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]

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

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The Associated Press

MLB Notes: Braves place Erick Aybar on 15-day DL

ATLANTA -- The Atlanta Braves have placed shortstop Erick Aybar on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right foot.

Aybar left Friday night's game in the fifth, one inning after he was hit by a pitch from Miami's Adam Conley. The Braves said Friday night that X-rays were negative.

Aybar, acquired as part of the offseason deal that sent shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels, is hitting .182.

Daniel Castro is starting at shortstop in Saturday's game against the Marlins.

In a corresponding move, the Braves recalled right-hander Aaron Blair from Triple-A Gwinnett to start Saturday's game.

Royals: RHP Chris Young activated off DL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Royals have activated right-hander Chris Young from the disabled list before Saturday's game against the Chicago White Sox.

Young, who had been out since May 9 with a right forearm strain, was placed in the bullpen after beginning the season in the rotation. He was 1-5 with a 6.68 ERA in seven starts, allowing 13 home runs and walking 11 in 32 1/3 innings.

The 37-year-old Young earned the victory in the first game of the 2015 World Series, working three scoreless innings in relief as the Royals beat the New York Mets 5-4 in 14 innings.

Kansas City optioned left-hander Brian Flynn, who was 1-0 with a 4.91 ERA in five relief appearances, to Triple-A Omaha.

Indians: Brantley unsure when he'll return
CLEVELAND -- Indians outfielder Michael Brantley has no timetable for his return from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him for the second time this season.

Brantley spoke to reporters Saturday for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list on May 14. He began the season on the DL following surgery for a torn right labrum in November. Brantley hit .231 with seven RBIs in 11 games before being shut down again.

Brantley, who received an anti-inflammatory shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, doesn't think he returned from the surgery too soon. He has been hitting off a tee but isn't sure when he will begin taking swings in the batting cage.

Brantley finished third in the AL Most Valuable Player voting in 2014 when he hit .327 with 20 homers and 97 RBIs. He batted .310 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs last season.

End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

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End to End: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Each week, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End this week are Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone, all producers/reporters for CSNPhilly.com.

The question: Which Flyer has the most to prove in 2016-17?

Dougherty
Scott Laughton will be given every opportunity to prove himself, and if there is any single player under contract on this Flyers roster with the most to prove, it's Laughton.

Laughton, the 20th overall pick in 2012, is coming off his first full season with the Flyers and he left much to be desired. He struggled to stay in the top nine and found himself a healthy scratch for seven games during the most crucial stretch of the season.

What concerns me about Laughton is Dave Hakstol struggled to find a position for him. Laughton is a natural center and the original thought process was he would play center in the NHL, which he still very well may. But Laughton ended up playing some wing this season, too. It was similar to what the Flyers were doing with Brayden Schenn in 2014-15.

Still, Laughton, who turns 22 on Monday, failed to show much at either position. He finished with seven goals and 21 points in 71 games. He found his way into the lineup for three games in the playoffs because of Sean Couturier's shoulder injury and showed little before suffering a scary injury that left him motionless on the ice for a few minutes.

We've said it before — Laughton will have every chance to earn his spot on the opening night roster in training camp. The Flyers won't give up on him after one disappointing season, but Laughton has to come to camp in shape and with an edge we haven't seen yet.

Looking into our crystal ball, the orange and black could have one or two more forwards from outside the organization in camp come September and Travis Konecny will be hungry to crack the lineup. Laughton is going to have competition for his spot on the roster.

And he has to prove to Hakstol, general manager Ron Hextall and the Flyers he deserves it.

Hall
There will be no shortage of pressure for Jakub Voracek next season.
 
Not much went his way this past season, the first after signing an eight-year, $66 million extension following his career year in 2014-15.
 
He started slow. He changed positions. He got hurt and then played through it.
 
It all culminated in a taxing and disappointing season.
 
So, if anyone, Voracek has the most to prove in 2016-17. He’ll want to show that his career season was no fluke, that he can produce near that clip and is worth the hefty deal doled out by the Flyers.
 
Voracek’s health/production will be one of the hottest storylines to start the season.

Paone
No player on the Flyers’ roster has more to prove next season than Voracek.
 
Remember how great he was in 2014-15 when he finished fourth in the NHL with 81 points after leading the league for much of the year in that category, was named an All-Star for the first time in his career and earned a massive eight-year, $66 million extension shortly thereafter?
 
Those contract numbers are important because what Voracek has to prove this season lies in those numbers. His play last season wasn’t necessarily befitting of someone with that type of contract.
 
Voracek put up solid numbers last season with 11 goals and 44 assists in 73 games, but he just didn’t have the same effectiveness that he did in the prior season. If you recall, it took him 17 games to net his first goal of the season, an overtime winner in Carolina on Nov. 14. His ineffectiveness caused Dave Hakstol to move Voracek up and down the lineup and even send him over to the opposite wing, a position Voracek had rarely ever played before.
 
It just so happens that contract extension kicks in this season.
 
The soon-to-be 27-year-old forward holds himself to incredibly high standards. He’ll be out to prove to himself this season was an anomaly and make sure people know he’s a star worthy of those contract numbers.

Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

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Today's Lineup: Ryan Howard still starting against a righty

One day after a rain-soaked 6-2 loss to the MLB-best Cubs, the Phillies look to steal a game against Chicago's fifth starter Kyle Hendricks Saturday afternoon (see game notes).

And with a right-hander on the bump for the Cubs, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has decided to give Ryan Howard the start at first base instead of Tommy Joseph.

This has been the subject of debate in Philadelphia. What to do with first base? Mackanin has used a platoon at first all season long, first with Darin Ruf and now with Joseph.

But with Howard's struggles at the plate continuing, many have called for more playing time for the 24-year-old Joseph, even against righties. Both played in Detroit.

Now it appears the platoon may continue. For at least one more day. Howard gets the call for Game 2 of a three-game set Saturday at Wrigley Field against Hendricks.

Howard is sporting a .159 average in 132 at-bats with .224 on-base percentage and is hitting .172 in May. Additionally, the lefty is hitting .162 against righties this season.

Still, Howard is tied for the Phillies' lead with eight homers. He's not making much contact and the case against playing him may be stronger, but he still has some pop.

Chicago is scheduled to start another righty Sunday in John Lackey. Joseph, who's hitting .290 with two home runs and four RBIs, might find his way into the lineup then.

Joseph faced four straight righties before Friday's game in Chicago. Against Atlanta last Sunday, he went 0 for 4, but in Detroit, Joseph was 4 for 11 with a homer and three RBIs.

What the Phillies do with Howard-Joseph at first base will continue to be a storyline until the situation is resolved. At least for Saturday, the discussion lives on.

In other lineup notes, Mackanin has given leftfielder Tyler Goeddel the day off, giving David Lough the start in left and batting him seventh. Cameron Rupp is back behind the plate, catching Jerad Eickhoff.

Here are today's full lineups:

Phillies
1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Ryan Howard, 1B
5. Cameron Rupp, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. David Lough, LF
8. Jered Eickhoff, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

Cubs
1. Dexter Fowler, CF
2. Jayson Heyward, RF
3. Kris Bryant, 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo, 1B
5. Ben Zobrist, 2B
6. Jorge Soler, LF
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Addison Russell, SS
9. Matt Hendricks, P