Danny Amendola among the Big-Name Free Agents Eagles Linked to Over Tampering Weekend

Danny Amendola among the Big-Name Free Agents Eagles Linked to Over Tampering Weekend

NFL teams have been allowed to contact impending
unrestricted free agents since midnight on Saturday, but it’s been relatively
quiet as far as any news is concerned. The Eagles were linked to a few players
over the weekend however, perhaps none who have more name recognition than
Danny Amendola.

Geoff Mosher reports the Eagles are expected to pursue the
St. Louis Rams wide receiver
according to a person with direct knowledge of the
team’s plans. You may recall Amendola spent the summer of ’09 with the Birds at
Lehigh. Mosher has more:

Amendola, 27, spent his past four
seasons with the Rams but won’t be re-signed, according to a Sunday report from
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The former
Texas Tech wide receiver spent about a week on the Eagles’ practice squad in
2009 before the Rams, then coached by Pat Shurmur, signed him.

Shurmur is back with the Eagles as
offensive coordinator under first-year head coach Chip Kelly, who has never
coached in the NFL at any level. Amendola’s skill set fits with the up-tempo,
spread offense that Kelly intends to implement.

Amendola has carved out a role as a high-intake slot
receiver, hauling in 196 passes in four seasons, including a personal-best 85
in 2010. He’s not very explosive however, averaging a meager 8.8 yards per
reception to go with seven career touchdowns. Last season was the 27-year-old’s
best overall, catching 63 balls for 666 yards (10.6 YPC) and three scores. He’s
also a capable return specialist, though not flashy.

If the price is right, Amendola could be a good fit, but how
much better than he is than Jason Avant – already under contract for two more
seasons – is debatable. The Rams have basically nobody else to throw the ball
to, so they would often dink and dunk the rock to Amendola, which at 5-11, 183
seems like it would be his ceiling. Plus, he’s had a ton of injuries, so
durability is a concern as well.

For what it’s worth, PhiladelphiaEagles.com mouthpiece Dave
Spadaro said he doesn’t believe the story. Elsewhere…

T Eric Winston

Otherwise the legal tampering window has lacked buzz. The
only report we have of the Eagles actually reaching out to a free agent was last Thursday
after the Kansas City Chiefs released tackle Eric Winston. Les Bowen of the
Daily News wrote on his blog that the Birds were among the first teams to
contact the 29 year old
– but then that’s not tampering since he was no longer part
of the team.

Winston, a third-round pick in ’06, spent the previous six
seasons with the Houston Texans, where had some solid seasons blocking in front of running back Arian Foster. The 29-year-old’s release from the Chiefs appeared to be
financially motivated, so he probably has some tread left on the tires. Were the
Eagles to sign Winston, he could play right tackle while Todd Herremans slides
over to guard. Bowen’s take:

How much sense would he make for
the Eagles? Some. He isn't an all-pro. Given his age, a huge longterm deal
would be excessive. But he could sure take some pressure off the early rounds
of the upcoming draft.

DL Ricky Jean-Francois

The lack of actual information available hasn’t prevented
speculation. Several members of the media suspect defensive lineman Ricky
Jean-Francois’s agent is fielding a lot of calls, with two suitors already tied
to the 49er. The Eagles are thought to be among the teams that could jump into
the RJF fray, especially since VP of player personnel Tom Gamble would have intimate knowledge about the kid.

Jean-Francois, 26, spent four years with San Francisco as a
backup, but teams might like his upside. Bleeding Green Nation did a round-up of what people are saying about RJF, and Zach Berman for the Inquirer also had this to say about
the former seventh-round pick out of LSU.

Among the free agents, pay attention
to San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois, who is 26 and has
only five career starts in four years. Jean-Francois, 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds,
is versatile enough to play different spots on the defensive line and excels as
a pass rusher.

OLB James Harrison

Finally, sometimes it’s not teams who court players, but the
other way around. The Pittsburgh Steelers parted ways with All-Pro linebacker
James Harrison over the weekend, and Harrison’s agent Bill Parise tells Philly
Mag’s Tim McManus that the fearsome hitter/sack artist would be a good fit
in Philadelphia – although the organization has not contacted him.

Harrison, 35 this May, is clearly a player on the decline as injuries and age have started to catch up with him. He still racked up 15
sacks over the past two seasons despite missing eight games, so there was
a little something left in the tank. While the Birds are clearly in rebuilding
mode, that doesn’t necessarily mean they would overlook Harrison.

Chip Kelly and defensive
coordinator Bill Davis intend on running some version of the 3-4, and certainly
Harrison could assist with that transition. 
But would the Eagles go for a 34-year-old in what many consider a rebuilding
year? Howie Roseman told Birds 24/7 last week that age would not necessarily be
a deterrent if the player helped the greater good.

“There are certain players that no
matter what the age is, they set the right example, they do the right thing. As
you’re building a culture, they help carry that culture forward. That’s
important stuff,” said Roseman.

It seems at this stage of his career, Harrison's antics are probably more trouble than he's worth, especially in this situation. Then again, infusing a bit of attitude into the Eagles' defense probably couldn't be a bad thing.

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Phillies-Pirates 5 things: Star Andrew McCutchen struggling in 2016

Phillies-Pirates 5 things: Star Andrew McCutchen struggling in 2016

Phillies (45-53) vs. Pirates (49-47)
4:05 p.m. on CSN

After Zach Eflin threw his second complete game of his young career on Friday (see game story), Aaron Nola will look to follow it up with a strong start of his own. Opposing him will be the Pirates' top prospect, Tyler Glasnow, in a mid-afternoon matchup with the Phillies

Here's what you should look out for on Saturday.

1. McCutchen in a down season
There is no doubt who is the face of the Pirates' franchise right now. It's Andrew McCutchen.

The 29-year-old outfielder is a five-time All Star, four-time Silver Slugger, the 2013 National League MVP, and led the team that broke a 21-year playoff drought. He's one of the most marketable athletes in baseball right now and the type of player any team would want to build around.

But is he on the decline?

It's a legitimate question to ask. From 2012-2014, McCutchen was arguably the top position player in the National League, posting an average of at least .314, an on-base percentage of at least .400 and a slugging percentage of at least .911 each year.

But 2015 and 2016 have been different. He still hit 23 home runs in 2015 (his peak was 31 in 2012), but his stolen bases went down to 11, a career low, and he posted his lowest average, OBP and slugging percentages since 2011. He was still well above league average of course and the heart of the Pirates' lineup.

Yet 2016 has been possibly his worst yet. He is batting .244/.316/.408 and has an OPS+ of 93, seven worse than league average. He's already struck out 100 times in just 90 games after 133 strikeouts in 157 games last year. He has stolen just three bases and has been caught five times.

Quite simply, the numbers are troubling. He'll need to be a completely different player in the second half, starting very soon, to match his numbers from the past.

2. No runs Nola?
Nola's last start was a long time coming.

After a June in which nothing seemed to work for the righty, he finally seemed to figure things out after a 16-day layoff. He shut down the Marlins for six innings. He allowed just three base runners and no runs, striking out five.

Nola looked better than even his numbers indicate. He was cruising through five innings, having faced the minimum, but had to leave after six after taking a line drive off his throwing shoulder. Nothing to worry, as his exit was merely precautionary.

When the 23-year-old starter is on his game, it's thanks to a dynamite curveball that can produce swings and misses at a high rate. For all the talk of his opponent on Monday (Jose Fernandez), Nola's curve is one of the best in baseball and he used it to strike out five Marlins hitters. 

Where does he go from here? Well, it's tough to expect another shutout-type start, but Nola could be well-suited to face a righty-laden lineup like the Pirates. To truly shake off his bad June and worries about that liner to the arm, a second straight strong start would stave off any doubters.

3. Scouting Glasnow
Glasnow was the No. 10 prospect in all of baseball going into this year, according to MLB.com, so expectations are high for the 22-year-old making his second career start.

His MLB debut wasn't much to write home about. The 6-foot-8 righty took a loss while allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings. He did strike out five St. Louis Cardinals in that start two weeks ago and two of the runs were let in by a reliever. He did surrender a home run, however.

So what does Glasnow offer in his repertoire that got him such a high prospect rating? Well, a mid-to-upper 90s fastball for one. His four-seamer is his calling card, already displaying an ability to blow hitters away with big league-esque stuff. 

Off-speed, he goes to a curveball and a changeup. Scouts believe his curve will be the better pitch in the long term, but he hasn't mastered either quite yet.

What Glasnow needs to live up to his billing as a top talent is command. It's unsurprising that a pitcher that tall would struggle with command early in his career, as many pitchers like Randy Johnson, Dellin Betances or others have done so as well. 

However, there are plenty of cautionary tales of tall pitchers who never quite figured out all the parts of their motion and couldn't cut it in the majors. Glasnow gets his second chance to stick in the MLB after a couple weeks in the minors. 

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Odubel Herrera isn't hitting .300 like he was to start the year, but his 3 for 5 night on Friday propelled the Phils to a much-needed victory. Can he keep up the same momentum against a rookie like Glasnow?

Pirates: Starling Marte this year has been, well, a star. His .311 batting average leads the Pirates and his .459 slugging percentage has made him an active part in the Buccos' middle of the order.

5. This and that
• Nola is much better away from Citzens Bank Park. He is 2-6 and allows an opposing OPS of .771 at home while he is 3-2 and allows just a .607 OPS on the road. He's allowed nine home runs at CBP as opposed to just one on the road, in an equal number of starts.

• Neither Nola nor Glasnow have faced the opposing team before Saturday.

• McCutchen hits the Phillies well historically. He has a .301/.371/5.14 triple slash against the Phillies to go with seven home runs and 10 doubles. 

• In 107 at-bats over 32 games at PNC Park, Ryan Howard is batting just .187 with just three extra base hits (two home runs and a double).

Five Eagles with the most at stake during training camp

Five Eagles with the most at stake during training camp

Training camp officially kicks off on July 25, when rookies, QBs and select vets report. Three days later the Eagles have their first full team practice. 

For the weeks after that, the team will be formed, and we’ll finally get a better understanding of the 2016 Eagles. Some players will definitely make the roster. Some already have their starting positions locked up. 

Then there are the players with the most to prove during the few-week camp. There are way more than five guys who need to impress during August. There are players who will make the team and who will lose the team, who will win starting gigs and lose them. 

But here are five on the roster that I’ll be watching closely: 

Josh Huff
Huff is a curious case. He’s super talented; he really is. He just hasn’t figured it out yet, and it’s fair to wonder if he ever will. He’s going into his third season and has just 35 catches in his first two years. There’s a chance he could win a starting job. Then again, there’s a chance he could lose his roster spot, though that’s probably much less likely. In Doug Pederson’s offense, receivers get moved around a lot, something Chip Kelly refused to do. I’d like to see Huff be given a chance to play in the slot. Obviously, Jordan Matthews has shined in that position, but if he lines up outside, Huff might be a good fit. 

Chris Pantale
During the spring, Pantale often lined up as a fullback with the first team, which meant the Eagles want to see if he can be a lead blocker. But training camp is where they’ll find out. Can he take a hit? Can he deliver one to a linebacker? The coaching staff will be looking to answer those questions. If Pantale can prove he’s a capable fullback, he can earn a spot on the roster and force the Eagles to either keep four tight ends or cut Trey Burton, who will also be given a shot to prove himself as a fullback. 

Isaac Seumalo
Through no fault of his own, the rookie offensive lineman is behind. The third-round pick was stuck at Oregon State because of the arcane NCAA graduation rule and missed all of OTAs. “I definitely think that will be tough for him,” Allen Barbre said when asked about Seumalo’s catching up this summer. For now, Barbre is the starting left guard, but Seumalo — along with Stefen Wisniewksi — will have a chance to challenge him for the position during camp. 

Eric Rowe
During OTAs and the mandatory minicamp, Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks were the Eagles’ two starting cornerbacks, and Rowe came on the field as an outside corner in the nickel package, while Brooks slid into the slot. That means Rowe isn’t really a starter after he came on strong as a rookie a year ago. He’ll have to have a good camp to retake his starting job.  

Kenjon Barner
Barner looked pretty good this spring. In fact, he even took some first-team reps at running back. But that doesn’t mean he has a job locked up. Last season, he was the fourth running back behind DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. This year, with Murray gone, he’s in the mix with Mathews, Sproles and rookie Wendell Smallwood. Will the Eagles keep four backs again? If they do, Barner has a very good shot to be on the team. But if the Eagles keep three, they might elect to keep a promising fifth-rounder in Smallwood over him. 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.