive pass rusher.

Really, he is? I admit I'm no college football scout, but the statistics suggest something entirely different. Jordan amassed just 5.5 sacks in his senior season, falling short of a career-high 6 set in his junior season. All told, Jordan had 17 sacks total in four seasons, with one forced fumble.

Obviously stats don't tell the whole story, and there is a reason why Jordan went to the Saints with the very next pick. Scouts think his game will translate well at the next level. That being said, his game has never been that of an "explosive pass rusher," and while that certainly is a need, I'm not sure I agree Jordan was the player who fit the bill.

Giants Draft Overview

When Nebraska CB Prince Amukumara was finally selected with the 19th pick, one detail that may have gone slightly overlooked is the Giants were the fortunate club that won the sweepstakes.

Two seasons ago, the Eagles torched New York for 85 points combined in their two meetings. Since then, the Gmen have focused their efforts on reinventing their defense. Amukamara joins last year's big free agent acquisition FS Antrell Rolle as two frontline additions to a secondary that includes the very reliable CB Terrell Thomas and former first rounder SS Kenny Phillips. That group could become exceptionally difficult to throw against.

The Giants weren't finished with defense there, grabbing North Carolina DT Marvin Austin (6-2, 309) in the second round. Austin was kicked off the team in 2010 over contact with an agent, but he is an impressive talent and adds to a deep defensive line that includes a pair of All-Pro defensive ends, and last year's first round pick, DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

Overall, the Giants have invested a lot of high draft picks and money in their defense the past couple years, and figure to match up with the Birds' athleticism better than the rest of the division going forward.

>> Fear of Asomugha landing in Philly could motivate Cowboys [Dallas News]
>> What's chirping: How can Miami Dolphins land a QB? [Sun-Sentinel]
>> Didinger's Eagles Mailbag: Examining the picks [CSN]

Best of MLB: Beltre's 2 home runs lift Rangers over A's

Best of MLB: Beltre's 2 home runs lift Rangers over A's

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Adrian Beltre hit his second home run of the game with two outs in the ninth inning, a two-run shot that rallied the Texas Rangers past the Oakland Athletics 7-6 on Monday night for their third straight win.

Beltre, who finished with four hits, had two singles in his first three at-bats before hitting a solo homer in the seventh. His game-winning drive came on the first pitch from Ryan Madson (3-4).

Until then, Texas had trailed since Danny Valencia hit a two-run homer for Oakland with two outs in the first. All 13 runs in the game were scored with two outs.

Texas turned three double plays behind starter Martin Perez, who has induced a major league-best 25 in 21 games.

Valencia also had the first of three run-scoring doubles in a three-run third that gave the A's a 5-1 lead (see full recap).

Blue Jays' Sanchez wins 10th straight decision
TORONTO  -- Aaron Sanchez pitched seven shutout innings to win his 10th consecutive decision, Kevin Pillar had three hits and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the San Diego Padres 4-2 on Monday night.

Sanchez (11-1) became the first Blue Jays pitcher to win 10 straight since Roy Halladay won 15 decisions in a row in 2003. Halladay and Roger Clemens (1998) hold the club record.

Making their first appearance in Toronto, the Padres were held scoreless until Alex Dickerson hit a two-run homer off Bo Schultz in the ninth.

Dickeerson's drive into the fifth deck extended San Diego's team-record streak of games with at least one home run to 23. The 2006 Atlanta Braves were the last National League team to homer in 23 straight games.

Roberto Osuna replaced Schultz and got two outs for his 21st save (see full recap).

Orioles top Rockies for 5th straight win
BALTIMORE -- Adam Jones scored the winning run in the 10th inning on a low throw to the plate by pitcher Jordan Lyles, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Colorado Rockies 3-2 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory.

Jones reached on a one-out single off the third-base bag and took third on a single by Jonathan Schoop. Manny Machado followed with a comebacker to Lyles, who fumbled the ball before throwing home. Catcher Nick Hundley caught the ball near the ground and lost the handle while attempting to tag the sliding Jones.

Lyles (2-3) was charged with an error on the play.

Getting two RBIs from Jones, the Orioles climbed a season-high 18 games over .500 (58-40) and improved to 37-14 at home.

Chaz Roe (1-0) worked the 10th for the win (see full recap).

Trade candidates — especially Jeremy Hellickson — lead Phils to shutout of Marlins

Trade candidates — especially Jeremy Hellickson — lead Phils to shutout of Marlins

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson was standing in front of his locker speaking with reporters after his second strong outing in a week against the Miami Marlins when Cameron Rupp walked by an offered his take on all the trade talk surrounding the veteran pitcher.

“He’s not going anywhere,” Rupp said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear.

Hellickson laughed at his catcher’s commentary.

“I hope not,” he said.

If Hellickson really wants to stay with the Phillies and finish out this rebuilding season instead of moving to a contender for the final two months — and possibly beyond — he did himself a disservice Monday night.

He enhanced his attractiveness to potential buyers by pitching six shutout innings in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins (see Instant Replay).

Hellickson, who sports a 3.65 ERA in 21 starts, needed just 70 pitches to get through the six innings. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter with runners on second and third and two outs in a scoreless game in the top of the seventh. Ryan Howard struck out, following Cody Asche and Peter Bourjos, as the Phillies whiffed on a golden scoring chance.

“I hated taking Hellickson out of the game there, but we had an opportunity to score and I had to go for it,” manager Pete Mackanin said.

“After we didn’t score, I didn’t think we had a chance to win this game. I just thought that with their bullpen we were in trouble.”

The Phillies ended up winning with a rally against Miami’s bullpen. Tommy Joseph delivered a clutch, two-out double against Fernando Rodney in the eighth to score Maikel Franco from first. That was the only run the Phillies needed. They tacked on three against the sloppy Marlins in the ninth to finish it off.

Hellickson, David Hernandez, Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez then combined to allow just one base runner in three innings to finish off the Phillies’ 11th shutout of the season. That’s the most in the majors.

“Our bullpen did a great job,” Mackanin said.

Three of the four pitchers that the Phillies used in the game — Hellickson, Hernandez and Gomez — are very much available for trades. They all pitched well with a gaggle of scouts sitting behind the backstop. A number of contending clubs — the Cubs, Orioles, Giants, Rangers and Blue Jays — had scouts at the game. Pitching, starting and relief, is high on the needs list for most of those teams.

Of course, the Marlins are looking for pitching, too. They have interest in Hellickson, though it’s not clear whether he is a top target of theirs. Maybe he will become a top target after what he’s done to the Marlins in the last week. Hellickson has pitched 14 innings over two starts against the Marlins. He has given up just six hits and a run.

“Just executing,” said the pitcher, explaining his success. “In my last two games the ball has been down for the most part. I’ve just gotten a lot of easy outs. The ball's down and not missing too many spots right now.”

Hellickson will be a free agent this winter and does not appear to be in the club’s future plan. Nonetheless, he has steadfastly said he would like to remain with the club for the rest of this season. Phillies management is not opposed to keeping Hellickson. He provides veteran stability and innings to a young rotation. But management would move Hellickson for a player that has the potential to help in the future.

Trade rumors can be distracting for a player. But Hellickson, who has been dealt twice in his career, is locked in.

“It doesn't bother me,” he said. “Once I'm in this locker room — obviously you still see it on TV and stuff — my focus is on helping us win today. Now it's on to the next start. It's been like this for a few years now so it's pretty easy to go out there right now.”

Mackanin said he had no idea what will become of Hellickson’s fate. But if the pitcher stays, he won’t complain.

“At this point, I don’t want to lose him,” Mackanin said. “I wish he could stay here. He’s that solid for us. He’s been like that the whole year.”

The Phillies needed a good pitching effort to pull this one out. Their hitters struck out 13 times, left 11 men on base and went just 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“We don’t show plate discipline,” Mackanin lamented. “We’re taking fastballs early in the count that are hittable pitches. If you’re going to take fastballs early in the count that are hittable pitches, you cannot swing at breaking balls in the dirt. That’s all I can say about that. We have to have more plate discipline.”

On the positive side of that, Franco and Rupp both walked three times, and Franco’s two-out walk in the eighth became the biggest run of the game on a night when Jeremy Hellickson and his status with the Phillies was the biggest storyline.

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

Instant Replay: Phillies 4, Marlins 0

BOX SCORE

MIAMI — Jeremy Hellickson continued to enhance his trade value and Tommy Joseph had the big hit in the Phillies’ 4-0 win over the Miami Marlins on Monday night.

Hellickson shut down the Marlins for the second time in a week. The next time he pitches, it could be for them. The Marlins are one of the teams interested in the veteran right-hander. Scouts from several other contending teams were in attendance for Hellickson’s strong outing.

Joseph’s two-out double in the top of the eighth broke a scoreless tie.

Phillies pitching held the Marlins to two hits. The Phils have 11 shutouts this season.

Starting pitching report
Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings and gave up just a hit and a walk while striking out one. He exited for a pinch-hitter after just 70 pitches. The right-hander has pitched 14 innings and allowed just one run in his last two starts, both against the Marlins. He has lowered his season ERA to 3.65.

Miami’s Jarred Cosart came up from Triple A and pitched five scoreless innings. However, he threw 92 pitches. He allowed three hits, a walk and struck out one.

Bullpen report 
Trade candidate David Hernandez pitched a strong seventh inning for the Phils, picking up the win. Hector Neris and Jeanmar Gomez closed it out.

Miami right-hander Kyle Barraclough came up big in the top of the seventh inning. He struck out Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and pinch-hitter Ryan Howard with runners on second and third to preserve a 0-0 tie.

Marlins right-hander Fernando Rodney struck out the first two batters in the eighth then gave up a four-pitch walk to Maikel Franco before Joseph’s two-out double delivered the game’s first run.

Rodney took the loss.

A.J. Ramos was charged with three runs in the ninth, two unearned.

At the plate
The Phillies survived 13 strikeouts, a 1-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base to score the win.

The Phils had just six hits. Joseph had a pair of them and now has 25 RBIs in 54 games.

Cesar Hernandez gave the Phils some cushion with an RBI single in the top of the ninth. Miami’s defense fell apart after that and the Phils scored two more runs to put the game away.

Asche had a hit to break an 0-for-26 skid. Bourjos is 0 for his last 17.

Trade talk
Andres Blanco is out for six weeks so he’s no longer a trade candidate, but others are (see story).

Up next
Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98) pitches against Miami right-hander Tom Koehler (7-8, 4.42) on Tuesday night. Koehler pitched eight innings of two-run ball in beating the Phillies last week at Citizens Bank Park.