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.

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Howard, Phils can spoil Mets' season

Phillies-Mets 5 things: Howard, Phils can spoil Mets' season

Phillies (70-89) vs. Mets (85-74)
7:05 p.m. on CSN

Just three games remain in the Phillies' season. After a 24-17 start, the season went predictably downhill. However, the Phils have a chance to play spoiler to a big-time rival with the New York Mets in town. Alec Asher is on the hill for the Phillies while Robert Gsellman faces the Phillies for a third times this year.

Here are five things to watch on Friday night.

1. End of the road for the Big Ticket
There are just three games left in Ryan Howard's tenure with the Phillies.

It's been a long ride for Howard. There'll be plenty on Howard this weekend (and there's a pregame ceremony for him on Sunday), but here are some of his stats from his 13 years in Philadelphia.

Howard has hit 381 home runs and has 1,192 RBI with the Phils. He has 10 seasons of at least 20 home runs and has a run of six straight seasons from 2006 to 2011, his first six full seasons, with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI. He twice walked more than 100 times in a season and he racked up 276 doubles.

The long-time first baseman has hit 47 home runs against the Mets, his second highest total against any team (52 vs. Atlanta). In 174 games, Howard has 157 hits and 73 walks against the Mets.

Howard goes into the weekend with 197 home runs at Citizens Bank Park. Overall, he's racked up 1,465 total bases at CBP. He has, however, struck out 880 times in 769 games there as well.

2. Playing spoilers
While the Phillies are firmly outside of the playoff race, the New York Mets are in the driver's seat for a wild card spot. The Phillies could have something to say about that.

The San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals both won on Thursday while the Mets were off. That leaves the Mets one game ahead of the Giants for the first wild card spot and two games up on the Cardinals for a playoff spot. 

If the Mets win two of three this weekend, they clinch homefield advantage in the Wild Card game on Wednesday. With one win, they guarantee that they cannot be eliminated this weekend. Their magic number is two to clinch a playoff berth, so a combination of wins and Cardinals' losses can get them into the postseason. 

The Phillies can throw a wrench into the Mets' gameplan with a strong showing this weekend. While they've lost six of seven, the Phillies will likely get up for games with playoff implications. Furthermore, the Mets have the incentive to clinch as soon as possible as to avoid needing Noah Syndergaard to pitch on Sunday, so they can hold him for the National League wild card game on Wednesday.

3. Asher closes out impressive month 
Asher has made four starts since coming up earlier this month and has been much more impressive than his late season stint in 2015. 

After going 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA last year, he's 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA. However, despite picking up a win last weekend against the Mets, he struggled late and left room for improvement. 

Asher began his start Saturday vs. the Mets with a perfect game through three innings. He worked around three baserunners in the fourth inning, but came unglued after a couple errors in the fifth inning. While poor defense is not his fault, it would have been a good sign if he could have picked up his defense. Instead, he barely made it through the inning after four unearned runs.

Normally, a team would look for length out of their starter when handed such a large lead, so Asher only making it through five is disappointing. He still hasn't allowed more than two earned runs and has induced plenty of weak contact with his two-seam fastball.

The Mets will be the first (and only) team he faces twice this season.

4. Third time the charm vs. Gsellman?
Gsellman will be making his seventh career MLB start on Friday and it will be his third against the Phillies.

In two starts against the Phils, Gsellman is 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA over 13 innings. He has 13 strikeouts against them while allowing 10 hits and three walks. 

All four runs he allowed to the Phillies came in his first start. He had held the Phils to one run over six innings but departed after loading the bases with none out. The Mets' bullpen promptly allowed all three inherited runners to score.

On Sunday, Gsellman dominated, shutting out the Phils for seven innings. He allowed just five baserunners and struck out eight in the 17-0 win. 

The 23-year-old rookie has a 2.56 ERA through seven appearances in the majors. He started the season in Double A, but he will likely get a playoff start if the Mets gets to the Division Series.

5. This and that
• The Phillies have just two extra base hits in 50 plate appearances against Gsellman. They are hitting .222/.271/.267 against him. 

• Eight Phils have hits off Gsellman. Freddy Galvis is 2 for 5 with a double and Jimmy Paredes is 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. 

• Michael Conforto hit a home run off Asher last season. No Mets hitter has more than one hit against him, in part because none of them have faced him more than three times.

• The Phillies have 601 runs on the season, the fewest in baseball by 39 runs. The Mets have the fifth worst total with 659 runs.

• Jeanmar Gomez is 0-3 with a 19.13 ERA in September. He's allowed 18 runs (17 earned) in eight innings.

An Attack on Carson Wentz is an Attack on All of Us

An Attack on Carson Wentz is an Attack on All of Us

Carson Wentz. He’s a phenom. He’s a star. He’s the franchise quarterback we’ve been waiting for for all this time. Wentz has led the Eagles to a 3-0 start, showing poise well beyond his years, and establishing himself, without a doubt, as the best quarterback in Eagles history, or at least the best since Jeff Garcia. Who else would it be? McNabb? Please. How many times was he undefeated at the bye? 

Wentz, especially after crushing the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, is unquestionably the real deal -- and I have only two questions: Should I order my flight to Houston for the Super Bowl now, or wait until the rates come down? And should the parade go up Broad Street towards City Hall, or down, towards the Sports Complex? 

Carson Wentz has already been named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month, which is clearly only a small steppingstone to Rookie of the Year, MVP, having his number retired, and ultimately the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I mean, did you see some of those throws last Sunday? 

But even with all the excitement, some are skeptical. After Week 1, we heard “it’s just one game, and besides -- it’s Cleveland!” After week 2? “the Browns and Bears suck -- wake me up when he beats a good team. After week 3? “He hasn’t even played a division game yet!” Worst of all was CBS’ Bart Scott, who called Wentz "fool’s gold." 

Please. What you have to understand is that people like Scott aren’t just mouthing off on a pregame show or sharing a meaningless NFL opinion. They are launching a vicious attack on Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles organization, every Philadelphia fan, and the city of Philadelphia itself. We should all be horribly insulted, and demanding action. 

It’s bad enough when the national guys bring up snowballs and Santa Claus. But let’s be real: Bad-mouthing Carson Wentz must not be tolerated, ever. I call for a boycott of all CBS-owned properties (other than WIP), until Bart Scott apologizes or is fired. 

Sure, I know a lot of people are more upset about the national anthem stuff. But make no mistake: Questioning Carson Wentz is way worse. 

Other Philly sports takes: 

- Of course, I’d be even happier with the Eagles’ start if the long snapper hadn’t unfairly lost a televised talent show to a little girl. 

- For those of you who asked: Now that Buddy has passed, I’ll be writing in Carson Wentz for president. 

- Assuming Jim Schwartz leaves the Eagles for a head coaching job, who should replace him as defensive coordinator? It’ll be a tough choice between Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan.  

- The only downside to the Eagles’ 3-0 start? Josh Innes isn’t around for it. Poor guy. 

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