Bridling Short-Term Enthusiasm for the Eagles' 2012 Draft Class

Bridling Short-Term Enthusiasm for the Eagles' 2012 Draft Class

When was the last time Eagles fans were as united in favor of a first-round draft pick -- or any draft pick for that matter -- as they seem to be over Fletcher Cox?

In fact, the entire 2012 class is drawing rave reviews. A recent poll of CSN viewers revealed over 60% would grade the Birds an 'A' this year, with 'A' and 'B' combined grabbing about 85% of the vote. Meanwhile, the local and national media are holding the baton on this, eagerly patting Howie Roseman and Andy Reid on the back, and calling this a job well done.

Since when are Philly fans, along with local and national media, in accord over anything the football team does?

I suppose I should be grateful for the opportunity to play the role of the wet blanket for a change, not that I even disagree with the Eagles' selections. It's just that ordinarily I find myself defending the draft afterward, not necessarily because I have any strong opinion one way or the other, but the backlash is often unreasonable, ignorant of the bigger picture. People become strangely attached or opposed to kids they know little or nothing about.

It probably helps there isn't that one obvious reach this year. There isn't the player from the random school nobody ever heard of, the project who has to change positions at the next level, or the flier on somebody coming off of serious, multiple knee injuries. It's a draft loaded with name players out of name programs, many of whom looked like great values for where they were chosen.

At the end of the weekend though, all we have are a list of names and measurables. This draft is really no different from any other in the sense that some of the players will carve out respectable NFL careers, others will bust and wind up out of the league -- journeymen if they're lucky. Trying to predict which will be which is a senseless exercise, unless you've actually spent any significant amount of time watching them play. Even then, you probably have only marginally better odds of getting it right than Death From Above.

Otherwise, I am in agreement with everybody else: this looks like a very solid draft for the Eagles. I'm not offering the front office any congratulations though, not before these kids have played a single down in the NFL.

Good draft, bad draft -- let's cut through all of that, because nobody knows, and it doesn't matter today. What are the expectations from this draft? More specifically, what kind of short-term goals should be set for each new member for the Eagles?

No. 12 Fletcher Cox (DT - Mississippi St.)
Goal: Average 6.0 or more sacks per season over the next five years

Depending on your vantage point, that total may or may not sound like a lot, but if Cox gets in the 5.5-6.0 range over the course of his rookie deal, it means he likely had at least one breakout season. Interior linemen certainly are capable of posting monster sack totals, it's just most do not sustain those numbers on a year-to-year basis.

Anything less doesn't seem like enough of an impact from the twelfth overall pick. He's here to collapse the pocket and rush the quarterback.

No. 46 Mychal Kendricks (LB - Cal)
Goal: Become an every-down starter at linebacker

Likewise, this might appear to be setting the bar low for Kendricks. Outside linebackers in 4-3 systems rarely receive the accolades like their interior brethren though, and there are too many variables to set a statistical goal. Should Kendricks become the uncontested starter at any of the three spots, that has to be considered a good thing -- particularly if he's not strictly a situational player.

No. 59 Vinny Curry (DE - Marshall)
Goal: Earn a multi-year contract extension from the Eagles

Curry's is the goal I struggled with the most. Where he was taken suggests he should make a big impact in the NFL, but Curry is behind a pair of Pro Bowlers on the depth chart who don't appear to be going anywhere, not to mention faces competition from Brandon Graham and possibly Philip Hunt. What is the right number of sacks for a situational player? Earning a contract extension is admittedly vague, but it indicates he's probably made the most of his playing time, and that there is more to come.

No. 88 Nick Foles (QB - Arizona)
Goal: Compete for the starting quarterback job someday

Foles achieving his goal depends on several outside factors. It's not incredibly likely, but Vick could cement himself as the franchise quarterback with a great season or two. There's a better chance Reid won't even be here a year or two from now, and a new regime probably wouldn't be as high on Foles. However, if the Eagles are still stuck with the status quo in a couple of seasons (I'm sure you're all very excited by the prospect), we should start to hear this kid's name in the mix to be the Eagles' next full-time signal caller.

No. 123 Brandon Boykin (CB - Georgia)
Goal: Become the nickel corner by season two

Joselio Hanson turns 31, and will be a free agent next year. He's a serviceable slot cornerback, but the Eagles can upgrade. Enter Boykin. He doesn't need to contribute from the opening kickoff, but we should see more of Boykin as 2012 wears on, and maybe the team can finally move on from Hanson at season's end. Bonus if Boykin is reliable in the return game.

No. 153 Dennis Kelly (OT - Purdue)
Goal: Become the primary backup at offensive tackle by season two

The Eagles' movements suggest they are counting on Jason Peters to return to full health by next season, but they have the option to hold to Demetress Bell too. That means they shouldn't need a regular starter by next season, but the organization doesn't seem too enamored with King Dunlap as its key depth. If the 6-8, 321-lbs. Kelly can take over that role in 2013, the offensive line should be in good shape.

No. 194 Marvin McNutt (WR - Iowa)
Goal: Make Riley Cooper expendable

McNutt is one of the few Eagles draft picks I've seen quite a bit of, and I think his ceiling is very high. He was very productive at Iowa, especially last season when he caught 82 balls for 1,315 yards and 12 TDs. Because he's only a sixth-round selection, and he has a similar build (6-4, 215) to Cooper (6-3, 222) only with slightly more athleticism, we'll start out small and see if he can take snaps away from the third-year player out of Florida. If he reaches his full potential though, maybe he'll go on to replace Jason Avant in the slot, or even Jeremy Maclin outside.

No. 200 Brandon Washington (G - Miami)
Goal: Make the 53-man roster by season two

The Eagles have Julian Vandervelde from the fifth round of last year's draft, and Dunlap also demonstrated he can play guard, so Washington doesn't automatically need to make the team as a rookie. He should be up and ready to backup Evan Mathis and/or Danny Watkins by year two.

No. 229 Bryce Brown (RB - Kansas St.)
Goal: Make the 53-man roster at any point

I will be impressed if the 6-0, 223-lbs. Brown makes the roster at all, let alone in his rookie season. Roseman sounded very high on the seventh-round pick, and the fact that the Eagles brought in some high-profile undrafted competition at running back leads me to believe he has a shot, but with Dion Lewis currently
the club's second-most experienced back entering season two, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if a veteran was eventually brought in for this year.

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

Phillies can exhale after bullpen nearly blows 10-0 lead

BOX SCORE

The moment when the ball struck first baseman Tommy Joseph’s glove for the final out of the Phillies 10-8 win over the Mets — dealing a major blow to their rival’s wild card hopes in the process — felt more like a collective exhalation than a moment of celebration (see Instant Replay).
 
Two days earlier, the bullpen faltered suddenly. A game-tying two-run homer by Jose Reyes in the ninth was the first body blow. The game-winning three-run homer by Asdrubal Cabrera was the knockout.
 
Saturday, the collapse occurred over the course of five innings as the Phillies let a lead that was once 10-0 slip away, one drawn-out at-bat after another.
 
Missing, of course, was the moment of impact in the proverbial slow-motion car crash, thanks to well-placed sinkers and four-seamers from Michael Mariot.
 
“The bullpen’s been sputtering,” manager Pete Mackanin said in an understatement.
 
Joely Rodriguez entered in the sixth inning with a 10-4 lead to face a string of lefties and it quickly became apparent that he did not have his fastball. A middle-in four-seamer that caught too much of the plate was slapped for a double by Mets shortstop Gavin Cecchini, his first major-league hit and a run. A second run scored when a little dribbler by third baseman T.J. Rivera died on the third base line, leaving Rodriguez with no play.
 
“He just didn’t throw quality strikes,” Mackanin said.
 
Even the normally-reliable Hector Neris struggled on Saturday. In his 77th outing of the season, Neris walked two straight batters and then surrendered an RBI double to Cecchini of his own which narrowed the lead to 10-7 and thrust the uncertainty of a save situation onto Mackanin.
 
Mariot was given first crack at the ninth inning one day after Mackanin said he would give Jeanmar Gomez a break from closing duties.
 
Mariot’s audition got off to a rough start. He gave up a pinch-hit solo home run to Jay Bruce — who had been mired in an 0-15 slump — with one out in the ninth and then walked Eric Campbell and Michael Conforto after a pair of grueling at-bats that lasted a combined 18 pitches.
 
The two hitters fouled off eight of Mariot’s pitches and took several four-seamers that just missed the plate.
 
“I was pretty upset about that,” Mariot said of the four-seamers that missed. “I was hoping to get at least a swing or maybe a call on those. Talking to [catcher] A.J. [Ellis], I think he said that they missed but I was hoping at least one of them to get called a strike.”
 
Gomez was up in the Phillies’ bullpen but Mariot ensured that Mackanin wouldn’t need to throw the recently-struggling closer back into the fire in a high-stress situation.
 
Mariot was able to locate his fastball when he needed to most. He fooled Lucas Duda with a two-seamer that the slugger popped out to Freddy Galvis and got Travis D’Arnaud to ground a four-seamer outside right back to him.
 
“I just told myself: ‘keep throwing strikes and good things will happen,’” Mariot said.
 
He threw just enough strikes to ensure that the Phillies didn’t end up on the wrong end of what would have been the Mets’ biggest comeback in team history.

Find great deals on Philadelphia Phillies tickets with TicketIQ. Buy cheap Phillies tickets with no hidden fees for all games on their 2016 schedule. 

College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

usa-gus-malzahn.jpg
USA Today Images

College football wrap: Auburn upsets No. 18 LSU with controversial finish

AUBURN, Ala. -- Gus Malzahn was ready to try anything to get a win for his Auburn Tigers.

Malzahn relinquished offensive play-calling duties. Following his daughters' advice, he traded his usual game-day visor for a cap. And then, when the clock expired and LSU players were celebrating an apparent last-second win, the Auburn coach put all his faith in a ruling he couldn't control.

Daniel Carlson kicked six field goals and Auburn beat No. 18 LSU 18-13 on Saturday night after officials ruled Danny Etling's apparent last-gasp scoring pass came after time expired.

Malzahn said he knew there were only zeroes on the clock before the snap to Etling.

"I was pretty confident time had expired," Malzahn said. "It was just a matter of going to the booth and confirming it."

Etling rolled to his right and found D.J. Shark in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard pass, setting off a short-lived celebration by LSU players (see full recap).

Hornibrook proves he's ready in Badgers' win over Spartans
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- By the time Alex Hornibrook's first start was over, there wasn't much question about whether he could handle one of the toughest road tests in the Big Ten.

Hornibrook threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, and 11th-ranked Wisconsin turned its early-season showdown with No. 8 Michigan State into a rout, beating the Spartans 30-6 on Saturday.

"You've got to have respect for a guy whose first start is against a Michigan State defense," Wisconsin running back Corey Clement said.

"He's going to come out the next game and do even better. I think he's just getting his feet wet."

The freshman quarterback outplayed fifth-year senior Tyler O'Connor, his Michigan State counterpart. The Badgers (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) were the better team in the first half and then outscored the Spartans 17-0 in the third quarter (see full recap).

No. 23 Rebels find their rhythm, beat No. 12 Georgia 45-14
OXFORD, Miss. -- Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly faked the handoff and then took off running toward the end zone. A few seconds and 41 yards later, the quarterback had cruised through the middle of the Georgia defense and into the end zone untouched.

It was pretty much that easy for the Rebels all afternoon. Ole Miss finally built a lead it couldn't give away.

No. 23 Ole Miss rolled to a 45-14 victory over No. 12 Georgia on Saturday, building a 31-0 lead by halftime and a 45-0 advantage by midway through the fourth quarter.

Kelly threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Ole Miss (2-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) broke a 10-game losing streak in the series dating to 1996 (see full recap).

Dobbs rallies No. 14 Vols to 38-28 win over No. 19 Gators
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- This time, Tennessee delivered the comeback.

And in the process, the Volunteers took out 11 years' worth of frustration on Florida.

Joshua Dobbs accounted for five second-half touchdowns Saturday and No. 14 Tennessee erased a 21-point deficit to beat No. 19 Florida 38-28 and end their 11-game losing streak in the annual series.

"I didn't see anybody blink," Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. "Nobody flinched. They just kept playing."

This marks the first time Tennessee (4-0, 1-0 SEC) has beaten Florida (3-1, 1-1) since 2004. The Volunteers had lost to Florida by one point each of the last two years despite leading in the fourth quarter of both games (see full recap).