Bird Droppings: Controversies and Non-Controversies at Eagles Training Camp

Bird Droppings: Controversies and Non-Controversies at Eagles Training Camp

Perhaps the most overblown story of the offseason so far is about the NFL’s V.P. of officiating coming down on up-tempo offenses like what the Eagles plan to run under Chip Kelly this season. Let’s hear what he has to say:

“We have to make sure teams understand that they don't control the tempo, our officials do,” said NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino. “We're going through our normal ball mechanics; we aren't going to rush [unless] it's in the two minute drill.”

Okay, so number one, this statement doesn’t appear to be directed strictly at the Eagles even though Kevin Clark makes it about the Eagles for the Wall Street Journal. What people should realize is Chip did not invent the up-tempo offense. In fact, this has already been a source of tension between the league and New England Patriots and Peyton Manning in years past, as both have been running no-huddle or up-tempo offenses for years. Why would anybody, including Chip Kelly, expect the rules to be any different for the Eagles?

The whole angle is a reach in my opinion. Kelly told reporters at practice on Wednesday that he is aware of the rules and his team will play as fast as they allow – just like the Patriots, Manning, and everyone else in the NFL. The fact that the officials chose this offseason for a refresher on the rules was probably a coincidence. Regardless, I don’t expect it to make much of a difference, as both of these other examples have proven they are able to own tempo and use that to their advantage against opponents every week.

Tackling, or lack thereof

What isn’t a manufactured controversy at Eagles training camp on the other hand is the conspicuous absence of tackling. Kelly admitted there would be no tackling to the ground during the team’s 11-on-11 drills, and they are saving that for the preseason.

In certain other camps this might not be as big a story, but the Eagles have been a bad tackling team for years. It’s fair to question how they intend to improve in that aspect of the game if it’s not practiced during live periods. Chip offered his take on Monday.

“We have four preseason games for that. They're hitting pretty good when they get an opportunity. The big thing with tackling, you want to be on your feet anyway. We don't want people diving. We want a good form tackle so they get an opportunity. In the first team period we do every day, we're going to be doing that.”

...

“When you get guys on the ground, it is not really the two guys that get tackled, it's what's chasing it. We're trying to keep everybody in every situation up. If I'm blocking my guy and I'm trying to finish to the whistle, two guys in front of me fell, that's where the biggest thing occurs. It's the pileups. Most of the time it's not the tackle or the tackler, it's the rest of the guys coming through.”

So it’s one part avoiding injury, one part teaching better form, which is interesting. He probably has a point about players lunging at the ball carrier, which often results in missed or broken tackles, and we’ve seen can also end in injuries to the defender’s head and neck area.

Not everybody on the outside is going to buy that, which is understandable. As Chip mentioned though, the Eagles are working on tackling in a separate drill for a few minutes each day, so it’s not as if there is none at all. This decision is going to attract a fair amount of skepticism until they show signs of improvement in some game situations.

Forgiven, not forgotten

Just to follow up on the Riley Cooper scandal, not all of his teammates will simply go back to normal after video of the wide receiver using a racial slur came to light. As you can imagine, it was still the hot topic at camp on Thursday, less than 24 hours removed from the 25-year-old’s apology.

For now it seems like this is going to be a bigger issue with how teammates and fans in Philadelphia view Cooper more than anything related to X’s and O’s. The league apparently is not going to punish him, nor does the organization seem to have any plans to release him. And while the Eagles’ locker room isn’t simply going to forget, so far they all say they are trying to move on.

There is some concern this situation could create some division in the locker room, which is not something Chip Kelly needed in his first season as head coach, or what anybody anywhere needed for that matter. I’m not sure we’ll know one way or the other until somebody speaks out publicly against Cooper. That’s not happening so far, but he’s not exactly getting rave reviews, either.

Sixers-Grizzlies 5 things: Walking wounded duel in Memphis

Sixers-Grizzlies 5 things: Walking wounded duel in Memphis

The Sixers (4-17) open a three-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies (14-8) at FedEx Forum on Tuesday night (8 p.m./TCN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Walking wounded
There will be enough players between both teams for the Sixers and Grizzlies to play on Tuesday ... barely.

The Sixers, losers of seven straight, have several key players sidelined for the opener of this road trip. The biggest absence will obviously be Joel Embiid, who will sit out for rest after struggling Monday in the first game of the back-to-back set.

Joining Embiid on the shelf for Tuesday's game will be Jahlil Okafor and Robert Covington while Jerryd Bayless is questionable to suit up. That's in addition to Ben Simmons and Nerlens Noel having yet to play this season.

The Sixers won't find much sympathy in Memphis as the Grizzlies' injury situation is actually worse.

After using an NBA record 28 different players last season because of injury, the Grizzlies have already received a hardship exemption from the league this year to sign guard Toney Douglas. That's because the Grizz are currently down five players, including star guard Mike Conley and swingman Chandler Parsons.

2. One big problem
One player who will be suiting up for the Grizzlies is Marc Gasol, which is certainly bad news for the Sixers.

Now in his ninth season, Gasol is playing some of his best basketball. Despite the center's rebounds dipping to 5.7 a game, he is putting up career highs in points (18.9) and assists (4.2).

The Sixers know all too well just how good Gasol has been this season. The two-time All-Star went off for 27 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks in the Grizzlies' double-overtime win over the Sixers on the night before Thanksgiving.

That was before the Sixers got hit even harder by the injury bug. There's no telling what Gasol will do against a team with one available center in Richaun Holmes.

3. Foul play
With so many players not able to take the floor, the Sixers -- Holmes in particular -- would be wise to stay out of foul trouble.

The Sixers average 22.0 fouls per game, the fifth-highest mark in the league.

On the flip side, the Sixers could benefit from attacking the Grizzlies. Memphis is obviously limited with players because of its own injury issues and actually averages 23.8 fouls per game, the second-highest rate in the NBA.

4. Injuries
Bayless (wrist) is questionable. Embiid (rest), Okafor (illness), Covington (knee/illness), Noel (knee) and Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

Zach Randolph (personal) is a game-time decision. Conley (back), Parsons (knee), Vince Carter (hip), James Ennis (calf) and Brandan Wright (ankle) are out for the Grizzlies.

5. This and that
- The Sixers have lost eight straight to the Grizzlies.

- The Grizzlies are 10-0 in games decided by five points or less or have reached overtime.

- The Sixers are 1-6 in games Embiid has sat out this season.

Baylor hires Temple's Matt Rhule as next head coach

usa-matt-rhule-temple-title.jpg
USA Today Images

Baylor hires Temple's Matt Rhule as next head coach

Just when it hit its peak, the Matt Rhule era at Temple is over.

Rhule has accepted the open job at Baylor, a Big 12 school. The news was first reported by Fox Sports and was confirmed by Baylor football’s official Twitter account.

Rhule, who became the head coach of the Owls in 2012 after Steve Addazio left for Boston College, left an indelible mark on a downtrodden program with a 28-23 record in four seasons. While that may not look like a spectacular record, it's a remarkable job for a program that was a mere board of directors vote or two away from extinction just over a decade ago. Temple is 20-7 over the past two seasons, the best two-season mark in school history. Rhule's 28 wins tie him with Bruce Arians for sixth most in school history.

Rhule spent parts of 10 seasons at Temple as he filled various roles on the coaching staffs of both Al Golden and Addazio. He left in 2011 for a role on Tom Coughlin's staff with the New York Giants before coming back to North Broad Street.

"I am truly honored and humbled to join the Baylor Family," Rhule said in a press release sent by Baylor Tuesday afternoon. "I can't thank President (David) Garland and (athletic director) Mack Rhoades enough for this incredible opportunity. Baylor is a tremendous institution with a history of football success and I know the passion that so many have for the Bears will help bring the community together to reach even greater heights. I am excited to get started."

Tuesday's news comes just three days after Rhule lead the Owls to victory over No. 19 Navy in the AAC title game. It was the program's first conference title since 1967 and just the second in school history.

Though the Owls missed out on the Cotton Bowl at-large berth that went to undefeated Western Michigan, they are set to face Wake Forest in the Military Bowl on Dec. 27 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Baylor has been mired in controversy in recent years as sexual assault scandals have rocked the program and ultimately cost head coach Art Briles his job.

Baylor went 6-6 this season.

According to a report by ESPN's Matt Fortuna, tight ends coach Ed Foley will be the Owls' interim head coach.

Temple has set a 1:30 p.m. press conference on Tuesday to discuss today's news.