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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New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

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New scheme, new Marcus Smith: 'You'll see a lot different Marcus'

It's a new year for the Eagles, but the same lowered expectations for Marcus Smith. The 2014 first-round pick recorded only seven tackles and 1½ sacks over his first two NFL seasons, so at this point you can forgive people for being pessimistic about his development.

Smith doesn't blame Eagles fans for being disappointed with his career up to this point. The 24-year-old isn't content with the way things have panned out thus far, either, but sounds as though he's ready to turn the page in a new scheme.

"I understand they want their first-round draft pick to play," Smith said of fan criticism. "I wanted to be on the field, but I wasn't. I learned a lot of things from my first to my second year and I think I've grown and matured a lot, and this third year you'll see a lot different Marcus."

That won't do much to sway public opinion that he's a draft bust. The Eagles, however, are hoping a position change will unlock the potential that led the club to take Smith with the 26th overall selection in the draft.

Smith came to the league a raw prospect to begin with, and was immediately asked to take on the many responsibilities of an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. In a 4-3 alignment under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, the third-year pro will line up at defensive end, where he'll primarily be used to create disruptions in opposing backfields.

"This is a scheme that greatly limits what he's asked to do," Schwartz said. "Difficult in execution, but easy in theory. Should allow him to play fast, attack spots, give him a little bit less responsibility but hopefully allow him to make a greater impact.

"He's very athletic. He's got great size. He's done very well so far, but let's reserve judgment on any of these guys until we get pads on them."

Smith admits it's a role he was more accustomed to playing in college.

"I never really dropped into coverage before," Smith said reminiscing of his time at Louisville. "I dropped into coverage in some spurts, I knew how to do it, I was athletic enough to do it, but their thing was they wanted me to go rush the passer and be able to make plays. That's what I'm doing now."

This could be an opportunity for Smith to hit the reset button, in a manner of speaking. He was overwhelmed and couldn't get on the field in a complex 3-4. Schwartz's 4-3, on the other hand, is much more streamlined, letting linemen pin their ears back and do one thing well rather than force them to be jacks of all trades.

"I feel like with Jim Schwartz, we have a great relationship to where I can just go make plays and not think about anything," Smith said. "He always talks about that with me. He says, 'Just go make plays, I don't want you to think.'

"Scheme is definitely more simplified. It's really just go get the ball. His philosophy is hit the ball on the way to the quarterback because we know sacks change games, so if you get a sack fumble and you're able to scoop and score, that's what changes a game. That's what Schwartz's philosophy is."

Believe it or not, there might still be hope for Smith. His 1½ sacks were registered in the final two games of the 2015 season, a late surge that could've been seen as a sign of progress, yet wound up flying under the radar at the conclusion of a lost year. After all, it's not at all uncommon for some players to need a year or two to adjust to life in the NFL.

If Smith has any chance of shedding the dreaded bust label, he certainly has a perfect mentor in teammate Brandon Graham. The 13th pick in 2010, Graham experienced similar hardships when his Eagles career didn't get off to a brilliant start, but has since proven to be a capable starter.

Graham's situation wasn't identical, as his progress and opportunities were derailed in large part because of injury. Regardless, he understands as well anybody the lack of playing time and criticism that comes with failing to live up to high expectations.

"We talk pretty much every day," Smith says of his relationship with Graham. "He actually went through something worse than I did because he went through a couple of years with not playing. He talks to me about it all the time, and told me to keep my head down and keep working and everything will fall into place."

As of now, Smith is currently lining up opposite Graham with the second-team defense, behind Connor Barwin and Vinny Curry. The Eagles also used a seventh-round pick on Alex McAllister.

Still, despite the competition, despite his lack of production to date, Smith is keeping a positive outlook and feels as though he has every opportunity to be productive as part of a rotation.

"The way we play and how fast we play, [Schwartz] wants an eight-man rotation," Smith said. "He wants us to be able to be fresh. All of us can play 25-30 snaps a game. He wants us to be well-rested and ready to go because we're gonna be going.

"Whoever is starting, whoever's not starting, I think when you get in the game, just go get it. Once the coaches put you in the ballgame, you've just gotta be able to make plays."

There's no question Smith is running out of chances with the Eagles, that his reclamation story is already beginning to wear thin. The truth is his roster spot might even be in jeopardy if the roster was much deeper, and any contribution in 2016 will be viewed as a pleasant surprise.

There's also no question the physical ability is there. Smith is 6-foot-3 with sub-4.7 speed and told reporters he weighs close to 260 pounds. Point him in one direction with a singular goal — get into the backfield — and the Eagles may squeeze some production out of him yet.

NFC East: DeSean Jackson a no-show at Redskins' OTAs

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NFC East: DeSean Jackson a no-show at Redskins' OTAs

ASHBURN, Va. -- DeSean Jackson isn't taking part in voluntary team workouts, and the Washington Redskins don't seem to care.

Jackson was the only healthy player not at Redskins Park this week for the first organized team activities of the offseason. But teammates and coach Jay Gruden brushed off Jackson's notable absence, saying the veteran wide receiver knows how to get prepared.

"The last time I looked up the word `voluntary,' it is his choice," Gruden said Wednesday. "He's been in the league nine years I believe it is and he knows what type of shape he has to come in. Obviously last year he pulled his hamstring, and people are gonna say he was out of shape, but he wasn't really. I think he'll be ready to go."

Jackson missed six games last season after injuring his hamstring in the opener. After returning Nov. 8, he made 30 catches for 528 yards and four touchdowns.

The 29-year-old has one year left on his contract and is still expected to be a big part of Washington's offense with quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight end Jordan Reed and fellow receiver Pierre Garcon even after the Redskins drafted Josh Doctston out of TCU in the first round.

Veteran defensive back DeAngelo Hall said players understand Jackson's situation.

"As long as these guys are working I don't think we mind too much," Hall said. "Yes you want him here, but this is an offense he knows and he knows himself. When you have a guy that knows (himself), you kind of what them to train the way they want to train."

Cousins likes having OTAs to get on the same page with receivers and go over the nuances of running routes and recognizing coverages. He's the unquestioned starter for the first time, which he said gives him "permission to take ownership" of the team.

With that ownership, Cousins followed the theme of downplaying Jackson not being around.

"DeSean will get here," said Cousins, who's on a one-year deal with the franchise tag and had no update on long-term contract talks. "He was here the last few weeks and was able to work with us. He knows what's best for him and what he's gotta do to be ready this fall. I'm excited for whenever he does get here and expect to get a lot of work in."

Jackson must attend 90 percent of offseason workouts to earn a $500,000 bonus in his contract.

Hall said because Jackson's home is in California and with him having a newborn, it makes it easier to comprehend why he didn't make it to optional workouts. From the standpoint of the secondary that's trying to work in All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, it'd be nice to have Jackson on the field.

"I'm just excited about getting him out here, Josh is excited about getting him out here," said Hall, who was one of the first-team safeties along with David Bruton Jr. "We want to go against him. We're juiced up to get him out here."

Gruden joked that Jackson "popped in and had a cup of coffee" at the team's facility but otherwise expressed no real concerns. He also doesn't know when Jackson will make an appearance.

"He'll probably show up here, could be next week could be whenever," Gruden said.

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Tigers 5

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The Associated Press

Instant Replay: Phillies 8, Tigers 5

BOX SCORE

DETROIT – The Phillies beat the Detroit Tigers at their own game in picking up an 8-5 win to salvage one game in the interleague series on Wednesday afternoon.

Aaron Nola pitched well and earned the win. Odubel Herrera had a big hit and Hector Neris was clutch out of the bullpen.

The Tigers are one of the best hitting teams in baseball and the Phillies are one of the worst. But the Phils out-hit the Tigers, 12-10. Two of the Phils’ hits were home runs.

The Phillies entered the day scoring just 3.2 runs per game, ranking them second-to-last in the majors. The Phils had scored just 11 runs in their previous five games; four of them were losses.

The win left the Phils at 26-21 heading into Chicago for three games with the rugged Cubs.

Starting pitching report
Aaron Nola gave up seven hits and four runs over six innings of work. He walked one and struck out six.

Four of the hits and three of the runs Nola gave up came in the fifth. All the hits were singles and one could have been ruled an error. So Nola was not supported by completely clean defense.

The right-hander is 4-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 10 starts. He has 70 strikeouts and just 20 walks in 66 innings.

He is 6-1 in 13 road starts during his young career.

Detroit right-hander Anibal Sanchez took the loss. He gave up eight hits and six runs in six-plus innings. Three of the runs were unearned. The Tigers committed three errors.

Bullpen report
David Hernandez inherited a 7-4 lead in the seventh. He allowed two hits, a walk and a run with one out and was removed from the game. Hector Neris came on and struck out Victor Martinez and Nick Castellanos to clean up Hernandez’s mess. Neris stayed on for a scoreless eighth.

Jeanmar Gomez earned his majors-leading 17th save.

At the plate
Peter Bourjos drove in two runs. He singled home one in the second and belted his first homer of the season in the seventh. The homer gave the Phils a 6-4 lead. Tommy Joseph increased the lead to 7-4 with sacrifice fly later in that inning.

Herrera had the big hit for the Phillies, a three-run homer in the fourth. He hit a 2-1 slider from Sanchez far over the right-field wall and scored Jose Bautista points with a big bat flip.

The Phillies scored their second run of the day when Bourjos and Andres Blanco executed a double steal. Blanco became the first Phillie to steal home since Chase Utley in 2009.

Cameron Rupp and Blanco had back-to-back doubles in the eighth to give the Phils some cushion.

Ryan Howard laced a hard, line-drive single to right his first time up then struck out in his next two at-bats. He finished 1 for 5 and is now hitting .160.

Every player in the Tigers’ lineup had a hit except Castellanos.

Health check
Maikel Franco limped off the field and out of the game before the start of the bottom of the seventh inning. He jammed his right foot sliding into second base in the top of the inning and was diagnosed with a sprained ankle. It was said to be mild.

Up next
The Phillies are off on Thursday. They open a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Friday. The Cubs are the first team in the majors to reach 30 wins. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday afternoon – LHP Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60) vs. LHP Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61)

Saturday afternoon – RHP Kyle Hendricks (2-4, 3.30) vs. RHP Jerad Eickhoff (2-6, 3.86)

Sunday afternoon – RHP John Lackey (4-2, 3.38) vs. RHP Vince Velasquez (5-1, 2.75)