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]

Jimmy Rollins salutes former Phillies teammate Ryan Howard

Jimmy Rollins salutes former Phillies teammate Ryan Howard

Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley were all drafted and developed by the Phillies. They came to the majors and became the best first baseman, shortstop and second baseman in franchise history.
 
And, of course, they were a huge part of the core of the team that won the 2008 World Series.
 
Time moves on and so do great players.
 
Rollins was traded in December 2014 as the team began a rebuild. Utley was traded in August 2015. On Sunday, Howard, the last piece from that championship season, will play his last game with the Phillies.
 
Rollins took some time Saturday to pass along some thoughts on his friend’s time in red pinstripes.
 
“When Ryan first arrived in Philadelphia, he was merely filling in for Jim Thome in the eyes of many, but he did not let that opportunity to shine pass him by,” Rollins wrote. “He quickly became feared as he won Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive years and reached 200 home runs quicker than anyone in the history of the game. He loved the pressure and wanted to be the man at the plate when the game mattered most.”
 
The Phillies won five division titles from 2007 to 2011. Howard led the majors in homers twice and RBIs three times.
 
“During our run, we leaned on him many times for big hits and clutch home runs and he found ways to deliver,” Rollins said. “Ryan never stopped working to better himself and his craft, whether it was getting to the field early for extra defensive work or finding that sweet home run stroke. Although he hit a lot of them, he was more than just a power hitter -- he was a great teammate.
 
“We all hoped to bring more than one championship to Philadelphia, but without Ryan that one may not have been possible. So, many thanks to 'Big Piece' for being such a big piece of the best years of my career in the City of Brotherly Love!”

Union-Red Bulls 5 things: Playoff implications as Union visit Red Bulls

Union-Red Bulls 5 things: Playoff implications as Union visit Red Bulls

Union vs. New York Red Bulls
7:00 p.m. on TCN

Riding a four-game winless run and with just three matches remaining in the season, Alejandro Bedoya and the Union (11-11-9) look to alter their recent misfortune when they take on the powerful New York Red Bulls (13-9-9) on Saturday (7:00 p.m., TCN) at Red Bull Arena, in an Eastern Conference showdown with playoff implications.

Here are five things to know.

1. Playing for Position
With three games left in the season and currently sitting fourth in the East, the Union are closing in on the organization’s second-ever playoff berth.

“Every point matters,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “We need to take care of business and get as many points as possible down the stretch. We know we have a good team, we know our fans deserve to be back in the playoffs and that is our singular focus at this point."

Though making the playoffs is the club’s singular focus, the Union have their eye on positioning. In MLS, the third and fourth seeds earn home-field advantage in a play-in game against the fifth and sixth seeds. Prior to Saturday, the Union, who have 42 points, are just two points ahead of D.C. United and one point ahead of the Montreal Impact.

All three clubs have played 31 games.

“We recognize it’s going to be a tough task but at the same time, we’ve set ourselves up nice where we control our own destiny,”Curtin said. “That hasn’t been the case in past years.”

But while you’d expect the Union to simply be satisfied making the playoffs and even hosting a game, the club isn’t content with a play-in game -- they want a top-three finish. The Red Bulls are second in the East with 48 points -- six more than the Union, who play them twice, including Saturday.

“It’s certainly realistic,” said Curtin, about claiming a top-three seed in the East. “The fact that we play Red Bull twice, you control your own destiny. But it’s going to be difficult.”

2. Bedoya and Barnetta
Earlier in the week, Tranquillo Barnetta made headlines when the the Union announced that the potent midfielder, who is out of contract after this season, will not return to the club next year.

That news overshadowed the fact that Barnetta might not play a major role on Saturday, after missing last week’s match with an injured knee suffered against the Portland Timbers.

“His injury is one that is manageable,” Curtin said. “We hoped to have him back for [Toronto FC last Saturday] but it just didn’t feel right, so we decided to hold him. I think he’ll play a role in the New York game, whether that’s as a starter or off the bench still remains to be seen.”

With five goals and four assists this season, Barnetta has been the engine that has the Union propelling toward the post-season. And with knee issues, that sidelined him early in the season, now bothering him again, the Union want to be extra careful.

“We have to have an eye on what’s best for him, his body and the club,” Curtin said. “Obviously, getting the most points we can and using him the best way.”

But if Barnetta can’t go on Saturday, the Union will be in decent hands. Last week, while filling in at the center attacking midfield spot for Barnetta, Bedoya scored his first MLS goal, when he chipped a beauty past the goalkeeper. The Union ended up tying the match, 1-1.

“It was a special goal,” Curtin said. “It was a special play from a very talented individual and a heck of a way to open your goal-scoring account for the club.”

3. Streaking Red Bull
The Union take on the Red Bulls in two of their final three matches of the season. And the way the Red Bulls are playing, that’s not a good thing for the Union. Saturday’s hosts are on a 13-game unbeaten streak.

“Red Bull hasn’t lost since early July so to think that you’re just going to take two games from them, there’s no guarantee in that,” Curtin said. “It’s going to be difficult.”

Even while riding the streak, the Red Bulls are still pushing. The club is three points behind New York City FC for tops in the East, with a game in hand.

“We’re full throttle right now,” said Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch. “It’s exciting and it’s at the right time.”

That poses a tougher challenge for the Union, who weren’t the dominant team in a 2-2 draw with the Red Bulls earlier in the season. But if Curtin’s club learned anything, it’s that they have to beat the Red Bulls’ energetic press, if they want a result on the road.

“We have to bypass their press,” Bedoya said. “We need to be calm on the ball, don’t panic and play through it. We can be a high energy, high press team as well, we have great players. Hopefully, we go there and take it to them.”

But the Red Bulls will be ready.

“They’ve done well breaking our pressure at times and establishing themselves as the game has gone on,” Marsch said. “We know the game will be different at Red Bull Arena, we can put it on our terms. This is a rivalry game, it’s a playoff team. We’re going to get their best and we’ll be ready for them.

4. Keep an eye on
• Sacha Kljestian: One of the better playmakers in MLS, Kljestian leads the league with 16 assists. And while it doesn’t hurt that he’s passing to MLS scoring leader, Bradley Wright-Phillips, who has 20 goals, the Union need to stop Kljestian if they want to stop the Red Bulls.

• Fabian Herbers: The rookie has three assists in his last three games for a team-leading seven helpers on the season. As long as Ilsinho is sidelined with a foot injury, the Union will look to Herbers, at right attack midfield, for consistent production. There’s no reason to believe he won’t deliver it.

5. This and that
• For the first time in 2016, Maurice Edu was on a Union game roster last week against Toronto FC. He didn’t play, though Curtin said that day isn’t far off. “He’s getting up closer to the numbers that we want him to get to each day,” the coach said. Mo is working toward getting to those numbers that we see fit for that position in MLS, and what it takes to play a game.”

• While Josh Yaro was suspended last weekend for earning a red card against the Timbers, he also suffered a concussion. He has fully recorded, but still might not make the start at center back after Ken Tribbett’s strong game on Saturday in Yaro’s place. “He was cleared this morning so he’s a good option to  have back in the lineup. It needs to be said that Ken did a really great job for us.”

• The Union are 5-9-3 against the Red Bulls all-time, but are 0-0-1 this season.